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Strap button locations: thoughts, theories, practice, & science

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Reedt2000, Aug 22, 2020.

  1. Reedt2000

    Reedt2000 Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    So "neck dive" gets more rotation on TB than a lot of other topics. I thought it would be interesting to hear from y'all in regards to how you plan on strap attachment points. I'm thinking about building a body from scratch and my thoughts on how to start are to take My Ken Smith, which feels amazing on a strap, lay it on a huge piece of paper, and mark its strap button locations. Then draw new lines with those as reference points.

    The only thing I really "know" about this is I've been told the upper bout strap button wants to be pushed out to the 12th fret.

    Are there any other general rules of thumb? How does moving the buttons location (both of them) translate to how the bass hangs on a strap?

    It seems a pretty important part of the design process, so I thought it'd be cool to discuss, or have a thread where the different thoughts and approaches were centralized :thumbsup:

    (I hope everyone agrees :smug:)
    TerribleTim68, JRA and Beej like this.
  2. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    This gets into the realm of balance in general, and beyond rules of thumb I haven’t seen a good predictor that doesn’t include the word “centroids”, which sounds way too math-y for me. My first build, I made a full plywood mockup, two layers of 3/4” plywood, which was a cheap way to practice router work, and at least a rough analog to the final balance. It worked pretty well, the bass is still kind of body-heavy, I underestimated the weight of bridge and electronics, but I prefer that to neck heavy any day. I’m curious to hear what a Pro says, it would great to have some accurate predictive method to body design and strap pin location.
    JRA and Reedt2000 like this.
  3. rudy4444


    Mar 13, 2012
    Central Illinois
    Good topic.

    I've got quite a few instruments of various types under my belt, so when I decided to make a "new to me" style of bass I didn't feel I was going in totally blind as far as creating an instrument without obvious neck dive. You can see from the plan that I settled on the 11th fret location, but 10 would have been slightly better. You have to reason out your design with practical physics as well as aesthetic considerations.


    The two ways to do this are (1) to use your past experience coupled with a knowledge of your components and your best guess as to body vs. neck length to weight ratio to hypothesize how the balance will be effected, or (2) rough assemble a new design (leaving extra length for the upper horn) and physically finding the true balance point along the neck to know where the end of the upper horn needs to be.

    Number 2 is going to end up the most reliable, but it will be slightly more work.

    The heel end strap location is going to be a given; it will be as far to the rear as possible, with slight change in the location not really mattering to the overall balance of the instrument as it hangs.

    The neck end is where all the action is at, so that's why you either use the information you have to try and predict a good balance point or physically assemble the instrument and do the upper horn length last. This has the advantage of being able to physically attach the strap temporarily and feel the balance for yourself.

    It will be interesting to read other's views on this!
    dwizum, JRA, Beej and 1 other person like this.
  4. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    Strap button locations: thoughts, theories, practice, & science
    not a luthier here, but a long time player --- so: that "balance" and 'hang' of the instrument is crucial (i'm old!). strap button placements in both positions can alter the way an instrument feels re: the balance. obviously, compensatory, after-the-fact adjustments are possible, but also unnecessary if balance is a fundamental (high priority) consideration in the design.

    if you read the various posts/threads on the issue = younger players will report less neck dive issues even when their instrument's headstocks are magnetized by the floor. these are kids. they buy with their eyes. as good as some of them are, they have no clue! :D ergo: if you want to know what a perfectly balanced EB is like = ask an old pro! let a senior check it out.

    also: 'reach' to the first position + balance is the ideal (read all of TB on the subject for proof of concept!). it's possible to maintain 34" scale, reduce reach, and produce balance with a proper design. leo's stuff sucks = almost all of it has to be compensated by some muscle, even though an attempt is made with the 12th fret bit. other designs are worse. too many designers want a 'cool look' instead of a 'cool feel'. and physics is physics: the heavier the headstock+machines = the closer to the nut the upper strap button has to be!

    .02 :thumbsup:
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2020
    SlingBlader and Beej like this.
  5. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    I also like to have the upper horn bump out to the 10th fret where possible. This definitely helps to avoid neck dive on a lighter-bodied instrument, but also has the effect of keeping the nut feeling like it's closer to your body. Couple this with a bridge located as close to the end of the body (and therefore strap button) as possible, and the net effect is a wider balance area (point).

    I've found one can bring up the butt strap button higher on the upper bout, and that can also help to offset some dive and help a lighter bass hang well. @JIO has written extensively on this same topic (as well as lots of ideas about strap routing).

