Can You Play Guitar With Small Hands? (the truth)

Can You Play Guitar With Small Hands? (the truth)

Let’s answer this question straight away in the simplest terms we can use. You can play guitar with small hands and the real problem you’re experiencing is the pain all new guitarists get when trying to stretch their hands into positions they’re not comfortable reaching. 

If you are experiencing some sort of pain or struggle to reach certain parts of the guitar, it could in some part, be due to the size of your hands. But in 99 cases out of 100, it will be because you’re using either the wrong guitar or the wrong technique.

If you’re struggling to play the guitar, keep reading, because in this article we’ll look at various guitars and how they feel to play them, but we’ll also look at what you should be doing with your hands. Because the truth is, whatever size your hands are, you’re going to experience some discomfort when you first pick up a guitar.

Dispelling The Myths

First up, let’s clear one little thing up, we hear this every week, someone will contact us and say they can’t play guitar because their hands or fingers are too small. So let’s look at that statement and see if there’s any evidence to back it up. 

Are There Any Guitarists With Small Hands?

If you’re one of those new guitarists that are saying you can’t play guitar because your hands are too small, you might not want to read this section. Because the truth is, hand size is almost irrelevant when it comes to playing the guitar.

Angus Young

Angus Young is the lead guitarist and co-founder of the rock band AC/DC. Rolling Stone magazine ranked him as number 24 on their Greatest Guitarists of All Time. He might have small fingers but just listen to some of his solos! 

He can play superfast runs and stretches his fingers to their full capacity. He has said in the past that he plays a Gibson SG because it’s nice and light and fits his stature.

Andrés Segovia

Born in Andalusia, the home of Flamenco, Andrés Segovia was a classical guitarist. During his lifetime he was acclaimed as the “foremost guitarist”, he was so good that he had students lining up to be trained by him. Some of today’s top classical guitarists were trained by the great Andrés Segovia.

Playing The Guitar

Yet he had small hands, and played a classical guitar which has an extremely wide neck. So clearly small hands do not make it impossible to play guitar.

Nancy Wilson

Nancy Wilson is best known as the guitarist and singer for the band Heart which she formed along with her sister Ann Wilson. She is known for her guitar playing where she mixes flamenco and classical elements into her hard rock style.

Yet at 5 foot 2 inches tall, and with small hands, she became a highly successful rock guitarist. As well as bursting through all the stigma attached to hard rock music at that time. Her band, Heart, were inducted into the rock and roll Hall of Fame in 2012.

Other Guitarists With Small Hands

We could go on with many other guitarists who had small hands, people like;

  • Prince
  • Muriel Anderson
  • Shawn Lane
  • Steve Luthaker
  • Phil Keaggy
  • Paul Simon
  • Danny Gatton
  • And Many More

But we hope you get the point, small hands could be used as an excuse to give up. Or you could look past your excuses and get on with doing what you actually want to do, which is play the guitar. 


Learn Your First 6 Guitar Songs TODAYyour first six guitar songsThis book will get you playing acoustic guitar at an impressive level in the shortest time possible. It's easy to understand, to the point and requires no prior experience. We've left out all the stuff you don’t need to know at the beginning stages and focused 100% on getting you where you want to be, fast.

Or if you find guitar apps more helpful when learning, take a look through our list of guitar apps for 2023 that we recently reviewed and ranked.

Guitarists Who Had Hand Injuries

On top of that, there have also been some amazing guitarists that have lost fingers etc and still managed to be great. People like;

Django Reinhardt

Django Reinhardt was a Romani-Belgian  jazz guitarist who has been the inspiration of many budding guitarists including Willie Nelson. When Django was 18 he lost the use of the third and fourth fingers of his left hand in a caravan fire.

This led to him playing guitar solos with just his index and second finger. His group was one of the first to play jazz using the guitar as the main instrument. His disability never stopped him, he just adapted the way he played and became a star in spite of his disability.

Jerry Garcia

Jerry Garcia was the principal songwriter, lead guitarist and vocalist with the rock band The Grateful Dead. When he was four years old, he lost two thirds of his right middle finger that was cut off by his brother by accident when wood chopping. 

He had to learn to hold a guitar pick differently but he never let it stop him playing.

Tony Iommi

Black Sabbath were probably one of the first heavy metal bands and yet their lead guitarist Tony Iommi lost the tips of the middle and ring fingers in an accident at the sheet metal factory where he worked. As a left handed guitarist this was a problem.

He could have just turned the guitar upside down but he said he’d already learned to play the standard way. So he made false tips he could place on his fingers and kept playing as a left handed player.

