What are Strap Buttons?
A strap button is a piece of hardware mounted to a guitar or other instrument, as an anchor point for attaching a strap.
A strap allows the instrument to hang from the musician’s shoulders, making it more comfortable to hold and play, especially when standing up.
While strap buttons are optional on a guitar, including them will make the instrument much more appealing to a person used to performing on stage, and can lend more of a professional, finished look and feel. We recommend that builders always put them on their cigar box guitars.
There are many varieties of strap buttons, from basic models that work sort of like buttons on a shirt, to more complex varieties that more securely fasten the strap end via screw mechanisms or snaps. Shapes, sizes and finishes vary widely as well. See the photos for some ideas of different varieties.
Many strap buttons are mushroom shaped. Guitar straps usually have a slit in each end, sort of
like a button hole, which allows it to be pushed over the strap button, Once in place, the flared part of the strap button keeps the strap in place (much like a button through a buttonhole keeps a shirt fastened).
Some output jacks also include a strap button feature, so that the one piece of hardware can function both for plugging in an amp cord, and the place to attach a strap. There are quite a few varieties of endpin/strap button jacks available – check out these available from CBGitty.com.
Strap buttons are usually fastened to the instrument permanently using screws. Many include small felt pads meant to go between the base of the button and the instrument’s body, to reduce the likelihood of it marring the finish. Sometimes two buttons are used on an instrument (many electric guitars, for instance), and sometimes only one is used. In this case, one end of the strap is fastened to the strap button, and the other end is usually tied to another part of the instrument (usually the headstock on guitars) using a cord.
Placement of strap buttons on instruments vary widely, and can be a matter of preference. The main goal is to allow the instrument to hang comfortably from a musician’s shoulders in proper playing position, without the strap interfering with any other components of the instrument (such as amp cables, volume/tone knobs, etc.)
When used on cigar box guitars, the builder has a lot of leeway in terms of where to place strap buttons. We will give some specific advice and tips below, but remember that there is no one right way and you will have to decide for yourself where to mount them (or whether to mount them at all).
How to Install Strap Buttons
The first step is to choose the style of strap button you want to use. Prices range depending on the complexity, with the more complex “locking” strap buttons costing significantly more than simple mushroom or bell-shaped ones. For cigar box guitars, standard strap buttons are almost always fine.
Next, decide where to put the strap buttons on your guitar. Consider the following points when deciding:
- When a strap is attached to the buttons, and worn by a musician, the instrument should be able to hang comfortably at playing height. Avoid placing the strap buttons near the bottom side of the instrument, which can cause it to want to flip over when worn.
- Think about where other
components will be located. Don’t put the strap button in a place where the strap will interfere with an output jack, volume knob or other key component once a strap is attached.
- On cigar box guitars, if the cigar box has thin walls, think about locating the strap button where there is some solid bracing inside the box. Alternatively, you can add some bracing specifically for the strap button.
On instruments with a neck heel, sometimes the strap button can be mounted on the heel. See the photo of the banjo that illustrates this.
- On conventional acoustic guitars, one strap button is usually placed in the middle of the bottom curve, as shown in the photo.
- On cigar box guitars, having one strap button on the bottom/base panel of the cigar box and one on the upper/top panel (not the sound boar, but the smaller top panel that the neck touches) can be a nice configuration (see photos).
Once you are sure where you want the strap buttons to go, it is time to start drilling. Choose an appropriately sized drill bit for pre-drilling screw holes (a 3/32″ bit works well for the strap buttons sold by C. B. Gitty). Then mount the strap buttons to the guitar. If your strap buttons came with small felt pads, these go between the base of the button and the guitar body.
To be safe, we recommend using a regular screwdriver to mount the strap button, rather than a power screwdriver. Power screwdrivers have a habit of stripping out screw heads and screw holes, and this is one that you don’t want to go bad.
As noted above, sometimes guitars will have only one strap button (always down near the bottom/base of the instrument), with the other end of the strap being tied on up near the headstock. You can certainly do this with a cigar box guitar if you want.
Because they do not require access to the inside of the instrument, you can always retrofit strap buttons onto a finished guitar. Just be sure to be careful with placement, as described above!
Mounting and using strap button end-pin jacks is a bit more complex, but many of the same decisions come into play in terms of placement. Mounting methods will vary depending on the style chosen. Some endpin jacks mount from the outside using screws. Others have a threaded portion and require a nut to be tightened inside the instrument to hold it in place. With these, putting a couple of drops of LocTite on the threads is recommended, to keep the nut from working loose over time.
Strap buttons are cheap, easy to install and a great functional addition to guitars. They allow the instrument to be worn and played while standing, a must for musicians performing live on stage. There is no good reason not to make them a standard part of your instrument builds, so get yourself some from C. B. Gitty and give them a try on your next build – or add them to an existing build!