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View Full Version : Small Hands Problems? Ask another small-hands person.



kitsunegarcia
06-12-2018, 05:03 PM
I compiled some interesting things to check here if you feel like you have hands too small to play ukulele. This is by no means gospel, just suggestion from another small-handed player. I might actually have the smallest adult hands per body height on this board unless someone pipes up and says differently. The last time I met a woman with the same size hands as me she was 4'8" several inches shorter than me at 5'2". I wear children's medium gloves.
A lot of this data comes from guitar sources. I can't vouch for 100% accuracy as I just copy and pasted.

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Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 250+ 664mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 230 to 250 656mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 210 to 230 650mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 190 to 210 640mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 170 to 190 630mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of below 170 615mm scale length

Comes from http://www.wilsonburnhamguitars.net/2013/03/the-guitars-scale-length-your-hand-size.html

They suggest taking the thumb to pinky span measurement to see what size scale of guitar might feel comfy for you. Detailed directions on the link above. P.S. if you can't get your hand to lay completely flat you can gently press it down as long as it is not painful. Your hand span may be short due to flexibility issues.


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How does this convert to ukulele sizes?

Info from : http://www.12fret.com/repairs/scale-lengths/

Comparison Chart

Here’s a chart that shows the scale lengths of a number of instruments around the shop at the moment.

Instrument Scale (inches) Scale (mm)

Fender Telecaster or Stratocaster 25.5″ 647.77 mm
Gibson Les Paul or SG 24.75″ 628.65 mm
Fender Precision or Jazz Bass 34″ 863.6 mm
Hofner Beatle bass 30″ 762 mm
Hagstrom 8-string bass 30 11/16″ 779.5 mm
Gretsch White Penguin, 6118, or Billy Bo Jupiter 24.625″ 625.5 mm
Martin D-18 or D-28 25.4″ 645.2 mm
Martin 000-28 24.9″ 632.5 mm
Gibson J-45 Legend 24.625″ 625.5 mm
Gibson L-4 24.75″ 628.7 mm
Gibson Advanced Jumbo 25.5″ 647.7
Larrivee Baritone 26.9″ 683.3 mm
Ramirez 4NE 25.59″ 650 mm
Various Mandolins – Gibson, Collings, Kentucky 13.86″ 352 mm
Trinity College Octave Mandolin 20.16″ 512 mm
Collings UC-2 Soprano Ukulele 15″ 381 mm
Kala Tenor Ukulele 17″ 431.8 mm

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How do I measure up?

My fretting hand span is an absolute max of 189 mm (gently forcing it flat) which is the 630 mm scale length. That means according to the suggestion: even a tenor ukulele (431.8 mm) should be no problem at all. I do play baritones from time to time too and have little to no problem with those either.
In fact full size classical guitars which is what I started on in elementary school are usually 26" scale which is more in the 650 mm territory. (and no, I lived in a rural area going to a poor school pre-internet era so it's not like i could just order a smaller custom scale instrument. You took what you could get and just hoped really big.) This explains why it was so hard to play, but it certainly wasn't impossible. My teacher said if I hoped to ever play professionally I would need bigger hands and longer fingers. It's just truth guys. It hurt my feelings back then but I understand now. How many professional basketball players have you seen that are like 5'2"? not many. It's certainly *possible* to do, but certain activities work out best if you have the right physical proportions. There are physics reasons why most female gymnasts do not exceed 5'3" in height and why hurdle jumpers usually have long legs.

So yeah even if your hand span is smaller than mine like under the 170mm on the chart you'd still technically have big enough hands for a tenor ukulele.... if that's your dream! At the same time don't feel hand-sized shamed into a smaller (or bigger) ukulele. You like what you like. Enjoy what you play! That's the most important thing.

