Practice Tips Exercises and Guitars for Small Hands

Practice Tips: Exercises and Guitars for Small Hands

Yesterday we discussed some common beginner instruments for children, and guitar is definitely a popular choice.  But one issue that young beginners and many adults run into is learning to play the guitar with small hands.  If you’ve experienced the frustration of not quite reaching a certain finger placement, it doesn’t mean you need to give up your future star on the Walk of Fame.  These tips for playing guitar with small hands should help:

Choose a Guitar with a Comfortable Neck
Every guitar is different. Some have broad necks, others have narrow necks. If you have small hands, a guitar with a narrow neck will make playing more natural and more enjoyable. Some guitars even come in 3/4- or short-scale models, making the instrument more compact and accessible to those with smaller hands.

Get Your Thumb in Position
Many players let the thumb of their fretting hand go lazy when playing chords or individual lines. Try positioning your thumb directly center under the fretboard and use it as a guide as you play.

Stretch Those Fingers
Even guitar players with large hands can benefit from “stretching out” and working on exercises to increase one’s span across the fretboard. Work on stretching your fingers by incorporating into your practice routine exercises that demand distance leaps. Start on the low E-string and play an F (first fret) with your index finger, then play a G# (fourth fret) with your ring or pinky finger – whatever works best – and follow this pattern across all six strings.

Don’t Fret over Barre Chords
Without question, the most difficult chords to play for folks with small hands are barre chords, where the index finger is required to fret sometimes all six guitar strings, acting as an anchor for the placement of other fingers to fill out the chord. If your hands are too small to span the entire fretboard, try using your thumb to hold down the low bass string to form a barre chord. To play an F-major chord this way, you’ll bring your hand around the neck, almost wrapping it. Then, get the fingers in position: Fret the high E- and B-strings (first fret) with your index finger; place your middle finger on the second fret of the G-string; your pinky on the third fret of the D-string; your ring finger on the third fret of the A-string; lastly, put your thumb on the first fret of the low E-string and strum. 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by Roblawol

3 replies
  1. literaryhobbit
    literaryhobbit says:

    As a small-handed person, I appreciate the tips! I particularly like the suggestion to do finger stretches before practicing. There’s one suggestion, though, that seems to have forgotten that the article addresses small hands: in the barre chord section, it says “If your hands are too small to span the entire fretboard, try using your thumb to hold down the low bass string to form a barre chord.” If my thumb is on the low bass string, the only other string I can reach is the highest string, with the tip of my middle finger. Small hands (for me at least) mean that the neck of a standard size acoustic is too large to wrap my hand around. My solution to barre chords has been to play simplified versions of those chords.

  2. Pete
    Pete says:

    Article was somewhat helpful but didn’t really answer the question. Which Size Neck/Fret board is best fro someone with small hands and fingers ? My pinky is only 2 inches long, I can’t reach any but the first 2 strings with it. Which guitat would you recommend for a beginner with (adult) with very small hands ?


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *