Today I want to spend some time talking about shoulder pain and finding the right strap. I have recently been experiencing a bit of pain in my left shoulder while playing my bass. Typically this occurs after I have been standing and wearing my bass for more than an hour. Part of the problem is that my current go to bass, my Fender P Deluxe, weighs 9.6lbs. When practicing at home I am normally sitting down, so it’s not so much a problem, but when rehearsing with the band I am on my feet for two plus hours. Ultimately I have come to realize that I need to quit procrastinating and start exercising, with an emphasis on doing targeted exercises aimed at increasing my shoulder strength. Building up muscle will take some time, however, so in order to get a quick fix to get me through I started taking a closer look at bass straps.
Finding The Right Strap
For the past 25+ years I have been using a basic 2″ leather or suede strap. Until now this has served me well, but the pain in my shoulder just can’t be ignored. After doing some online research I decided it was time to look for something a bit more substantial. While there are many bass strap options out there, I started looking for something that was padded and at least 3″ wide. I briefly entertained going with a dual shoulder strap, but really do not care for the look of these, plus some of them require you to modify your bass for them to work properly.
The Eagle Mountain Guitar Strap
The first strap I found that seemed to fill the bill was the Eagle Mountain Guitar Strap with Sheepskin Pad (Black). This is an inexpensive ($19.95) standard nylon strap with a 12″x3″ Sheepskin Leather Pad attached to it. The pad is part of the actual strap, not just a sleeve that slides over the nylon, and is adjustable at each end. It can take a bit of doing to get the pad to sit at the right spot on your shoulder at the length you want it, but it is manageable. I prefer to adjust my strap to right around 51″ and was able to do this without problem with the Eagle Mountain. In fact I still have about 2″ to spare. On a side note, when picking out a strap be sure to research it’s adjustable length as I have found most guitar straps are too short when used with a bass. The quality of this strap is decent enough, with leather ends and plastic adjusters, but essentially it is a glorified nylon strap.
Once properly adjusted it feels fairly comfortable and the extra padding and width provided by the 3″ sheepskin pad seems to disperse the weight a bit better than a standard strap. Unfortunately after about an hour of use, I again started to feel pain in my shoulder. I’ll admit the pain wasn’t as bad as with my old strap, but it was still uncomfortable. After using the Eagle Mountain strap for a couple of weeks I decided to continue my search as I just wasn’t satisfied with it.
The Neotech Mega Bass Strap
Next up I tried the Neotech 8301052 Mega Bass Strap, Black ($17.83). I had bought a Neotech strap a few years back and found it to be much to short for my needs so I was a bit leery about getting another one. I liked the strap and actually ended up giving it to my young daughter to use with her Mini Strat as that I found I could adjust it to a very short length, which works well for her. I am sure when I bought my first Neotech strap that they didn’t have but one model to choose from, so when I saw that they now offer a Mega Bass Strap I decided to check it out.
The Mega Bass strap claims to be adjustable from 41″ to 51″ and since 51″ is my target I figured I’d give it a try. Fortunately I found that it is indeed long enough, in fact when adjusted to 51″ I find that I still have about an inch to spare. This may be due in part to the fact that the strap is made from Neoprene which has a stretchy, elastic like feel. The strap has a bit of a tapered design to it, starting out at about 2′ wide at the ends and widening out to almost 4″ near the middle. The Neotech Mega Bass Strap contains an extra layer of internal foam padding, for comfort, and features leather ends and an adjustable nylon lead.
Neotech claims that this strap “Makes your instrument feel up to 50% lighter”. In practice I can’t say that I found this to be true, but it is a comfortable strap. The Neoprene makes your bass bounce a bit which can be kind of cool when you really dig in, but again, after about an hour my shoulder started to hurt. In truth I think I lasted a bit longer with this strap than the Eagle Mountain strap before feeling any pain, but nonetheless, my shoulder did start to ache.
At this point I thought I was done and reserved myself to just trying to take more breaks while playing as well as trying to hold my bass off of my shoulder between songs. I again revisited the dual strap option, but decided I really didn’t want to spend that kind of money on a strap or have to modify my bass in any way. Well, lo and behold, thanks to a posting on TalkBass, I happened upon an Amazon deal of the day for a Mono Cases GS1 GS1-BTY-CLY-L Electric Guitar Strap($28.99 marked down from $44.99). This strap, known as “The Betty”, is quite a bit more substantial than the other two straps and looks and feels great.
The Betty features matte black steel hardware and a smooth neoprene underbelly that lets the shoulder breathe. I bought the Ultra-suede version in Clay, which has a supple and luxurious suede-like feel to it. It’s 3.25″ wide wale design distributes weight more evenly, while the imbedded memory core increases circulation and reduces fatigue. It also features a hidden “pick pocket” and is adjustable from 47″ to 59″.
The quality on this Mono Case strap is really far and above the other two bass straps. It’s leather ends are so thick and sturdy that I had some trouble getting my strap locks on. This is one very well made, beautiful looking strap. I was a little worried about how the Clay color would look, but for the price I just couldn’t pass it up. As luck would have, the grayish “Clay” color actually looks great on my Sea Foam Green bass.
As you might have guessed I ended up liking “The Betty” the best out of the three. I guess sometimes it does pay to spend a little more than you intend to in order to get a quality product. Ironically, I probably wouldn’t have bought this strap if it hadn’t been on sale. With the Betty I can play for close to two hours before starting to feel uncomfortable, and even then it is more of a dull ache than the straight up pain I had been experiencing. Still I am aware that this is just a quick fix and that I need to get to work on my exercise routine. Guess it’s time to hit the gym!
Have something to add? What ails you when playing? Anyone using a Dual Shoulder type strap?