Usually the people shaming think they are being helpful or inspirational by telling you of some special unicorn who just happened to have the same problem as you but is now a virtuoso. Just pull yourself up by your own bootstraps b.s. The shamers usually don't suffer from your problem, but think they know better than someone who has to live with the issue on a daily basis.

janeray1940
06-12-2018, 05:54 PM
I've come to avoid most small-hands posts around here since inevitably some shamer will link to those little North Korean kids with guitars - which really is not a fair comparison. But yours got my interest and I had to measure! Following that guide my span is 185mm. And I'm about a half-inch taller than you! Kids' size medium gloves *and* socks here :)

ripock
06-13-2018, 02:04 AM
I have smallish hands (haven't measured--probably never will) and I play tenors exclusively (aside from my baritone and tenor guitar). The only thing that gives me problems are the somewhat exotic chords that require a big stretch. I had to work on the C# major chord. Aside from that I can play everything I want. I normally play all the triads and 7-chords, maj7's, diminished, half-diminished, augmented, sus chords. So take heart small-handers! All it takes is some practice. And know that you're not alone. Big-handed people also struggle from the other end of the spectrum. We all have challenges.

kitsunegarcia
06-13-2018, 06:45 AM
Hello small hands sister janeray1940! :) I'm about 187mm if I do not hold my hand flat, which is probably more accurate for actual playing ability. Just for giggles, I measured my non-fretting hand and it is 175mm!!! I wonder if I managed to stretch my fretting hand more by using it or I'm just asymmetrical?

I feel you. If i had a dollar for every person who shows me some asian children shredding a large guitar (as if it were the norm) I'd be rich. I mean even one of the articles I cited above has some reference to a 5ft tall Japanese woman who has small hands who wanted a large scale instrument. But as you know, hand size is not necessarily proportional to height. I have met 9 year old children with bigger hands than myself. Also if I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, why not try an electric guitar? Electric guitar never held Angus Young back and he's like your height. LOL! I wish I had found ukuleles sooner but better late than never!

kitsunegarcia
06-13-2018, 06:47 AM
Yes, big handed people on small scale instruments also have their challenges! yay for working with what you got Ripock!

Jarmo_S
06-13-2018, 06:58 AM
I have smallish hands (haven't measured--probably never will) and I play tenors exclusively (aside from my baritone and tenor guitar). The only thing that gives me problems are the somewhat exotic chords that require a big stretch. I had to work on the C# major chord. Aside from that I can play everything I want. I normally play all the triads and 7-chords, maj7's, diminished, half-diminished, augmented, sus chords. So take heart small-handers! All it takes is some practice. And know that you're not alone. Big-handed people also struggle from the other end of the spectrum. We all have challenges.

C# = 1114 and is not difficult at all with index finger barre. You probably mean't C# minor?
I use 110x, but there are higher up fetboard easy fingered 4 string alternatives (missing the low C# in normal tuned uke).

I agree with some above posts that ukes are all regardless of scale length so much easier to play than classical guitar regarding finger length.

janeray1940
06-13-2018, 07:08 AM
Hello small hands sister janeray1940! :) I'm about 187mm if I do not hold my hand flat, which is probably more accurate for actual playing ability. Just for giggles, I measured my non-fretting hand and it is 175mm!!! I wonder if I managed to stretch my fretting hand more by using it or I'm just asymmetrical?

I feel you. If i had a dollar for every person who shows me some asian children shredding a large guitar (as if it were the norm) I'd be rich. I mean even one of the articles I cited above has some reference to a 5ft tall Japanese woman who has small hands who wanted a large scale instrument. But as you know, hand size is not necessarily proportional to height. I have met 9 year old children with bigger hands than myself. Also if I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, why not try an electric guitar? Electric guitar never held Angus Young back and he's like your height. LOL! I wish I had found ukuleles sooner but better late than never!

Ha ha, I measured my non-fretting hand and it's 5mm shorter span than my fretting hand. I'm pretty asymmetrical in general but I do think the fretting hand gains flexibility and stretch over the years. Of course, for those of us north of 50 like myself, I also think biology works against us and we *lose* a bit of flexibility.

When I first started playing I used one of those squishy hand strengtheners that rock climbers use. It really did make a difference! I think one can only stretch so much, but gaining strength helps with those stretches as well, especially when fretting with the pinky (my biggest challenge).

