Best Electric Guitar for Small Hands - 5 Features to Make Your Life Easier
+ 5 Famous Guitarists with Small Hands
Okay, so you've got small hands and maybe short fingers. The good news, is that's okay. There is nothing stopping you from playing and enjoying guitar to your heart's content. However, you might face a few unique challenges – but your choice of guitar can go a long way to alleviating the toughest of them. In the guitar realm, it's leveling the playing field. That's why I'm going to help you find the best electric guitar for small hands – the one that's right for you.
Don't worry if you're a smaller adult, a teenager, or pre-teen, we're going to look at all of the things you need to consider before buying this guitar. When we're done, you're going to be able to rock the block, hands down. (See what I did there?)
It's true that electric guitars are already an easier field than acoustics for dealing with small hands and a shorter reach. But some electric guitars are still better suited than others.
There are a number of factors to consider when selecting a good electric guitar for small hands. Let's take a look.
The Neck - Width and Depth
The width and depth of the neck of the guitar is one of the most important considerations. This is the part of the guitar that needs to rest comfortably in your hand while allowing your fingers to reach the top E-string – ideally it'll be a thin neck.
If the neck of the guitar is too wide or broad, it can result in excessive stretching of the fingers, cramping in the hands, as well as difficulty sliding the hand up and down the neck. You want to look for small neck electric guitars. C-shaped is the best guitar neck for small hands.
A longer neck can make it much more difficult to reach the end of the neck and hit those more complicated notes. People with smaller hands often struggle with neck length as it also affects the distance between the frets. The greater this distance, the more the fingers will need to stretch.
A shorter neck with a shorter scale length is a better fit for smaller hands.
Born in Lancashire, England on December 31, 1942, he began intensively learning guitar and studied jazz by participating in the local scene near him. He eventually joined bands, including the Animals, in a brief line up in the late 1960s. After that and other stints failed, he studied classical guitar and composition at UCLA. Eventually, he gigged and taught lessons and was invited to join the jazz/rock/reggae band, The Police, with Sting and Stewart Copeland. It's with them he created his signature minimalist guitar sound, with avant-guard styling using multiple effects pedals.
Famous Guitarists with Small Hands - #1
The action of a guitar refers to how far the strings are placed from the fretboard. The further the strings are located, the harder they will need to be pressed in order to create the right notes. Strings can be brought closer to the fretboard in most types of electric guitars to accommodate small hands. This is called lowering the action of the guitar to make it easier to play. Ironically, many guitarists with larger hands also prefer a lowered action, as it makes the instrument much easier to play.
However, the action can only be lowered so far before problems start occurring. Fret buzz, where the string touches the fret after being played, is one of the most common problems that come with lowered action. It is often better to select a guitar that initially has lower action for small hands, than to have the action lowered too far on a regular, or larger sized guitar. Players who fingerpick often lower the action as well.
The scale length of a guitar is measured from the nut of the guitar to the center of the 12th fret and then multiplied by two. Shorter scale lengths are preferable for smaller hands. However, the scale length does affect the tone of the guitar.
Generally, longer scales provide a more vibrant tone with a bell sound, whereas a shorter scale will produce a much warmer tone. Sometimes guitarists use mildly heavier gauge strings on guitars with shorter scale lengths to compensate for the effects of the difference in string tension.
This California girl, born in 1954, is one half of the legendary band Heart. Her sister Ann pled with her to join in the early 1970's, as the band began taking off in the Pacific Northwest. It took some cajoling but eventually Nancy took her guitar talents to be with her sister and legends were born. She started out as an acoustic guitar player, but eventually moved to electric.
Her inspirations were Paul Simon and Jimmy Messina. She told Guitar Magazine in 1979 that one hand was glamorous, and the other, a worker with broken nails. She is especially known for “Crazy on You.”
Famous Guitarists with Small Hands - #2
The Guitar Body
The size of your hands may not seem important in selecting the body size of an electric guitar, but it can impact the overall comfort and dexterity that can be achieved while playing. People with smaller hands often also have smaller bodies, and/or shorter arm length. In these cases, it may better to choose a guitar with a smaller body size.
There are two options available for selecting an electric guitar for smaller hands. First, you can choose one that is 3/4 size - which is basically just a smaller version of a full size guitar with a shorter scale, neck and fewer, or narrower, frets.
But you may be able to do great with just a 'normal' but smaller bodied electric guitar.
Top Choice #1
Here's one really great electric guitar model that's been designed specifically to accommodate small hands.
Squier Classic Vibe 50s Stratocaster Electric Guitar
This classic electric guitar has all the trademark Fender features with a vintage look and feel, and of course, the legendary single coil pickups. The maple 9.5 inch, C-shaped neck and fingerboard is ideal for small hands. However, the distance between the frets is the same as for a regular sized electric guitar, which means the scale is the same and the frets are spaced the same distance apart. This is the one thing that can make it a little more challenging for smaller hands.
