Learn To Play The Guitar With Small Hands

I believe that everyone can learn to play the guitar if they put their minds to it.  One of the common misconceptions I have heard all too often is not being able to play the guitar with small hands.  As somebody who has smaller hands, I wanted to take time to write a post that shoots this idea right out of the water.  There are plenty of guitars that fit people of all sizes and if you are someone that needs some guidance to find them, then you came to the right place.  I will present lessons for playing the guitar that children and adults can follow, advice from players in the music industry with smaller hands, gear to look out for, and easy chords for all hand sizes that will get you playing the guitar.

I’ll start out with the basics for playing the guitar.  For those of you that have been through all this before, feel free to skip down to the next article, but I encourage all of you to go through it as a refresher.  This article features examples of a child playing the lessons and I guarantee you that the child has small hands.  If you have small hands, don’t worry about it; you can be an outstanding guitar player.  Find the article here at http://www.easiestwayguitar.com/easiest-guitar/guitar-basics-holding-the-guitar.

The Position of the Left Hand

If you are having trouble getting clear sounding chords and you are looking for some guitar tips to help you to master the guitar basics,  here’s some solutions.

Place your thumb on the back of the neck in the center as in the photo. This is where it’s really supposed to go. When you play notes or chords on the strings,you are squeezing your thumb and the tips of your fingers together. The fretboard is simply in between and your thumb and your fingers.

If you want to play clear chords and fast lead riffs,keep you thumb in this position. Now in contemporary guitar there are exceptions. As you gain experience you’ll find these exceptions.

If your thumb is in the wrong position it’ll make placing your fingers for the chords difficult and you’ll wind up with “dead”sounding notes and strings that don’t ring.

 

If your guitar chords or notes buzz place your finger directly behind the fret and squeeze a little tighter.

Another of the easiest guitar basics concerning your finger placement is to have your fingernail almost touching the next string. What this does is move the fleshy part of your finger away from the next string.

 For example,when you play a C chord you put your 2nd finger on the 4th string on the 2nd fret. Place the tip of your 2nd finger so that you fingernail touches the 5th string. This will move the inside fleshy part of your finger further away from the 3rd string. Do the same thing when placing your 3rd finger on the 5th string.

Strum the chord slowly. One string at a time. Each note should ring clear.
If you find that a string doesn’t ring clear,it is likely that the fleshy part behind your fingertip is accidentally touching the string next to the one you are pressing. Push your elbow a little closer to the guitar and out from your body. This will cause your fingers to be even more perpendicular to the strings.

Adapt this strategy for the other guitar chords. This will help you with the basic guitar concepts and learn the guitar quicker.

 

This photo to the left is a photo of my son playing an Em chord. He is eight years old. His hands and fingers are certainly smaller than an adults yet he is getting a clear sounding chord. Notice that his thumb and fingers are making the shape of a backwards “D.”

I have found that the people who make judgements about having hands that are too small don’t play the guitar themselves.

They have absolutely no experience or authority to make such a statement or judgement.
The size of your fingers is absolutely irrelevant!

The Position of the Right Hand

When holding the guitar the proper position of the right hand and right arm on the guitar will help you to play faster and also maintain the same position whether sitting down or standing to play.
Look at the photo to the left to see where your forearm rests on the guitar. Adjust your guitar strap so that if you are standing to play, your forearm will be in the same position as when you are sitting.
Also notice the position of the hand. Your fingers or the heel of your hand do not touch the body of the guitar. Your hand does not rest on the guitar,it “floats.”The heel of your hand sits near the bridge of the guitar,ready to mute the strings by touching them to stop the string vibrations. This is referred to as a “palm mute.”
The pick is placed in your right hand. Curl your index finger so that it points straight back to the knuckle of your thumb. Your thumb nail and index fingernail should be side by side.
Put the pick in between your thumb and index finger with the point of the pick towards the body of the guitar.
Notice that the other fingers just relax.
It doesn’t matter what thickness of pick to use,however I would suggest a thin or medium pick to begin. It is wise to have an assortment of picks in your case. There is only one rule for picks. “Any pick is better than no pick!”When you run out of picks your start looking for the little plastic tab that they use on bread bags.
When you strum or pick the strings,the normal area is over the soundhole on acoustic guitars or above the middle pickup on a three pickup electric. If your electric has two pickups,then between the two.
When you strum down on the guitar,strum all of the allowed strings. When you look at the chord diagram,any strings are marked with an “X”are not played. This is one of the two things that distinguish a guitarist who sounds like a player from one that sound like a hacker. The other is how the upstrum is played. When playing the upstrum,only touch the first or first and second strings.
Good right hand technique will allow you to play smoother and cleaner rhythms so that you can sound your best.
These easiest guitar basics will help you develop good guitar technique and will accelerate your progress.