    I like my basses to be really light - nothing over 7.5 lbs for my players, and having the upper horn extend out to the 10th or even further, plus the bridge on the butt, has worked out for me. :thumbsup:
  6. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

  7. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music. Supporting Member

    To cancel neck dive,I've found that this works for me.

    Feed the strap through your belt.
    Or through the loops in your pants.
    No button relocation needed.

    Edit:The location of the lower strap button on my bass is where the makers put it.

    20200321_183203.jpg 20200321_184344.jpg
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2020
  8. Slidlow

    Slidlow Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    I successfully positioned the strap at the 14th fret with this design from 1987. Where ever you want your strap (aesthetically or otherwise) will determine what you need to do to get a balance. Of course where an instrument sits is a personal choice as well so there may never be any correct way.

    Attached Files:

    Reedt2000 likes this.
  9. Hundred proof

    Hundred proof

    Apr 22, 2018
    A technique Warwick used was to move the lower strap position higher than dead center ... the upper position on this bass is on the 14th fret, and no balance issues

    parttime and Reedt2000 like this.
  10. parttime


    Apr 23, 2020
    i hate to keep bringing warwick up in my posts, but i was just gonna mention that as well! i have read a lot on this in various places, tho probly not as much as most of you all. it does seem there is a benefit to the high placement, probably physics or some such nonsense.

    on my current (very slow) build, i of course didn't give nearly enough thought to balance and after designing and cutting out the body i realized the upper horn only extends to like the 15/16th fret. oops :banghead: i soothed my worry by saying i'm using ultralight machines and (had planned on using) a super heavy bridge and harware. either way, i decided to place the bridge button higher on the body like a warwick. hopefully it's not very divey in the end....buuuuut, time will tell.
    Reedt2000 likes this.
  11. rudy4444


    Mar 13, 2012
    Central Illinois
    Locating the rear button above center doesn't do much to change the hanging balance of a bass but it does favor the ergonomics if you're looking to wear your bass at an angle like the majority of players do.

    I use that button location on my basses, but the upper horn button location will have the greatest effect on making an instrument with desirable hanging balance. It's super-easy to overlook the balance function of the upper horn when designing a body that balances well, although there are other factors that have to be considered when drawing up an untested design.

    I've got a new 30" scale P bass in the works and it's got a upper horn that extends to the 10th fret. The body will be counter-bored to reduce overall weight, but I'm leaving the horn area solid and once it's assembled "in the white" for a test drive I'll be able to shorten the upper horn if I find the extra length isn't necessary.


    I know there's a design out there somewhere I once saw that has the top button on an extendable rod that slides out of the upper horn to adjust the hanging balance. That seems a bit TOO practical for my tastes!
    Reedt2000 likes this.
  12. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    A well designed bass should not need all of this to balance - it should hang from your shoulders, and allow you to jump up and down, and not have it move. It's not that hard to do, if you have a long enough upper horn, and use light tuners - All my basses do this, including a 6.6 pound P. The gigs I play, I also need to be able to change basses quickly, without removing my belt (church gigs have sensibilities that your gigs may not have). While your method works for you, in my world, not so much. ;-)

    The difference between the strap being positioned on center and a bit off on the bridge end of things is negligible in terms of balance. The use of two strap buttons like that, however, has benefits in terms of the fact that it will sit on a surface (without a stand) and not fall over. I position my strap buttons a bit above center, and it does make the bass hang a tiny bit better, but it's not in the neck dive axis that it helps - it helps the thing sit better in terms of not wanting to rotate into or away from your thighs, if that makes sense. I also used to do it just so I could use straps that were a bit shorter (I'm tall, and used to play my bass down low). As time has elapsed, I've moved the thing up (about an inch shorter a decade as far as strap length), so this is less of an issue, but to keep straps consistent, so I can move them from bass to bass, I still do this.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2020
  13. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music. Supporting Member

    I agree.
    "Should" is the operative word.

    All "should".
    But still many don't.
    And bass designers have yet be concerned enough to solve this on all basses once and for all.
    "Divey" basses continue to roll off the line.

    That belt loop method is taken from a chap with a twelve string bass.
    Which is notoriously neck heavy.

    Feeding the strap through the belt is not a difficult thing to do.
    No re-drilling holes,peg extenders and relocating pegs is required.
    It costs nothing at all.

    Last edited: Sep 6, 2020
  14. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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