If you have small hands and you are looking for the best Beginner Guitar For Small Hands, you know the struggle some guitar chords give you. You try to reach and it just feels like an impossibility. We wanted to address this issue and create an article that will help you find the best electric guitar for small hands. After all, if there are musical instruments that will make it easier to play with small hands, why try to fit in with a guitar that makes your hands cramp?
We have read a lot of reviews from guitar players with small hands, and have managed to narrow the selection down to guitars that we think you should take a closer look at.
Beginner Guitar For Small Hands
The primary variables in guitar construction of concern to the small handed are: the neck radius (how fat the back of the neck is between your thumb and fingers when held + relative curve of the fingerboard), the scale length, and the body size.
- Neck Radius – for guitarists with small hands, a fat neck radius is like gripping a baseball bat. Maybe good for swinging a weapon, but prohibitive for playing music. Vintage Les Pauls and Martin Dreadnaughts can be daunting for one with short fingers. Fender Telecasters often had fat necks but increased fingerboard curve. Ideally, a somewhat flatter fingerboard radius and thin neck guitar makes for easier playing for those with small hands. Small handed players that want a standard scale but can handle strings that are closer together than standard spacing have another option. A narrow neck guitar with a nut smaller that 1 9/16” will often be a slim neck guitar as well – similar to a tenor guitar. Some models from Ibanez and Hofner have ultra slim necks, very flat radius and narrow string spacing.
- Scale Length – this refers to the length of the string from the nut to the bridge and the resultant fingerboard spacing of the frets. Short scale length guitars result in an easier reach between frets for those with small hands. The tradeoff is softer action and less string tension, which tonally has less snap and more warmth. The 24.75” scale of most Gibson electrics contributes to their generally fatter midrange sound vs. the twang of the popular 25.5” Fender electrics.
- Body Size – for electric guitars, body sizes can be of almost any configuration, with aesthetics and ergonomics like balance and weight playing important roles. Some shapes can be difficult for those with small hands and short arms to comfortably reach over when playing, especially on dreadnaughts and jumbo acoustics. However, body size is crucial for the sound of an acoustic guitar, and its design often is dictated by playing style and sound projection needs. With the current state of pickup technology, this is no longer a restriction if playing plugged in, since a small travel guitar can sound huge when amplified.
That said, there is probably the widest range of choices especially designed to be the best electric guitar for small hands. Here are a few examples:
For those on an unlimited budget:
- The Gibson Byrdland – created by 1950s country and jazz guitar ace Hank Garland with Billy Byrd, this 23.5” scale thinline hollow bodied guitar runs easily over $3500 and higher for vintage models. Surprisingly versatile, it is the guitar of choice of rock and roll wildman Ted Nugent, but has also been used by Prince and jazz fusion pioneer John McLaughlin.
Best Guitar For Small Hands (Pro Budgets)
- Fender Johnny Marr Jaguar – The original model was a commercial flop due to noise and hardware reliability issues that affected tuning. Former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr collaborated with Fender to revive this 60’s model with upgraded electronics and hardware, making this a joy to play. It can be heard on all of his solo recordings.
- Ernie Ball St. Vincent – designed by alternative art rocker St. Vincent (Annie Clark), the St. Vincent is an ergonomic marvel. Its art deco shape is surprisingly comfortable to play, especially for women, given it’s only 7.5 lbs. The scale length is an astonishingly standard 25.5” but is hardly noticeable, as the neck carve shape and radius is superb for small handed players. The Firebird mini humbucking pickups shred and purr with equal aplomb.
- Fender Mustang – originally Fender’s student model, the short scale Mustang became a favorite among diverse players, such as Kurt Cobain, Johnny Winter, Todd Rundgren, and Adrian Belew. Fender has reissued it at various times and it is presently in their 2018 catalog.
The Jaguar, the Mustang, and the St. Vincent are available as imported models from Squier (Fender) and Sterling (Ernie Ball), respectively, for humbler budgets. As far as the best ¾ size electric guitar goes, students and children have a number of choices between Squier, Epiphone and Ibanez, with mini versions of each of their popular Stratocaster, Les Paul and RG models, respectively.
Best Steel String Acoustic Guitar for Small Hands
Next largest menu would be for the best steel string acoustic guitar for small hands. Superstar singer songwriter Ed Sheeran has entertained stadiums playing his Martin LX-1E signature model, and is responsible for popularizing the travel sized acoustic guitar worldwide. All of the major brands, such as Martin, Taylor, Guild, Yamaha, Breedlove, and others now include a Junior or travel sized model in their catalogs. Most of them are bright in the higher midrange and not surprisingly weaker in the bass, although this can be altered with EQ when plugged in.