We could go on but hopefully, you get the point, if people with missing fingers can become international super stars playing the guitar, small hands cannot and should not be used as an excuse. You might have to adapt (slightly) but people with small hands are just as capable of becoming great guitarists as people with missing fingers, or people with big hands.

Still think small hands are a problem for guitarists?

Does The Guitar Make A Difference?

Many people think that a guitar’s a guitar, and in some ways that’s true. They all have six strings and a fretboard, but not all full sized guitars are the same. There are some full sized guitars that can be difficult to play whatever size your hands are, and others that are more suited to those of us with small hands.

When looking at guitars that are more suitable to those of us with small hands, there are two important parts to look at which are;

  • The Guitar’s Body
  • The Guitar’s Neck

Both the body and the neck of the guitar will play an important part in how the guitar feels to play.

Guitar Neck

Not all guitars have the same neck length or scale length as it’s sometimes called. Basically, the longer the guitar neck is, the harder it’s going to be to reach all of the frets. This is because the longer the neck is, the further apart the frets are going to be.

Which means the further you’ll need to stretch your fingers to make chord shapes or reach particular notes etc. This is the reason why some people prefer to play smaller guitars, because the frets are closer together which reduces the amount of stretch you need in your fingers.

More importantly for the smaller handed person, is the width of the neck. If you play a guitar with a wide, thick neck, it will be harder to get your hand around it. This means your fingers need to stretch more to reach the frets etc.

If you are looking for a guitar and you have small hands, look for a guitar that has a thin neck. This will be easier to play because;

  • Your fingers will be able to reach the strings better
  • You’ll be able to reach the frets easier
  • It will feel more comfortable

So remember, it’s not just the length of the neck that can affect the reach of shorter fingers/smaller hands, it’s also the thickness and width of the neck.

Guitar Body

The body size of a guitar can make a great deal of difference to how comfortable the guitar feels. Large acoustic guitars can be really problematic for people of all sizes, whereas the smaller bodies of electric guitars can be far more comfortable to handle. 

Plus it’s not just the difference between acoustic guitars and electric guitars. There are many thin acoustic guitars with smaller bodies which you will feel far more comfortable with. And to flip that on its head, there are many electric guitars that have enormous bodies that are uncomfortable for many people.

The most important thing when it comes to the body of the guitar, is its shape. It should fit your body so that your arms are free to move as they need to when playing the guitar.

Why You Shouldn’t Learn On A Small Guitar

Just because you have small hands, don’t assume you need to buy a smaller guitar. It’s quite possible that you will be able to play a full sized guitar as long as the body is small and the neck is thin and narrow. 

The thing is, if you learn to play on a small guitar, you’ll be limited as to which guitar you can play for the rest of your life. You will only feel comfortable playing a small guitar. 

However, if you were to learn to play a full sized guitar, you’ll be able to walk into a guitar shop, and play any guitar they have on display. With that said, there will be some guitars that still feel too cumbersome for you like the dreadnoughts for example. But that’s fine, there are plenty of guitarists that struggle with those anyway. 

The point is you’ll have the freedom to choose whichever guitar you want from a wide range. Not just the odd few smaller models stocked in the average guitar shop.

Finger Pain

We started off dispelling the myth that just because you have short hands, you couldn’t play the guitar. Well in the spirit of honesty, there is always going to be a certain amount of pain associated with learning to play the guitar. The tips of the fingers on your fretting hand are going to be pressed into hard, steel strings, some pain is inevitable.

But don’t despair, that pain is short lived. After a couple of weeks the skin will harden and you won’t even feel it any more. By that point, you’ll have learned to play something and the pain will all have been worth it.

While we’re on this point it’s a good idea to examine exactly where the pain is, because if you’re using the correct part of the finger (the tip) that’s where the pain should be. Try to always use the tip of your finger to press the string down, not the prints, the tips and as close to the nail as possible.

How To Play The Guitar WIth Short Fingers 

Let’s look at a few tips to make playing the guitar easier. Most of these tips will help every guitarist, not just those with small hands.

