Are people that play guitar with small hands at a disadvantage? I used to be so insecure about how to play guitar with small hands. Actually, this almost stopped me from taking the guitar any further!
How to play guitar with small hands? Anyone can play and have small hands. It will put you at a disadvantage, to begin with, however, there are certain stretches and techniques that will increase your reach and strength!
In this article, we will discuss how I compensate for having small hands and how it actually benefitted me in the long run!
1. Problems Having Small Hands
Having smaller hands only means that is your reach on the fretboard maybe be limited when you first start playing.
This also means that those who unfortunately have small hands will find it much more difficult when trying to fret chords.
However, anyone that is passionate and with persistent practice can overcome this!
2. Guitarists With Small Hands
So there are famous guitars like Jimi Hendrix, Slash, Steve Vai and Buckethead that are known to have large hands. But, luckily this is not a be all end all!
One of the prime examples is Angus Young, who was ranked 24th in Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 greatest guitarists of all-time list, also had small hands.
Moreover, Randy Rhoads another truly great guitarist that had small hands.
The success of these 2 guitar legends will bring great motivation and confidence for you to play guitar regardless of the size of your hand.
3. Advantages Of Having Small Hands
In fact, hand size does not dictate the skill of a guitar player.
Big-handed guitar players will have an advantage in how far they can reach around the fretboard.
But small-handed guitarists can handle the higher frets EASIER with speed and precision!
I would say that guitarists with small hands will be better leads players as they handle the higher frets better! But, that is just speculative.
Overall, it doesn’t matter the size of your hands because with the right techniques you’ll be able to navigate the fret board and learn to stretch in certain ways overtime!
4. Strengthen Your Pinky!
Traditionally, the Pinky (smallest finger) is just considered to be a backup one, and it is only used to play notes which are out of reach from the other four fingers. However, for artists with small hands, the little finger plays a very important role in their guitar performances.
Many people shared that, and myself included after years of trying to practice I found the distance from my ring finger to my index finger was too small to reach the important notes. I could kind of get there but I would struggle.
So, I knew I would have to substitute my ring finger for my pinky finger!
When you take guitar lessons they will evaluate which finger to use. Overall, your pinky is weaker and can less movement making your motion restricted, but this can change!
I remember the first time I used my pinky and it did NOT sound good (at first). But, you will be surprised how fast this will change if you are persistent. I mean, within a week you will see a MASSIVE difference.
5. Stretch Out Your Hands!
You can gain a lot of reach from your hands as well! So, the next thing to understand is that you can gain reach by stretching out your hands.
A common thing I see is that people tend to do is curl their fingers. They do this because they lack the strength in their lower finger. BUT, this reduces reach!
Stretching out your hands before you start playing will significantly improve your reach.
You can start by massaging your forearms and hands. Next, you stretch your hands and wrists and proceed to bend your fingertips down to touch the base of each finger joint but you do not need to fix it to just 1 way. Furthermore, you should stretch your fingers in different directions to practice and improve their mobility.
6. Take Advantage of Higher Frets
My biggest problem with having small hands is constructing open chords.
Open chords are played at the top of the fretboard, where the frets and bigger and where the strings join the nut (meaning you need more force to press down).
However, there is nothing stopping you from playing lower down the fretboard.
Tend to hover around the 7th fret and just play inversions of the same chord open chords. This is actually better in my opining because everyone uses open chords so this is a good excuse to mix it up, be creative, and sound different!
Furthermore, if you are playing below the 12th fret then you already have an advantage. For those with large hands, playing the high frets will make them feel cramped and uncomfortable, while those with small hands are quite comfortable. Therefore, you can make use of your weakness and turn it to your own advantage. Get along with these frets and your ability to play the guitar will be improved so much.
7. Guitar Strings For Small Hands
There are many types of strings on the market nowadays and choosing the string gauge depends on your needs and capabilities.
However, guitarists with small hands tend to require more strength.
With lighter gauge strings, you can avoid pressing as hard, making it easier to stretch your fingers across the fretboard. Therefore, a lighter string will suit you better!
