Scale length and neck width versus hand size

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

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by AsturiasFan » Mon Jul 22, 2013 3:21 pm

String spacing is a related ergonomic topic. Obviously, many get by very well on the standard but IMO it's also true that standard has extra space that is completely unnecessary for any legitimate purpose for those with hands on the small side. Ain't no way small hands need the same amount of spacing that big hands attached to big guys like Parkening do. Reduced string spacing benefits the left hand by reducing vertical stretches. It benefits the right hand by allowing the fingers to make smaller more efficient movements. With a new nut and slotted saddle (total cost $100.00), I had the spacing (low E to high E) reduced at the nut to 42 mm, and at the bridge to 50 mm from 58 mm. The new nut and saddle are not glued into place so they can be switched out at will with the old nut and saddle.

The following is a paraphrased quote from Adam Del Monte.
Adam Del Monte wrote: The other thing you want to work on is crossing strings (by crossing Del Monte means any movement to another string). That's where the real trouble begins because at high speeds when you are changing height of strings you are going to be making a very drastic distance. On a single string you are dancing on a pin, and in moving to the next string this is a very big distance in the right hand guitar world. Believe it or not you are traveling twenty times further or something like that. OK you do the math.
You can hear exactly what he said at 9:20.


Youtube


Also IMO if you have small hands and keep your thumb anchored on the low E-string when playing scales (as Del Monte and many world class players do) then playing on the high B-E strings can be traumatic unless the string spacing is reduced to something reasonable. At the very least it's obvious that in any passage, the hand shape and angles of attack are more consistent with reduced spacing.

Edit: By consistent hand shape it was simply meant that the ideal hand shape that you find in many method books is destroyed when the space between the thumb and fingers is too great. A small handed person knows quite well that with thumb on low E and fingers on B or high E that the hand flattens out considerably, i.e., the distance between the big knuckle and finger tips becomes much greater. You don't even have to have small hands for this to be of note. Segovia kept his thumb just 2 or 3 strings behind the fingertips to keep a consistent hand shape. There's a whole school of thought that says Segovia's technique is the way to go. I believe Richard Provost is one of its promoters. Reduced string spacing automatically makes hand shape more consistent as a simple geometric fact, and this obviously is of note more to the small handed than the large.
Last edited by AsturiasFan on Sun Jul 28, 2013 4:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

kechance

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by kechance » Tue Jul 23, 2013 8:43 pm

Here are some measurements from my Tobias Braun, a guitar I find very comfortable to play:

656mm scale
44mm nut string spacing (and I want to get a nut at 45mm)
60mm bridge string spacing
54mm neck width
22.5 mm neck depth

Coincidentally, I know a quite famous professional player who special orders instruments from his commissioned luthier, with just these specifications (incl. the 45mm nut).

I don't agree extra space slows a person down or creates inconsistency. Actually, a cramped guitar fingerboard can 'force errors' by causing interference with neighboring strings or not leaving space for clean grips.

Bigger isn't inherently better, and smaller isn't inherently better, either. What is right is what fits the person playing the instrument. And space, up to a point, can actually give an instrument some forgiveness.

Beth F-R
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by Beth F-R » Tue Jul 23, 2013 9:20 pm

Alicia wrote: My CG is 650 scale,
I cannot successfully play C with 1 at the same time as F# with 4 in the first position. I only just reach past the third fret and get a buzzing noise instead of a note. This is after 5 years of trying, so it's no good telling me that it will come in time.

Any piece which requires this stretch just gets played further up the neck.
Hi Alicia,

Have you tried to position your thumb at the bottom of the neck, rather than in the middle for this reach? Also, there's a reach exercise in Scott Tennant's Pumping Nylon called "Odair's Favorite Drill" that is very good for improving one's stretch.