  • Buy a guitar with a thin neck
    As we said above, the size of the neck will affect the way the guitar feels to play. Guitars with thin necks allow your hands to fit comfortably around the neck and lets your fingers reach the strings easier.
  • Buy a guitar with a thin body
    The shape and size of the body of the guitar, whether it’s electric or acoustic, will make a difference to the way it feels to play.
  • Ensure your posture is correct
    If you sit up straight, with a straight back, you will find it is easier to play. You need to naturally sit in a position which feels comfortable to hold the guitar. And posture plays a large part in that.
  • Position your wrist to allow easy string access
    If you have small hands, this is vitally important but you will benefit from this even if you have regular sized hands. You should aim to move your wrists forward and under the neck of the guitar. Position your thumb in the middle underside of the neck. This gives your fingers a better range over the strings.
  • Use the very tips of the fingers to fret notes
    Never use your fingerprints to fret notes, always the tips of the fingers and as close to the nail as possible.
  • Use extra light gauge strings
    The lighter the gauge of strings you use the easier they are to press down. You will really notice the difference if you change from heavy to light gauge strings.
  • Start with easy chords
    When you’re just beginning to play the guitar, there’s nothing wrong with playing the easiest version of a chord possible. This will give you encouragement because you’ll learn to play songs faster. Once these have been mastered the transition to full chords will be easier to grasp.
  • Learn to play songs you like
    There’s no point learning how to play nursery rhymes if your passion is heavy rock. Likewise don’t learn how to play rock music if folk is your passion. Learn to play the songs you love because that will encourage you to keep learning.
  • Do Finger Stretches
    It is important to strengthen your fingers and the best way to do this is to stretch them regularly follow this link for the best way to stretch your fingers.
  • Adapt chords to suit you
    For instance, if you find it really too difficult to play barre chords, welcome to the club. Does that stop us from playing those same chords? No it doesn’t we just play the simpler version of that chord (for example, we’d play the F chord like this. And the B chord like this).
  • Don’t get discouraged
    There’s one thing you need to know, it doesn’t matter who your favourite guitarist is, they struggled when they were first learning how to play. Everybody struggles at first! But don’t let that defeat you, behind every great guitarist (or anything else) is a whole load of hard work and determination. Everyone has a reason why they can’t play guitar and every one of those reasons is just an excuse not to work harder.

The Secret To Playing The Guitar Successfully Is Practice

As with any instrument, the secret to mastering the guitar is regular practice. You should aim to practise for at least 30 minutes every day, seven days a week. This little and often approach works far better than trying to practise for a solid hour once a week.

Whether you’re learning through blog posts like this or following online lessons, the key to getting good is dedication and consistency.

It’s all about muscle memory and sending the correct message along the neural pathways. But you don’t need to know the science behind it, just remember to practise every day.

20% Off Guitar Tricks Full Access! Use coupon code: SAVE20

You Could Also Use A Capo To Transpose Chords

For those of you that don’t know what a capo is, it’s just a device that is attached to the guitar to alter the sound by raising the key of the guitar. It allows you to play simple open chords further up the fretboard changing the key you’re playing in. 

This might be helpful when you’re first learning to play the guitar and can’t yet form all the shapes you need to play a particular piece of music. For more information on how to use a capo, follow this link.

So Is It Possible To Play The Guitar With Small Hands?

You bet it is! As we have seen there are many guitar greats who have (or had) small hands. The difference is they knew the secret to playing guitar with short hands. And now, hopefully, so do you.

Check out this 9 year old child (Jaydon Tatasciore) playing a full sized Gibson Flying V.

Remember…

  • Always position your hands correctly to give you maximum fretboard reach.
  • Play the easiest version of chords to start with (power chords then open chords)
  • Employ the correct posture
  • Stretch your fingers regularly
  • Play songs you enjoy
  • Practise regularly (every day for a short while is far better than once a week for 2 hours)
  • Don’t give in

And most important of all…Enjoy yourself.

SEE ALSO: Basic Guitar Chords For Beginners That Are Easy To Play

Frequently Asked Questions

Are guitars harder with small hands?

It can be slightly harder to play the guitar with small hands, but it’s by no means impossible. There have been many very successful guitarists with small hands. Angus Young, Nancy Wilson and Andrés Segovia to name a few.

What guitarists have small hands?

There have been many guitarists that had small hands, people like: Angus Young, Prince, Paul Simon, Nancy Wilson and Andrés Segovia for example.

Is a ¾  guitar good for small hands?

A ¾  guitar can be a good option for small hands, but learning to play on a smaller guitar will limit your options long term. You would probably be better off buying a full sized guitar with a thin body and a thin, narrow neck.

Do fingers ever stop hurting when playing guitar?

Soreness in the fingertips is only temporary and usually fades after a few weeks. There are numbing creams that can be applied but the best solution is to persevere until the fingertips build up calluses which will make them oblivious to the pain.

Disclosure: We are a professional review site that receives compensation from the companies whose products we review.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *