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Before I started playing the guitar, I was a piano kid and I kept getting compliments for my long fingers.
Some people kept telling me that that was the reason I was good at it, while others kept insisting that I had long fingers because I was playing the piano.
When I moved to guitar playing fewer people commented on my fingers, however, there were still those who considered my long fingers the reason behind my quick progress.
So, does playing guitar make your finger longer?
Playing the guitar doesn’t exactly make the fingers of your fretting hand longer, instead, it stretches your hand and helps you reach the maximum length capacity of your fingers and increase the span of your hand. Regular guitar playing will stretch and strengthen your fingers making them look a bit longer.
If you want to know how your guitar will change the shape of your hand and fingers or whether finger length even matters, then keep on reading!
Does Playing Guitar Make Your Fingers Longer?
This question can’t be answered with a simple yes or no because context matters. If you’re someone who has been playing the guitar regularly from an early age or even for several years you might notice a difference between your two hands.
The fretting hand is the one that has to stretch far more than your picking hand, so when you compare the two you may notice that the fretting hand can stretch more and look slightly longer.
The main reason why your fretting hand might seem longer isn’t that playing the guitar has made it longer, instead, it has stretched your fingers to their full capacity making them look longer compared to your picking hand that has to perform different movements.
For some people, there will be a more stark difference between the two hands depending on how long they’ve been playing the guitar or simply their hand anatomy. While I do see a difference between the fingers on my two hands as well as the span, some of my friends don’t.
If on the other hand you just started playing the guitar then chances are your fingers haven’t changed. That’s because as a beginner your fingers wouldn’t have the time to stretch and develop compared to a professional guitarist.
Because of this, you are more likely to struggle with fretting but the more you play the more you will be able to stretch and spread your fingers and maybe in a few years you will also notice a slight change in their appearance.
How Will The Guitar Change The Shape Of Your Fingers?
When it comes to length, you may not see much difference between the fingers on your fretting and picking hand, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see any change at all.
The longer you play the guitar you’ll notice several things happening to your fingers. First, you go through a stage of adaptation when you can expect soreness, blisters, friction burns, and skin sensitivity on your fingers.
It can take up to a month until you feel comfortable pressing down on your guitar strings, but during this period and during your whole guitar journey you will start noticing changes in the way you play and the way your fingers move, so let’s take a closer look at those changes.
When you start playing the guitar you may feel like the soreness and finger pain that you experience when your fingers come in regular contact with your strings won’t go away, but with time something amazing will happen. You will develop calluses.
Calluses according to the Cleveland Clinic “develop from repeated friction, rubbing or irritation and pressure on the skin.”
You will notice that your fingertips develop hard and thick patches of skin and these calluses will help you become less and less sensitive to guitar strings.
What’s great about calluses is that they give you more confidence whether you’re fingerpicking or strumming you will feel less intimidated by your strings and the pain will no longer be an obstacle,
Both your fretting and picking hand will develop calluses and it doesn’t matter if you’re playing the electric guitar, acoustic or classical guitar. Though I do want to add, that if you use a pick to play the guitar then your fretting hand is the one that will develop calluses.
Another thing that you may mostly notice on your fretting hand is little dents on your fingertips. That’s because the guitar strings are thin and hard and as you press them against the fretboard they dig into your skin.
So, aside from the calluses that your fingers will develop over time, these extra padded layers might also appear uneven with a slight groove, but that’s completely normal.
Plus the calluses and the irregularities of your fingertips might give your fingers an extra inch in length.
The fretting hand is the one that has to stretch the most because you need to be able to reach notes that may be further away, not only will that feel uncomfortable at the start but for beginners, it may seem impossible.
As you practice however you will notice that you are able to stretch your fingers more and more. The regular stretching of the tendons, ligaments, and joints in your fretting hand can actually change the way it looks.
Perhaps you will notice that the fingers on one of the hands appear to be slightly longer, even more so when you stretch your fingers or hold them wide open against each other, and that’s because you’re using different techniques on both hands and they.
Increased Hand Span
Similarly, you may notice that your fretting hand will appear to be larger than it was before you started playing the guitar, and while you may see a difference between your two hands the change will most likely be subtle.
The way you grip and hold your guitar will not only affect how you are playing but also how it looks, but you would have to be playing the guitar regularly and for years to see any serious difference, and even then it won’t necessarily be that visual.
The strength, dexterity, and coordination of your hands and finger will be the most obvious change that will greatly improve how well you play your guitar, especially with complicated techniques like fingerstyle.
