Can the Size of Someone's Hands Inhibit Their Ability to Play Guitar?

Discussion in 'Beginners/FAQ' started by Mark Lykkos, Jul 26, 2017.

  1. Mark Lykkos

    Mark Lykkos SS.org Regular

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    Hi everyone! This is probably the dumbest question ever for this forum (even though "any question is good here" LOL) but I've been making very slow progress on acoustic guitar for probably five years, and I keep having the thought that what if my hands are too small for playing guitar?

    I'm hoping that maybe I just need to stretch them more and eventually things will fall into place, but I don't wanna be fighting biology.

    Is the "hands too small" thing just a myth or is there some merit to it? I'd really like to play acoustic with some proficiency. Thanks everyone!
     
  2. synrgy

    synrgy Ya ya ya I am Lorde

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    To a certain extent, it can matter, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it does matter.

    Do be careful about 'fighting biology'. I lost roughly 40% of my left hand's usability somewhere between my late 20's and early 30's due to severe cubital tunnel syndrome. As such, I can't stress enough that you'll want to take care of your hands. I did a lot of stretching when I was younger and playing all the time, based on some shit I saw in a Michael Manring home video tape (VHS, lol, get off my lawn!), but somewhere along the way I just stopped. Between guitar, and typing, and video gaming, I was nearly always using my hands/arms/elbows/shoulders 'incorrectly', and I now know that I'll be paying for that for the rest of my life - even after having surgery to correct the problem. So, word of warning, is all I'm saying. Stretch, but not too beyond your limits, and if something starts to hurt, stop right away and properly rest until it doesn't hurt any more.

    Most importantly, play within the confines of your biology. You can use any 'limits' you encounter as a way to bolster your own personal style, and/or you can find ways to work around them. I can't fret the top two strings on a G chord any more, for instance, but that doesn't stop me from playing it. I just do my best to mute those two strings and play it as a 4 string chord, instead.

    Anyway, there are great players with hands of varying size, so there's no hard rule. It's really down to the work one puts in, and whatever talent they may have brought to the equation.
     
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  3. vilk

    vilk Very Regular

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  4. Rawkmann

    Rawkmann SS.org Regular

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    I certainly think it puts people blessed with bigger than average hands and fingers at an advantage. After watching many videos of virtuoso players You notice that MOST of them do seem to have longer than normal digits. I myself have pretty small hands with short 'stubby' fingers and I do sometimes feel it inhibits my playing. And I'm not saying it makes it impossible to achieve a certain level of skill with small hands, but not many people are going to tell You that having big hands and long fingers puts You at a disadvantage when it comes to guitar playing.
     
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  5. Strobe

    Strobe SS.org Regular

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    I too notice that most of the virtuosos have long fingers. That said, I have a friend with big fat stubby fingers who shreds in a style very similar to early Zakk Wylde. One can certainly play very well with a wide variety of fingers. Hardly anyone is going to be the best ever at anything - and it's going to come down a lot more to how much time they devote to their craft than their finger shape.
     
  6. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    What about Jimmy Rosenberg? That guy was absolutely shredding when he was 2 years old (exaggeration but you get the point). I don't think it matters as much as good technique.
     
  7. JohnIce

    JohnIce Singlecoils = tr00

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    I wouldn't worry about it, lots of people have smallish hands and lots of people get started when they're kids and not fully grown. If you're making slow progress it's probably because your practice is inefficient. Maybe you're learning too difficult chords too soon, playing too fast, not spending enough time isolating your problems and so on.
     
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  8. USMarine75

    USMarine75 Doc McStuffins Contributor

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    There's tons of guitarists with small hands or impediments, just to name a few:

    EVH
    Tonny Iommi
    Django Reinhardt
    Nuno Bettencourt

    Plus there are tons of female guitarists that probably don't have the hands of an NFL QB, yet have no issues.

    The only constraint is going to be things like extended stretches, but you can more than make up for that in technique (legato, prepositioning your fingers before the next box - see Rick Graham, etc).

    I would argue it's easier than having big fat chubby fingers, which would crowd the fingerboard... Your chords would probably ring out much cleaner.
     
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  9. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire Sunbro

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    small hands just means a different approach to playing the same stuff. Incorporating slides and taps are often a way to mitigate stretches, which I do even though I have quite large hands (I can easily stretch from the 1st to 7th fret on a strat and my 26.5" 7 string). Luckily most chordal shapes don't have huge stretches to play them so that shouldn't be an issue.
     
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  10. Rawkmann

    Rawkmann SS.org Regular

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    I'll put it this way, I think guitar players born with small hands wishes they were bigger, but I doubt any guitarist with larger than average hands wishes they were any smaller.
     
