Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...
acbulgin1

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by acbulgin1 » Fri Aug 01, 2014 1:51 am

Dear Delcamp Classical Guitar Forum-

Thanks to all for their thoughtful and thorough posts on the subject of scale length vs. hand size.

I have two nylon-string guitars, one in the $1,200 range, one in the $500 range.

The first is an Alvarez-Yairi CY116 with 66 cm scale length and D'Addario Pro Arte normal tension nylon strings. In all other respects save for a lower action and longer scale, it is standard.

The Cordoba C7 has a 65 cm scale length. It is in all other respects standard (standard action, standard nut width). It is strung with Savarez Cristal Corum High Tension 500CJ nylon strings.

As you might expect, the CY116 has a lower action and is a bit louder, and so it is easier to play in that regard. The additional scale length does make a slight difference in stretching, but it is not a huge difference, especially over the first 5 frets where I should imagine stretching is the biggest problem. The 5th fret on the 66 cm guitar is about 2mm further down the neck from the nut compared to the position of the 5th fret on the 65 cm guitar, and the first fret on the 66 cm guitar is about 1 mm further from the nut than the position of the 1st fret on the 65 cm guitar.

These are not huge differences, but they are measurable nonetheless, and you do feel them. Perhaps the most fun thing of all is playing the longer scale instrument for a while which stretches out your left hand a bit and strengthens certain muscles in a certain way, then picking up the smaller instrument. For a while, except for a harder action, the shorter scale instrument seems a breeze to play. For a while. All differences are relative. The grass is always greener &c...

The action is higher on the Cordoba C7, (no higher than standard, i.e., 3 mm between the top E string and 12th fret and 4 mm between the low E string and 12th fret) but the stretches are a tiny bit easier. It all seems like a trade off to me. If your technique is polished (a la Scott Tennant's "Pumping Nylon"), and your hands are not too tiny, you can switch back and forth without too much trouble.

My hands are a tad bigger than the average male hand, but not by a huge margin. Of course, I do wish they were bigger, but what can you do?

Thumb to pinky length (stretched but not painfully): 9.75 inches or 248 mm (247.65 rounded to three significant figures). It is just a couple of mm shy of the "Holy Grail" hand size of 250 mm which according to some supposedly allows one to play a 66.4 cm scale length guitar without difficulty.

I bought the Cordoba C7 to see what a 65 cm scale length would play like after 17 years of playing a 66 cm scale length guitar. I have found differences, but nothing that shows one scale length to be a clear advantage over the other, all things considered. I do think the shorter scale Cordoba C7 is perhaps more enjoyable to play as it feels less like a struggle, so it might lead to increased practice times, I do not know.

If I had much smaller hands I would probably opt for a 64 cm or 63 cm scale length guitar, but I imagine they are hard to find as standard models. It seems to me if one is having real problems with a 66 cm scale length guitar because of tiny hands, then one would likely have problems with a 65 cm scale length guitar as well as the difference is not enormous. The only thing to do is to try them and see.

"The wonderful thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from." - Pioneering Computer Scientist and US Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper.
Last edited by acbulgin1 on Tue Aug 05, 2014 8:26 am, edited 2 times in total.

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George Crocket
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by George Crocket » Fri Aug 01, 2014 5:51 am

Hi acbulgin1. Welcome to the forum and thanks for your observations. As a new member, please introduce yourself here.
George
2010 Stephen Eden spruce/cocobolo classical guitar
2012 Stephen Eden cedar/IRW classical guitar

dfl3tch3r
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by dfl3tch3r » Mon Apr 17, 2017 10:01 am

I read this thread with great interest.
My thumb to pinky is 210mm max and my index to pinky is 165mm absolute max.

