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Thread: Holding the mandolin with a strap

  1. #1

    Default Holding the mandolin with a strap

    Along with my new mandolin I ordered a really nice leather strap. I tried holding it on one shoulder like Bill Monroe but it slips off and I canít seem to hold on to it. I have to hold it like a guitar with the strap around by neck and shoulder. Is this just too wrong? Or is it however works for you? I plan on taking lesson so Iím sure my instructor will be able to help me with this but I wonít be able to start until next month as Iím on disability and only get paid once a month. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    harvester of clams Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holding the mandolin with a strap

    I always wear a strap over my left shoulder like you do. It’s fine . It’s just a legacy of ‘Bill did it’ that keeps people using the strap over the picking shoulder.
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    Default Re: Holding the mandolin with a strap

    I’d read that Bill Monroe wore the strap that way so he didn’t have to doff his hat to put on or take off the mandolin. I have a Dawg Leash strap that was designed in cooperation with David Grisman that works the same way. I use it from time to time but what’s important is that the strap you use works well for you. Try everything but be sure it works for you.
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    Default Re: Holding the mandolin with a strap

    I prefer to use the strap like a guitar, nothing wrong with that. I don't wear a cowboy hat.
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    Default Re: Holding the mandolin with a strap

    hands are for playing the mandolin, not for holding it in position. use a strap adjusted to place your mandolin exactly where you will be playing it, both sitting and standing position.

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    Default Re: Holding the mandolin with a strap

    Iím a one shoulder guy. I use the strap and my right elbow/arm to hold the mandolin steady, well more or less, and that leaves both hands free to move around and find the right spots without trying to hold the mandolin. By keeping just a slight down pressure on the mandolin with my right arm really helps in both holding the mandolin to minimum movement and it keeps the strap from slipping down off of your shoulder.
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    Registered User Kirk Higgins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holding the mandolin with a strap

    With the strap over my right shoulder, I developed a shoulder/right arm soreness. When I switched the strap to my left shoulder the problem went away and hasn’t returned.
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  9. #8
    small instrument, big fun Dan in NH's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holding the mandolin with a strap

    The reason Bill wore his mandolin like that is because he also wore a big ol' cowboy hat. If he wore his mandolin strap over his life shoulder, he'd have to take his hat off every time he picked up & put down his mandolin. He didn't want to take his hat off because then the audience would see how messy his hair was from wearing his hat all day. So he kept his hat on, and wore his mandolin strap over just one shoulder.

    If you don't care about people seeing your messy hair, then you can keep your hat off and wear your mandolin strap over your left shoulder like a guitar strap.

    I can't wear my mandolin strap over just one shoulder. It doesn't seem stable.

    My mandolin instructor told me that he wore his strap over just his right shoulder for a while, but to keep the mandolin stable he'd have to constantly do this sort of one shoulder shrug. After a year or so of regular gigging he starting having awful shoulder pain and right arm numbness. He connected the dots, switched to an over the left shoulder strap, and working on keeping his shoulders & upper arms relaxed while playing. 20 years later and he's fine.
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    small instrument, big fun Dan in NH's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holding the mandolin with a strap

    Quote Originally Posted by mandocello8 View Post
    hands are for playing the mandolin, not for holding it in position. use a strap adjusted to place your mandolin exactly where you will be playing it, both sitting and standing position.
    That's some good advice right there.
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    And still saving my nickles & dimes & bottle caps & breakfast cereal box tops for my lifetime mandolin.

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    small instrument, big fun Dan in NH's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holding the mandolin with a strap

    BTW, in just a about two years of playing mandolin seriously I have accumulated a PILE of mandolin straps. Some of them really expensive leather ones. Currently I'm using a single strand of paracord with a loop on either end.
    Eastman MD-514 (F body, Sitka & maple, oval hole)
    Kentucky KM-250 (A body, spruce & maple, f holes)

    And still saving my nickles & dimes & bottle caps & breakfast cereal box tops for my lifetime mandolin.

