Scale length and neck width versus hand size

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

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by Chimensch » Wed May 21, 2014 12:41 pm

A fascinating subject indeed, especially for the many approaches that different people have to solving problems. I also have very small hands. I asked my teacher if I would benefit from a smaller scale guitar but he put a quick end to the discussion by showing me that his hands are smaller than mine. I'm finishing my third year and we're getting into some fifth-year pieces. So far, I haven't encountered any problems that couldn't be solved by correctly positioning the thumb. Also, I'm not willing to close the door on the world of standard sized guitars. I find the idea of having an opportunity to play a really fine guitar and saying, "Oh, I can't play that one, it's too big" to be repugnant. Then, there was my Italian wife's comment that it was very "American" of me to immediately think of solving a problem by buying something. She has small hands and plays the organ and the question of buying an organ with a small-scale keyboard has never come up. And what would be the point? Organs are usually found in churches and you play the one that's there. I doubt that the piano teacher who said she is buying a small-scale guitar is also planning on buying a small-scale piano.

sparrowhawk
Posts: 130
Joined: Mon Sep 22, 2008 2:45 am
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by sparrowhawk » Sun Jun 29, 2014 4:22 pm

I played guitar on and off for thirty years, always a full size guitar. I spoke to several teachers over the years about not being able to reach certain chords, configurations, stretches. Some pieces were impossible to play and I was made to feel that somehow I wasn't trying hard enough/practising enough. Not one of my teachers ever suggested a shorter scale instrument. It was only when I joined this forum and found some pertinent discussions that I actively explored the possibilities.
I do have small hands, but very flexible and able to stretch. Which means I do not have a problem with lateral stretches along the fingerboard, the problem is vertical. There is nothing one can do about the length of one's fingers. If you cannot play sixth string G with third finger at the same time as first string G with fourth finger no stretching exercises are ever going to help. Add fairly short arms and a full size guitar is simply impossible to play with any ease or comfort.
After much research I acquired a Torres SE117 copy, scale length 600mm. It is very light with a very small body. I play standing up using a strap and couldn't be happier with the results.

User avatar
Alicia
Posts: 875
Joined: Sun Nov 16, 2008 8:40 am
Location: The English Countryside

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by Alicia » Sun Jun 29, 2014 8:26 pm

Chimensch wrote: I doubt that the piano teacher who said she is buying a small-scale guitar is also planning on buying a small-scale piano.
Not sure what you're getting at here? Shouldn't I be enjoying that I now have a guitar where I can reach the notes I need to enjoy the music?

Yes - of course I struggle to reach on the piano, but it has a sustain pedal which lets me keep some notes going while I reach others. I can reach an octave and it is permissible (even in exams) to miss notes or rearrange chords. Notes can be moved to fit into an octave reach if I'm playing a chord. Or else I can move and use the pedal. This is a normal piano skill.

I'm short in height too. I can't see out the window to drive in a "standard" car seat position. Thankfully they've invented a little lever that puts the seat up. Most cars have them. Yes, I know it's cheating.
_..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__

User avatar
Michael.N.
Posts: 6384
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2007 7:28 am
Location: UK

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by Michael.N. » Mon Jun 30, 2014 9:49 am

