Are Long Fingers Better For Guitar [Guitar Teacher Tells All]

I’ve been playing and teaching guitar for around 5 years. And I often would hear people raise a concern regarding the size of their hands. 

So, I thought I’d put together this comprehensive explanation about whether long fingers are better for guitar, and the size of your hands limit your ability to play the guitar.

Long fingers are better for full sized classical guitars. Whereas, short fingers and small hands are better suited to electric, and acoustic steel string guitars. There are also different sizes of electric, classical, and steel string guitars so you can get a guitar to match your hand size.

Full sized guitars are the most common, so most people think that guitars only come in one size. Many people also assume that short fingers, and thick fingers are better for guitar overall.

But, today I’ll explain the evidence that short fingers and thick fingers, as well as, long skinny fingers are in fact perfectly fine, and regardless of what sized hands you have you can still get a guitar that suits them.

Does Finger Size Matter For Guitar?

Children in general have smaller sized hands than adults. But, a full sized guitar is generally too large for a child to play it easily. Also, people have various heights and body proportions. 

For example, some people have a naturally wide frame, are shorter, and have thicker hands with shorter thicker fingers. And others are skinny, taller, and have long fingers. As well as, everything in between.

The good news is that guitars come in various different sizes to accommodate different hand sizes, and finger thicknesses. And to account for the difference in hand sizes between adults, children, and younger people.

So, overall your finger size is not a major factor for guitar. However, it would be a bit of a generalisation to say that it doesn’t matter at all. Because a person with thick fingers, and a person with skinny fingers will have a different experience when they try to learn guitar and different kinds of guitars.

With that said though, there are various very famous and well respected guitarists who play a type of guitar that isn’t suited to the size of their hands, and the thickness of their fingers.

For example, Andres Segovia who is widely considered to be one of the best classical guitarists of all time has short thick fingers and plays on a full sized classical guitar. 

Here’s a video of him playing some of the most difficult classical guitar songs with ease on the biggest sized fretboard (a classical guitar):

Interestingly, many people wonder if classical guitar is hard. I explained if it is and how it compares to acoustic and electric guitars in this article about whether classical guitar is hard.

Matching the size of your hands to the size and type of guitar

Due to the difference in size, overall a smaller sized guitar is better suited to a person with smaller hands. And a guitar with a narrower neck is better suited for thinner fingers, and shorter fingers.

Here’s a table that shows some general recommendations for matching your hand size to the size and type of guitar:

Hand and finger sizeType of guitar that’s the best
Short thick fingers, small handsSteel string, electric
Short thin fingers, small handsAny
Average sized handsAny
Long thick fingers, big handsClassical/nylon string
Long thin fingers, big handsClassical/nylon string

Also, based on the different sizes of guitar here’s a table that shows what size of guitar you should get.

Hand and finger sizeSize guitar of guitar that is best
Short thick fingers, small hands¾, or ½ 
Short thin fingers, small hands¾, or ½
Average sized handsFull sized or 3/4
Long thick fingers, big handsFull sized
Long thin fingers, big handsFull sized

It’s also perfectly fine to get a classical guitar if you have small hands and to instead get a ¾ or ½ sized guitar. 

Why it’s better to match the type and size of guitar to your hands

A classical guitar has a wider fretboard vertically. But, it has the same length of neck horizontally. 

But, a steel string guitar, also called a steel string acoustic guitar has more frets, so the frets are slightly smaller. 

The same is true of an electric guitar which has a virtually identical fretboard to a steel string guitar.

If you have short fingers it’s easier to make chord shapes on an electric or acoustic steel string guitar. Whereas, a person with long fingers can find it more difficult to bend their fingers into the smaller space.

It makes it hard to hold a fret because of the way the fingers need to curve for the most common chord shapes.

A classical guitar has plenty of room so people with both long fingers and small hands (short fingers) can easily play it. 

