11 Tips For Playing Guitar with Small Hands

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If someone’s told you that you can’t play guitar because your hands are too small, let me clear something up – that’s a myth

Can you play guitar with small hands? The answer is a resounding yes! Hand size does not affect guitar playing in any sense. Would you say that you can’t learn how to use a computer keyboard because your hands are too small to reach every key? Of course not. We’ve all seen videos of children as young as 4 or 5 absolutely kill it on a full-size guitar. It’s possible.

Though, it is true that we small-handed folks do face a little bit more of a hurdle to overcome when learning guitar compared to those with average and large-sized hands. But there are things you can do to overcome those hurdles faster.

I am a petite female who found it extremely difficult to span neck with my left hand or properly fret strings when first learning guitar. But after a while, your hands get used to behaving in a certain way, and all it comes down to is training your muscles to do what you want them to.

So from someone with tiny digits to another, here are 11 of the most helpful things you can do to make playing guitar a bit easier.

Tip 1: Check out a ¾ Sized Guitar

I remember the time I went to buy my first guitar. Picking up the heavy, full-size guitars was daunting, and I probably played 10 or 15 of them before I stumbled upon my true love – my Little Martin LXK2.

It’s a three-quarter sized guitar, meaning the neck of the guitar is shorter and narrower than your full-size guitar. This makes spanning across distant frets much easier since the space between them is smaller than normal.

Different guitar makers and models can vary in their dimensions. I would head to your nearest music store and pick up some smaller guitars and see how they feel. 

Tip 2: Explore Different Neck Shapes

Generally, there are three popular neck shapes guitars are built with. C, V and U. They are named this way because they resemble the shapes of the letters.

The C neck has a curve that’s similar to a half-oval. The V has a shape that resembles the tip of an obtuse angle. The U is similar to the shape of… the letter U!

If you’ve never played guitar before, I would recommend a C-shaped guitar neck. There is less wood, providing you with more space to bring your fingers up to the fretboard. If you’ve tried out the C-shape and found it wasn’t for you, the V might be your next choice, since its shape provides a nice cranny for your palm to sit, making it easier to bring your thumb over the top of the neck.

Tip 3: Guitar Finger Strengthening

A handy tool I used as a beginner guitarist was a finger strengthener. It’s a handgrip tool with buttons, which when held and pressed, mimics the resistance of holding a guitar neck and fretting strings. The buttons are equipped with springs for resistance – it’s like doing dumbbell curls with your fingers.

I kept mine with me and used it whenever I could and after a few weeks my fingers were noticeably stronger, and the rigidity on the buttons helped callous my fingertips as well. 

This tool won’t help with increasing the width that your fingers can span across the neck of a guitar, but will help you reach the strength required to play guitar with smaller hands and the smaller muscles that come with them.

Tip 4: Finger-Stretching Exercises

You can find dozens of finger stretching exercises on the internet, some of which involve bending your fingers back against your other hands’ palm, against the wall, or using gimmicky gadgets. I would avoid these exercises since practicing them provides you with no experience actually playing the instrument.

Other exercises are performed on the neck of the guitar itself. If you elect to try out finger stretching exercises, perform them on your guitar. 

Check out these tabs for guitar stretch exercises.

It’s also fun to find a song you like that spans a long way across the neck and learn it. The most beneficial thing for me when training my hands to stretch was learning Satellite by Dave Matthews Band, which stretches from the fourth fret to the eighth fret which helped me get familiar with the feeling of using all four fingers across 4 frets.

Tip 5: Anchor Your Thumb

A misplaced thumb can cause a world of hurt and struggle when playing guitar. The majority of the strength needed to play guitar is rooted in where you place your thumb. 

Look at how far I can spread my fingers across the neck when my thumb is positioned closer to the low E string:

Compared to how far I can spread them when my thumb is closer to the high e string:

It may feel awkward at first, but getting used to placing your thumb as far away from you as possible is crucial to being able to create a good sound, eliminating any buzzing or muting of strings.

Tip 6: Light-Gauge Strings

Just like guitars, strings come in different sizes, too. Or, thicknesses, rather.

If you find it difficult to fret the strings on your guitar, resulting in a muted or unstable pitch, you will benefit from dropping down in the gauge of the strings.

Players usually refer to string thickness by referring to the gauge of the high e string. You may have heard the terms “10’s” or “12’s” – this means that they are playing with a pack of strings where the high E is 0.10 inches or 0.12 inches respectively. 

