Have you ever felt your hands do not stretch enough to play guitar the way you want? Maybe you are even thinking that your hands are too small to play properly. If this is the case, keep reading.
Don’t think for a moment that you are alone in this. In my experience as teacher, "my hands are too small" is one of the top 3 complaints that guitarists have. Ask a random sample of guitar players: "Do you think your hands are smaller than average" probably 80% of them will answer "yes". :-)
That’s ok, I am in that 80% too. My hands are quite small — they are definitely smaller than most of my student’s. And I can play thing they can’t play. Funny thing, one of the best player I know has hands even smaller than mine… and he can play things that I can’t play!
So what can we do about the tininess of our appendages?
Are Small Hands A Disadvantage?
One of my friend (a psychologist) recently reported to me that his patients lament of three different disadvantages they were saddled with in their family of birth. Here they are:
- "I was the last child"
- "I was the only/first child"
- "I was the middle child"
… and every one of them think they have been given the short side of the stick. It’s the same thing for guitar players: the ones who do not think that their hands are too small think that their hands are too big or too slow, or too weak, or too tense… (again, I did the same when I started playing!)
But the reality is that every time you learn something on your guitar your hands will feel awkward for a while, until you learn and integrate the new technique with what you know already.
There’s nothing strange in that: it’s like the first time you ride a bike, it’s not going to be a smooth ride. But with practice you get better and better until it becomes second nature. Yet, if you teach a child to ride a bike, what they will tell you? "I am too WHATEVER to ride this" (Tall, small, weak, young, old, etc…)
Can You Make Small Hands Larger?
Yes and no. As far as I know, there is no way to make the bones in your hand longer. But:
By practicing correctly, the joints in your hands will become more flexible, and your finger span will increase. Most guitar player who practice correctly notice that their fretting hand is more flexible than their picking hand.
Most of the problem you are having is not that your hands are small, but that they are weak when you extend them. That is, when you stretch your fretting hand, your fingers are too weak to fret a note correctly — so you are not using your full extension. But this will change with practice as your hands will become stronger.
Of course, to make all of this happens you have to practice in the correct way.
Great, So What Should I Do?
The first thing you have to do is to learn how to stretch your hand correctly on the guitar, so that you will not hurt yourself. By learning this technique you will also see how to practice correctly (and get all the benefits we talked about above). Here’s how to do it, watch the video starting from 4:00:
If you followed the instructions above on your guitar, you did see how you actually have much more finger span available than you though at the beginning. Now, don’t overdo it. Take it easy, stretch your hands gradually and give them time to become stronger, and you will see that you will be able to play chords and scales that people with larger hands than yours can’t!