The following is an answer I wrote to a question submitted to another guitar site. Because of my knowledge in this area, the site forwarded the question to me. The woman who submitted the question was concerned about playing an acoustic guitar, as she had been told that because her hands were small, she should only consider playing an electric guitar.
I hope that you do not allow your size to deter you from playing the instrument of your choice. It is possible for a person who is short and has small hands to be a happy, healthy acoustic guitar player. It is also possible for players of any size to sustain injuries, and that risk will increase for guitarists who play an instrument ill-fitted to their bodies. Acoustic guitars are available in a wide range of sizes and styles, so your task is to find the guitar that suits your body as well as your aesthetic sense.
Start by visiting a few music stores. Ask to see the smaller acoustic guitars and take some time to tune in to your body as you hold each one. Of course, if you can play already, that will help you assess your level of comfort. If you’ve never played, just keep in mind that there are three considerations: body size and shape, neck width and scale length. Notice if the neck of one guitar is wider than another, or if you have to strain to lift your right arm over the body.
I have a short upper body and small hands and I love to play ¾ size guitars. Larger than ¾, but still on the small side is the Taylor I play in my video. It has a beautiful sound and I find it quite comfortable. Taylor even makes a “Baby Taylor”, which I assume is intended for children or as a travel guitar, but is a fun, compact solution to the big-guitar problem. I’ve also enjoyed the smaller Guild acoustics. These aren’t the only companies to check out, so go shopping and have fun – and while you’re shopping, don’t forget to look at my all-time favorites, the parlor guitars!
When you find your guitar, don’t leave the store without having it set up properly. Most people assume that when they buy a new guitar, it’s as playable as it will ever be. This is not the case with most guitars. Ask to have the action set as low as it can be set without sacrificing the sound or creating buzzes and rattles. Use light gauge strings. When you get it home, take good care of it and yourself, and you’ll never want to put it down!
Proper posture and body use while playing is crucial to your comfort and longevity as a guitarist. Learn to sit and hold the guitar correctly, and guard against tension in your neck, back, arms and hands. Acquire good practice habits, use proper technique and remember to breathe!
I have taught plenty of small women who have gone on to enjoy a successful long-term relationship with the acoustic guitar and you can, too. Congratulations on your journey!
My Current Small Guitar Preference
I bought another guitar. This time it’s an acoustic guitar. I found it while searching for a small instrument for a student. If you’ve taken lessons or workshops with me or read much on the site, you probably realize how much importance I place on playing a guitar that is an appropriate size and shape. I injured myself many years ago by playing a Gibson J-200, which was an extraordinary guitar, but was way too big for me. The positive side of that otherwise devastating experience is that I learned a lot that I can pass on to other guitar players. Proper body use is essential, but the starting point is an instrument that is comfortable to play!
So, in my search for a small acoustic guitar with a good sound and a reasonable price, I fell in love with a parlor guitar that I simply couldn’t pass up for myself. The price was so reasonable, in fact, that I almost didn’t bother to check it out, assuming that it couldn’t be much more than a toy. I’m glad that, for whatever reason, I rose above my initial bias, because it is now totally my new toy! I’m also happy to have found a good little guitar to recommend to young beginners, small people or anyone who just wants to have some fun with a guitar that’s easy to handle.
The guitar is a Seagull Grand. It has a solid cedar top with wild cherry back and sides and a neck of silver leaf maple. If you like it, but want to spend even less money, you can get the Art and Lutherie guitar called “Ami”, which comes in various colors, but all with a solid top and the same neck as the Seagull Grand. I really like their trans-red solid spruce top guitar, but all of them are cute and kicky and fun!
In addition to giving lessons and workshops, I am available for consultations in person or by webcam to provide help with small hands, guitar styles and sizes, pain-related issues and more. To set up a consultation, please contact me.
To inquire about private lessons or workshops with Charlotte, contact us.
For dates of upcoming workshops, retreats, and performances, click here.