Closeup of hand on acoustic guitar

Those of us with small hands are not alone in the music industry.  I found a series of comments on a blog that addresses this topic.  The author has some great advice and tips on where to find more information on the subject.
Find the series here at http://www.guitarnoise.com/blog/tip-for-small-hands/?utm_source=feedburner&utm;_medium=feed&utm;_campaign=Feed%3A+GuitarNoiseBlogComments+%28Guitar+Noise+Blog+Comments%29#comment-4536.

This tip is for players with small hands (or those who think they have small hands). We start off with a letter and then my response follows. I hope you get something from this.

Hello Darrin,

My name is C. and I am just beginning to play the guitar. I know some beginner chords but would like to go beyond that. I was wondering if hand size has anything to do with playing the guitar. It seems impossible for me to put my index finger on the first fret, middle finger on the second fret, ring finger on the third fret and little finger on the fourth fret. I am also considering some lessons to help me along.

Please write back. Thanks.

[Here’s my response:]

Hi, C. Thanks for your message. First, I definitely recommend lessons for you at this stage – but not with just any teacher. Look for a classical teacher, because he/she will be better able to show you the proper technique; this is really important when hand size is an issue, because as you are looking at your hands and saying “No way are my hands going to be able to do THAT,” the teacher is looking at the same thing and will point out things you had no idea were important; these things will prove you can play, and that you can get your hands to do what they need to do.

The scale length of the fretboard is an issue. Get a smaller guitar. There are such guitars made for adults, not kids, with small hands. Not every great guitarist had great hands.
Highly recommended: go to groups.google.com – make sure its Groups in there, not regular Google – and enter this search phrase exactly as written here;

“small hands” group:*guitar*

From the results of that search you’ll learn a lot about playing with small hands. More important, I think, you’ll be encouraged.

Also highly recommended: the book The Principles of Correct Practice for Guitar. See Guitar Principles.

Good luck.

Darrin

Guitarist showing chords

I also found a series of easy guitar chord shapes for beginner guitarists that make it simple to play standard chords.  This series should help guitarists with smaller hands and children play guitar chords right away.  Find it here at http://guitar.about.com/od/guitarchorddiagrams/ss/Easy-Chords-On-Guitar.htm.

Who this article is for: kids with little hands, absolute beginner guitarists

When first learning guitar, it takes a little while for a beginner’s hands to strengthen. Because of this, some novice guitarists have a very hard time playing basic open chords that require stretching across all six strings of the guitar.

Others may have an additional hurdle – they may be playing on a guitar that is just too big for their small hands.

In cases like these, beginner guitarists should consider using the following chord shapes – “smaller” versions of basic open chords, that often require the use of just one or two fingers. They won’t sound as “full” as the basic open chord shapes, but they provide the general flavor of each chord, and get your fingers comfortable with holding down strings and switching positions.

Read on for full instruction on playing simple chord shapes…

A Major Chord

Try playing the two finger version of an A major chord by using your first (index) finger on the third string, and second (middle) finger on the second string of the guitar. You might instead try using your second (middle) finger on the third string and third (ring) finger on the second string if that feels more comfortable. Strum the top three strings of the guitar.

Possible Pitfalls

Be sure your fretting hand is curled, and that the palm of your hand/bottom of your fingers aren’t accidentally touching the first string, causing it to be muted.
A Minor Chord

Try playing the two finger version of an A minor chord by using your second finger on the third string, and first finger on the second string of the guitar. Strum the top three strings of the guitar.

Possible Pitfalls

Be sure your fretting hand is curled, and that the palm of your hand/bottom of your fingers aren’t accidentally touching the first string, causing it to be muted.

C Major Chord
Try playing the one finger version of a C major chord by placing your first finger on the second string of the guitar. Strum the top three strings of the guitar.

Possible Pitfalls

Make sure that first finger is really curled, and pressing down on the second string from directly above it on the fretboard. It is very common to see the first string not ringing clearly when playing this C major shape, so pay special attention here.

D Major Chord
This is actually the standard chord shape for D major, and is probably the hardest chord you’ll find in this list. With a little practice, however, you shouldn’t have any trouble learning the D major chord.

Start by taking your first and second fingers, and placing them on the second frets of the third and first strings respectively. Place these two fingers down together, in one motion. Now, place your third (ring) finger on the third fret of the second string. Strum the top four strings of the guitar.

Possible Pitfalls

You might find this chord tricky at first, as it involves three fingers. Many beginner guitarists also get confused about which fingers go where, when playing a D major chord.

Practice visualizing the D major chord on the guitar, and figure out which fingers are going to move to which string before you attempt to play the chord.
It is also common for the first string not to ring when playing D major, due to the third finger lightly touching the first string at around the third fret. Be aware of this, and make an extra effort to curl those fingers.
D Minor Chord
Similar to the D major chord, there are no short-cuts here – this is the standard open chord fingering for D minor.
Place your second finger on the second fret of the third string. Next, place your third finger on the third fret of the second string. Lastly, place your first finger on the first fret of the first string.