  11. CrazyDean

    CrazyDean SS.org Regular

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    Don't forget Angus Young!

    I remember about ten years ago, there was an Angus Young signature SG. It was made with small hands in mind. The neck was smaller and had closer string spacing. There are also child-sized or travel-sized guitars if you think a smaller form factor will make a difference.
     
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  12. Shask

    Shask SS.org Regular

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    As someone with small hands, I think it can make it more difficult. You have to stretch a lot more to hit things that others can do more easily. That being said, I dont think it limits your playing. You learn how to work around it, which will create your unique style.

    However, I will say that I think it is MORE important to get a guitar that matches your hand size. I am SUPER picky about neck profile, scale length, nut width, etc... and wrong combinations of those things will give me wrist cramps like crazy. I know acoustic guitars typically have wide flat fretboards, which is a no-no for me. Would kill my thumb and wrist. You should try something like a long scale narrow neck Fender Strat, and a short scale wider, but shorter, Gibson style neck. I bet if you try some different styles, you would find something that feels more natural in a smaller hand. Personally, I find 24.75" scale guitars, like Gibsons, to be the easiest to play for my tiny hands. However, 25.5" is not bad either, as long as they have a 1 5/8" nut, which is narrower. Longer 25.5" scale combined with a 1 11/16" wide nut width can cause me problems depending on the neck shape. It gets pretty technical, lol.
     
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  13. Shask

    Shask SS.org Regular

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    As far as acoustic, I have an old Ovation (forget model, but around $350) that has a neck that is narrower than normal for an acoustic, and is also thinner, and not as round. Almost more of a "V" shaped neck. That is one of the few acoustics I have been able to play since the neck is not mega-sized like many electro-acoustic guitars.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2017
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  14. Rawkmann

    Rawkmann SS.org Regular

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    Can confirm all of this. One guitar that fits me like a glove is an old Kramer ProAxe I got years ago. It's 24.75 scale, 24 frets, and has the most narrow Floyd Rose nut they made at the time. I have a regular Fender Strat that I love, but admittedly I do find it difficult to play a guitar with 25.5 scale. Guess that's why I generally gravitate more to Gibsons.
     
  15. High Plains Drifter

    High Plains Drifter SS.org Regular

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    I just tried to stretch on my Strat from 1st to 7th... crap!!I can successfully navigate to the 6th fret but that's as far as I can go before I damage something lol. My hands are on the smaller side I guess. There are still certain solo's and leads that I just can't quite master but with all of it, I know that it's the technique, fluidity, and speed that I need to work on. It's not the reach and subsequently not the size of my hand(s) regarding my limitations. Can't offer any better advice than what's here already but don't let this hang you up nor burn you out. Keep playin!
     
  16. Shask

    Shask SS.org Regular

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    Yep. Although, I usually dont like 24.75" guitars, even though they are easiest to play. I think it is because I am not a fan of Gibson (dont like the high neck angle), and the far-and-few-inbetween superstrats that are 24.75" usually end up having necks that are too tiny, or I dont like them for some other reason I can't control because there are next-to-no choices in that category. I had a Peavey V-Type with the smallest neck known to mankind, lol. I actually like the tone of 25.5" guitars better, even though they are harder to play. Most of the guitar styles I like are all 25.5". Heck, I even have a 26.5" 7 string Schecter with a neck the size of a boat that is hard as crap to play, but I still love the tone of it, so I keep it around, even if I dont play it often.

    Over the last year I have really gotten into 25" scale guitars like Kiesel and PRS. I find PRS necks with rounder neck profiles to be very comfortable. Not as bendy as 24.75", but not as much of a stretch as 25.5". They are a little wide, but not bad if the back is rounded more than flat. They are nice compromise in between all of the other extremes.
     
  17. Unleash The Fury

    Unleash The Fury SS.org Regular

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    Shawn Lane had little baby hands. End of discussion!
     
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  18. Rawkmann

    Rawkmann SS.org Regular

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    Michael Romeo also looks like he has fairly small hands with stubby fingers as well.
     
  19. Mark Lykkos

    Mark Lykkos SS.org Regular

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    Thanks everyone! These answers are definitely helpful! I appreciate the feedback. :minions:
     
  20. Mark Lykkos

    Mark Lykkos SS.org Regular

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    I'll definitely have to look into this. My acoustic guitar is a Yamaha, nothing too special, pretty standard. And when I form chords on the fret, it just feels...big, though I know that there's more than just that that goes into it. I do need to modify my practicing efficiency. I'm a bit impatient too....lol

    This is a good point. Thank you. I do need to change some things with my practicing and probably need to stretch more. But it's good to know that there are things I can do to help me along despite having small hands.
     

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