A question that gets asked way too often in my opinion. Today, we’re going to answer this as thoroughly as possible and hopefully put any doubts you may have to rest.
Finger length doesn’t matter. Children, who have notably tiny hands, can play guitar and some play it shockingly well (better than you and me). Big hands can actually be a hindrance in some cases.
People have been of the assumption for a long time that long hands are the reason why legendary players like Jimmi Hendrix, John Mayer, Tal Farlow, and others were so good.
While having giant paws made playing stretched-out chord forms easier for them, most of it comes down to practice and getting the right guitar for your hand size.
Is finger length a factor for playing guitar?
Your hands build up muscle memory over time and good playing is mostly down to repetition and good technique, and finger length doesn’t guarantee good technique. Longer fingers also make it difficult to play on the smaller frets higher up the neck.
If your hands are particularly small, you can just get a smaller guitar.
Here are some solutions for smaller hands:
- Get a ¾ guitar instead.
- Get a guitar with a thinner neck.
- Get lighter gauge strings.
Can you play the same way no matter the length of your fingers?
Once you have a guitar that matches your hand size and you’ve made sure that you’ve set up the strings comfortably for yourself, you can play just like your idol.
I’ll state it again, it comes down to practice and good technique. If you want to learn about good guitar techniques, there are a couple of good books on the topic and there are tons of YouTubers covering the topic.
I would be careful not to watch other amateur guitar players for advice though, look for high production quality and videos of guitarists playing things you’d want to play.
I recommend checking out some of these channels listed below:
He covers a lot of different topics, from guitar playing to practicing to general music theory.
If you want to learn to shred, this guy is your guy! What I like about his channel is that he has videos of songs he’s written so you can see his skill by example.
This channel covers what it says it does. It’s a great channel for getting familiar with your guitar and music in general. He has some great exercises for guitar players though.
Do long fingers give you an advantage in playing guitar?
There are some cases that are good examples of long-fingered players taking advantage of their extra reach. Try playing Every Breath You Take by The Police with small hands and short fingers.
Long fingers give you an advantage when it comes to playing stretchy licks and lead patterns where there’s a lot of distance between frets being played. Extended chords are also a little easier to play with longer fingers.
When doing a legato-style riff where you don’t do any right-hand picking and the notes are produced solely through hammer-ons and pull-offs and the frets being played are say the 5th fret to the 9th fret in quick succession. Big hands help.
It’s not to say that with practice, short fingers can’t do the same, it’s just that your method of achieving the same outcome may be slightly different. You may have to move your hand more to compensate for the distance.
Do long fingers hurt your playing in any way?
Let it be known that I have big hands by a lot of standards. I have long, thin fingers and wide palms, which is quite ideal. I also have a friend with small hands and he’s the best guitarist I know. He plays Avenged sevenfold sweep licks to warm his left hand up.
But let’s talk about my long fingers. I find it easiest to play lead and barre chords. I hate thin-necked guitars and I have to keep the fingernails on my left hand short to play some of the more compact chords that my younger students find most comfortable.
The obvious hindrances are chords like E minor and A major. I tend to barre the A with my index rather than try to squeeze three noodles onto one fret.
Luckily I don’t have fat fingers, it never ceases to amaze me that some people can play guitar with fingers as thick as my thumbs.
What about big hands in general?
Big hands in general are both a blessing and a curse. Again, with good technique and the right practice, anyone can play guitar. However, big hands have their cons (as far as my big-handed guitar-playing friends are concerned).
Big hands mean wide palms, which means fingers can get further apart, but getting close together is difficult. On the higher frets (15 to 21) they have a lot of trouble. It’s especially difficult to play cleanly and quickly and a lot of spacial compensation is needed.
Overall, no matter your hand size, everyone has their share of issues to overcome. Different strokes for different folks.
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.