My first attempt at spinning my guitar around my body ended with my guitar landing about 15 feet behind me. I wasn’t too bright as a teenager. Thankfully I had justenough forethought to try spinning my guitar in my backyard, and not in my garage.
It landed safely on the grass, with the only visible damage being done to my ego.
The problem I had was that the force of the spinning made my already-loose-fitting-strap come completely off the strap button. My next remedy was to tape the strap in such a way that the slit was fully “sealed”, or taped shut. The strap could no longer slip off.
Which worked until the very short screw came out. I again remedied the situation with another household item. A 3 inch wood screw.
My favorite bands took a different approach. Instead of investing in a guitar strap lock system, they would tape their straps to their guitars with duct tape or gaffer tape. These are the same guitarists who would recklessly throw their guitars to and fro. The type who viewed dings and chips as necessary battle scars.
And I shouldn’t be one to judge. After all, guitar manufacturers now charge a premium to do this to their brand new guitars for you. But I digress.
When I became wiser, and when my guitars got a little nicer and a little more expensive, I needed a different system. I wanted to be able to quickly take my strap on and off, and wanted it to be secure for the entire gig. I stopped spinning my guitars, but straps (at least cheap straps) still came off too easily.
So I got my first strap lock system. And it literally changed my life (figuratively speaking).
Strap lock systems aren’t just for spinning guitars. Strap locks ensure your strap is securely fastened to your guitar, keeping your guitar safe and your mind worry free. There are a lot of different designs and a variety of costs, and the perfect system for every guitarist.
Here are my 5 favorite strap lock systems, in no particular order.
The Dunlop guitar strap locks are one of the most common. I like that it clicks into place, kind of like a seat belt (though it functions differently). One piece goes into your guitar where the old strap button was. The other piece is installed on your strap, and screws together. The strap part has a post that inserts into the strap button on the guitar. Once it’s in there it’s locked into place.
To release, simply push the button with your thumb. This style of strap locks will also keep your strap from rubbing against your guitar, which is an added bonus not enough people talk about.
Schaller uses a similar idea as the Dunlop strap locks, except the strap piece slides over the strap button on the guitar. Similarly though, it securely locks into place once. To release, you pull the little post and slide the strap piece off of the strap button.
The strap part screws together, with your strap between the screws. If you forget your strap with the second piece of the set, the strap buttons are designed in a way that will let you use a strap that doesn’t have the lock system on it. It obviously wouldn’t be locked....
Ernie Ball and Fender actually both make this same style of strap lock, though it’s not clear who did it first (I have my suspicions, reflected on which company I included in this post...). The lock mechanism is the same basic idea as the Dunlop, where the post is inserted into a receptacle strap button on the guitar. You pinch the button to release this one.
And like the rest so far, the strap end is screwed onto your strap.
If you want a cheap option and don’t need to take your strap off your guitar or bass, then strap blocks might be a good option. They’re technically not strap locks in the traditional sense, but they’re effective. I used to do this same thing with metal washers though this is a bit more refined.
You place the block in between the strap button and your strap, then screw the strap button to your guitar or bass. Done! Simple and effective.
I’d probably be in a lot of trouble if I didn’t mention D’Addario in a guitar accessories focused post. This one is aimed specifically for acoustic guitars with an onboard pickup/preamp system. The output jack strap button included in most of those systems don’t do a very good job securely holding your strap. This does. It locks around the output jack using magnets. The assembly comes apart (when you want it to, not when you don’t) and you close the strap button in it (the product page has a useful video showing this).
The string loops around the slot in your strap. It’s really clever and a great solution for a problem that’s existed basically forever.
The Best Guitar Straps
Much like my strap button/home made strap lock woes, my straps were also the cheapest available option. Which is why I felt 100% OK ruining them with duct tape (and awesome spikes when I was in my faux goth phase).
When you’re a teenager, are made of rubber, and have Wolverine-like healing abilities, cheap is fine. You’re not concerned about comfort. Only cost and looks.
But as soon as you get into your 20s and especially 30s, you start to spend less time worrying about looks and more money on comfort. And it’s here that the value of a good guitar strap becomes known.
There are a lot of things that make straps more comfortable. A wide strap to distribute the load. A think strap to absorb motion. A padded strap to reduce the pressure on your shoulder and traps.
I cannot stress this next point enough: You get what you pay for.