I do not own a 640mm scale CG but I have tried a Cordoba Parlour and wasn't impressed in as much as ease of play (Just my opinion).
At my current level I'm not playing pieces which demand such huge stretches but I do find some things noticeably difficult on the current 650mm scale; for instance I find Barre quite tough, along with a couple of stretches in Maria Gavotte quite challenging. I have to work hard to play clean.
I'm not sure but maybe a light tension string may make Barre easier and also maybe clean up the odd buzz here and there for hard to reach thus poorly fingered notes? Or maybe it's my technique ha ha.
We see players like Jennifer Kim, Liying Zhu and Kyuhee Park all playing 650mm scale guitars and all appear to have small hands/finger spans.
Maybe they're able to gain better stretches through better technique I'm sure!
So before I consider an additional guitar/short scale I'm wondering if a combination of lighter gauge strings with lower action and narrower nut, and more practice of course, might make all the difference?

ashepps
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by ashepps » Mon Apr 17, 2017 1:40 pm

dfl3tch3r wrote: So before I consider an additional guitar/short scale I'm wondering if a combination of lighter gauge strings with lower action and narrower nut, and more practice of course, might make all the difference?
It's been awhile since I have spoken on this subject. I have small hands and did have a 663mm. I found it hard to play, not with barre chords and the like, it was just felt too big for me. I downsized all because of the help I got from this forum!

In order to make a bar or barre takes technique and you can look for a free article from Douglas Neidt (spelling?). Finger positioning and pulling the guitar into your body instead of trying to use thumb strength helps greatly.

I now have a 640 and feel much better with that slight difference in scale length of about an inch! My 640 is full size, but now I almost wish I had purchased a 615 mm just for more comfort playing.

You can lower you action but risking your strings twanging on the frets. I am using standard, middle of the road strings and they are working well.

I am not a good guitarist, but hope this helps.

Alan
Alan Sheppard
1986 630mm Asturias JM-15 Spruce
1955 650mm Framus SL-32R
2015 650mm Yamaha SLG110N

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CarlWestman
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by CarlWestman » Thu Apr 20, 2017 4:57 pm

dfl3tch3r wrote:I read this thread with great interest.
My thumb to pinky is 210mm max and my index to pinky is 165mm absolute max.
...
We see players like Jennifer Kim, Liying Zhu and Kyuhee Park all playing 650mm scale guitars and all appear to have small hands/finger spans.
Maybe they're able to gain better stretches through better technique I'm sure!
Your span is similar to mine.

IMHO, I think that one's ability to make certain reaches can be improved through practice/stretching, but only to a limited degree if one is to avoid injury. People differ in their anatomy and some are naturally more flexible than others w/r/t spreading their fingers. Some have hands more amenable to stretching. I suspect the best advice to develop limber fingers is to either be lucky, and/or start young. Failing those, I don't see any reason why one with inflexible fingers should not try a shorter-scale guitar. For those with full scale (52/650) guitars, consider playing with a capo at the first fret, to effectively turn it into a 52/615mm guitar (technically, 613.5mm). You will have to re-think what the fret markers tell you, but it's a cheap way to see if you may benefit from shorter scale. Note, however, that shorter-scale guitars also typically come with narrower necks, and this trick does not simulate that for you.

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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by nmshu1 » Wed May 03, 2017 3:08 am

Having right scale length size with right nut string spacing is very important for quick progress. If wrong, you will not play very well!

To have right guitar is the same important as extensive exercises!
650: Otto Vowinkel, Cedar/BRW; Córdoba C9 A&B, Cedar/MH;
640: Juan Hernandez Torres, Spruce/IRW; Sweet Tone, Spruce/Lam. RW;
635: German V. Rubio, Spruce/MP; German V. Rubio, Spruce/PE;
630: Kenny Hill Performance, Double Top(Spruce/Cedar)/MP

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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by JohnH » Tue Aug 15, 2017 3:56 pm

Alicia wrote:
Sun Jul 20, 2014 8:38 am
kechance wrote: The revised chart, using commonly available neck sizes and expressing scale length versus the thumb to pinky distance, would be as follows

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

I hope that this information will be of use to people who are still looking for that guitar that fits their hands. Happy Playing!
Hand size - Guitar Scale length

(This is so useful I'm quoting it so that I can find it again by searching my own posts.)

