Best Acoustic Guitar for Small Hands - 7 Features to Make Playing Easier
Choosing an acoustic guitar can be really fun, there's such a wide range of models - but for people with small hands, there are important things to consider. Don't worry. We're going to help you find the best acoustic guitar for small hands – the one that's right for you.
When we refer to small hands here, we're referring to adults, and older children or teenagers, that would be considering something like a parlor or 3/4 guitar, or larger. Smaller than that and you might want to take a look at our Guitars for Kids page for a good size chart.
I also have an acoustic guitar size comparison chart here that goes from Parlor size to Jumbo.
One more caveat. When discussing acoustic guitars, I'm including acoustic-electric guitars for small hands by default. Since the electronics don't change the nature of the sound, it's entirely your choice whether you want to be able to plug in, or not. Personally, I think it's better to have the option, but that's up to you.
Also, the things we're discussing here apply to both steel string acoustic and classical guitars. No one is being left out. (Electric guitars for small hands have a separate page.)
So, you need to consider certain physical factors - such as the size of your hands, length of your arms and even width of your shoulders. These can all play a role in choosing a guitar that is comfortable to play.
The structural elements of a guitar are what will determine what is preferable for each individual guitarist. Let's look at some of the most important features to keep in mind when selecting an acoustic guitar for small hands.
Size and Shape of the Neck
The neck of a guitar, which is topped by the fingerboard, or fretboard, can come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Thin neck acoustic guitars are more suitable for smaller hands, as are C shapes.
There are D, U and V shapes that tend to be thicker and chunkier, making it more difficult for a small hand to hold. On these, it's a tougher reach around the neck and to access the top strings, as well as the stretch between frets.
There are a variety of other shapes available, however these are usually modified versions of the basic C, D, U and V neck shapes.
Besides the shape, you would also want to look for a small neck acoustic guitar, rather than a wider one, for obvious reasons. Anything you can do to naturally reduce the reach will make your life easier.
Although the neck shape or thickness does not make much difference to the tone or sound of the guitar, it can make a difference to how it is played. Thinner necks make it easier for those who want to play faster as it is simpler to slide the hand up and down the neck as well as reach the different notes more quickly. So people with small hands are at an advantage for speed – your ideal guitar is already ready for your fingers to fly.
String Length and Scale
The shorter the neck, the shorter the string length of the guitar will be. This means that the frets are placed closer together which makes it easier to reach the chords on an acoustic guitar. Again, this is ideal for small hands.
The ideal scale length for small hands is between 22 inches and 24.5 inches.
The action of an acoustic guitar refers to the height of the strings above the fretboard. This height is normally measured at the center of the 12th fret. The higher the strings are placed from the fretboard the more difficult they are to press and hold down. The action of a guitar can be lowered in order to ease the amount of pressure that needs to be applied.
Lower action is more suitable for small hands. However it is important to note that lowering the action can make a difference to the bass and treble tones. Lower it too much and you'll get fret buzz because the strings are too close to the fretboard.
Steel vs Nylon
Lighter weight strings are easier to play and therefore also more suitable for small hands.
The steel strings of an acoustic give you a sharper, brighter tone. These strings are under greater tension and are generally a little more work for your fingers. This is where getting lighter gauge steel strings is a good idea to make your life easier. Steel string acoustics are used is a wide range of genres, including rock, blues, country and pop.
If you want a warmer, rounder tone and softer strings, you'll want to go with a classical guitar so you can get nylon strings. These are definitely easier on your fingers, but overall, the classical guitar isn't suited to as wide a range of genres (see this discussion). Also, most classical guitars have wider necks, so it can be a bit of a conundrum. Pay especially close attention to neck width if you go classical.
Are nylon and steel strings interchangeable on a guitar?
Not really. While you might be successful in getting nylon to work on an acoustic guitar, the technical difficulties are far more trouble than they're worth, and you're not going to get a great sound. And NEVER put steel strings on your classical guitar. It can't take the tension. You will break your guitar.
The body of a guitar is the big empty chamber where the sound resonates. Larger body guitars produce a richer and stronger sound. That doesn't mean that there aren't some awesome small body guitars out there. A couple of American companies, Martin and Taylor, are going out of their way to make their small guitars sound big (or at least, bigger). You're not going to lose out with a smaller guitar, and if the size makes it more enjoyable for you to play, then it's a win all around.
With acoustic and classical guitars, the shape of the body is very similar from one make to another because changing the shape will alter the way the guitar sounds. Unlike electric guitars, the structure or shape of the body cannot be changed dramatically in order to accommodate a smaller person.
