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Guitar: Teeny Tiny Fingers

17 Jul 04 - 12:49 PM (#1227686)
Subject: BS: Teeny Tiny Fingers

I am just returning home from my guitar lesson. I have been taking lessons for about 3 months now. My guitar instructor thinks that I should take up banjo instead of guitar because of the size of my hands, which, admittedly, are small. Has anyone else run into this?

17 Jul 04 - 01:33 PM (#1227720)
Subject: RE: BS: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: Amos

I think you need a new instructor. And a guitar with a narrow neck. If necessary a 3/4 size. But the Martin Parlor Guitar, the 0-3G, is an example of one which suits small hands. There are other smaller guitars out there. Get a second opinion.


17 Jul 04 - 10:16 PM (#1227956)
Subject: RE: BS: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: freightdawg

Actually, get a third or fourth opinion, if you want. If you want to play the guitar then no set of fingers is too small. Of course you can buy a smaller guitar, but also there are other tricks as well - position of the guitar, style of guitar, etc.

You didn't mention what style of guitar you like. Classical guitars typically have 2 inch wide necks, but because they are cradled in you lap you have a much different angle to reach around the neck. Steel string guitars have narrower necks, but are typically held at a different angle (the neck being more parallel to the floor). Also, if you have the guitar of your dreams and you do not want another guitar or cannot afford one, you can take yours to a good luthier or repair shop and have the back of the neck on yours reshaped to allow your hand a better reach.

I have smaller hands than normal (I think) and it causes me no amount of grief. On my classical I have learned that if a certain position is just too painful, I can usually delete notes (say, in a barre chord) or make other slight adjustments. With my steel strings I can either use a capo (the higher up the neck you go the frets get closer together) or transpose the key so I get easier chords for my little hands.

Most important lesson: keep playing and keep trying. If you love the guitar don't give up. You might want to play the banjo too, but never accept defeat just because someone told you to.



17 Jul 04 - 10:28 PM (#1227959)
Subject: RE: BS: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: Bobert

Ahhhhh, not to worry. Amos is 100% correct. Find someone who can teach and in yer spare time check out the internet and see if you can find a picture of Leslie West, the lead gtuitarist for the band Mountain. Look at his hands, then go to Amazon and listen to a couple samples of Mountain's songs... That oughttta end this discussion...

Like I said, Amos is right, fire yer teacher...


18 Jul 04 - 12:23 AM (#1228000)
Subject: RE: BS: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: The Fooles Troupe

When a teacher (of any subject) tries to tell a student that the problem is purely with the student, that's more often a good indicator of the lack of teaching (and sometimes even the performing) ability of the teacher.

I had a friend who was told by the school music teacher that she would never be able to sing - but she just loved to - singing out of tune all the time. I showed her how to 'listen to herself' better (the finger pushing the ear forward trick) and she was surprised that she then could actually hear herself 'out of tune'. After a few months practise, she had improved. Of course she had nearly 20 years of conditioning to overcome....

But 'No teacher but oneself' is not a good idea too. Look around for other teachers - some will try to force you to only play the styles of music they like....

These have already been covered above...

1) Change the teacher
2) Change the 'style' of music
3) change the instrument
4) learn other instruments as well


18 Jul 04 - 12:42 AM (#1228008)
Subject: RE: BS: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: Mudlark

Don't give up, Teeny fingers....I have small hands, have trouble reaching an octave on the piano, and have happily played guitar for over 40 years, the first 20 of them on a wide-necked Spanish guitar. Granted, I'm not a very skilled player, just do it for fun and to accompany myself singing, still can't manage a barre chord to save my life, but I'm sure I could if I wanted to badly enough. (There is even a certain sneaky satisfaction in finding easier ways to get the same sound...)

18 Jul 04 - 01:40 AM (#1228028)
Subject: RE: BS: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: open mike

you might find that playing the mandolin would be good.
I took up mandolin in order to get exercise for the fingers
of my left hand. Banjos have a whole different sound.
Mandolins are more mellow. On the other hand, I am sure
you can master the guitar. Teachers should be encouraging,
and inspiring, not discouraging! hankd in there and good luck!

18 Jul 04 - 02:30 AM (#1228035)
Subject: RE: BS: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: emjay

Just keep working on it and enjoy yourself.
My son lost about an inch from the tips of the first three fingers on his left hand. He still plays, and plays very well, guitar, electric and classical and twelve string, 5-string banjo, mandolin, and anything else he can get his hands on. He makes his living as a tattoo artist but there are instruments hanging and sitting all around his shop and he plays and welcomes visitors and customers who join in.
It took him some time after the accident that cost him the fingertips to get back into playing but he plays more than ever now.