In addition, standard electric guitar strings tend to be lighter on your fingers than acoustic steel ones, especially for vibrato and bends. This means if you are playing acoustic guitar then look into nylon strings since they are much more fingertip friendly.
We suggest that you should pick up .009-.042 strings for your electric guitars and .010-.047 strings for your acoustic guitars.
8. Small Hands, Smaller Guitar?
Generally, the common guitars on the market nowadays are full size. However, you can find ¾ size guitars with small bodies and short necks in some music stores and shops.
The average dimension of these guitars is about 36 x 13 inches instead of 39 x 15 inches of the standard one.
If you are seeking an electric guitar in ¾ size, you may find it a little difficult to buy the right type that you desire because the range of models for ¾ size electric guitar is not various. For your reference, Yamaha FG Jr, Squier Mini Strat, Baby Taylor, Little Martin and Epiphone Les Paul Express will be the best choices for you.
If you belong to the acoustic guitar players community, you may want to purchase a parlor, auditorium or grand concert guitar. These types all lie on the spectrum between small, bright-sounding 3/4 guitars and big, jumbos and rich-sounding dreadnoughts. For namely illustration: Little Martin, Yamaha APXT2EW will be good options for you.
Overall, I would say even though this will help you, I would not recommend this option.
9. Guitar Neck For Small Hands
There are 2 aspects of the guitar neck that can affect your guitar playing: the length and the width.
First of all, we will analyze the scale length of the neck. Scale length demonstrates the distance from the nut to the guitar bridge affecting how close together the frets are. A longer scale guitar has more space between frets, which makes people with small fingers hard to stretch their hands. Therefore, this is the main reason that explains why many guitar players love reduced-size guitars. Different full-sized guitars considerably vary in scale length, hence, if you do not like reduced-size guitars, you still can buy full-sized ones as long as your guitar neck is short. You can find the shortest scale length at 24 inches with Jaguars and Fender Mustangs electric guitars, or if you like the average of 24.75 inches, you can choose Gibson Les Pauls and SGs.
Move to the width and radius of the neck, it is considered to be the most important point you should pay attention to when having small hands. Because that is what you are putting your hand on so that is what matters the most. The ideal option for small hands is a guitar with a thin and flat neck so that the players can easily stretch their fingers to reach around the neck. Therefore, you should choose the neck shape very carefully so that it can fit your hand. Among the neck shapes, you should avoid bulky D-shapes and U-shapes because they were invented to suit only large hands. Instead, you should choose C-Shapes because C-Shapes can best mold to the palm of your small hands, which allows you to curl your fingers up and over the fretboard.
10. Guitar Body For Small Hands
The closer the guitar is held to your body, the easier you can play guitar. A guitar that is slim and has hugs close to your body will allow you to stretch your short fingers over the thickest necks and across the longest scale lengths. For electric guitars, full-sized ones with a stomach and contoured body that sits perfectly on your lap will bring comfort for your small hands. About the acoustics guitars, maybe you can not find a guitar body that is as light as other electric ones because almost all the thin body acoustics are a little bulkier. But you do not need so worry because they can also work well for your small hands.
We know using the little finger to play guitar is not easy but you should try to habituate yourself to it because it may determine the success of one guitar player. When you do not have to stretch as far, it will ease the tension throughout your hand and arm and make you more comfortable.
This may be the most difficult advice in this guide because the little finger is always the weakest one on your hand. Therefore it will take you months or even years of practice so that your little finger can totally replace your ring one.
The reduced-size guitar is not the sole choice for small hands but the ideal guitar for small hands is the one with a thinner neck, a thinner body and lighter gauge strings. Besides, you should take regular practice for your hands and your fingers to improve their flexibility on the fretboard and moreover to avoid unwanted pain in the playing. In a word, the hand size never determines the success of one guitar artist.
Whenever you feel nervous or be depressed with your small hands, think of the 2 guitars legends we mentioned in the first introduction or you can take a look at a lot of videos on the internet and you will see many young children (about 10 years old) with tiny hand perform complicated material on a full-size guitar.