The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #71684   Message #2448395
Posted By: Don Firth
23-Sep-08 - 03:27 PM
Thread Name: Guitar: Teeny Tiny Fingers
Subject: RE: Guitar: Teeny Tiny Fingers
Definitely, you need a new teacher.

Some years ago, I had a student who wanted to learn to accompany songs, but she wanted to learn a bit of classic guitar also. She had a classic guitar—flat fingerboard, 2" wide at the nut. She was college age (maybe nineteen, twenty, or so) and quite small, maybe 4'10". Her hands were also quite small, proportional to her general build. So help me God, she had dimples in her knuckles like a baby's!

In the classic lessons, she could make all the reaches in the basic technique book (I stated her on Aaron Shearer's Classic Guitar Technique, Vol. I), including four-fret stretches on the sixth string. Quite a reach, but she could do it. This surprised me a bit, because I had my doubts and was thinking she might need a guitar with a narrower fingerboard, but she was determined, she worked at it, and she made it.

Then, inevitably, we came to the first position G major chord. There are two fingerings for this chord that are normally used. Folk guitarists usually finger it with the 2nd finger on the 3rd fret of the 6th string, 1st finger on the 2nd fret of the 5th string, and the 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the 1st string. But—she knew that classic guitarists usually finger it with the 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the 5th string, the 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the 5th string, and the 4th finger on the third fret of 1st string. This has the advantage of an easy shift from a G to a G7 by simply picking up the 4th finger and placing the 1st finger on the 1st fret of the 1st string; also an easy move to and from a first postion C major chord.

Did you follow all that?

Okay. I suggested that she use the former fingering because the classic fingering would probably be too much of a stretch for her small left hand. When she came for her lesson the following week, she could do the classic fingering of a G chord, no problem. She'd plugged away at it and got it!

A steel-string guitar with the usual 1 11/16" fingerboard would have been duck soup for her, but she wanted to play classic.

A large part of her success was that she paid very close attention to correct (according to classical technique) hand positions. She held the pad of her left thumb behind the neck, about midway, more or less opposite her second finger. She didn't try to wrap her thumb around the neck. Many rock, jazz, country, and folk guitarists do this, with the idea of being able to fret notes on the sixth string with the thumb, and in some cases this works. But—when you do this, you decrease the potential reach of your fingers.

Should you happen to run across a copy of The Christopher Parkening Guitar Method, Vol. I, take a look at pages 26 and 27. Although this is a good technique manual for classic guitar or guitar in general, I think there are better ones, but this one has lots of photographs. Pages 26 and 27 have several excellent photos and diagrams of the left hand.

Ye, gods, when one of my nephews was eight years old, he started taking classic guitar lessons, using a standard classic guitar, which was pretty big for him, but he grew into it.

In any case, you need a different teacher.

Don't give up!

Don Firth