Let’s be honest. When most guitar players think gear, they don’t think guitar straps.
They don’t think gig bags and other such accessories either. They think amps. They think pedals. They think FX processors, compressors, gates, limiters, EQ, gain stages, tone woods, pickups, and head/cab combos — even all the way down to specific tubes and circuits. By contrast, the guitar strap is a mere afterthought, the bastard stepchild of the gear world. Why such disregard? Well, most guitar players are fixated on tone, as they should be, and the common assumption is that a guitar strap has about as little to do with your tone as the color of paint on the ceiling.
Allow me to begin dismantling that common assumption by noting that no one on this big rock orbiting the sun is more of an obsessive hardcore gear-head tone junkie than yours truly. After twenty relentless years of searching — through incalculable combinations of guitars, amps, pedals, etc. — I can honestly say I’ve locked down the tone of my dreams. Now I couldn’t possibly love my rig more. It fits me flawlessly, allowing me to play unselfconsciously, completely free from ever having to overcompensate for weak tonal areas. It’s my sound sanded down to perfection, responsive beyond belief. The absolute control and comfort there — whether laying back to get super subtle or hitting the gas to attack hard and tear it up — is just sublime. It’s Christmas ever time I plug in.
Now, I say this not to brag but for context. People who aren’t tone freaks simply don’t get it. They don’t understand the all-consuming preoccupation and intoxicating rewards of finally reaching your personal tone Valhalla. For one thing, they simply can’t hear the difference between one setup and another. Lacking a basic critical apparatus for appraising all the distinctions — which, in all fairness, can be incredibly subtle and nuanced — they will never know that driving hunger to finally get through your amp what you’ve heard in your head for so long. However, for those who do understand, here’s why I think you need to reconsider the guitar strap as part of your gear chain rather than an accessory outside it.
Especially on your feet, playing live, the functional fact of the matter is that the strap is what literally connects your body to your instrument. Invoking a design term, it’s the principle of Gestalt: the unified whole is more than the sum of its parts and so each part, no matter how minor, becomes essential. And to realize the strap is an element relevant to a player’s attack and tonal fingerprints, one need only consider Jimmy Page, with his Les Paul often hung so low it was all but grazing his ankles, allowing him to lurch forward and threw his weight into those colossal riffs. Page illustrates how, like your amp, your strap has to be there for you. Overall, you have to trust — to feel as well as know— that it’s going to hold when you push it hard. And as an Anthology Gear War strap ages, it’s full-grain leather molds to your body and stance, fortifying and customizing that feel significantly.
So is the strap worthy of being viewed as gear? Absolutely, for the simple fact that tactile integrity is so critical: to play at your best, everything needs to feel at its best. Investing in a strap built to last that reliably enhances the comfort and control of your physical connection to your guitar can only impact your tone for the better. Your strap can and should be a supportive extensive of your unique posture, and therefore your sound.
This belief is why I have made it my mission to elevate guitar straps to the level of “gear” and invest in them the attention to quality and detail that all you fellow tone junkies out there deserve in your noble search for sonic perfection.
This concludes deep guitar strap thoughts with Brian Griffith.