If somebody thinks they have small hands, perhaps they could compare insecurity complexes with Donald Trump. But that would be a digression: Guitar is an instrument that’s demanding on the hands. The problem may not be small hands per se, but their dexterity. To train on guitar every day is to train your finest motor skills. It is true, however, that you have an advantage if you have long, fleeting fingers.
One of the biggest breakthroughs, not just for guitar but for any musician, is to do what works for you and not necessarily how other people do it. Make up your own rules. If a different technique works for you, that’s the “right” way to do it as far as you’re concerned. If the late Jeff Healey, a blind musician, can rise to world fame by laying the guitar in his lap and playing it almost like a harpsichord, there’s nothing to stop you from playing the guitar with your feet if you get a good sound out of it that way.
There are a few practical tips that small-handed guitarists share:
- Bring in your pinkie. Most guitar lesson plans aim to have you chord with a span from index to ring fingers. Use your pinkie when the ring finger feels awkward.
- Play on the higher frets. This is where larger hands get cramped, but you have the advantage here.
- Downtune the E string to a D. This is a familiar technique in heavy metal, but it also puts an extra D at the other side of the neck, where it’s easier to bar chords.
- Use a capo. There’s nothing wrong with using this or any other aid to make fretting easier.
- Use lighter gauge strings. You may discover that you get more mileage out of your fingers when it doesn’t feel like you’re trying to draw a bow with every chord.
Another thing to consider is that you should get a little more experience before you decide there’s anything wrong with your hands. Everybody feels like there’s something wrong with them when they’re first trying out guitar. It’s because the tendons in your fingers aren’t limbered up yet, and the muscles are certainly not worked out yet.
Last but not least – guitars do come in different sizes! Particularly solid-body electric guitars tend to come in a variety of sizes and have fretboards that are more slender. If your guitar feels bulky and awkward, the sizes range down to “parlour” (AKA compact adult), three-quarters, half-size, guitarlele (AKA kiku), and the good old ukulele. It just goes to show, there’s an instrument and a method for everybody.