However, there are alternatives available such that are smaller versions of regular size guitars. Baby and Parlor guitars are excellent options when looking for an acoustic guitar for small hands. They're also really well set if you want to do any fingerpicking. These guitars are of the same design and quality as a regular sized guitar, though they may produce a little less volume.
And if someone with a bigger guitar gives you a hard time about your 'cute' or 'little' guitar, just remind them that their dreadnought ain't got nothin' on a guitarron. So they ain't all that.
The construction of a guitar plays a very important role in terms of personal preference, as well as the quality of sound and durability of the instrument. Different manufacturers use different materials and construction techniques, both of which determine the quality of a guitar.
You never have to sacrifice quality because you're buying an acoustic guitar for small hands. There is nothing lesser about these guitars. Don't let anyone sell you something sub-standard while trying to convince you that there is.
I have a full rundown about quality materials and construction of acoustic guitars, if you're curious.
The distance between the frets can also play an important role in selecting a guitar that is suitable for small hands. The greater the distance between the frets, the more difficult it can be for small hands to hit the chords. Smaller guitars may have a shorter distance between frets, or fewer frets on a shorter fretboard, or scale. Shorter scales are generally more suitable for smaller hands.
There are three ideal categories to choose from in acoustic guitars for small hands - Baby, Parlor, 0 and 3/4 (three-quarter). Most of the top guitar craftsman like Taylor, Fender, Eastman, Martin, Gibson, etc. all have at least one small body model that is suitable for small hands, or young aspiring guitarists. These guitars all have shorter fret boards and smaller neck breadth and width. These companies take pride in their craftsmanship and do not compromise the quality of the smaller versions of their larger guitars.
Here are some of the best acoustic guitars for small hands. They're great if you just want something more portable, too.
Taylor GS Mini
The anatomy is a scaled down version of Taylor's Grand Symphony guitar. Scaled down in size, but it has a full guitar sound. The luthiers really outdid themselves with this one. It comes with several solid top woods, including spruce, mahogany and a beautiful Hawaiian Koa, depending on your preference and budget. It's got a 23.5" scale length with a 20 fret ebony neck, so it's no stress for those of smaller stature. This is a beauty of a guitar that doesn't let up.
Eastman E10P Parlor Acoustic Guitar
This is a very lightweight option made from high quality materials and handmade craftmanship. The Adirondack spruce solid wood top rides above a beautiful solid mahogany body to combine two wonderful tonewoods for a rich and lively sound. The ebony fretboard is about 1 inch shorter than the standard length and the neck is a slim C shape – which is ideal for smaller hands. The Eastman is well known for its bluesy sound and rich tones.
The Little Martin
This is probably the best Martin guitar for small hands. It's a 3/4 size guitar which means that it is literally, 3/4 the size of a standard six string. The Martin LXK2 Little Martin Acoustic does not compromise on sound. It delivers a deep, strong tone much like a standard size guitar. The guitar is constructed from quality materials and the dreadnought-shaped body is made from high pressure laminate that provides a durable guitar that's resistant to temperature and humidity changes.
The Rosewood neck is a modified low oval and the scale (string length) is 23 inches. Both of these factors make it better suited to small hands.
Fender MA-1 3/4-Size Steel String Acoustic Guitar
This 3/4 size guitar consists of a smaller body and a rosewood fretboard with a scale of 23.3 inches in length. The neck is C-shaped for comfort and has a smooth satin finish. This is a slightly more affordable option than the above, and it's a really good acoustic guitar for small hands, providing top quality construction and sound.
Just because you don't have big hands with long fingers doesn't mean you shouldn't have a fantastic guitar that you love to play – and manufacturers are aware of this. Certainly, stay away from the cheap smaller models that are marketed for beginners, which are designed to sell but not necessarily sound good, or last.
You want a quality instrument.
Of course, there is only one best acoustic guitar for small hands, and that's the one that suits you.
We've offered a few great ones here. I'll bet something will suit you needs. If not, I'll be adding more in the coming months. If you have a favorite acoustic guitar for small hands that you think should be on my list, let me know in the comments.
Feel free to give our other pages on acoustic guitars a read, we have a lot of great info on making sure you get a quality guitar. But you may want to bookmark this page for reference.
As I also have a page on Electric Guitars for Small Hands, there is some really useful information over there you should take a look at, like playing techniques for difficult chords and managing your pinky.