When you first start to learn to play guitar, there is a lot to get to grips with.
It can take quite a while to train your hands to get used to unintuitive positions and movements involved in guitar playing.
During this time, seeing experienced guitarists can easily give the impression that they are better suited to playing guitar than you are.
Maybe the most common question adult learners ask themselves during this time is ‘Have I left it too late to learn guitar?‘.
But probably a close second for many people is ‘Are my hands too small to play guitar?’.
The answer in virtually all cases however is a flat ‘no’. I’ll explain why…
Guitar playing with small hands
Physically we are all slightly different to each other.
Some of these differences bring a few small advantages in specific areas, and some bring small disadvantages in others, but few are insurmountable.
Someone with very small hands may not be able to stretch as far along the fretboard as someone with larger hands.
But, they may find it easier to play chords with close-clustered notes than the larger-handed guitarists.
Famous hands that weren’t too small to play guitar
Today and throughout history there are examples of musicians of all shapes and sizes that have achieved a high level of musicianship.
Prince and Angus Young are both reportedly 5’ 2” in height,. They have hands of proportional size, and have achieved enormous success with their guitar playing.
Tiny hands that are not too small to play guitar
Take a quick look on Youtube and you’ll soon come across countless videos of child prodigies burning their way through classical pieces.
Often these children are playing on guitars that seem enormous compared to their body size – the same applies to children playing full size pianos. Clearly the hands of these little virtuosos were not too small to play guitar.
Children such as these, and people with small hands, have to make larger hand movements along the fretboard than they would if their hands were bigger.
But it doesn’t appear to be much of a hindrance, does it?
The most remarkable guitarist hands ever?
One of the best examples of overcoming a genuine disability is the guitarist Django Reinhardt.
At 18 years of age, Django’s third and fourth fingers of his fretting hand were paralysed during a fire.
Despite this potentially career-ending accident, he continued to develop his guitar skills.
He adapted to his new restrictions, performing solos at break-neck speed using just his first and second fingers.
Django went on to become one of the greatest guitarists of all time. For more on Django check out the wonderful book Django Reinhardt by Charles Delaunay.
Are anybody’s hands ever too small to play guitar?
For most people the net effect of their hand size on their guitar playing is broadly neutral. Far more significant is how willing they are to learn good technique.
Many beginners find the chord G a great challenge and conclude incorrectly that their hands are too small.
It’s understandable, but the issue is nearly always due to incorrect thumb placement and an underdeveloped 4th finger. It’s not because their hands are too small.
Similarly, many people find the small F chord a great challenge. Again, it can be tempting to assume your hands might be too small, but it’s rarely the case.
The problem with the F chord is usually down to thumb placement, again, and insufficient strength. Strength, like good technique takes time to develop.
Whether you have small hands or huge hands, it’s extremely unlikely to have any major bearing on your progress as a guitarist.
Try to put these thoughts and questions to bed.
Having doubts about the suitability of our hands for playing guitar, isn’t helpful, particularly if we’re having a bad practice day. It’s almost always a non-issue in the big scheme of things.
So, turn your thoughts instead to technique, following good advice and giving yourself time to get used to your instrument. Be patient, stay focussed, get good tuition, and enjoy the journey.
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