The strap height compromise

Anyone else finds themselves obsessing over the height of the strap? Too low, and the wrist of the fretting hand will start to bend at too steep an angle. Too high, and the picking arm doesn’t really have any space to breathe. Not to mention that you might not like to see how it looks one way or another. The sweet spot seems really hard to find, for me, perhaps impossibly so. It seems like any little improvement in any given direction results in a huge discomfort in the other one.

Have you found a sweet spot? How did you find yours? Or did the most you manage to achieve was an unsatisfactory compromise?


I go as high as I comfortably can (too high and it’s basically digging into my chest). When I was younger, I had friends that would never be caught dead with a high strap due to the looks, but I was totally ok with looking a bit dorky if it meant I could be confident in my ability to play. What’s funny is that the the same confidence also let me have more fun and have way more stage presence, way waaaay more.

I’ve never really encountered this issue? Maybe I haven’t gone high enough, lol.

Yeah, that makes sense. Nothing kills confidence faster than feeling pressured into doing or looking something that you don’t like because that’s considered the cool thing to do.

I do admit I take into consideration my mirror when I’m setting my strap.

Checked your instagram videos, it seems like you’ve actually gone slightly higher than me, eheh. I’m about at the same height, though. The thing is, it seems like those guitarists that set their guitar a lot lower can relax their picking arm a lot more. It feels really constricted when I set the guitar so high, like it cuts the angle between the arm and the forearm by half of what it would be if I set the guitar just above my crotch. I would love to relax my picking arm more, but I also have a deep hatred for what each centimeter lower does to the wrist of my fretting hand…

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The correct approach is to use a portal gun.

  1. Place the blue portal perpendicular to your chest, pointing to the left.
  2. Place the orange portal perpendicular to your waist, pointing to the right.
  3. Stick your guitar in the portal.
  4. Profit

Change it all the time, every day.

Have it super short for Holdsworth style legato on the upper frets.

Have it really long for Hetfield style downpicking with max agression and force.

See how many different orientations you can have the guitar in for a given strap position.

Don’t try and find the one perfect position that suits everything.

Seen as I’m not gigging, I practice sitting with the guitar on the left leg with a foot stool.
It seems the best for me. I’ve tried to have the guitar on the right leg but my left hand feels restricted a little.
I do also use a strap when seated though, to keep the guitar from slipping away.

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Pick a lick you like to play often whose difficulty will vary with strap adjustment. I like the infamous Van Halen “Ice Cream Man” solo lick with the big stretch, but just pick somethiing above-average difficulty that you think you’ll play often. Note that depending on the lick, you may not keep the guitar in standard position anyway, so use some common sense about how much any given lick should affect your strap length choice. Think of guys like Slash who hang the guitar low but temporarily brace it against one leg to lift it and tilt the neck vertically for certain licks.

Optionally, simplify the problem by getting a ladder-adjustment style guitar strap, so you have a small number of easily repeatable options to test. If you’re less obsessive, use any strap you like, but figure out an easily repeatable approach for adjusting the length by about an inch at a time.

Start with the longest possible adjustment. Try to play. If you can’t play everything you want, or it’s uncomfortable, shorten by one slot. Repeat until you find a spot that seems comfortable. Make a note of it. Continue shortening slot by slot until you either adjust to shortest possible length, or find a length where it’s not longer easy/comfortable to play. Make a note of it. This should help you narrow down the range of candidate lengths. If you like, try each of this narrowed set of candidates again several times to figure out what you like best.

If you don’t find an obvious favorite as you follow the steps above, adjust to the longest candidate that felt workable. Play it at that length for about a month. If at any point during that month, it feels really wrong, shorten by one slot. At the end of a month, make a note to yourself about what slot you ended the month on, and how it feels. Then shorten by one slot and try that for a month. At the end of the month, test back and forth between that and the previous month’s setting to figure out which is better. A process like this should help you eventually narrow down to 2 or 3 finalists for your favorite slot. For extra credit, after a couple of months you can adjust to maximum length again and try each slot over again to see if your opinions have changed.

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Cool topic. I’m such a dork when it comes to strap height. I’d like it to be Hetfield low, but also being able to shred. No dice. But Zakk Wylde comes to my mind. Idk, this is one battle I’ll have to win inside my own head first because there’s no way in hell I’m playing guitar high up… but I’ll just have to. Or practice standing up, with the guitar positioned low. But then trailing edge picking is out of the question… Tough one man. :smiley:

I never gave 2 hoots about what I looked like on stage. I once got heckled by a chump in the crowd shouting “the strap is a bit short ain’t it?”. My response was “Up on stage you get to do what the fuck you want, let me worry about it mate” - the guys shut up and I got a little cheer, so confidence is key. I wasn’t the most dynamic on stage, but I always felt a good connection with the audience - the strap height made me feel more confortable to play looking at the crowd - I didn’t need my eyes glued to the fretboard.

That being said, it is hard to find the balance - back when I played live, practice standing up was the key and foot resting on a monitor for parts where I needes more stability and dexterity in the fretting hand.

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I find as long as it’s close to whatever position I practice in, then you can adapt fairly easily.
It’s always going to be slightly different unless you always practice with a strap. First time I have to use a strap after awhile of not using one it always takes a few days to start getting used to it.
I think the best thing really is to just put in the time, it will start to feel more natural if you always use a strap.

My preference is around a 90 degree elbow or lightly less.
I think a high strap can look good, depends on what you’re wearing and how you carry yourself. If you’re just stood there legs close together it does look a bit akward. But if you’re playing well no one cares.

Is the body of the guitar more to the left or to the right of center?

Good question. I think mine is more to the right, but not too much. Just slightly off-center.

Try playing with it a bit more to the right for awhile. Almost like the headstock is the barrel of a gun and you’re aiming it ahead of you.

You could also try these flexible straps. I find mine really the best strap I’ve ever felt. And even if you don’t like it for preformance, it’s a great practice item.

If you have your strap low, you can still shred like zakk, by doing down ward pick slanting. With almost no alternate picking, And using a lot of pulloffs

Thats how most people with low straps play.