  14. #11

    Default Re: Holding the mandolin with a strap

    Thanks for all the replies. I actually do wear a hat most of the time but don’t care if I have to take it off. Glad to hear some of you wear the strap like I’m doing. i have it adjusted so it’s in the same spot sitting or standing. Being a guitar player it also feels natural to wear it that way

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    Registered User Bren's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holding the mandolin with a strap

    Chris Thile uses a strap over neck and left shoulder.
    If it's good enough for him...
    Bren

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    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holding the mandolin with a strap

    Quote Originally Posted by Bren View Post
    Chris Thile uses a strap over neck and left shoulder.
    If it's good enough for him...
    Me as well.
    Last edited by Simon DS; May-28-2023 at 5:59am.

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    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holding the mandolin with a strap

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    I always wear a strap over my left shoulder like you do. It’s fine . It’s just a legacy of ‘Bill did it’ that keeps people using the strap over the picking shoulder.
    Oh, man, never thought of that! Would've come in handy yesterday.
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    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holding the mandolin with a strap

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan in NH View Post
    . . . If you don't care about people seeing your messy hair, then you can keep your hat off. . . .
    Heh heh. If I cared about people seeing my messy hair, I'd never leave the house!

    (I'm having a bad hair life.)
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  19. #16
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holding the mandolin with a strap

    Quote Originally Posted by mandocello8 View Post
    hands are for playing the mandolin, not for holding it in position. use a strap adjusted to place your mandolin exactly where you will be playing it, both sitting and standing position.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dan in NH View Post
    That's some good advice right there.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dan in NH View Post
    BTW, in just a about two years of playing mandolin seriously I have accumulated a PILE of mandolin straps. Some of them really expensive leather ones. Currently I'm using a single strand of paracord with a loop on either end.
    That's true for many if not most mandolin players, especially if you have F5's with those built-in places to attach a strap.

    However, it's not universally true.

    None of the vintage mandolin method books mention a strap, nor do Italian bowlback players use them - even standing and strolling. I didn't see a lot of straps among players in classical mandolin orchestras.

    typical Italian way to hold a bowlback standing with no strap

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Note that the guitar player behind him does have a strap!

    Of course, they don't need to stand next to the banjo player and get close to the microphone for their Bluegrass breaks either!

    Here are some older pics of me holding mandolin family instruments without a strap:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I can play up the whole neck that way too, the left hand is free to move.

    When I played at Renn fairs, I did have a thin fabric strap - but not use when playing, just to carry the mandolin on my back when walking, eating, and playing other instruments.

    Enjoy your straps, those that use them..It's just one thing some of us do not need.

  20. #17
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Holding the mandolin with a strap

    Red Rector did pretty well without a strap...




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  22. #18
    Registered User Dave Hicks's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holding the mandolin with a strap

    I always figured my head was a bigger obstacle than my shoulder blade to the strap taking a dive, so I wear it over the left side (play right handed).

    I know it's customary to play uke and charango without straps, but I can't handle that, so straps for all.

    D.H.

  23. #19
    small instrument, big fun Dan in NH's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holding the mandolin with a strap

    I can manage soprano uke without a strap. I use a strap with my baratone uke.

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    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
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    Default Re: Holding the mandolin with a strap

    I used to do the one shoulder strap (I did my right as well), but found that I started having pain in my shoulders and neck because I'd unintentionally move my shoulder up while playing.

    I also don't like the balance using the F scroll and a tail button for the strap (the mandolin tends to dip too much and I have to use my left hand to keep it in position). I always have my strap on my headstock in the middle of the tuning pegs (between the G and D courses) and the tail button. Super balanced and stays in place. I've had people tell me how bad that must be for tuning or the strain that it puts on the neck which will cause problems with the instrument. I've been playing with this setup for years and have never had issues. The mandolin stays in tune and there's not enough weight to cause issues with the instrument etc. Funny enough, those that told me "I'd definitely have problems" when I started doing this years ago (at least 5 or 10) still tell me that I'll have problems - even though I don't after years haha.

    Personally, I care a lot more about how I feel about playing the mandolin than I care about how those watching me play care about about how I look while playing
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