Good luck,
Beth F-R

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AndreiKrylov
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by AndreiKrylov » Wed Jul 24, 2013 6:54 pm

kechance wrote:
I don't agree extra space slows a person down or creates inconsistency. Actually, a cramped guitar fingerboard can 'force errors' by causing interference with neighboring strings or not leaving space for clean grips.

Bigger isn't inherently better, and smaller isn't inherently better, either. What is right is what fits the person playing the instrument. And space, up to a point, can actually give an instrument some forgiveness.
Well...kechance ... don't you see a contradiction in your own statement?
on one hand you wrote:
"Bigger isn't inherently better, and smaller isn't inherently better, either. What is right is what fits the person playing the instrument. "
but in the same statement you wrote:
"Actually, a cramped guitar fingerboard can 'force errors' by causing interference with neighboring strings or not leaving space for clean grips."
How come?
If "right is what fits the person playing the instrument." then this is false... -
"cramped guitar fingerboard can 'force errors' by causing interference with neighboring strings or not leaving space for clean grips."
I totally agree that "right is what fits the person playing the instrument."
but as I myself wrote in this theme before - it is not a clear correlation between size of neck and size of hands.
I have large, long hands, but like narrow necks and shorter scales.
And I'm not alone. There are many people like me.
One of the reason I prefer it this way is not only a convenience to play but also less stress and ability to work more hours and be more productive .

I totally respect your personal preference of large, long necks!
But why do you want to impose it as a rule or truth on everybody else?
You talking about your experience which for me just means that you use more force and less precise movements when you have those results on narrow, shorter necks -
"cramped guitar fingerboard can 'force errors' by causing interference with neighboring strings or not leaving space for clean grips."

But there is just one simple example:
How about violin?
Poor violinists... they should play larger longer necks! otherwise they would have all what you described?
Really?
Maybe they all should change into alto? or cello?
But ... it is a strange thing but it seems that violinists actually could play very technically, fast and beautiful with their "cramped fingerboards"...
Last edited by AndreiKrylov on Thu Jul 25, 2013 3:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I'd better speak by music...Please listen Andrei Krylov at Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Prime etc. Thanks!

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Michael.N.
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by Michael.N. » Wed Jul 24, 2013 11:48 pm

Small hands. Capo. Capo is your friend. Place a Capo on the 1 st fret of a 650 mm scale and it's the equivalent of playing a 620 mm scale. Capo 2 nd fret and you are near 590 mm's. No real need to suffer. Guitars exist at all sorts of different scale lengths but a capo is a good way of finding out if a shorter scale will suit tiny hands. My guess (using basic logic) is that shorter scale lengths are VERY appropriate for small hands. Kind of makes sense to me. It's one part of the equation though. The other being Neck width/string band.
Historicalguitars.

Beth F-R
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by Beth F-R » Fri Jul 26, 2013 8:51 pm

I never found this capo "solution" to actually work for me. Playing my 630 is not the same as playing my 650 capo I. Plus it doesn't sound as good.

Cheers,
Beth F-R

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Michael.N.
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by Michael.N. » Sat Jul 27, 2013 8:01 pm

Simple mathematics will prove you wrong. The scale length is what remains after the Capo. It's not really a matter of debate but a fact. The Capo idea isn't intended to be a permanent solution but simply used to see if a shorter scale Guitar is more suited to the individual player.
Historicalguitars.

kechance

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by kechance » Tue Aug 13, 2013 9:26 pm

Hi Mr. Krylov,

I think we are saying the same thing. What is right is what fits the person.

I see many people advocating 'small is better'. My point is that this is not necessarily true. Small, for some, can also be cramped.

Big guitars can give space. But, for some, big will mean strain and extra work.

People need to see what works for themselves.