Possible Pitfalls

Like the D major chord, many beginners tend to get confused, and forget where to place their fingers when trying to play the D minor chord. Practice visualizing the chord on the guitar, and figure out which fingers are going to move to which string before you attempt to play the chord.

E Major Chord
Try playing the one finger version of a E major chord by placing either your first or second finger on the first fret of the third string on the guitar. Strum the top three strings.

Possible Pitfalls

This chord should be pretty easy to play. Just be sure you’re strumming the correct strings, and that you place your finger on the third string, and not the second or fourth.

E Minor Chord
Well, if you have a hard time with this chord, there’s not much hope for you! You don’t hold down any notes on the fretboard to play this mini-version of the E minor chord. Frankly, though, I’d suggest spending a few minutes learning the full version of the E minor chord, since it is also a pretty easy one to play.

Possible Pitfalls

Not much to say here, except be sure you’re only strumming the top three strings.

G Major Chord
You can use any finger you like to play this simple variation on the G major chord – just be sure to hold down the third fret of the first string. Strum the bottom four strings.

Possible Pitfalls

Pretty hard to mess this one up – just be sure to try and strum the bottom four strings – most of the other chords here only use the bottom three strings.

G7 Chord

Simple stuff. Use your first finger to hold down the first fret of the first string. Strum the bottom four strings.

Possible Pitfalls

Like the basic G major shape, there isn’t too much that can go wrong here – just be sure to strum the bottom four strings – most of the other chords here only use the bottom three strings.

Female guitarist

On a sidenote, there are things that women should consider before buying a new guitar.  Finding the right guitar for your body shape is something that every guitarist should consider before buying equipment.  This next article features guitars for women at http://www.guitarworld.com/guitar-girld-guitars-girls-finding-perfect-fit#slide-0.

I used to play an Ovation acoustic with a wide, rounded back. It was my first real guitar, and for many years I dealt with it sliding off my lap when I sat down to play.

Then I got a Taylor 314ce. Wow. I had never thought about how my guitar’s body shape affected my enjoyment of the instrument until I had a better solution.

There are some guitar body shapes that obviously aren’t meant for comfort, like the Flying V, or those retro VOX Teardrop guitars. But if you’re considering a new guitar, and you want one that really feels like it fits your body, here are some things to consider.

SIZE

It may seem obvious to think about size, but when I was trying out my Taylor, I was surprised by how many different sizes and shapes were available. I didn’t want a super-small body, but I did want one that fit my frame and was easy to reach around.

My hands are kind of small, so I wanted an easier-to-handle neck. So check out size, shape, body depth and more. So many choices might seem intimidating, but don’t be afraid to ask for help, or just try them ALL and see what feels right!

BODY CONTOUR

Playing electric? Consider a model that curves to fit the shape of your torso. This will make it easier to reach around and just feels good. For example, VOX has redeemed itself from the old Teardrop days with its newer, body-curving line of electrics.

Luna Guitars has made it its mission to manufacture guitars that are sized and contoured to fit a woman’s smaller torso, and many are crafted out of lighter woods that won’t send you to the chiropractor.

WEIGHT

Speaking of which, some of those Strats and Les Pauls are hefty! Let’s face it, sometimes you want a good solid axe, but you just don’t want to end your gig with a shoulder or back ache.

Many of the big-name companies make lighter-weight models, and some, like Fender and Gibson, have models especially created for women. Another brand to check out is Daisy Rock, which focuses on guitars that fit a smaller frame, with a lighter weight and slimmer neck.

NECK PROFILE

Did someone mention neck? (Oh yeah, that was me!) The shape of the neck, or profile, determines how your hands fit around the neck and how smoothly and easily you can move from fret to fret.

Sweetwater offers a really fabulous explanation of what the different neck profile options are and how they might affect your playing.

TRY IT, YOU’LL LIKE IT!

The best course of action is try out several guitars before you make a decision. You want to make sure the size results in a comfortable fit between the body and your right arm.

If the guitar body is too big, your arm will be up too high, resulting in discomfort and fatigue. Plus, all women are not created equal. If you’re, shall we say, well-endowed, the guitar will end up sitting further away from your body, shortening the arm length. You don’t want to have to hunch forward to reach the strings. You need to comfortably embrace your guitar without strain!

So there you have it.  There are a few examples of different guitars and lessons for people of all shapes and sizes.  Don’t let a false statement like, “You can’t play guitar with small hands,” ever get you down.  It’s simply NOT TRUE, so pick up your axe and start jamming!

Mike’s Guitar Talk has everything you need to know about guitars.  Come back and check out more information on the music industry, playing lessons, and guitar legend features.

Have fun and stay tuned!

Mike

Comments

  1. Yang says:

    You’re AWESOME!

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