Chimensch wrote:A fascinating subject indeed, especially for the many approaches that different people have to solving problems. I also have very small hands. I asked my teacher if I would benefit from a smaller scale guitar but he put a quick end to the discussion by showing me that his hands are smaller than mine. I'm finishing my third year and we're getting into some fifth-year pieces. So far, I haven't encountered any problems that couldn't be solved by correctly positioning the thumb. Also, I'm not willing to close the door on the world of standard sized guitars. I find the idea of having an opportunity to play a really fine guitar and saying, "Oh, I can't play that one, it's too big" to be repugnant. Then, there was my Italian wife's comment that it was very "American" of me to immediately think of solving a problem by buying something. She has small hands and plays the organ and the question of buying an organ with a small-scale keyboard has never come up. And what would be the point? Organs are usually found in churches and you play the one that's there. I doubt that the piano teacher who said she is buying a small-scale guitar is also planning on buying a small-scale piano.
I hope you don't mind me saying but a lot of that is just simply wrong. What you seem to be saying is that finger/hand size is completely irrelevant and providing you practice enough then that 7 fret stretch is within your capabilities.
It's an absurd position to take. There are adults (quite a number) who have a hand size the equivalent to that of a child's.
There is a limit to the span of their fingers. It is a physical limit. No different to the physical limit that states that John Williams can't reach a fret 1 to fret 9 stretch or that someone at 5 foot tall is never going to win the Olympic high jump.
The Guitarist John Mills had a little test for determining suitable Neck dimensions. Finger the F, F# and the G (on the treble 'E' string) with fingers 1,2 & 3. Keep all those fingers fretted and then reach over with finger 4 to the G# on the bass 'E'. If you cannot reach it you need a Guitar with smaller Neck dimensions.
I think I'll go along with Mr.Mills. He's taught a few people in his long career. I also have a lot of experience with Guitars of varying string lengths and Nut widths, from 670 mm all the way down to 570 mm's. From Nut widths of 55 mm's down to 46 mm's. The combination of shorter string length and narrow Neck width is extremely important for players who's hand size is petite. Fortunately for those players who have short fingers, they also tend to have thin fingers to match. A narrow neck width and the subsequent tight string spacing isn't usually a problem for them.
The alternative can lead to frustration with the instrument and/or the possibility of permanent hand injury.
Historicalguitars.

Chimensch

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by Chimensch » Mon Jun 30, 2014 11:10 am

Alicia wrote:Not sure what you're getting at here? Shouldn't I be enjoying that I now have a guitar where I can reach the notes I need to enjoy the music?
Michael.N. wrote:I hope you don't mind me saying but a lot of that is just simply wrong.
Dear Michael N., I didn't saying anything that was "wrong" since I was simply explaining why I decided not to purchase a short-scale guitar, a decision that I am still happy with after 3 years. As for Alicia, it turns out that there are now short-scale pianos available, as explained in this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03IKsnxF6Qo

Why don't you buy one?

User avatar
Alicia
Posts: 875
Joined: Sun Nov 16, 2008 8:40 am
Location: The English Countryside

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by Alicia » Mon Jun 30, 2014 1:18 pm

... providing you practice enough then that 7 fret stretch is within your capabilities.
It's an absurd position to take.
The 4 fret stretch was beyond my capabilities (after 5 years of trying) until I bought a shorter guitar.

What you say about neck width is interesting. I failed the John Mills test miserably and could manage my pinky only onto the D string. I guess I need a narrower neck then. On the bright side at least I was able to put fingers on frets 1,2 and 3. That's something I couldn't do on a full sized guitar.
_..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__

ewokinco

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by ewokinco » Mon Jun 30, 2014 4:11 pm

I am a novice at classical guitar, but a professional musician now older and disabled. So I have time to learn. I had a nice La Patrie Hybrid CW, but it was 650mm scale length and 52 mm sized nut. It was simply too large for my hand. My hand span is about 6.5 inches and my middle finger is only 3 inches long, with the other fingers being shorter.

I spent a lot of time agonizing about a smaller scale instrument. I checked out the Cordoba Dolce and Cadete. I looked and looked and looked. I finally bought two Kenny Hill New World Players, a 615 and a 628mm. I cannot tell you what a difference these make in terms of my being able to much more easily do certain things. It was the correct thing to do. I will never play on a concert stage again, but there is no reason for people to not make music and if a smaller instrument assists in doing this, then they should do it. The difficulty in my case is a sophisticated ear. So I cannot simply play an instrument just because it is smaller and more comfortable. It must also have a nice sound. The instruments I bought I am extremely pleased with and I would recommend anyone having hand issues to consider smaller scale instruments. There are a few more options if one can play a 640mm, but I would struggle. So though options are limited at 630, I still think there are some excellent choices available, several coming from the Hill company.

poriforo
Posts: 71
Joined: Tue Feb 18, 2014 7:31 am

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by poriforo » Wed Jul 02, 2014 5:20 pm

ewokinco wrote:I am a novice at classical guitar, but a professional musician now older and disabled. So I have time to learn. I had a nice La Patrie Hybrid CW, but it was 650mm scale length and 52 mm sized nut. It was simply too large for my hand. My hand span is about 6.5 inches and my middle finger is only 3 inches long, with the other fingers being shorter.

