woman with electric guitar

Can You Play Guitar With Small Hands?

Playing the guitar with small hands might seem challenging at first glance, but it’s absolutely possible.

The notion that only those with large hands can enjoy and excel at this instrument is a myth.

What’s important is finding a guitar that feels comfortable for you and adapting techniques to fit your physical make-up.

It’s not the size of your hands that dictates your potential on the guitar, but your dedication to learning and practicing.

Many experienced musicians and instructors will tell you that small hands can be an advantage in some ways.

You might find it easier to play certain chords without inadvertently muting adjacent strings.

And while you might need to stretch a bit more for some finger placements, learning the right techniques and exercises can help you overcome these hurdles.

Remember, it’s not a one-size-fits-all; guitar playing is as unique as the individual, and with the right approach, you’ll find your groove regardless of hand size.

What To Know About Hand Size and Guitar Playing

If you’ve got small hands, you might worry that some guitars won’t be comfortable, or certain chords will be out of reach.

But here’s the thing: your hand size doesn’t determine your potential on the guitar.

Guitar Options for Small Hands:

  • Narrow necks are easier to grip.
  • Shorter scale lengths reduce the stretch between frets.
  • Smaller body guitars feel more comfortable to hold.

Regardless of hand size, finger strength is crucial.

As you practice, your fingers will adapt, becoming stronger and more agile.

This includes your pinky, which is often underused but incredibly important for reaching notes without straining.

Hand Positioning and Technique:

  • Keep your wrist straight to maximize reach and reduce strain.
  • Use your fingertips to press strings, ensuring cleaner notes and easier chord transitions.

Your hand size may require some adjustments in technique or the choice of guitar, but it’s not a limitation.

With the right approach, you can play just as well as anyone with larger hands.

Choosing the Right Guitar for Small Hands

When looking for a guitar that suits small hands, it’s essential to consider scale length, neck dimensions, and the size and type of the guitar body to ensure comfort and playability.

Scale Length and Its Impact

The scale length of a guitar refers to the distance between the bridge and the nut, which significantly affects playability for people with small hands.

Electric guitars with shorter scale lengths, typically around 24.75 inches, offer easier reach for fretting chords and notes.

On the other hand, acoustic guitars often have longer scale lengths, but models like 3/4 size guitars or parlor guitars are designed with smaller-scale lengths that cater to smaller hands.

Neck Width and Profile

The neck width and profile play a crucial role in how the guitar feels in your hand.

Look for guitars with a narrow neck and a thin neck profile, as these features allow for a firmer grip and easier finger placement.

Electric guitars are generally known for having slimmer necks, which might be more comfortable if you have small hands.

However, there are also acoustic options available with slim neck profiles, which could be considered some of the best guitars for small hands.

Guitar Body Size and Type

The body size and type of the guitar are also important.

A large guitar body might be cumbersome if you’re smaller in stature or have small hands.

Electric guitars usually offer more compact body sizes compared to their acoustic counterparts.

Yet, not all is lost for acoustic lovers; there are acoustic guitars like the parlor and 3/4 size guitars that provide a more comfortable fit for players with smaller hands.

Playing Techniques and Tips

Mastering the guitar with small hands is certainly achievable by making a few strategic adjustments to your technique.

Fretting and Chord Formation

To effectively form chords, ensure you’re using the tips of your fingers to press the strings, and keep your thumb at the back of the guitar neck for support.

Utilizing your pinky for reach can alleviate stress on your wrist and allows better reach across the fretboard.

  • Barre Chords: Rotate your index finger slightly to use the side, which is harder, to press down multiple strings. This requires less force than using the flat of your finger.
  • Thumb Placement: Your thumb should be positioned mid-neck and not creeping over the top, which can limit your reach.
  • Power Chords: With power chords, focus on minimal movement. Strive to keep them compact and use your index and ring or pinky fingers for the best positioning.

Strumming and Picking Techniques

Your approach to strumming and picking is key to playing comfortably with small hands.

  • Keep your wrist relaxed and your picks close to the strings to minimize the motion required.
  • When picking individual strings, using a combination of your wrist and finger motion can reduce the stress on your wrist and enable faster, more precise playing.
  • For strumming, a smaller and lighter pick might feel more comfortable and make it easier to maneuver.

Guitar Setup and Customization

Properly setting up your guitar can make a significant difference in playability, especially if you have small hands.

Attention to string gauge, action, tuning, and some thoughtful modifications can enhance your guitar experience.

String Gauge and Action

Choose light gauge strings for less tension, making it easier to fret notes and form chords.

A lower string action—the distance between the strings and the fretboard—requires less hand strength and decreases finger fatigue.

How to Adjust String Action:

  1. Loosen the strings.
  2. Adjust the truss rod to straighten the neck if necessary.
  3. Modify the saddle height to lower the action.
  4. Retune and check for string buzz.

Tuning and Intonation

Proper tuning and intonation ensure your guitar sounds in tune across the fretboard.

If you’re using alternate tunings like drop D, you’ll need to adjust the intonation to accommodate the change in string tension. Use a tuner for accuracy.

Steps for Adjusting Intonation:

  1. Check if the 12th fret harmonic matches the fretted note.
  2. Adjust the saddle forward or backward to correct sharp or flat notes.
  3. Retune and repeat until precise.

Modifications to Enhance Playability

Installing a capo can effectively shorten the scale length, which might help you form chords more comfortably.

Experiment with alternate tunings that require less finger stretching.

Modifications for Small Hands:

  • Capo: Use it to transpose the guitar to a higher key with less stretch.
  • Alternate Tunings: Try tuning like “open tuning” for easier chord shapes.
  • Neck Adjustments: Consider a professional luthier to slim down the neck profile.

Notable Guitarists with Small Hands

It’s a common myth that having small hands can limit your ability to play the guitar well.

However, some of the most iconic guitarists have proven this wrong.

Here is a list of legendary players who have excelled despite – or perhaps because of – their smaller hand span.

  • Angus Young: Famous as the co-founder and lead guitarist of the rock band AC/DC, Young’s compact hand size hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the most celebrated guitarists in the world. Known for his incredible energy and fast playing, he demonstrates that technique and practice can overcome physical constraints.
  • Prince: Not only was Prince renowned for his songwriting abilities and onstage charisma, but he was also an extraordinary guitarist. With smaller hands, he mastered complex chords and solos, and his performances have left a lasting impact on musicians everywhere.
  • Nancy Wilson: The guitarist from the rock band Heart, Wilson is another musician who’s made a tremendous mark with smaller hands. Her skill in rhythm and lead guitar proves that hand size does not dictate musical capability.
  • Paul Simon: As a master of folk and rock guitar, Simon’s small hands have done more than just strum chords. His fingerpicking style and intricate playing have earned him a spot among the greats.

These guitarists are solid proof that with the right approach and determination, small hands are no barrier to achieving greatness on the guitar.

Their legacies inspire musicians of all hand sizes to focus on technique, passion, and practice to reach their full potential.