Guitars for Small Hands: a Buying Guide
Guitars for players with small hands don’t differ too drastically from other acoustic guitars. Their defining feature is a slimmer neck profile, and in some cases, they have necks that are similar to those of electric guitars. The best acoustic guitar for small hands will be built for smaller people in general, so many will have smaller body shapes, a short scale, or reduced depth.
Guitar Neck & Body – size, shape, and materials
Often a guitar manufacturer will describe a guitar’s neck profile. Many guitars for smaller hands will have a C-shape (or slim C-shape) neck. These necks are very thin, and they tend to be fast and comfortable, making them best for just about everyone except for players with large hands. With a thin neck acoustic guitar, even players with very small hands can easily wrap a palm around the neck and still have plenty of room to finger notes and chords. Of all the acoustic neck profiles, the slim-C shape is the thinnest. Make sure you also look for a narrow nut width and a short scale.
Some manufacturers of little acoustics, notably Ibanez, are especially innovative when it comes to making guitars with low profile neck designs. That said, no manufacturer makes all of their guitars with the same neck profile, so it’s important to check the neck profile before buying.
You might wonder if you can sand down or shave a guitar neck to make it thinner. Technically, yes. But if you aren’t familiar with the process, you run the risk of ruining the neck. Some guitar shops will shave down a neck for you, but it can be expensive. In many cases, it’s a good idea to choose a guitar that already has a thin neck.
Thin neck acoustic guitars come in all body styles, and which one you choose depends largely on your preference. However, if you’re a smaller person in general, you might prefer a shallower body depth or a small acoustic guitar like a concert-style guitar.
Components – Electric Acoustic Guitars can give more volume
The components of acoustic guitars don’t impact players with little hands as the neck profile does. However, they’re important to playability in general. A playable fingerboard is a must. Ebony is an excellent fingerboard material — it stays slick, making it great for playing leads. Rosewood is also reasonably slick, and it’s very comfortable to play.
As with buying any other guitar, it’s a good idea to check out the tuners and make sure they’re of decent quality — very cheap tuners can cause the guitar to go constantly out of tune, which is frustrating for anyone. A quality nut and saddle (these are usually made of bone or composite material – not just plastic) are good to have and improve tone and playability. However, these are very easy to upgrade yourself.
Sound & Tone – Can you get a big sound from little guitars?
You’ll also want to choose a guitar whose tone you like and this is even more important for small size acoustic guitars. A lot of this depends on your preferences and when it comes to acoustics, spruce tends to be slightly bright, while mahogany is darker and warmer. If you can afford it, acoustics with a solid top are ideal. Solid tops create fuller, more responsive sound, and they tend to “open up” and sound even better with age.
If you want to play plugged in with amps, it’s a good idea to make sure a guitar you pick has decent electronics. A good pickup will sound strong and natural even when you’re plugged in. Most pickups also have an onboard preamp, which lets you customize your plugged-in sound. Some have a built-in tuner, which is a convenient and reliable way to tune-up anytime.
Action, Fit & Finish – Look for a guitar that is well made and set up
The action on a guitar refers to how high the strings are above the fretboard. Most players like a lower action, but if the action gets too low, it can cause fret buzz. Often, guitars arrive with decent action, but you may find that you want to adjust it. This is fairly simple to do yourself. However, if you’d rather a professional do it, you can always book a professional setup.
The fit and finish of a guitar don’t have much of an impact on sound or playability. Most guitars from reputable manufacturers arrive without any assembly issues, loose parts, or runs in the finish. However, very inexpensive guitars may sometimes arrive with some imperfections.
Reliability & Durability of the guitar
Most acoustic guitars will last a long time if cared for properly. And while the woods chosen for guitars tend to be durable, laminated wood is more durable than solid wood. It also isn’t as susceptible to temperature and humidity changes, which can cause solid wood to warp or crack.
When it comes to reliability over time, more expensive guitars tend to outlast cheaper ones. However, you don’t need to buy an incredibly expensive instrument to make sure it will last. A decent midrange guitar will continue to be playable for decades — it’s the incredibly inexpensive models that tend to run into issues like fretboard wear or broken components.