I spent a lot of time agonizing about a smaller scale instrument. I checked out the Cordoba Dolce and Cadete. I looked and looked and looked. I finally bought two Kenny Hill New World Players, a 615 and a 628mm. I cannot tell you what a difference these make in terms of my being able to much more easily do certain things. It was the correct thing to do. I will never play on a concert stage again, but there is no reason for people to not make music and if a smaller instrument assists in doing this, then they should do it. The difficulty in my case is a sophisticated ear. So I cannot simply play an instrument just because it is smaller and more comfortable. It must also have a nice sound. The instruments I bought I am extremely pleased with and I would recommend anyone having hand issues to consider smaller scale instruments. There are a few more options if one can play a 640mm, but I would struggle. So though options are limited at 630, I still think there are some excellent choices available, several coming from the Hill company.

Kenny is great, in that he clearly understands there's a market for shorter scale instruments, and make them readily available at competitive prices.

MAK
Posts: 80
Joined: Sat Jul 05, 2014 4:20 pm
Location: New Mexico

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by MAK » Sun Jul 06, 2014 2:52 am

I am also glad that a guitar store in Albuquerque carries Kenny Hill New World guitars. I would never have been able to try out both the 628 and 615mm guitars, otherwise. As I wrote in my intro, I play a 628, but would like to spend a lot more time with a 615. I have a difficult time comparing while playing in a store, even if I play for an hour. I have considered getting a Player series cedar 615mm. I have barely a 7" span thumb to little finger and short fingers--right on the edge of both guitar scales, according to Rich Sayage. The neck of the 628 may still be a little wide for me.

I have tried to stretch my hand, but it has not worked well enough. I am so glad to read about other guitar players' experiences with short scale guitars. I will never be a professional player, so I need to be able to play as well and as comfortably as I can.

creamburmese
Posts: 71
Joined: Fri Nov 15, 2013 3:19 am
Location: Maryland

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by creamburmese » Mon Jul 07, 2014 12:57 am

I have a 7.5" span and knew from playing steel strings that I would do well to buy a short scale classical so I stared with the Kenny Hill P628 and it worked very well for me. It has a narrower nut in addition to the short scale though, and in some cases I actually prefer a slightly wider string spacing, my fingers not being all that delicate. So I recently upgraded to another guitar with a short scale but standard 52 mm nut...

mmapag
Posts: 1141
Joined: Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:33 pm
Location: Philadelphia Area

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by mmapag » Mon Jul 07, 2014 10:27 am

creamburmese wrote:I have a 7.5" span and knew from playing steel strings that I would do well to buy a short scale classical so I stared with the Kenny Hill P628 and it worked very well for me. It has a narrower nut in addition to the short scale though, and in some cases I actually prefer a slightly wider string spacing, my fingers not being all that delicate. So I recently upgraded to another guitar with a short scale but standard 52 mm nut...
What is the instrument you upgraded to and what is the scale length?
'13 Esteve 7 SM
'75 Takamine 132 S
'99 G.V. Rubio Estudio, Cedar, Palo Escrito

RJN

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by RJN » Mon Jul 07, 2014 11:22 am

Lately I have been building more and more short scale guitars than ever. For some reason people are wanting a shorter scale guitar but with a standard width/depth neck. Good for stretches and easier further down the line if alterations are needed. Although I have quite large hands I always pick up a short scale to play, maybe its laziness but I love the the tension on short scales.
Some unashamed self promotion, here is the last one I built, a 630mm scale with 51mm at the nut and 41mm spacing.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgWrDA1oOgc

ewokinco

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by ewokinco » Mon Jul 07, 2014 3:40 pm

RJN,

Thank you for the link you shared. It is a beautiful instrument and I love its rich, warm, clear sound. Would that I could play as beautifully as Jorg. You must be very, very proud to be able to make an instrument and let the wood sing like that. Do you live in Germany? Wohnen Sie in Deutschland? And do you build guitars full time?

RJN

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by RJN » Wed Jul 09, 2014 10:17 am

Thanks ewokinco,
I don't live in Germany, but I wish I did, there must be one hell of a party there at the moment!
Full time building in partyless England.

User avatar
Alicia
Posts: 875
Joined: Sun Nov 16, 2008 8:40 am
Location: The English Countryside

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Post by Alicia » 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.
_..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__..--''(__

Return to “Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: CommonCrawl [Bot] and 10 guests