Songwriter and guitarist, Paul Simon was born October 13, 1941. He gained commercial success with an act he formed in 1956 with Art Garfunkel called Tom and Jerry, which later took over as the world-famous Simon and Garfunkel. He has won 16 Grammys for both solo, and collaborative songs, and is known on guitar for his expert, nimble finger stylings despite having small hands. Simon has made a huge impression on music aficionados for his relatively unsung guitar work including that on the Simon and Garfunkel Live 1969 album, Bridge Over Troubled Water, and Graceland.
Famous Guitarists with Small Hands - #3
Top Choice #2
Here's another really great electric guitar model that's been designed specifically to accommodate small hands.
Gibson Special SG
The Gibson Special comes with all the features Gibson is famous for while providing a slightly shorter neck at 24.75 inches. However, the shorter scale does mean that there are only 22 frets, but this is one top quality, beautifully designed guitar. On the whole, Gibson is known to have a shorter fret length than Fender. It's one of the reasons the Special SG is a favorite of Angus Young, lead guitarist for AC/DC – who has small hands (see below). I'm going to go out on not much of a limb here and say this might be the best metal guitar for small hands.
Born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1955, he began playing musical instruments as a very young boy. He and his brother, Malcolm, were part of a group with their brother George called the Marcus Hook Roll Band. In the early 1970s, Malcolm formed AC/DC with Angus as a guitarist. They got the name from the back of their sister’s sewing machine. She inspired Angus’s signature school-boy costume for the eventual legendary bad. Young’s style is mainly straight blues, but with hints of Scottish folk, and one-handed pull-off arpeggios which continue to be heard around the world in such songs as Who Made Who, Dirty and Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.
Famous Guitarists with Small Hands - #4
Top Choice #3
Here's one more really great electric guitar model that's been designed specifically to accommodate small hands.
Fender Kurt Cobain Jaguar NOS 3 Electric Guitar
This guitar has been reproduced to be an exact replica of the legendary Kurt Cobain's guitar, meeting the exact same specifications. Ironically, Cobain's hands weren't small at all, but he liked this guitar set-up anyway. The 9.5 inch radius of the C-shaped neck and rosewood fingerboard is ideal for small hands, as is the shorter scale, at 24 inches. It's the additional features, like the Stratocaster headstock, Adjusto-matic bridge, Gotoh tuners and Dimarzio humbucker pickups make this one of the first, and topmost choices, for a player wanting an electric guitar for small hands. Don't hesitate to add all the grunge creating pedal effects you want. This guitar is ready.
Born December 6, 1956, in Santa Monica, CA, he was one of the most influential heavy metal guitarists ever. He was a legend even before his tragic death in 1982. He formed Quiet Riot with Kevin DuBrow in the 1970's and the two made the group somewhat famous, in Japan, because they didn’t quite hit it in the LA club scene. Frustrated with the lack of success in Japan, he tried out for Ozzy Osbourne and was hired not for his playing but because he looked the part. He was known for incorporating classical music into his guitar playing - most notably the six-string work on “Crazy Train.”
Famous Guitarists with Small Hands - #5
Guitar Techniques for Small Hands
Pinky – Good or Evil
Your pinky is always going to be an issue. The question is whether it's going to save you or make you curse because of its weakness.
With small hands your pinky needs to play a more vital role than for those players who assign it more auxiliary functions. You should train your pinky to substitute for your ring finger in difficult fingerings. Don't do this for every chord – but be prepared to employ your pinky if you need to. It's not the way the books will teach you, but when you've got small hands, sometimes you need to make your own rules.
Also, as demonstrated in the video below, it's okay to cater to your pinky when you're putting it to work. Give it all the help you can. You're asking it lot of it, the least you can do is treat it nice.
Use 'em. Don't apologize. Don't let anyone make you feel bad for it. Use a capo whenever you need it to make your life easier. One of the things this does is temporarily shorten the scale of your guitar. Sometimes you need it, and sometimes you don't.
No matter what you do, no matter how much you practice, there might be some chords that your hands just physically won't reach. You have a few options here.
One possibility is to play a simplified version of the chord. There's no shame in this. Guitarists of all ability levels simplify chords sometimes. Just do what you need to do and keep playing.
Another option is to skip some of the notes in the chord. You'll lose a little on sound, but hopefully this will keep you from running into songs that are just unplayable. Call it artistic interpretation. Or maybe you can find a slightly different voicing that keeps the spirit of the original but that you're able to reach. Don't worry, just do your best.
You could also move the fingering higher on the fret board. You might lose some of the bass, but playing an octave up is a perfectly legitimate alternative if that's the only way you're going to make that chord.
Keep your thumb in the center of the neck behind the fret board, and not any higher. This will give your hand maximum reach around the guitar neck radius while remaining stable and, eventually, comfortable. This takes a little time and training to get used to, but once you get used to it, you'll find it a very useful assist.