Get Yourself A Bass Strap
A strap is something we all need for our bass and it’s something we get very little guidance on when we start out. But the type of strap you choose and how you attach it to the bass is all absolutely fundamental stuff that can have a huge effect on your playing in both practice and performance.
Tip Number #1
So tip number 1: Get a nice wide, leather strap.
There are a whole bunch of great brands out there like Levy’s Leathers and you can pay anything from a few bucks to hundreds of dollars.
However, you don’t need anything super expensive. Just be sure it’s pretty wide and durable. I personally always go for a minimum of 4 inches in width. That’s great for distributing the weight across the whole shoulder rather than focusing it all in one spot.
Tip Number #2
Next, tip number 2, adjust your strap length so it’s the same playing position whether you’re sitting or standing.
This is something I’ve always done and originally learned from Billy Sheehan. He’s a huge advocate of this method and, as he points out, if you do any amount of seated practice you want to know that the bass will feel the same when you stand.
It’s amazing how different the bass can feel at different heights and this can really mess with your playing if you’ve learned everything while sitting down.
Protect Your Hands!
Another important reason for setting the strap in this way is protection of your hands and wrists. You want to always avoid curling the hands over. Try to keep the wrist as straight as possible. When your hands curl over, all the tendons are compressed in your wrist and you’re in danger of conditions such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
So, with that in mind, if you have the bass set too high, the picking hand is going to suffer. Too low and the fretting hand is going to be curled over.
Now there is one small caveat involved in all of this and it’s something I don’t hear addressed too often. A lot of this straight wrist and strap height is going to be influenced by our arm length.
Arm length and wingspan can vary a lot from person to person. The usual measurement for normal proportion is that of your height. So finger tip to finger tip usually works out around your height. That’s the general average. But, some people have short arms and some people have long arms.
I’m 5 ft 10 with a 6 ft 3 wingspan. I have long arms and it makes a difference to my bass playing. I have to work a lot harder to keep that wrist straight because there’s more arm there.
So always be aware that even though that setting the bass the same for seated and standing playing works great most of the time, you might have to make some slight changes here and there just to accommodate your arm length.
Tip Number #3
So we have a strap, we’ve set the strap length for a good playing position, now we just need to attach it. Attaching a strap is easy enough. Just place the holes over the pegs. Great. But as anyone that’s played a bass for any amount of time will tell you, that’s not enough. You’ve got to secure that strap to the bass. Relying on that basic holes over the pegs will not cut it. Your bass WILL hit the deck at some point.
So the most common way of securing the strap to the bass is Strap Locks. Schaller and Dunlop strap locks are the most popular and they work great most of the time. But there are some downsides for me.
You have to replace the original pegs and mess around with possible screw size issues, they can be noisy or squeaky from time to time and they’re fairly expensive for what they are. So for tip number 3, get yourself some of these:
This a washer from one of the Grolsch flip bottle tops and makes for the perfect strap lock.
It might look like a really cheap tacky way of securing the strap on your new beautiful bass but trust me they work great and are used by bass players and guitarists all over the world.
They’re easy to fit, they’re reliable, they’re silent and there’s no messing around with the original peg. Best of all, you can buy huge packs of them online at places like Amazon for a few bucks. I’ve got a huge stash of them and every time I get a new bass, on goes another Grolsch washer.
Of course, if you like Grolsch, even better. For every bottle you drink, you potentially save the life of another bass!