18 Jul 04 - 02:41 PM (#1228297)
Subject: RE: BS: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: Sweetfia

My fingers are like fat little sausages! But hey, like that's gunna stop me playing guitar! And the other posts are right, you've gotta get rid of your teacher. I remember, during one of my guitar lessons, i was having huge problems with a particular chord. And when i tried to explain to my teacher that i just simply couldn't do it because my fingers are too short and that maybe i should try stretching them...he laughed, and then showed me where i was going wrong...the way i was holding my guitar was wrong for that particular style so my hand was also in the wrong place and it meant that i was unable to fret properly.

20 Jul 04 - 06:59 AM (#1229720)
Subject: RE: BS: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: s6k

think about it... if you have bigger fingers, how is it that BB King is such a legend? his fingers are short and fat, but look how inspiring a player he is!

im not saying you will go out and make bb king look like an amateur, but your fingers shouldnt stop you playing, just get an electric like a strat, or a acoustic that isnt a classical. unless you want to play classical stuff, dont get a classical, the necks are huge, stick with a nice steel string acoustic with thin neck, which is what i have. i also want a flamenco guitar too. but i have a strat and a les paul too.. les pauls have very chunky necks, you should get a thin neck acoustic, or a strat / tele etc.

do not be ruled by your fingers! rise above them and wield your axe!

28 Sep 04 - 01:05 AM (#1282833)
Subject: RE: Guitar: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: Blissfully Ignorant

I also have teeny tiny fingers... I find it helps to make sure your guitar has a reasonably low action, and use light gauge strings as so you don't need to apply the same pressure, and therefore don't have to stretch as much.

Also, after years of playing an acoustic, i switched to an electric and found it much easier- electric folk, aye!! it's going to take over the world...honest...:)

28 Sep 04 - 07:29 AM (#1283025)
Subject: RE: Guitar: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: GUEST,banjoman

I was once given an end of term school report which stated " musically speaking this pupil is dead from the neck up"
I suppose some would say thats why I took up the banjo - but I also sing a bit as well.
Get a new instructor and tell the present one that he should stick his obviously oversized fingers somewhere where the sun dont shine.
Good luck and keep on playing

28 Sep 04 - 08:13 AM (#1283068)
Subject: RE: Guitar: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: s&r

Segovia had small hands.

Django Rheinhardt had (effectively) two fingers on his left hand following a fire.

Change your teacher.

My wife has small hands and plays full size classical with no trouble, not to mention a huge Guild Jumbo.


28 Sep 04 - 08:46 AM (#1283093)
Subject: RE: Guitar: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: Mooh

Bad advice from your teacher. Besides, who actually believes that banjo is that much easier. I don't play alot of banjo (some 4 and 5 string) but the reaches can be as great as on guitar unless you plan not to go beyond one and two finger chords. At this moment I've got several young students with very small hands and some folks with older uncooperative hands and they all play. Hand size is less an issue than guitar size.

Shop around, there may be someone more sensitive to you needs than your current instructor.

Peace, Mooh.

28 Sep 04 - 08:48 AM (#1283095)
Subject: RE: Guitar: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: Mooh

I meant to add that you should at least tell your current instructor how you feel and suggest he/she adapt to your needs if you're willing to work together. If the situation isn't resolvable, shop around.

For what it's worth.

Peace, Mooh.

22 Sep 08 - 11:34 PM (#2447824)
Subject: RE: Guitar: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: GUEST,camille

I just started trying to learn on my own (guitar). My fingers are slender and pretty long for a woman and I still can't play the f chord. I always seem to have a limitation on an instrument. If that's your passion (the guitar) keep on. I think that you should get a second opinion by another teacher. A teacher once told me that a student in high school played the clarinet but he thought that she would do better on a flute and he was right. Get at least two more opinions from good teachers or players.

23 Sep 08 - 02:50 AM (#2447891)
Subject: RE: Guitar: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: Richard Bridge

Camille, get the setup on your guitar checked. If you can capo at the first fret and then play an F at the second, but you can't do it in the root position your nut is too high.

23 Sep 08 - 03:42 AM (#2447913)
Subject: RE: Guitar: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: theleveller

I not only have small hands, I also have crooked fingers (my little finger, especially, curves inwards), making some chord shapes really hard and, with the onset of arthritis, barre chords almost impossible. So I've adapted my style to suit my limitations, as did Django Reinhardt, who lost the use of his third and fourth fingers. I find it easier to play in Csus tuning (CGCGCD) or DADGAD that rely more on single string work rather than complex chord shapes.