SandChannel
06-13-2018, 09:34 AM
I have smaller hands, but I've found that finger/joint flexibility is sometimes a more important factor.

captain-janeway
06-13-2018, 11:27 AM
I bought a tenor to start and quickly became frustrated because if felt so big (plus it flaired up trigger finger to the point that I needed surgery). Anyway, came back to it trying a concert, and as I'm getting better with chord progressions can finger the tenor better.
Love the info. Fascinating. My hand measures 180, but I wonder how they figured out scale because of instrument neck sizes, etc.

ripock
06-13-2018, 12:52 PM
C# = 1114 and is not difficult at all with index finger barre. You probably mean't C# minor?
I use 110x, but there are higher up fetboard easy fingered 4 string alternatives (missing the low C# in normal tuned uke).


I actually meant C#. 1114 wasn't working for me because when I fretted the c string, the portion of the index finger barring the chord would come up and mute the E string. It took me some practice and stretching to make it work.

captain-janeway
06-13-2018, 07:14 PM
Thanks. Decided to take another run at it. Taking some lessons so I'm getting feedback which helps. just need to figure out music notation as well.

johnnysmash
06-15-2018, 02:41 AM
Most of the above post if not all seem to apply to healthy people. The young and healthy people should be very happy with their hand stretch because sooner or later the old muscles start getting stiff. Bones rub together or pinch nerves. Sometimes grown men have tears in their eyes when playing. I do not know my hand size yet, I will measure it later tonight. But I use to play a six string guitar and could play F barr chord with no problem after I was playing for about two years. Now I cannot even play a C chord, 032010. I quite playing guitar at age, about 75 years old because it was too painful to play. I picked up guitar again last year and my hands are still sore. The 4 to 5 year rest period did nothing to help. I went to doctor November 2017 and found I have fractured C2 C3 C4 C5 and C6. The pain radiates from my neck, left side, down my arm and through the fingers. All due to old age. So I started searching and found ukulele. What I always had thought was just a kids toy. I learned different by reading forums and September 2017 I purchased my Kala Baritone Ukulele which I love and can reach most chords. No barrs. So after I went to the doctor I decided to try a Tenor. Love it. It fits my hand beautifully. I have only had my Tenor Ukulele now for about 3 weeks and I love it. I can play most chord melodies from Mike Lynch books on first try, but, not smooth. That comes with practice. I did get rid of that high G when I changed strings. So enjoy your big hands while you can. In a few years you can join us guys with small hands and stiff, crippled hands. Just keep a good attitude when you get there. Play and have fun. My solid Acacia Melokia Tenor Ukulele was my 80th birthday present. I am so happy I learned about ukuleles.

Graham Greenbag
06-15-2018, 05:18 AM
Some really good posts on this thread, thanks for all that have contributed and affirmed that it’s normal to struggle and not to be able to manage all things. Just ‘cause someone can run a four minute mile doesn’t mean that we should all be able to, and likewise just ‘cause someone can manage perfectly on one size of Uke shouldn’t mean that another similar person is deficient if they can’t do the same.

The post above from John surely points out how different we all are and how time changes things, but no always for the better. John, as an aside, if you prefer Baritone tuning then, IIRC, strings are available to give you that on a Tenor. Good luck with the playing and may it be as pain free as possible.

kitsunegarcia
06-22-2018, 12:52 PM
You know Johnnysmash I didn't address normal and large hands with extra issues because most of the time the topic of hand size and ukulele size comes up on this board, it is almost always a woman who claims to have a small hand size who tries to play a larger ukulele and has problems. It was never my intention to cover all issues with hand size and ukulele size. You do bring a valid point though so thanks for sharing! I struggle with some minor arthritis in my hands hence why I have to press down on the fretting hand to see what its max stretch is so yes that would affect ability to comfortably fret a larger scale instrument. I am not as old as you but would not consider myself young by any means.

If you decide to measure your hands check out the difference between your fretting hand and the one that doesn't fret. I never thought the difference would be so noticeable.

When I made this post, I didn't really have an agenda except maybe to quantify how small is a "small hand" in the stringed instrument world; and boy was I shocked by the results myself! It was not what I expected at all. I expected there was a hand size that would be limited to ukuleles smaller than a tenor. My world is different now.

kitsunegarcia
06-22-2018, 12:54 PM
Thanks. Decided to take another run at it. Taking some lessons so I'm getting feedback which helps. just need to figure out music notation as well.

As long as you are having fun with it that's all that matters! :) I'm still figuring out music notation myself for ukuleles! And I've been extra naughty and picked up a smaller scale guitar again!