Guitar Strap Height: The Essential Guide
Published on 06 December 2023
How do you wear your guitar? Strap height can be a large concern for the visually-orientated guitarist, and clear answers on this subject are never easily gained. Are you a bow tie player (very high) or a knuckle-dragger (very low)? You’re probably somewhere in between these two extremes, right?
There’s a lot of psychology involved in how high or low you wear your guitar: do you sacrifice technique to look cool, or do you prize perfect playing over showmanship?
It’s a toughie, but it’s a subject that we all face. Today, I’ll look at how some other players have tackled the problem.
High Strap Wearers
First, let’s look at those who want their guitar to be up above their waist. It’s pretty normal, actually, as it is supposed to be a similar height to where the guitar rests when the player is sat down.
John Lennon was a fan of wearing his Casino almost up into his armpits. John 5 wears his axe surprisingly high for a guy who’s been in Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie and Motley Crue! He pulls it off for sure though.
Really High Strap
For some players, there is no such thing as ‘too high’. We’ve looked at some players who like to wear their guitars like bow ties, but then there are Tosin Abasi and Tom Morello, who both seem to think that guitar straps should be as invisible as possible.
Now, there does seem to be a correlation here between wearing a guitar high up and being technically gifted. Don’t think that one passed me by, okay?
Talking about technically gifted, one player not only has his guitar super-high, but also has an extra piece of apparatus at his disposal…
The Foot Rest
John Petrucci - one of the world’s most terrifying shredders and also one of the world’s nicest people - wears his custom Music Man guitars at beard-tickling height, but then also makes use of a foot rest for those super-difficult solos when he has to be as close to the guitar as physically possible.
His ability kind of justifies it, plus he’s aware of how it looks, dubbing his guitar height “high and nerdy”, not that anybody’s going to say that to his face: he's a unit!
Low Strap Wearers
It’s normally punk and hard rock players who go low-slung with their guitars. James Hetfield’s power stance would be impossible without an appropriately long strap. Billie Joe Armstrong would lose serious punk points if his guitar didn’t trouble his shins. The same goes for Cure bassist Simon Gallop, whose whole style seems to revolve around - as his name would suggest - leaping around as if his bass were an unruly horse and he a goth-maned rodeo rider.
Really Low Strap Wearer
Jimmy Page is the main culprit here, and may well be the player most responsible for that special rock equation that figures thusly: Low-slung Les Paul + carefully worked-out power poses = instant rock god status. You just know he practised it all in front of the mirror. Reportedly, he can’t manage an F barre chord when he plays standing up, because his guitar is just too dang low. Now that is the type of commitment we like to see, here at guitarguitar!
In fact, Tom Delonge went even further than Page, requiring back and wrist surgery due to how stupendously low he once wore his guitars. There comes a point when it’s a bit daft, but I admire the commitment nonetheless!
Casual, on the Shoulder
Clash bassist Paul Simonon is obviously a guy who knows how to dress. Punk was a sartorial thing as much as a musical one (of course it was) and Simonon obviously has some ideas about how to wear his bass, when he isn’t pile-driving them into the stage floor, a la London Calling.
Check out footage of Paul playing live and you might see him nonchalantly wearing his bass on his right-hand shoulder, rather than across his body. Sometimes it's a little more 'regular'. Either way, it's vibe for days.
Tied Like a Belt
Steve Albini gets his ‘legendary producer’ status by approaching his job from unorthodox angles. This must apply to other areas of his life, because just look at how he wears his guitar! Albini gets a hella long strap and ties it around his waist like a judo belt. There’s nothing going around his shoulders at all!
Are you into this? Let’s be clear: if you do this at home and your guitar launches itself into the ground, you are on your own!
One of the most ‘interesting’ strap techniques we’ve seen in recent years is from Trivium frontman Matt Heafy. Basically, his strap is effectively two straps, with one part going over each shoulder. According to Heafy, his collaboration with Richter straps is to help with back, shoulder and neck pain. Fair dos! And because each part has a slightly different design, it looks better than expected.
No Strap At All
Perhaps the most subversive way to wear your guitar is to jettison the strap altogether. King Crimson legend Robert Fripp has made a point of sitting down to play for over 40 years now. When you think about it, this is perhaps the most sensible approach if you are trying to recreate your home/practise playing position: after all, it’s exactly the same thing!
You definitely don’t want to be someone looking to pull shapes when adopting this extreme technique, but it works for Fripp!
Wear Your Guitar However You Want
I’m just having a bit of fun today with this blog, because the only real truth here is that we are all different, and we should follow our own noses when it comes to what works for us. If you can’t play a certain part because your guitar is too low, then it’s worth at least considering adjusting your strap height, or maybe ‘doing a Petrucci’ and putting your foot up on something to elevate your guitar.
Play your guitar at whatever height you want: people will always have opinions, and nobody is ‘right’ on this one, so if you are happy and feeling good, that’s all you need!