Other posters are right - find a more accomodating tutor (the various video tutors from Martin Simpson are great!)

23 Sep 08 - 06:45 AM (#2447968)
Subject: RE: Guitar: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: Bryn Pugh

I, too, have 'teeny tiny fingers' - very small hands for a bloke who stands 5' 11". One of my less popular nicknames was "Bryn Girliehands".

Oh, how we laughed . . .

Don't be discouraged - sack this tutor and find yourself one who will encourage you. I find that when playing (Tanglewood, 'steel' strung) it helps to have the guitar in the 'classical' position - on the left knee.

The left hand is then not taking any weight. I find also that Martin Silk & Steel strings help La Bella, if you can get them, but I haven't seen La Bella Silk and Steel strings for yonks.

My daughter, whilst still at school, wanted desperately to play the concert flute, but was told by the music master that her mouth "was the wrong shape". He lumbered her with a viola, of all things.

Once she left school she acquired a flute and is fairly competent, today.

Tough times don't last. Tough people do. Enjoy your playing.

23 Sep 08 - 09:44 AM (#2448101)
Subject: RE: Guitar: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: Mark Ross

Get on You Tube and check out the videos of Steve Goodman, now there was someone with small hands, but he didn't let it stop him!

Mark Ross

23 Sep 08 - 11:04 AM (#2448171)
Subject: RE: Guitar: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: Stringsinger

The thing that never gets mentioned because it's not in vogue these days is the nature vrs. nurture argument. Regardless of the size of the hand it's the variable of finger dexterity
which in my view (and I'll get lots of argument from many on this) is an

The size doesn't matter as much as the flexibility and the dexterity to be a great guitarist.
This is in the DNA.

I know personally that this is true because I have worked for many years to achieve what little facility I have on the guitar and banjo. I don't have natural finger dexterity. I had to
work my ass off to play as little as I do now.

That's the measurable item.

Frank Hamilton

23 Sep 08 - 12:33 PM (#2448239)
Subject: RE: Guitar: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: Bernard

If the desire to learn is in your head, the slightest thing may put you off.

If the desire to learn is in your heart, nothing will get in your way!!

23 Sep 08 - 12:51 PM (#2448267)
Subject: RE: Guitar: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: Richard Bridge

One of the best claw-hammer guitar players in Kent (on a good day) Jeff Cole, although over 6 feet tall and weighing maybe (sometimes) about 20 stone has amazingly delicate looking hands, considerably smaller than mine (and I'm only 5 foot 8). He does however have the grip of a mole wrench.

23 Sep 08 - 03:27 PM (#2448395)
Subject: RE: Guitar: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: Don Firth

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

23 Sep 08 - 03:48 PM (#2448411)
Subject: RE: Guitar: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: Lowden Jameswright

Pick up a Norman (eg Model ST68) or one of similar profile, and notice how your fingers have suddenly grown - barre chords no problem (all the way up the neck)

Lowden "smallhand" Jameswright

PS - Tell your teacher to take up Joinery

06 May 09 - 06:42 PM (#2625835)
Subject: RE: Guitar: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: GUEST,Josh

I have extremely small hands and have no problem playing my guitars. I have a Martin D-41, a Martin D-15. These guitars have a nice small neck and I've been playing for 7 years. I play lots of Doc Watson stuff. Just practice and practice, your fingers will learn to stretch.

06 May 09 - 10:13 PM (#2625943)
Subject: RE: Guitar: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: Bee-dubya-ell

The two most accomplished guitarists I know both had tiny fingers when I originally met them. That's because I've known them both since they were children. The fact that their fingers were too small to hold most chord shapes meant that they had to play a lot of runs and licks instead. Having to work around the limitations imposed by their small fingers probably made them much better musicians than they would have been otherwise.

07 May 09 - 02:50 AM (#2626047)
Subject: RE: Guitar: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: breezy

Try a baby Taylor ?

But have it set up

Visit a shop and try em all

07 May 09 - 07:55 AM (#2626152)
Subject: RE: Guitar: Teeny Tiny Fingers
From: Bernard

I have the opposite problem - fingers like pork sausages. But it hasn't prevented me from playing the mandolin!

As most others have said, the problem is your teacher.

This isn't intended as a criticism of you, but I've found that pupils who aren't prepared to put in the 110% effort to learn often look for excuses such as 'small hands', 'fat fingers' or blame it on the instrument.

If you really need to learn, nothing will stop you!