Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Guitar strap attachment point: heel pin vs. headstock

Advantages and disadvantages of each? I tried attaching between the tuners and nut for the first time, and I like it; seems to hold the guitar steadier. But I went on YouTube and did a quick survey of the pickers on “The Greatest Bluegrass Flatpickers”, parts 1-3, and almost nobody attaches to the headstock (notable exception: Norman Blake). Why is that? On the other hand, almost all my honky tonk heros, like Lefty Frizzel, Hank Williams, Hank Snow, Skeets McDonald, and Webb Pierce, attached at the headstock (Ernest Tubb did when he was younger, but didn’t later). Why? Is that because it was an “older” style? Or something about strumming vs. picking?

BTW, I did a search of this topic before posting, and couldn’t find anything. Many thanks!

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It’s two things:

  1. Personal preference: Before drilling a hole in your $15,000.00 Brazilian Rosewood Martin (or your 700.00 or 800.00 Blueridge)… whatever you have, it doesn’t matter. Your guitar is important to you and that’s what matters. Anyway, before drilling a hole, borrow a guitar or go to a music store and try out some similar guitars as yours that already have strap pins in the heel and see how you like it. Give it a good chance and play for a long time and have yours with you to compare to. I believe I’ve seen Ricky Skaggs play guitars with the strap at the headstock before. Just see what’s comfortable and what you like best. If you do decide to install a strap button, *Contact the maker of your guitar and usually they will give the exact location and even the correct angle to drill your pilot hole.

  2. You may have a vintage or high dollar guitar that you simply don’t want to drill a hole in. I had a '56 Martin D-18 that had never had a strap button installed, so I played with the strap mounted at the headstock. I didn’t want to drill into my '56 D-18. Or you may have a brand new guitar that you just can’t quite bring yourself to drill into… Yet! But wait until you get that first ding or two.

You can buy some nice quick release straps that stay on the headstock that your guitar strap mounts to with a button or even what’s called a Chicago screw (that’s what I use for my Dobro). It is also referrd to as a barrel screw. It’s two pieces, one with a deep shoulder (or barrel) and then the screw itself that goes into the barrel.

My personal preference? It doesn’t really matter to me. I can get used to both options and play just as bad either way!

Good question and I’m suprised you didn’t find more on this!


Attached at the headstock always got in the way of my left hand. Also wan’t handy for removal & storage in case.

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Ok so it’s basically personal preference, like Jeff said, and then also whether or not you’re willing to drill.
I prefer the heel attachment for a few reasons which I’ll give you now.

So first, I have played extensively with both, and they both have merits and dismerits (is that a word?)
I find that when the strap is attached right at the nut, it gets in the way of my hand (particularly my thumb) and when it’s attached between tuners it gets in the way of tuning.

Also, when I attach it by the headstock the guitar likes to sit farther to the right than I like, which makes my picking sound sloppy (tonally) and makes it hard to get leverage to fret with my left hand. This is solvable by wearing the strap very tight, but then it’s hard to put on without whacking your face with the guitar (which I’ve done, and it’s painful)

So I’ve started using the heel button, which puts the guitar closer to the left where I like it, and makes it easier to keep my picking and fretting hands in position for good technique.

The main downside I’ve noticed of the heel attachment is that the guitar gets quite neck heavy, and if you don’t watch it (especially if you have one of those pathetic nylon straps like I do) the neck will drop to about 45 degrees.

This is all just my experience with my guitar, yours will be different unless it isn’t. As they (buy who is they anyway?) say: your mileage may vary

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