When Playing Guitar Is A Stretch: Are Your Hands Big Enough?

Have you ever thought that your hands are too small to play guitar? Have you ever felt limited in what you can play because of the size of your hands?

You are definitely not the only one to think that your hands are of the wrong size. In my experience, if you ask a group of guitar players if their hands are too small to play, the majority will answer "yes". And I don't blame them, because I would answer the same.

My hands are definitely on the smaller side (at least when I compare them with my students' hands). And the funny thing is that I know players with hand smaller than mine... and they can play chords I can't even dream to play (yet)

So let's see what we can do to overcome our hand's size.

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.)

But How Can You Change Your Hand's Size?

Well, you can't --- I'm not here selling you pills that will make your appendages longer. But this is not a problem because:

1. Your discomfort most likely does not come from the fact that your hands are too small, but from the fact that your fingers are weak when they are stretched. As a consequence, you find hard to fret notes when your hands are stretched. But your hands will become stronger with practice

2. Also, it is a platitude that you can become more flexible by doing some stretching. It works for every joint in the body, and it works for your hands too. You can easily gain half an inch or even an inch between your index and your pinkie if you practice in the right way.

But only if you practice in the right way, so...

Ok, But What Can I Do In Practice?

Good question. The first thing you need to do is to learn the correct technique for your fretting hand so you can stretch in the right way (without hurting your hands). I explain how to do that in this video, starting from 4:00:

As you can see, it's not so hard to stretch your fingers. In fact, if you did try the technique in the video on your guitar, you now see how your hands are not so small after all. Now, the important thing is to not overdo it: give your hands some time to become stronger by practicing as I show you in the video for few minutes a day, and you will see that you will soon play thing that you did not though possible for your 'tiny' hands!

Tommaso Zillio is a professional prog rock/metal guitarist and composer based in Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Tommaso is currently working on an instrumental CD, and an instructional series on fretboard visualization and exotic scales. He is your go-to guy for any and all music theory-related questions.

Tommaso Zillio