Thanks very much to Kechance for preparing this.
I think the distance between the index finger to pinky might be more useful for determining the scale length where there is no thumb fingering on the fingerboard. On the other hand, the thumb on the fingerboard may be used on the cello and the upright double bass viol. Then the thumb to pinky distance would be more valid.

kervoas
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by kervoas » Tue Aug 15, 2017 4:23 pm

It seems to me that this subject is probably attracting attention from players with smaller hands who feel the need to have a shorter scale than, dare I say, the norm (650).
That's why I read it:
Thumb - pinky 215
Index -pinky 135
“The only escapes from the miseries of life are music and cats”
Albert Schweitzer

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georgemarousi
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by georgemarousi » Mon Nov 13, 2017 10:41 am

Thumb - pinky 25cm

I'm in between 650 and 664mm.
more comfortable with thick necks
I consider to go permanently to 664mm
--Classicals--
Paulino Bernabe Especial 2009
Ramirez 1A 1980
Alhambra Luthier india 2012
Juan Martinez nr 55 (the return @2014)
Yamaha cg 110 (as a kid @88)
--
student again since 2015, to my degree @..? - God bless!

ashepps
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by ashepps » Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:02 pm

i have gone from a 663mm to a 630 and like the minute difference very much, whether it is in my my mind or not I do not know.

One thing I can always say is that I never felt comfortable with the 663mm guitar that was technically a great guitar, but too big for a small guy with small hands. With the 630mm full body guitar, I just don’t have that feeling of being too big, in fact I now wished I had gone to a 615mm, but I probably would not have the full size body.

Cheers,

Alan
Alan Sheppard
1986 630mm Asturias JM-15 Spruce
1955 650mm Framus SL-32R
2015 650mm Yamaha SLG110N

pbonner
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by pbonner » Mon Nov 20, 2017 9:32 pm

I have a 664mm scale instrument, which probably is a little long for my hands (ca. 230mm thumb to pinky). But I think another factor is more important than reach: string tension and intonation. Obviously, a longer scale will exert more tension on a string of a given diameter than a shorter scale. That also affects playability but also adds volume. To me, the tradeoff in improved sound and intonation is worth the extra 14 mm from the standard 650, especially since it translates to no more than a couple of millimeters or so in any given position--usually negotiable with a little extra stretching or repositioning the left hand.
"Never have I heard anything so perfect from so imperfect an instrument."
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by nmshu1 » Mon Nov 20, 2017 10:12 pm

My left hand span is 18.5.
I prefer to smaller scale to play usually, except playing Forest Dream by Barrios.
I also prefer to narrower nut string spacing except some works by Sor and Mauro Giuliani.
650: Otto Vowinkel, Cedar/BRW; Córdoba C9 A&B, Cedar/MH;
640: Juan Hernandez Torres, Spruce/IRW; Sweet Tone, Spruce/Lam. RW;
635: German V. Rubio, Spruce/MP; German V. Rubio, Spruce/PE;
630: Kenny Hill Performance, Double Top(Spruce/Cedar)/MP

ashepps
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by ashepps » Tue Nov 21, 2017 12:27 am

The sound from my Asturias, 630mm, with full size body is really great, no complaints here at all.

I forget my hand size and I am not near a ruler! My gamd suggested the 615 to 639mm and as I mentioned before I should perhaps purchased a 615, but probably would not have had the sound quality!

Cheers,

Alan
Alan Sheppard
1986 630mm Asturias JM-15 Spruce
1955 650mm Framus SL-32R
2015 650mm Yamaha SLG110N

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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by celestemcc » Tue Nov 21, 2017 6:12 pm

i have gone from a 663mm to a 630 and like the minute difference very much, whether it is in my my mind or not I do not know.
33mm is "minute"? :D I went from 664 to 640, and consider that a huge difference... ! (well, it was for me. Though I was volunteer teaching for a while, and there were some 3/4-size guitars at the classroom... finally, something I considered too small!).
2015 Connor spruce/Indian rosewood
1978 Ramirez 1a cedar

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