As a guitarist, and an instructor for many years.
I have heard many beginner players ask if they will have trouble learning to play due to their small, short, or fat fingers.
As a beginner, this is a legitimate question. My response tends always to be the same.
There have been many guitarists over the years who have large hands and fingers. So if you ask yourself are my hands too big for the guitar? The answer is no. You are having issues with one of the following:
1. Holding the guitar incorrectly
2. Hand Placement
3. Thumb placement
4. Finger placement
To decide if any of those issues are something that could be causing your playing to be more difficult.
Let ‘s take a more in-depth look at the above mentioned possible causes of “thinking,” your hands might be too small, short, or fat to play guitar.
Also, it could simply be that you don’t have proper hand technique. If this is the case check out my Top 50 guitar lessons on YouTube!
Holding the guitar incorrectly
Often beginner guitarists, and sometimes intermediate guitarists tend actually to hold the guitar incorrectly.
When the guitar is held wrong nothing else will work as efficiently as it should. That is why this is an ideal first place to have some suspicion and make sure it’s being done correctly.
If you are playing on a right-handed guitar, the body of the guitar should rest comfortably on your right thigh, in your lap.
The back of the guitar should be up against your stomach, and your right elbow should be at the top furthest part of the body of the guitar.
Most of this more than likely you are actually doing correctly. Where it gets tricky is watching to see if the head-stock and neck of the guitar are pointed down too much.
If you find when playing, consciously look at the neck and see if its pointing downward. If this is the case, then you should try and lift the neck of the guitar up higher aiming to keep it level or even a bit raised. (think about how raised the neck of the guitar is when you watch someone play classical guitar).
The other initial issue that I often see when someone is holding the guitar incorrectly, is leaning the body of the guitar in towards you.To be able to see the fretboard easier.
Although this seems like an excellent technique to help you look at what you are playing, this also throws off your entire arm and wrist, resulting in not performing correctly. ( This is often seen in younger children, who are attempting to play on a guitar that is just naturally too large for them).
Try and keep the body of the guitar as straight up and down as possible, primarily as a beginner guitarist.
Old bad habits can become hard to break.
Or, if you are extremely small or purchasing a guitar for a child, you should look into a 3/4 guitar. A 3/4 guitar is smaller in size allowing for more comfortable playability!
It is extremely common to see beginner guitarists have their hand placement incorrect. What tends to happen is that their palm of the fretting hand is touching the neck of the guitar.
When this takes place, it causes the fingers not to curve as they need to play chords effectively. Not only does that happen but it can create for the deadening of strings when attempting to play a chord.
This will lead to severe frustration as when you strum, you won’t hear the chord correctly.
It is absolutely necessary to make sure that your palm is not touching the guitar too much, as this will undoubtedly lead to frustration.
Finger placement (Usually the issue with fat fingers)
This is probably the hardest part of guitar in the beginning. Not only do you have to use multiple fingers on different strings in weird shapes to create chords.
It also is vital that you curve your fingers just right. This takes time and lots of practice. You will have to build up muscle memory to make this work.
The best way to work on this if this is an issue for you is to work on curving your finger at your top knuckle. Do this on all digits of your fretting hand.
Work on Being able to curl your fretting hand fingers, all together and independently of each other. This will allow you to play chords without buzzing, or dampening and deadening of any of the strings.
One of the best chords to start working on finger placement with is the Open D chord.
As a beginner, this chord often causes some trouble as you have 3 fingers very close to each other. If you don’t curve just correctly, you will experience buzzing or deadening of strings that should be ringing out.
If this is the issue you are dealing with it is definitely an issue of curving your fingers independently enough to allow for all strings to ring out when strummed or plucked.
Another chord that can be worked on for curvature is the Open A chord.
Traditionally this chord is taught with fingers 1, 2, and 3 on the second fret of the D G B strings.
This one can be very challenging in the beginning, but can also be played as a simple bar chord with just your first finger! But try and learn it the traditional way first to help work on curving those fingers correctly!
This takes patience, practice, and consistency. Over time you will also develop calluses on your fretting fingers. These calluses are a good thing. They will allow you to play longer without pain from pressing down so hard on the strings.
Remember Patience, Practice, and Consistency! Guitar takes time.
Another problem that I see guitarists just starting out get wrong is the thumb placement.
If your thumb is too high up on the back of the guitar neck, it makes it next to impossible to put your fretting fingers into position with the right curve as I mentioned above.
The thumb 90% of the time should be directly in the middle of the guitar neck. As a kid when I was taught my instructor told me to imagine a line going down the back of the guitar neck. ( Some guitars actually have this).
This imaginary line down the middle of the neck is exactly where your thumb should be at. This will allow for your palm to be off the guitar, and for free range of motion when attempting to fret a note with the right amount of curvature.
Apparently, there are always exceptions to every rule.
What I mean by this is if you are a fan of Jimi Hendrix at all you will notice when he plays that he often actually uses his thumb to fret the low E string from around the back of the neck.
This, in my opinion, is not a beginner technique and should not be attempted until you can genuinely play chords interchangeably with minimal issues.
Artists like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn had quite massive hands.
Allowing for the thumb wrapped around for fretting technique a bit easier for them. This goes to show though that more or less it is a lack of knowledge, skill, and proper technique that is causing issues not your actual finger or hand size.
What to do if none of these suggestions help?
First, let me be clear that these suggestions need to be implemented into your practice and consciously worked on for at least a few weeks.
If you don’t allow for that much time and stay consistent, you won’t know if any of these techniques work.
Now with that being said, If you genuinely try all of these corrections and you know that you are playing with proper form, but you just have large fingers.
Some guitars do have wider necks. This might be a solution for you. This probably only falls to about 3% of people attempting to play guitar.
The other suggestion would be to go into a guitar store, (One that has many options like a guitar center, and try playing on different guitars).
You might discover that the neck on a Les Paul is way better for you than the neck on a Fender Stratocaster.
Or vice versa, this is where personal taste and feel comes into place. Below I have 6 Guitars that I would recommend if you are looking for a wide neck guitar, some are acoustic and a few are electric.
The Top 6 Wide Neck Guitars For Big Hands And Fat Fingers
- Ibanez GIO Series
- Seagull 039296 S6 Acoustic
- Cordoba C3M Classical
- Ibanez AM53 AM
- Ibanez AEG12IINT Acoustic-Electric
- Ibanez SZ520
It is very common for me as a guitar instructor to be asked if their fingers are just too darn Fat, Skinny, short, long, you name it.
It is a question that causes for real concern among a beginner guitarist. My reply and answer always seem similar.
It is not your finger or hand size that is giving you trouble. It is merely a need to take a step back and analyze how you are holding the guitar.
Consciously becoming aware if you are curving your fingers correctly. Watching to make sure your thumb doesn’t go haywire on you while trying to form a chord shape etc…
Check out the best online guitar platform free here.
The guitar can be challenging and frustrating in the beginning. Most people won’t stick with it long enough to get to the enjoyment of it.
If you have the patience, the work ethic, and the commitment to stay consistent with your practice, it will be no time at all that you will laugh when thinking in the beginning if you had a finger issue.
Most importantly try and have some fun with it!
Comment below, do you still think your hands are too big for guitar now?