There is one common problem in the guitar community that reaches across both new and experienced musicians. Learning how to play guitar with small hands Is quite the challenge. However, just because you’re struggling to reach the proper finger placement, doesn’t mean that you should give up on playing!
Playing guitar with a set of smaller hands is going to require a bit more work on your part, but is a totally achievable goal. Here a few tips to help get you started!
Choose a guitar that has a comfortable neck
Every guitar on the market is going to feel different to you, even guitars that are the same exact model.
Due to the different areas that the materials come from and grow, no two guitars are going to be exactly alike. If you have smaller hands, a guitar that has a narrow neck is going to make playing a lot less stressful on your hands and more natural feeling.
It would be best for you to check out short-scale models (also known as ¾ models). These models are much more compact than an average sized guitar and will is much more accessible when playing with smaller hands.
Get comfortable with playing on higher frets
If you’re a beginner, playing around on the higher end of the fretboard can be a lot of fun. The higher range on the fretboard allows guitarists to cut through the tonal range when playing in a group setting. Playing the guitar with small hands does have one advantage. Most musicians who have larger hands struggle to play on the higher fret because they tend to feel very cramped.
However, if you’re a player with small hands, you’ll find that playing on the higher fret is very easy and comfortable to play on.
Don’t worry about barre chords
Barre chords can be difficult to play if you’re a beginner. But they’re even more difficult to master if you are someone who has small hands. Typically, when a musician plays a barre chord, you’re going to use your index finger to hold down all six guitar strings. Your index finger acts as a sort of anchor for the placement for the rest of your fingers.
This can be extremely difficult to apply when learning this technique when you’re learning to play with small hands. In order to easily play barre chords with small hands, you should try to use your thumb to hold down the low bass sting in order to form a barre chord. When applying this technique, make sure that you’re attentive to where you place your thumb. A lot of musicians will let their thumb go lazy when playing, so try keeping your thumb directly under the fretboard until you’re ready to use it for barring.
Start using your pinky
The majority of finger charts that you’re going to find in practice books and online work the best for people with larger hands. When looking at these charts, you’re not really going to say any books suggest to use your pinky for fingering; many people will recommend that you use your standard ring finger to hold down your strings.
Learning to start using your pinky isn’t going to be easy, but it will become second nature to you. Most guitar lessons are going to teach you to use your pinky as a last-ditch effort to hold everything down. However, if you have smaller hands, your pinky is going to be used much more often. Consider using your pinky in places where charts recommend you using your ring finger; while this isn’t always going to work in your favor, it will help you to conquer more difficult hand movements.
Use a capo more often
A capo is a clamp that use different frets on your guitar to change the pitch of the open strings on your instrument. Capos are extremely helpful because they allow you to change the key of the song you’re playing in without having to go out of your way to learn any new chords. Not only this, but capos can also help to lower the action on your strings, making them easier for you to manipulate.
Using a capo when playing guitar with small hands can really be a huge help out. But you may be hesitant ever to use one because many other guitarists tend to talk a lot of trash about capos. This guitar tool is extremely helpful when playing with small hands, especially if you’re playing a song that uses a lot of barred open chords.
If you find that you really struggle to stretch your hands, realize that using a capo doesn’t mean that you’re any less of a guitar player than someone who has larger sized hands. At the end of the day, using a capo isn’t going to change the sound quality of your instrument.
Check out light gauge strings
While this may not be a tip that is totally going to work for you, using a string gauge that is more comfortable for your hand strength is a completely subjective experience. If you’re having a difficult time holding down your strings or performing bends, you may want to consider trying a lighter gauge of strings. Using light gauge strings makes a lot of playing techniques a lot easier to perform a wide variety of guitar techniques, so this may be a cheap way to make playing a lot more enjoyable.
Besides being more comfortable to play, light gauge strings do offer musicians with additional benefits. Lightweight strings provide a brighter sound than heavy strings, which allows the sound of your instrument to cut through in group setting a lot easier. Light strings also tend to last longer than heavyweight strings, as they don’t wear out as quickly as heavy strings do.
However, that doesn’t mean that you should shy away from heavy gauge strings. Heavy strings are less likely to cause any buzzing noise and allow for a greater dynamic contrast in your music. Whatever gauge you choose to pick, know that the decision is all based on what your personal needs and preferences are.
Consider playing electric guitar
If you’re dead set on playing acoustic guitar, this tip isn’t going to be for you. If you’re still trying to figure out what instrument you’d like to start with, consider checking out an electric guitar.
Electric guitars have smaller bodies than an acoustic guitar, which makes them easier for you to reach your arms around. For the most part, the electric guitar also tends to have a thinner neck than acoustic guitars do, which means that they are easier for your smaller hands to play with.
There are also electric guitars that are made with a short scale neck, so if you’re looking at the specs on an electric guitar, check out to see if the electric guitar is described as ‘short scale.’ The short scale necks make reaching for notes and chords a lot easier.
Short scale guitars are your friend
These guitars are typically marketed towards children and small adults. However, these instruments are also great for playing on if you have smaller hands. There are some sacrifices that you’re going to have to make if you’re looking into a short scale guitar, mostly sound projection and difficulty playing on the higher end of the fretboard.
You should also take into consideration between the frets on a short scale guitar. With smaller hands, playing on a short scale guitar may be a lot more comfortable for you to play with; this is all about personal preference here. I would recommend trying out a few different models at your local music store to test out which build you like the best. However, you shouldn’t think that regular sized instruments are impossible for you to play with small hands. It’s all up to personal preference in this situation.
Find the right sized guitar for your body
Although this may not be one of the first thoughts that you have when shopping for a new guitar, you should keep in mind that your guitar needs to fit you, just as a good pair of jeans should.
One of the most important steps that you will ever take in creating your success is finding a guitar that fits you well. If you have a smaller sized stature, you should find a guitar that fits your stature, meaning that you shouldn’t try and force yourself into a full-size dreadnought acoustic.
Dreadnought style guitars are the most commonly purchased acoustic guitars. In case you’ve already found yourself in the predicament of using a dreadnought style acoustic with small hands, know that a large portion of the guitar playing population has made this same mistake.
The biggest problem with playing a large bodied guitar with small hands is that the body of the guitar tends to be too big for people who have shorter sized arms. Reaching your arm around the body of the guitar to pick or strum can be quite the struggle, which means that you’re placing your guitar in an awkward position in your fingering hand.
Start practicing every day
This is a tip that’s probably pretty obvious, but practicing guitar every day is the only way you’re going to be able to learn your instrument. No matter what your hand size is, practicing on a consistent basis is an absolute necessity if you’re looking to be successful with your playing. Having a daily/weekly practice routine that will allow you to increase your muscle mobility, which means that over time, your hands will be able to move more with less effort.
While it’s very easy to blame your small hands for all of the problems that you’re having with your guitar, there are going to be times where your lack of experience is going to be the biggest problem. Sometimes, all it’s going to take to get over your difficulties is honest practice.
Get a professional to set up your guitar
Typically, when you purchase a guitar off of a website or in a physical store, your guitar isn’t set up for smooth playing. If you’re new to playing guitar, you’re most likely going to be a little hesitant to spend the money on having a professional set up your new instrument.
However, having your guitar set up correctly is a great way to start off playing your guitar. A proper set up by a professional will help to ensure that your guitar is more comfortable and easier for you to play. When you go to get your guitar set up by a luthier, make sure to let them know what you’re looking for. For example:
- Low action
- Easy to play
- Light strings
These are all things that you should tell your luthier if you’re looking to set up your guitar for easier playing for small hands.
Start exercising your fingers
Even guitar players with average sized or normal sized hands will benefit from stretching out and building strength in their fingers. By increasing flexibility and strength in your fingers, you will eventually be able to reach your fingers further across the fingerboard. You can incorporate finger stretches and exercises into your daily/weekly practice routines or while you’re warming up.
There will be times when you are going to have to choose alternate chord fingers. However, this is only to ensure that you aren’t bringing any strain to your fingers. While there are some limitations that you may experience when playing guitar with smaller hands, know that there are things that your small hands can do that musicians with larger hands wished they could do!