- Martin – with its 185th anniversary in 2018, Martin is America’s oldest existing guitar manufacturer. Many Martin vintage models have been used on countless recordings and even been showcased at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. They have a selection of ¾ sized Little Martin models at different price points, from the Sheeran signature down to their first travel model, the Backpacker.
- Taylor – Taylor offers their ¾ sized Baby Taylors (dreadnaught shape), and GS mini (grand symphony shape) in different tonewoods and with electronics. They also make a GS mini bass. The ⅞ sized Big Baby is for small handed players that seek the sound of a dreadnaught but may have difficulty reaching comfortably over the wider lower bout.
- Yamaha – Yamaha’s FG Jr. is probably the most affordable quality ¾ sized acoustic on the market. Made from laminated spruce and meranti, it offers decent sound and playability for child students and adults with small hands who want an inexpensive and durable acoustic for the beach or camping trips.
Given the need for longer strings to reproduce low notes (there’s a reason for the shape of a grand piano), there are somewhat fewer options for the bass guitar for the small hands. The standard Fender bass guitar has a scale of 34”. However, some famous models from the classic rock era are still available at 30” scale, ideal for small handed players.
- Hofner 500-1 Violin “Beatle” Bass – popularized by Paul McCartney with the Beatles, the Hofner Violin bass is probably the most well known non Fender shaped bass in the world.
- Epiphone EB-3 – most notably associated with Jack Bruce and Cream, the EB-3 is a 30.5” scaled bass shaped like their SG guitar. It’s tonally sought for its “mudbucker oomph” compared to the articulation of a Fender bass.
- Another classic from the 1960s is the semi hollow Guild Starfire bass. Combining the warm woodiness of an upright bass with electronics for playing rock, the Starfire was responsible for the driving bass sounds of Jack Casady with the Jefferson Airplane, Phil Lesh with the Grateful Dead, and Chris Hillman of the Byrds, whose signature model has been reissued by Guild.
¾ sized basses can also be found. For example, Ibanez offers their Mikro Bass model, and then there is the aforementioned Taylor GS mini bass.
Best Classical Guitar for Small Hands
Ironically, the classical guitar, which is the oldest model, is a standardized design. Therefore, the choices for the best classical guitar for small hands are rarely outside of the ½ size, ¾ size and ⅞ size configuration. As classical guitar is often taught in schools, the market for classical guitars in each of these sizes is large enough to warrant offerings from most mass market manufacturers.
- Cordoba – specializing in nylon string classical and flamenco guitars, Cordoba has top notch offerings for children and small handed adults with choices of laminated or solid tonewoods and also have models with electronics installed for amplified playing.
- Yamaha – Yamaha has a footprint in practically every music instrument and equipment market category. They make pianos for Elton John, basses for John Patitucci, rack mounted digital delay processing units for U2, and classical guitars, ranging from student to world concert hall quality models. With a long history in the acoustic guitar market, Yamaha has built an outstanding value reputation.
- Ibanez – as Japan’s biggest guitar brand rival to US companies in the electric guitar market, Ibanez has established a reputation for steel string and classical acoustics as well. They also offer nylon string models for small hands by utilizing easier to play electric guitar style necks and string spacing. For traditional players, Ibanez carries ½ and ¾ sized models.
As we are in a golden age for guitars made for small handed players, you should check to see what new and innovative offerings may be available not cited here from other brands. With all of the latest choices, there is no longer a need to compromise on personal preferences for woods, electronics or aesthetics solely due to lack of options.
Guitar Buying Guide: What To Know Before You Buy an Acoustic or Electric Guitar
Understanding how to select the right guitar type that’s best for your learning style and playing needs can help make the guitar buying process much easier. So, before we can officially salute those who are about to rock, we (along with our friends at Beginner Guitar HQ) have a few tips and recommendations to help you get started:
- Know the term “tonewood.”
- Know which guitar style is best for beginners.
- Know the types of electric guitars.
- Know budget-friendly accessories for your guitar.
1. Yes, “Tonewood” Is A Thing!
Wood is favored for guitar crafting. A guitar needs to hold itself together as well as produce a great tone (aka, “tonewood”). Tonewood has the capacity to effectively produce brighter, sharper sounds as well as warmer, deeper overtones.