But, the strings are wider apart AND the frets are wider so a person with smaller hands needs to develop more flexibility in their hands than a person with naturally long fingers. As a result, they can find it more difficult in the beginning.

Two broad types of guitars that have different sized fretboards

There are two broad types of guitars, the first are classical guitars which have the same dimensions as flamenco guitars, and are also called nylon string guitars or spanish guitars.

The second are steel string guitars, which are also called acoustic steel string guitars, and electric guitars. 

They are different due to the size and dimensions of the neck of the guitar. Which is where the fretboard is located. Therefore, they also have a different sized fretboard.

Fender is the most popular guitar brand. The classical guitars they sell are 25.3 inches in length (64.3 cm) and the steel string guitars they have are also the exact same length. But, the steel string guitar has one additional fret. Which means the frets are slightly narrower. 

The height of the fret board is also about 18.5% narrower on a steel string guitar and electric guitar compared to a classical guitar.

There are different types of guitars and different genres of music, such as folk, pop, jazz, classical, and rock music. And you may want to know if certain styles of guitar are easier than others. I explained this in detail in this article about whether rock guitar is hard.

I did a survey of over 111 guitarists to see what they voted as the hardest and easiest guitar styles are to learn.

Four broad sizes of guitar for both of the two major types of guitars

As well as these two broad types of guitar, each of these types of guitar also come in different sizes. There are full sized guitars, ¾, ½, and ¼ sized guitars.

¼ sized guitars are incredibly small and about the size of a ukulele, and therefore, unless you’re buying it for a very small child, under the age of about 5 years old. You’ll generally need to get a ¾ or ½ sized guitar if you have smaller than average sized hands.

How small your hands are actually is an important question. So, to answer that let’s look at the average hand size for people of different ages:

Adults average hand size chart:

PersonAverage hand size (length and breadth)
Adult male (18 years old+)7.6 inches (19.0 cm), 3.5 inches (8.9 cm)
Adult female (18 years old+)6.8 inches (17.3 cm), 3.1 inches (7.9 cm)

As will adults, males and females have slightly different hands sizes, so I’ve compiled 2 tables based on research studies to show the average hand size separated by whether they are male, or female, and age:

Youth and children average hand size charts:

Age (boy, male)Average hand size (length and breadth)
65.2 inches (13.2 cm), 2.5 inches (6.4 cm)
75.4 inches (13.7 cm), 2.6 inches (6.6 cm)
85.6 inches (14.2 cm, 2.9 inches (7.3 cm) 
96.1 inches (15.5 cm), 2.9 inches (7.4 cm)
106.5 inches (16.5 cm), 3.0 inches (7.5 cm)
116.8 inches (17.4 cm), 3.3 inches (8.4 cm)
127.3 inches (18.5 cm), 3.5 inches (8.9 cm)
137.6 inches (19.3 cm), 3.7 inches (9.3 cm)
147.9 inches (20.1 cm), 3.8 inches (9.7 cm)
158.2 inches (20.8 cm), 3.9 inches (10.0 cm)
168.2 inches (21.0 cm), 4.0 inches (10.1 cm)
178.2 inches (21.0 cm), 4.0 inches (10.1 cm)
188.2 inches (20.8 cm), 4.0 inches (10.0 cm)
Age (girl, female)Average hand size (length and breadth)
65.2 inches (13.2 cm), 2.5 inches (6.4 cm)
75.4 inches (13.7 cm), 2.6 inches (6.6 cm)
85.6 inches (14.2 cm), 2.9 inches (7.3 cm)
95.9 inches (15.5 cm), 2.9 inches (7.4 cm)
106.5 inches (16.5 cm), 3.0 inches (7.5 cm)
116.8 inches (17.2 cm), 3.3 inches (8.3 cm)
127.1 inches (18.0 cm), 3.4 inches (8.7 cm)
137.2 inches (18.2 cm), 3.5 inches (8.8 cm)
147.3 inches (18.5 cm), 3.5 inches (8.9 cm)
157.4 inches (18.7 cm), 3.6 inches (9.0 cm)
167.3 inches (18.5 cm), 3.5 inches (8.9 cm)
177.3 inches (18.7 cm), 3.5 inches (9.0 cm)
187.2 inches (18.4 cm), 3.5 inches (8.9 cm)

How to measure length and breadth of your hands

The length of your hands is measured from the base of your palm where your wrist is, to the top of your middle finger. 

