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Old 03-16-2013, 11:16 AM   #1
Wirsteve
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Fretboard Radius Questions

Hi there guys and gals,

I have small hands. Like prepubescent boy small. Learning to play guitar was an uphill battle to begin with, now that I have a real job, with steady income I would like to get another guitar. Every guitar I want is much cheaper on Ebay. So I would really like to save the hundreds of dollars and buy it online.

Now to the fretboard. I've seen a 12 inch fretboard on guitar(s) I like. With my really small hands is that going to make a really big difference from, say, a 7.5 inch fretboard? Where would I see the difference?

Any input is very much appreciated. Thanks!!!
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Old 03-16-2013, 12:04 PM   #2
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the neck thickness, taper will affect more than the radius . take a slimmer neck so your wrist wont hurt when youll play chord .

what kind of guitar , style are you looking at??
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Old 03-16-2013, 12:45 PM   #3
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Fretboard radius isn't a factor as far as hand size goes. All it is is a measure of how curved or flat the fretboard is (more curved = shorter radius, flatter = longer radius).

Just for reference, GENERALLY 7.5" is like a vintage Strat radius, 9.5" is a modern Strat, 12" is a Les Paul, and anything over 12" is probably a "shred" guitar.

Neck thickness and shape is much more important in this situation.
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Old 03-16-2013, 01:04 PM   #4
Wirsteve
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Skysc,

I've been looking at some Dillion guitars, for instance, a copy of a '59 strat reissue. They seem great.

2 piece alder body, maple neck, bone nut...for like $400. Yes please. Then I can put in the old wiring hardness and some nice pups. That should be able to rival an American Fender. That is if I wanted a Fender. I could do the same for a Gibson copy.

The only problem is that they use 12" fretboards and I have small hands. I was just wondering if you guys think I'd have a problem. Or if there are any other small-handed guitarists who use 12" fretboards without issues.
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Old 03-16-2013, 10:33 PM   #5
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tl;dr version: for the quick answer, skip right down to just the bottom paragraph


The radius makes no difference. Some people like a small radius, some like a large, flat one. 12" is in the middle, perhaps just a little more towards flat. 'Fretting out' (strings hitting other frets, stopping them from vibrating) can be a problem on fretboards with a smaller radius, while some people find chords uncomfortable to play on a larger radius. What's best for you has nothing to do with the size of your hands but the style in which you play. Hendrix did huge bends on a 7.25" radius fretboard; I highly doubt Steve Vai would have a problem fretting a barre G chord on his 17" radius JEMs.

What will be important to you with small hands is the scale length, nut width, neck contour and neck thickness. The radius and fret size are the two elements which are down to your fingertips, not your hands.

Try to avoid necks based on 50s Fenders or Gibsons. There is no neck on earth thicker than a Telecaster from the 1950s. Gibson went slightly thinner at first, then the Stratocaster came along and was the same thickness but a different contour (see below), then Gibson made their necks thinner in the 60s and Fender followed. Any of those early necks may be too large for you with the exception of the oddly-contoured early Strats. Look for guitars patterned after 70s/80s guitars instead.

If you like to play 'thumb-over', à la Hendrix, SRV and Clapton, look for a 'V' profile neck with a nut width below 43mm (many V necks are a fraction over 41mm). This style of playing renders fretboard radius and neck thickness almost irrelevant. These necks are common on reissue Fenders but very uncommon on anything else.
If you play with a more classical position, with your thumb on the middle of the back of the neck, look for a 'D' profile neck. These have a slightly flatter feel (a 'U' shape neck is even flatter but may have shoulders that are too high). A nut width of around 42mm should be fine and is very common. These sorts of necks are common on Schecters and more modern-styled Epiphones.
If you're not too sure how you play, or you play a mix of styles, go for a plain 'C' shape neck. This is the most common shape and used on most modern Fender and Gibson guitars. It's simply an even, round curve. Go for a nut width between 41mm and 42mm.

A neck thickness of 21mm-23mm should be the largest you go for on a D or C neck and 22-24mm on a V neck. These are pretty average size for those contours, easy to find and should be thin enough for you to get around on them without issue. You can get much thinner necks (companies like Ibanez make them down to 17mm) but these almost always come with a U shape contour, which may make it harder to handle despite the thin dimensions. It depends on what your playing style is.

Most importantly, really, will be the scale length. There's no point getting a guitar with a contour and width you find comfortable only to then find that you either can't stretch far enough on it or that you're too cramped in. 25.5" is the most common scale length but is also the point where most people with smaller hands find they can't play properly. PRS' 25" and Gibson's 24.75" are fairly common and it's hard for anyone to have a problem with them, regardless of how large or small your hands are. Some companies—including Fender, but also others—make 24" scale guitars, and these can be great for those with small chands who spend most of their playing time around the lowest frets, though a lot of people find them too cramped at the highest frets.


The only way to really tell what will feel best in your hands is to go to some shops and play some guitars. Try everything there is, note down what you like (or don't like) about each one. Then go home, look up those guitars online and see what their spec sheets say about the necks. That way you can work out that you like this feature and this feature, but not this and this. Or if you play something and it feels perfect then you can always go home and buy it online anyway. Just bear in mind that even mass produced guitars can feel different and one you buy online may not feel exactly like one you tried before. This is why waiting, saving up and buying from a shop in person is always the smartest option.
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Old 03-16-2013, 11:14 PM   #6
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No, the radius will affect your comfort more than your reach. It's all preference.

And I don't know what posture you use, but I find the classical posture to be great for extending my reach.
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Old 03-17-2013, 07:17 AM   #7
Wirsteve
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Thanks MrFibble. I always thought that they used a C shaped neck on 50s Telecasters. I'm really interested in a reissue, so I'll have to take that into consideration if I get one.

I wouldn't wish small hands on anyone. It's a curse.
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Old 03-17-2013, 09:27 AM   #8
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Try having small hands that need small necks to reach around but cramp up on everything but the thickest neck, combind with such poorly-practised, self-taught technique that you need to play everything thumb-over even though doing so means two of your fingers can't fret a note properly.

There's a reason I stick to playing rhythm
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