My $10 nylon straps were durable and clean, but far from comfortable. If you want a custom leather strap you’re going to have to pay for it. But you wont regret it.
You don’t have to fork over a couple hundred bucks to get something great, though. You actually have a lot of great options that span a wide variety of costs. In no particular order, here are 5 of my favorite guitar straps to fit any budget.
Let’s start with something simple. This is about the same price as the cheaper nylon straps, but a little more comfortable. It’s wider, which will spread the weight out a little more. And it’s a more sock absorbent material. What that means for you is a more comfortable guitar holdin’ experience!
It’s adjustable to fit most everyone’s guitar height preference.
I could have easily put this in the strap lock section. This is a basic strap, but it does have a moveable pad for your shoulder to make it more comfortable. The really cool part is how thew strap connects to your guitar. Using the existing strap buttons, the strap locks over them to keep your guitar secure. I don’t think I’d spin my guitar using this, but it is absolutely a strap worth having for peace of mind.
More padding will inevitably mean more comfort. Until they make memory foam guitar straps (dibs on the patent!) this is the next best thing. It’s technically made for basses, which run heavier than guitars, so it will be extra comfortable for even the heaviest of Les Pauls. This one comes with a pair of strap blocks like the ones I mentioned earlier.
If you’re a fan of quality, made in the USA, and beautiful aesthetics, then Squatch Design Co’s leather strap is a must have. These straps are handmade in the USA by a team that’s been at it for over 40 years! With a 2” width and 3 layers of super soft leather, they’re as comfortable as they are durable.
Whiskey Brown Full Grain Padded Leather Guitar Strap
Just like The Finer Things Club from The Office, I like to get snooty about things from time to time. If you’re like me, or just simply enjoy a little more luxury, then Whiskey Brown is worth your time and money. Think of it as the difference between a $50 pair of boots and a $150 pair of boots. You get a lot more miles out of the more expensive (and well made) boots.
These straps are hand made out of high quality leather. They’re strong, extremely durable, and you can expect these to last a VERY long time. With a 3” width and premium padding between layers, they’re insanely comfortable.
They also spell Whiskey correctly which gives them bonus points in my book (there’s an E in whiskey, looking at you Scotland).
Guitar straps typically only sling across one shoulder, putting uneven strain across your body. This normally results in over activated traps that lead to neck pain. Not to mention any pinched nerves. The clever solution from Gruv is a strap that spreads that load between both shoulders. The straps are extra wide and padded for exceptional comfort.
If you have your guitar pretty high up the second strap isn’t too noticeable from the front. I will say it doesn’t look as cool as single straps.
But if you have any back or shoulder issues this could be a huge help.
And if you want to get all the groupies and look totally rad, then you should get the least-dorkiest and most-sexiest guitar strap ever. One that’s already been outlawed in 23 states due to how weak it makes one's knees upon looking at it.
How To Fix Loose Strap Button Screws
One last thought on a common issue with strap button screws. If the screw hole on your guitar is getting too big and the screw isn’t anchoring correctly, try this. Take a toothpick, dip it in wood glue and insert the glued end of the toothpick into the empty screw hole. Either break the toothpick at the surface or carefully snip it (don’t scratch your guitar!).
Then, immediately install your new screw/strap button. The toothpick will bond with the wood glue and the wood of the guitar itself, and it will be just like a newly drilled hole (wood glue is important to use here because it forms a better bond). You can use your guitar with a strap right away, and the bond should be fully cured in a day or so. Just make sure to have some paper towels around to wipe off any excess glue that will leak out.
What Guitar Strap Lock And Guitar Strap Is The Best?
You could honestly use any of the strap locks and straps on this list and experience a world of difference from standard strap buttons and nylon straps. I personally use the Schaller strap locks because a guitar I bought used already had that system installed. And when it came time to upgrade my other guitars it made sense so I could use the same strap from guitar to guitar.
Which is something to consider if you use multiple guitars during a gig. These will all come with ~1” screws, which is enough to keep your guitar secure. If you’re worried about it you can use the toothpick trick, even on a tight fitting hole. And if you’re really worried about it, buy a slightly longer wood screw that fits in the strap button. It might be overkill, but hey, it’s your guitar, do what you want.
Whatever you do, don’t buy knock off brands, especially on Amazon. You always get what you pay for, and you get significantly better quality from the name brands you know and trust.
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