The breadth of your hands is the distance of your hand across your knuckles. But, in a straight line. Not up and down each of the bumps. It does not include measuring your thumb at all.

It’s possible to compare the size of your hands and compare them to the average. 

This will give you an idea as to how long your fingers actually are. And give you a good indication as to what sized guitar is better for you.

But, it’s important to note that a ¾ size guitar does not have a 75% smaller fretboard. Therefore, if your hands are 75% smaller than average then you’re in fact better off getting a ½ sized guitar. As the fretboard of a ½ sized guitar is roughly 88% smaller than a full sized guitar. 

Size of the guitar is not the size of the fretboard

A ¾, and ½ sized guitar does not refer to the dimensions of the fretboard. To illustrate this point here’s the difference in the size of the fretboard compared to a full sized guitar for ¾, and ½ sized guitars.

  • Full size guitar fretboard dimensions – 100%
  • ¾ sized guitar fretboard dimensions –  92% smaller than a full sized guitar
  • ½ size guitar fretboard dimensions – 83% smaller than a full sized guitar

This is based on looking at the specs of various guitars from well known brands, however, each individual brand is slightly different in the exact dimensions of the full sized, ¾, and ½ sized guitars.

Length of fingers compared to size of hands is not a factor

On average, a person with big hands will also have long fingers. So, a person with big hands should get a full sized guitar. 

The length of a person’s fingers can also be shorter or longer in relation to the size of their overall hand. For example, a person can have small hands, but long fingers.

But, whether you have ‘big’ or ‘small’ hands overall is still the major factor when getting a guitar to suit the size of your hands. 

The way the hand is positioned when you play the guitar means that the length of the fingers in relation to the overall size of your hand won’t affect your ability to reach the frets. 

Or, be a hindrance when trying to play a smaller sized guitar.

Do Guitar Players Need Long Fingers?

In various activities being taller, or having larger hands is an advantage. But, is this also the case for guitar, and do you need long fingers to play guitar?

Overall, guitar players do not need long fingers. Guitars are sold in ½, and ¾ sized models that have a smaller fretboard to accommodate shorter fingers. Acoustic steel string, and electric guitars are better suited to short fingers due to the way the fingers need to curve to play.

The easiest angle to hold the frets is perpendicular (90 degrees) to the fretboard. A person with long fingers needs to practice more to reach this angle on an acoustic steel string, or an electric guitar. Due to the fact that the neck is narrower.

I have long fingers, and remember when I went from classical guitar to electric guitar I found it very difficult at first to hold the frets because the angle was different due to the neck being much narrower.

Can You Play the Guitar if You Have Small Hands?

There is an average adult hand size and you may have noticed that your fingers are smaller than average, or you might not be fully grown yet. But, is it a hindrance to playing guitar, and can you play guitar with small hands?

Generally, it’s perfectly fine to play guitar with small hands. There are ½ and ¾ sized guitars for classical, acoustic steel string, and electric guitar that have a smaller fretboard that makes them easier to learn on or play with small hands. 

Also, acoustic and electric guitars are generally easier to play for people with small hands, overall, and at first because of the way the hand is positioned when pressing the frets.


Wanna learn some more?

Recent Posts

Legal Disclaimer is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Additionally, also participates in other affiliate and advertising programs, such as AdSense, ShareASale, Awin, Etsy, and CJ among others, and is compensated for referring traffic and business to them.

Beginner Guitar Gear