The 650 x 52 scale is from a time long past when people were smaller. Bigger guitars can actually make a lot of sense for a lot of people nowadays. As can smaller ones. In general, there will be a correlation to hand size. The point of this thread is to give people a starting point to look for a guitar properly sized for them. There will be exceptions to the guidelines. The only thing true about people is that nothing is ever always true. :wink:

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Alicia
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by Alicia » Wed Aug 14, 2013 7:58 am

Michael.N. wrote:Small hands. Capo. Capo is your friend. Place a Capo on the 1 st fret of a 650 mm scale and it's the equivalent of playing a 620 mm scale. Capo 2 nd fret and you are near 590 mm's. No real need to suffer. Guitars exist at all sorts of different scale lengths but a capo is a good way of finding out if a shorter scale will suit tiny hands. My guess (using basic logic) is that shorter scale lengths are VERY appropriate for small hands. Kind of makes sense to me. It's one part of the equation though. The other being Neck width/string band.
That's the best CG advice I ever had.

I'm torn between buying a smaller CG or just carrying on with my capo on 2nd fret. I had a little ambition to take some more grades (got G2 AB) and had a look at the Trinity syllabus - where it says that less than full sized CGs will be allowed for younger players (not me) and capos are forbidden.
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robin loops
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by robin loops » Wed Aug 14, 2013 6:36 pm

That is a useful tip but a capo can also be used to test a guitar for action that is too high at the nut... The trick is determing which is causing the improvement (or most) in playability.

The difference in spacing is only a couple of mm (although this can make a big difference for someone with small hands) so sometimes the improvement in playability can be because when using the capo, high action at nut is compensated for (eliminated). It can also be a combination of these two things.

A test to determine which of the two (or how much of each) is would be to play something (with and without the capo but don't retune, just play a step higher) that doesn't require stretches (and preferably not in first position (although high nut action is usually most noticeable in lower positions). If pieces with stretches are easier but ones without are pretty much the same (with or without capo) it is scale length but if it is much easier to play pieces without stretches (particularly in lower positions) with the capo then it could be nut action. If when playing something at 5th fret (don't compensate for capo position) feels the same with or with capo then the benefit is due only to scale length and fret spacing.

Also important to remember that when putting a capo on the first fret and tuning to standard tuning, that the strings will be at a lower tension and this also may be a factor in easier playability. If the above tests don't make the much difference at all (because you didn't retune the strings with the capo on) then it's not the nut or string spacing but rather string tension and lower tension strings will achieve this without having to use a capo.

Hope this is useful. Also the capo test is not just for people with small hands but is helpful for determining if there is a benefit (to playability) with lower tension strings (without having to put on lower tension strings) and for determining if playability can be improved with a nut adjustment (often factory nuts are set a bit high and even some luthiers will leave them a little high because it's much easier to adjust action to personal preference if you have to lower it as opposed to raising it (raising action requires making a whole new nut and/or saddle).
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.
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Les Backshall
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by Les Backshall » Wed Aug 14, 2013 7:08 pm

Alicia wrote:...I'm torn between buying a smaller CG or just carrying on with my capo on 2nd fret...
Another thing you might bear in mind is the thickness and profile of the neck. This can sometimes make a lot more difference than a change in scale length.
Last year I had a lady who wanted a 640 scale, as she had small hands, and I gave her a guitar to borrow while I was making one for her.
She phoned about a week later to say she would stay with the 650mm as the one I lent her was so easy to play. The main difference was the neck thickness, hers was about 2mm more than mine, with a chunky D-shaped profile. It's worth a look anyway.

Les
Lester Backshall, Guitar Maker - Aylesbury UK

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CarlWestman
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by CarlWestman » Fri Jan 03, 2014 9:14 pm

I found this thread while considering travel guitars, some of which are smaller scale, some larger - and I find the discussion fascinating. In making my own measurements, I found that my span (pinky to index or thumb) is very small, especially for my height. For a time I thought I had unusually small hands, but I later found other measurements and averages which suggested that my hands are actually average sized.

I made hand span measurements of my family members, one of whom has larger hands than me, two of whom have smaller hands. They ALL have significantly larger spans than I do. What I infer this to mean is that my hands are not small, they are inflexible. I have played on and off various styles of guitar for 10 years - my span is not increasing. Granted, if I undertook a new hobby of stretching exercises, I might increase it a little - but I am middle aged.

