Guitar Neck Size for Small Hands

By Lee Johnson ; Updated September 15, 2017
The nut separates the long guitar neck from the headstock at the top of the instrument.

Learning the guitar is a difficult process in the best of times, but choosing the right guitar for someone with small hands will make it easier for them. A guitar is a stringed instrument, available in both electric and acoustic varieties. The neck of the instrument is the long, thin portion that houses the fret-board. Finding out about the correct neck size for someone with small hands means understanding overall guitar size and neck width, thickness and profile.

Guitar Size

A normal guitar is full-sized. You can by smaller guitars for people with smaller hands or children, if you wish: one-quarter-size, half-size and three-quarter-size guitars are all available, and these may be more suitable for small-handed or child players. As a general rule, anyone over 5 feet tall should be able to play a full-sized instrument. If you are between 4 1/2 and 5 feet tall, a three-quarter-size guitar may easier to play. This may be the best guitar for 8 to 11 year olds. Anybody between 3 feet, 10 inches and 4 1/2 feet tall should get a half-size guitar. This is generally suitable for children between five and eight years old. Any smaller children should get a one-quarter-size guitar. The size of the guitar reduces the scale length, which means the neck is shorter, and your fingers can stretch across more frets.

Width

The width of the neck at the “nut” is another factor that can be looked at to understand neck sizes. The nut is the small, white rectangle that separates the neck of the guitar from the headstock, which houses the tuning heads. Around 1.7 inches is the standard width at the nut. This allows for the strings to be close together, but can make fretting one individual string more difficult. If you have very small hands, getting a guitar with a smaller nut width will make the instrument easier to play. Play a standard guitar and see if you can comfortably reach the top and bottom strings.

Thickness

Guitars can be bought with thicker or thinner necks, meaning thickness from the fret-board to the back of the neck. A thicker neck will be difficult to play for somebody with small hands. Choose a thinner-necked model if possible. Neck-thickness is measured as a radius, as if the curve on the back of the neck continued around to form a circle. The radius of that imaginary circle is the neck radius. Most guitars have a neck radius of between 10 and 16 inches. Larger numbers mean a thinner neck. Again, play a normal guitar and see if you think the neck is too thick.

Neck Profile

Necks come in many different shapes, and these are defined by the particular “profile” of the neck. The best profile for people with small hands is the “C” profile, found on many guitars that usually have thinner necks, such as the Fender Stratocaster and the Gibson Les Paul and Les Paul Junior. Other possible profiles include the “U” profile, virtually rectangular in shape, and the “V” profile, which has a groove running down the center.

About the Author

Lee Johnson has written for various publications and websites since 2005, covering science, music and a wide range of topics. He studies physics at the Open University, with a particular interest in quantum physics and cosmology. He's based in the UK and drinks too much tea.