Few things say cool and smooth quite like leather. And when you combine bass playing with leather then you’ve got a sight and sound fit for the sleekest jazz bar.
While there are many leather strap makers out there, in this review we’re going to look at one of the smaller ones out there doing big things out there for a whole slew of artists all around the world.
Italia Leather Straps is a small California based guitar and bass strap manufacturing company out in California that focuses on made-to-order, high-quality leather and suede straps. I had the opportunity to speak with one of the company’s representatives about doing a review of one of their 4 inch leather straps for Smart Bass and sure enough, was granted the privilege to do so.
Setting Up The Strap
For this review, I felt rather than just giving the blow by blow of the strap itself, one of the best demos I could give to this was during a practice session I was a part of with some of my friends. This review is my experience using one of Italia’s straps during a 3 hour jam session and band practice.
Before heading off to jam, I checked my mailbox and sure enough the strap had arrived. I opened up the package containing the strap before I took off to practice and took a second to first admire the craftsmanship of the strap. The leather was well cut with no frayed edges or scuff marks and the scent of fresh leather was crisp and prominent. The logo was subtly embedded into the strap roughly where my shoulder would be positioned when the strap was set up on the bass and hoisted up.
Aesthetics aside, within moments of my first frustrations set in: actually getting the strap onto the strap bolts on my bass. The biggest challenge was not so much on the top strap lock but with the strap lock on the bottom end of the bass. For whatever reason, this took the aid of my friend who works in construction to finagle the strap onto the back end of the bass. The total elapsed time to get the strap on was about 10 minutes.
Once the strap was on, the next issue emerged: adjusting the strap to my particular playing style. Using the secondard strap on the back of the strap as the pully that would hoist the bass higher or lower on me took a whole other feat of strength to first get the adjustment strap out of the loop and then try over and over again to find what was the best place for the bass on me. Again, the elapesed time was about 15 minutes.
Now, I am duely aware that this is a brand, brand new strap hot off the Italia Leather Strap press in California. I am literally the first person to put this strap on since it was made. Of course the strap is going to be tough to work with for the reasons that one it’s brand new and two it’s leather. As we all know, leather is a notoriously tough material that does not yield easily to force. With all this in mind, the above mentioned points are in no way strikes against Italia or the strap itself. Instead, merely observations during the initial breaking in process.
Playing With the Strap On
In retrospect, the actual playing experience with the strap on was actually quite enjoyable. The most notable aspect of the strap was the support I felt over my left shoulder while playing. The strap covered my entire left shoulder and at no time did I ever feel like I was going to lose my strap or it was going to slide off of my shoulder. To that point though, the strap almost seemed too secure. The friction between my shirt and the strap in conjunction with the weight of the bass was constantly pulling my shirt off towards one end of my shoulder, causing me to have to readjust the strap and my shirt while playing. A minor inconvenience worth mentioning for an overall quality product.
If you’ve got 50 dollars to spend and you’re in the market for a new strap, give Italia Leather Straps a call and place an order.
The strap comes with all the goods and not-so-goods associated with leather straps. Breaking the strap in and adjusting it during it’s first couple of uses it going to be the biggest source of frustration as it did, for me, require considerable strength and fenagling to get the strap seated correctly on me and on the bass period. Moreover, playing with this kind of strap can tug at your shirt and prompt you to readjust every so often during playing. How much that weighs on your decision to purchase this kind of strap is a matter left entirely to you.
Finally, let’s all remember that this is leather, a quality material that will last virtually forever in wind, rain and snow and requires very little to stay in working order. Moreover, unlike cloth straps that can wear and fray with time, leather gets better with age. It becomes more broken in and more customized to you the player and arguably a more natural companion to your bass playing.
Finally, for those with back problems or find themselves playing heavy duty bass guitars like a Rickenbacker, Warwick or a Dan Armstrong Plexi Bass this is the strap for you. It’s wide, 4 inch width is perfect for evening out the heavy weight of the bass and making virtually any bass a playable dream.
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