This has some implications, I think, for choosing a properly-sized guitar. It implies to me that I would probably benefit from a shorter scale, but I do not need the strings closer together at the nut/saddle. In fact, it would probably be best to keep that spacing if I could.

Perhaps I should capo my 52/650 (4/4) guitar at the first fret? That would move the easy-to-find 12th fret past the point where the neck joins the body. I might have to cover up some fret markers too. Capos can get in the way a bit of the fretting hand, but they don't make it impossible. Is there any reason I shouldn't try this? Should it only be considered a temporary fix? Since I'm tall, I like the full body, so a capo would preserve that.

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Alicia
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by Alicia » Sat Feb 08, 2014 9:19 pm

Putting the capo on is a good short term solution. It enabled me to decide (after 6 months) that a 580mm scale (capo on 2nd fret) was just what I needed. I gave the first fret a good try too.

The problem with the capo as a permanent solution is that it distorts the strings and makes them hard to tune - you need to tune the open strings down a tone (for the 2nd fret capo) or a semitone (capo on first fret) but then when you put the capo on you find that it's not quite in tune and so some strings need tuning up or down slightly and then you try again. I've been putting off putting new strings on my guitar because it's such a fuss tuning it. Also, although the bigger body is good to produce bigger sound, the hole is in the wrong place and so to get the best sound I found I was holding my right arm uncomfortably across my body.

Now I'm waiting for a real 580mm that's on order.

After starting the CG five and a half years ago I went from nothing to grade 3 (that's UK exam grades) in the first two years and then found I couldn't progress. I could play a few things in the grade 4 books but there were things in grade 3 I hadn't mastered. It's not a music-reading or musicality problem as I'm a piano teacher. I simply couldn't reach the frets but struggled on thinking I'd eventually be able to do this. The bottom line is that my hands are small - a span of 7.5 inches - and after 40 years of piano playing I doubt they're going to start stretching now.

I do have an unfair sense of failure in deciding to give up on the full-sized guitar. Like I'm not man enough. Which as a woman might well be true. There have been lots of suggestions to me that I should adjust my thumb position; try a flatter neck; hold the guitar differently; .... "look at this famous woman guitarist who plays a full-sized guitar"...."she can do it, you just need to try harder" (sort of suggestions)........ all suggested kindly and I know people were trying to help. But the best thing you can say to someone with small hands is that life is short, buy an appropriate sized guitar and enjoy the music.

I found a website about hand sizes in relation to the piano - thesmallhandedpianist.com - which includes some useful graphs which illustrate that the average man's hands span 9 inches and the average woman's span 8 inches. (At 7.5 inches I'm at the far left of the graph.) From this I would suggest that anyone with a span (little finger to thumb) of less than eight inches might benefit from a shorter scale guitar.

(With the capo on the 2nd fret, aka a 580 scale guitar, I can now play those pieces I fought with for over three years).
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poriforo
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by poriforo » Wed May 21, 2014 8:17 am

Interesting topic. The range of details/discussions within this site is exciting.

index to pinky ---> 170 mm

I prefer a 640mm scale instrument, as it represents what feels the most comfortable for me.

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bear
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by bear » Wed May 21, 2014 12:07 pm

I used a capo when I played steel string(ES 335). I tried it when I switched to cg and didn't like it. I wish I did. I perceived a difference in sound and I didn't like the way it felt. (I did have a hand injury, that may account for the difference between steel/cg.)
If using a capo woks for you then go for it, it's cheaper than having a custom build.
2013 Jeff Medlin '37 Hauser 640mm sp
2006 Michele Della Guistina Concert 10 string 650mm ce
2005 Jose Ramirez 4E 650mm ce
2005 Manuel Rodriguez Model C3F 650mm sp
2003 Manuel Rodriguez Model D 650mm ce

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