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. 

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4 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 ?

  3. christopher
    christopher says:

    I completely agree with this. I literally cant get my fingers around the neck of a guitar. My hands arent too small, but my palms are big and my fingers are small.

    Looking closely, I can imagine that stretching my hands a *lot* and my index finger twisting round like another 45 degrees or something so that the side of my finger is against the fret board. At the moment anywhere my finger is bent, which is has to be, involves a deadened string.

    I cant really imagine stretching my fingers as much as i need to, but since there are so many people that can play the guitarre perfectly I suppose I can

  4. David Fletcher
    David Fletcher says:

    I have been experimenting with a few different Classical Guitars.
    with my 650mm / 51mm neck Classical, string spacing 42mm what I find when I place 6 string barre chords is that the index finger joint or crease (not the Knuckle) aligns with the 2nd string making it tough to avoid buzz.
    By trying different neck widths and so far settling on a 63cm scale with a 50mm neck and 41mm string spacing helps a little with issues like this.
    I will maybe even try a 48mm neck/nut at some point.
    Thing to remember with long fingers comes a wider parameter and options for finger positioning / adjustment, as opposed to short fingers on the same width neck the options for adjustment narrow…..So it then it makes sense to ‘Narrow’ the neck!
    Bear in mind though as string spacing decreases it could make fretting notes cleanly becomes more of a challenge, but acoustic guitars typically have much narrower necks than classical guitars and this doesn’t seem to present any real problems to some of the great acoustic players out there.


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