However, not all types of wood are suitable for crafting guitar parts, which is why choosing the right type of tonewood is important! Below are three common wood types used in crafting:
- Primarily used for the neck and fretboard
- Produces an extremely clear sound
- Maple resonates well and produces defined tones
- Strong, but malleable
- Produces a full, yet twangy sound
- Many favor the red hue of the wood
- Sustains chords and notes
- Strongest and most economical wood type
Each wood is used for its particular characteristics, so research the different woods suitable for the specific style of guitar you are interested in playing.
2. Beginner? Learn On The Acoustic First.
For a beginner guitarist, we recommend test-driving an acoustic. Acoustic guitars are one of the most beginner-friendly musical instruments and can be learned quickly. Starting on the acoustic is more meant for learning chords and finger placement, as well as understanding how to amplify your sounds or quiet your sounds. Plus, many are low in cost, so they won’t break your budget!
Advantages Of An Acoustic
- Doesn’t need electricity to play
- Doesn’t need a lot of equipment other than a guitar pick
- Usually, strings won’t hurt the fingers as much compared to the electric guitar strings
Never underestimate the wisdom of veteran guitarists when it comes to brand and style advice! Although many musicians will have their preferences, we recommend Washburn’s Apprentice Series as being a great starter for beginner musicians:
- Best to use when learning finger placement and sound desired
- Most affordable
- Premium spruce top
- Mahogany back and sides for a full rich tone
Washburn guitars have plenty of series and styles to choose from. Do some research to find the best acoustic for your learning style!
3. Know Your Electric Guitars.
When choosing an electric guitar, decisions will rely more on the components and the quality of the craftsmanship rather than the type of wood used.
An electric guitar relies on the wood simply as a strong base capable of sustaining the tension of the strings, as opposed to an acoustic guitar using the wood to amplify the sound. The three most-common body styles are featured below:
- Most common for rock, pop, and country genres
- Lacks a hollow resonating chamber, which means the sound can be amplified louderCredit: Guitar Center
- Most common for jazz or blues genres, plus rock n’ roll
- Tone is silky smooth and electrified
- Has a large resonating chamberCredit: Guitar Center
- Versatile and can adapt to any genre
- Has a hollow resonating chamber paired with a solid center blockCredit: Guitar Center
A few components often overlooked are the switches, tone knobs and volume knobs just below the strings. Are they easy to reach and control with the hand not picking or strumming?
4. Budget For The Accessories, Too!
Enthusiastic shoppers may forget about the extras needed once the actual guitar is purchased. Our friends at Beginner Guitar HQ list several great products, including amp suggestions and guitar cases, but we’ve chosen a few common accessories below that are budget-friendly for beginners.
They are the tiniest accessory that can often cause the biggest headache for musicians. That’s because you need to find the right material and thickness that can help you strum or pluck without having to use your fingers all the time. If a pick is too flimsy, they can break easily or won’t provide the right sound you are looking for.
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Stands can be made out of different materials, but they should all be durable. The materials can dictate how much they will stand with your instrument and how much they will be able to shield it from danger and the like.
Top Stage Pro
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Storing your instrument in the right temperature is important. If you are not using your instrument, make sure you store it in the right place to avoid such hassle and damage to your instrument in the long run.
When you choose the best guitar strap, the length can vary depending on the desired length or type of guitar that you have, as well as how tall or short you are.
Protec Leather Ends
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You don’t want your guitar to be too far from your body, making it uncomfortable to play. The thickness can also have an impact, as a thickness that is wider can mean more support for your shoulders.
It is always unpleasant to hear an off tune guitar, so you should make it a habit to tune your instrument before every performance or even practice. Tuning your guitar as quickly as possible is important because it will help save up on setup time; too long a setup time will get the audience bored eventually!
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The standard tuning of a guitar is E A D G B E.
Different guitars have different purposes. Consider your choice in strings to meet the criteria that you expect so as not to waste money in the long run. Electric strings run on amplifier power and can produce loud sounds while acoustic strings are more for the quiet practice purposes, small venues and subtle music.
The gauge or thickness can play a role in a string set. Thickness is how much volume or bass you want or how much treble you want for your strings.
D’Addario EXL 110-3D *for electric guitars
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Acoustic guitars normally use nylon or steel strings. Electric guitars use stainless steel or nickel.