#1
Hi everyone.

I've been teaching myself to play guitar for a while now, and I've gotten pretty far in the sense that I know a fair number of chords, can do some simple finger picking, and have written a few songs of a my own. I'm at a point where I really want to start advancing technically. My major setbacks are (1) as a woman, I have smaller hands than the average (male) guitar player (my hands aren't tiny, thankfully, but they aren't man hands), (2) my guitar is not that great (it has fairly high action, which makes it hard to play), and (3) I don't have anyone in my immediate circle who can give my technical advice (not that I don't know any other guitar players, just not any that I see very often). I'm finding barre chords to be quite challenging, mainly just in terms of strength. I'm finding it hard to keep my pinky pressed firmly on a string without it curling inward. I always hold my left thumb behind the neck, and I'm worried that I'm relying too much on that for support or resistence. I usually hold my guitar sitting down, with the body resting on my right leg, but I've recently heard that maybe I should switch to the left leg? My left hand ends up hurting a lot and overall I'm feeling a little overwhelmed and limited by all these physical issues. I'm wondering if anyone can offer some tips or tricks related to some of these things, and in particular, if any other smaller-handed guitarists can reassure me that ultimately I don't have to be limited by that. Thanks in advance to all who take the time to respond!
#2
if your guitar has the action too high that could be why its difficult to play go to your closest store and ask them to set it up
it also seems that your tensing up to much
you might want to try a shorter scale guitar if your hand size is really bothering
#3
I'm sorry for answering your question this shortly, but just keep at it. I'm no way a virtuoso, but I don't struggle with barre chords (darn that F, lol) near as much as I did earlier on. Maybe try pressing the strings less hard and if you have no techy friends, bring your guitar in a shop or to a luthier to lower the action. Fortunately my brother did it on my acoustic, and it's so much more playable now...
#4
The first thing you need to do is get your guitar setup to suit you which sounds like lowering the action from what you have said. Any good guitar shop will do this for you.

The rest of it is normally just down to practice. You don't mention how long you have been playing but it does take a long time to learn. The more you practice the better you will get. You could try asking about guitar lessons in your local shop to see if that helps you out.

Don't worry it is hard work for everyone to learn and progress with the guitar.

#5
I'm a male with small hands and I'm actually pretty proud of my reach. You really needn't worry about that, your hands are big enough. Trust me.
Contortion that seems impossible to non-guitarist will become commonplace with enough practice.
The pressure you apply when using barre chords just seems to go away after using them often. I'm not sure if my hands just got stronger or i've subconsciously learnt to place them in the position the requires the least pressure. Maybe It's a little of both. All i know is it's no longer painful, and I'm sure the same will apply to you in time.

Pretty much everyone goes through this in the early stages.

Quote by Karl Pilkington
Jellyfish are 97% water or something, so how much are they doing? Just give them another 3% and make them water. It's more useful."
#6
Quote by hairmakesghost
My major setbacks are (1) as a woman, I have smaller hands than the average (male) guitar player


I agree that small hand size may be a legitimate issue, but it's probably overstating things to call it a major setback. Plenty of small-handed men, women, and children have gone on to achieve great proficiency at the guitar.

Me, I have larger than average sized hands. Unfortunately, my sausage-like fingers with their broad, fleshy tips are sometimes less than ideal for creating music on the guitar. But that's just the way it is, and I've seen guys with fingers only slightly smaller than babies' forearms play the heck out of their guitars, so I know it can be done.

(2) my guitar is not that great (it has fairly high action, which makes it hard to play)


Your guitar may or may not be that great, but having a high action isn't really the key factor here, since the action can be lowered. And doing so is often one of the best things one can do to enhance a guitar's playability.

I would add that the high action may only make worse any issues you have due to your smallish hands.

(3) I don't have anyone in my immediate circle who can give my technical advice (not that I don't know any other guitar players, just not any that I see very often).


Assuming you can't or won't take lessons from a qualified instructor, might there be some local guitar group you could join? Try going to www.meetup.com and searching for "guitar." Could be there's a group or six within a reasonable distance of you.

Associating with fellow musicians, and performing in front of others, can do wonders for your progress with the guitar. Really.

I'm finding barre chords to be quite challenging, mainly just in terms of strength. I'm finding it hard to keep my pinky pressed firmly on a string without it curling inward. I always hold my left thumb behind the neck, and I'm worried that I'm relying too much on that for support or resistence.


All common issues. The only way to really get past them is with practice. Lots and lots of practice.

If possible, have a competent instructor take a look at what you're doing, in order to point out any glaring mistakes you're making in your technique. Since it's disheartening to practice something endlessly, only to discover that you've been practicing a mistake. It's far better to practice correct form, than to practice flawed form. Trust me on this - personal experience talking here.

I usually hold my guitar sitting down, with the body resting on my right leg, but I've recently heard that maybe I should switch to the left leg?


Resting the guitar on your right leg is the more popular way of doing things, but the left leg approach sounds similar to the classical guitar position, which is also perfectly valid.

There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to each. These have to do with the size and build of the guitarist, the size and shape of the guitar, and even to an extent the type of music being played. Oh, and mostly what you're used to.

If classical position is more comfortable, feel free to use it. If it's uncomfortable, feel free to avoid it. But it shouldn't be particularly uncomfortable, so at the risk of repeating myself, seriously consider finding a good instructor, and going for even a single lesson, where you can get some feedback on basic stuff like this.

DO NOT FEEL OVERWHELMED. The challenges you're facing are not at all atypical. It's just difficult for anyone here to meaningfully analyze how you're holding the guitar, how you're using your left hand thumb, to what extent a lowered action would help you, etc., without seeing you play. But believe me, you haven't written anything that's particularly unusual, nor anything which many guitarists before you haven't encountered and overcome.
--
Michael
#7
What I do with my barre chords is finds songs that have enough for me to gradually step up.
I.E. First song have an F, G, A maybe ( Phantom Limb by the Shins, forgot which Key )
F needs to be Barred as you get better better barre your G and A. Work on the hand strength, if you hand gets tired go back to open on G and A.

You can do this with really simple with any song that requires a capo to play then EASY chords. Remove the capo play the corresponding Key , sure you will get some barres in there.

Also as far as holding the guitar... I have tired to use my left leg... and it does help greatly... just feels rather weird. I went back to using my right leg, I just make sure I tilt my neck upwards some instead of horizontal. Esp with barre chords.
Last edited by AustinTyler at Jul 14, 2010,