Seek out the lighter gauge strings (9’s-12’s) to aid you in learning to play guitar. 

Tip 7: Utilize Every Finger

I fell into a trap when learning to play guitar by neglecting my pinky finger. I rarely used it when playing scales or chords. And I’m still suffering the consequences of it, as my pinky finger is significantly weaker than the rest of my fingers.

If you aren’t practicing using your pinky – or any other finger for that matter – start now! Leaving a finger unutilized will result in inefficient and choppy playing and an uneven muscle strength in your hand. 

This goes for your thumb, too. Not every guitarist uses their thumb to fret strings, but you may find it easier to use it on the low E in certain situations.

Tip 8: Create a Practice Regimen

This tip goes for anyone learning guitar, whether you have hands the size of a babydoll or a baseball mitt. 

Any skill will not develop overnight or even over the course of weeks. Check out the resources provided here and elsewhere on the internet, try some out, and compile your favorites into a web folder or print them out. Set aside whatever time you can afford each day and practice those exercises.

The more you practice, the sooner the growing pains will end.

Tip 9: Use a Capo

A capo is a device that clips onto the fretboard of a guitar, pressing down firmly on each string of a fret. A capo is typically used to change the key of a song to match a singer’s vocal range, but a capo can also be used to relieve the pressure and pain of beginning to fret strings.

Since the capo frets each string for you, using one in the very beginning stages of learning to play will act as a gradual introduction to fretting steel strings and will make the painful process a bit easier on your fingers.

Tip 10: Get Books to Supplement You

The internet is full of wonderful resources, and also full of misinformation. To ensure you are practicing things that will actually help you, you can’t go wrong by purchasing a published book with useful information.

Here are a few I recommend:

Tip 11: Seek Out Guitar Lessons

This last tip is more of a “last resort”. If you’re really having trouble and you’re sure it’s not due to impatience (I’ve been guilty of this), seek out taking some guitar lessons.

Being completely self-taught in guitar is common, however, many people feel like they need a little boost, or face-to-face advice and instruction. Learning an instrument through text on a screen and pre-recorded tutorials sometimes only gets you so far. Sessions where someone can see how you play and identify your weaknesses is invaluable when you feel that you’ve hit a roadblock you just can’t get past.

What is the Best Guitar for Small Hands?

If you’re reading this article because you’re on the fence about getting a guitar due to your small hands, this section is for you.

There are tons of great options for small-handed beginners.

Little Martin LXK2 (Acoustic)

This is my guitar. I love it, and I’ll never leave it off a list of “best guitars”. It’s the perfect size for me – a ¾ size acoustic with a C-shaped neck. 

Fender Squier Strat Mini (Electric)

I’ve played this little guy many times at my local music store. It’s another ¾ size guitar with a comfortable C-shaped neck. It has a scale length a tad shorter than most ¾ size guitars and a compact fretboard. If you equip this guitar with 9’s or 10’s, it should be easy on your fingers and with practice, a breeze to play – not to mention it gives a beautiful sound.

Oscar Schmidt Dreadnought (Acoustic)

The Oscar Schmidt ¾ size acoustic is a great choice if you are looking for a more affordable starter guitar for a small-handed individual. It has a short scale length at 21.75” and comes in a variety of cool colors.

Daisy Rock Elite Venus (Electric)

Daisy Rock instruments are specifically designed for guitar players, especially females, with small hands to play guitar easier. Their guitars have slim and narrow necks for easier navigation. The guitar has a lightweight construction which is comfortable to hold and play as well.

I hope this helped!

Playing guitar with small hands can be daunting, I know. I hope these tips helped you learn some new ideas for making guitar a bit easier on you. At the end of the day, just don’t give up! 

Learning guitar is difficult for everyone, regardless of hand size. If you stick to it and tough it out, you’ll realize that the learning curve will quickly decrease and getting your fingers to move how you want them to gets easier by the day.

All in all, keep pursuing your musical interests! The pain and struggle in the beginning is so worth what you gain when you learn to play guitar.

Celeste O'Connor

Columbus-based writer Celeste O'Connor is passionate about taking opportunities to learn anything and everything she can about music. As a guitarist and a ukulele player, she writes to help fellow music lovers and those curious about music in becoming better songwriters and listeners.

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