Do Guitar Players Have Long Fingers?
As you see yourself training your hands to perform various guitar techniques rely on finger strength more so than how long your fingers are.
There are good guitarists that have short and fat fingers, as well as long and thin fingers, and everything in between. The truth is that the size or shape of their fingers is not what makes them good. Their technique and constant practice make them good.
In fact, some famous guitarists had lost part of their fingers and continued to play guitar. Django Reinhardt a violin and banjo player lost the use of the third and fourth fingers of his left hand when he dragged himself and his wife through the fire.
Instead of giving up he picked up the guitar and managed to play incredible solos with only his index and second finger.
So, I’m sure most professional guitar players out there will tell you that you need to exercise your fingers instead of worrying about their size or shape.
Is It Better To Have Long Fingers When Playing Guitar?
I mean if you have long fingers I’m sure it may give you a certain advantage, but in reality, it won’t make a difference. At the end of the day, it’s better to have strong fingers instead of long fingers in order to play guitar and produce a high-quality sound.
If you are someone who envisions themselves performing string bending, or tapping and legato techniques, during which a group of notes is played together in one down-bow or up-bow, then you need finger strength.
The more you play the guitar the more skilled you become and with time you’ll be able to reach notes that span four frets!
Can Your Fingers Be Too Small To Play The Guitar?
No fingers are too short for guitar playing unless you have extremely small hands or serious mobility issues.
If you are experiencing problems because of how small your hands are then perhaps it’s not really the size of your fingers, it’s just the learning process that is hard.
For those of you who are at the beginning of your guitar journey, you need to remember that it’s going to be hard regardless of how long your fingers are.
After all, children are able to learn and play the guitar so maybe the issue is not the size of your hands but the fact that you find it difficult to stretch your fingers.
Can My Fingers Be Too Fat To Play The Guitar?
Danny Gatton was a short guitarist who created a musical style he called “redneck jazz,” he combined blues, rockabilly, jazz, and country.
If you look at any of his pictures or the video below you will not just hear a virtuoso at play but also see that he has short and thick fingers that don’t stop him from creating this amazing sound!
Danny and plenty of other famous guitarists out there are living proof that the shape and size of your fingers won’t prevent you from playing the guitar.
The truth is that we’ve all struggled at the start of our musical journey and playing the guitar felt unnatural for most of us. But with enough practice, you will be able to reach the same notes and strings even with the thickest fingers out there!
What To Do If You Have Short Fingers?
If you feel self-conscious about the fact that you have shorter than average fingers, or you truly believe that the length of your fingers is affecting your performance then here are a few things that can help you improve your guitar game and boost your confidence!
Stretch Your Hands
A great way to improve the span of your hand and fingers and your overall playability is to do some warm-up and hand stretching exercises before and after you play the guitar.
Not only will a good warm-up prepare you mentally and physically but it will also prevent injuries. You see the principle here is the same as with any exercise, by warming up your hands and fingers you will raise the temperature of your hand muscles, thus increasing your flexibility and overall efficiency.
Some light stretching is essential because it will relax and lengthen all the tight muscles in your fingers and no matter how small, they will be able to reach the notes that span your fretboard with more ease.
My best tip here, especially for those of you who are suffering from cold hands, is to wash your hands in warm water beforehand because cold fingers can fill stiff and they won’t stretch as easily. Just remember to dry your hands thoroughly cause you don’t want to get your strings wet.
Additionally, don’t try to play the hardest song from the get-go, even if you warm up your hands you’ll still need to help your fingers adjust to your guitar. So, start playing a simple exercise to warm up instead.
Try A Reduced-Scale Guitar
If you think that a short-scale guitar will suit you best then there’s nothing wrong with trying that path. Angus Young the legendary lead guitarist of AC/DC gravitated towards a Gibson SG most likely because of his size because this guitar is perfect for short folks with small hands.
However, I still think it’s important to try playing a full-sized guitar first, mostly because “full-sized” guitars are not one size.
What you need to look at first is the guitar’s neck. The longer the neck, the larger the gap between the frets, and that can be particularly comfortable for those of you with small hands because your fingers won’t have to stretch as far.
The width of the neck can also make things harder for someone with small hands and if that’s the case for you then you’ll probably find it much easier to reach the fretboard on guitars with a thin neck.
A guitar that doesn’t have a bulky body and that has a flat, thin and short neck will actually work great for someone with small hands, so you don’t necessarily need a reduced-sized guitar but the right brand and model.
As you play the guitar you will notice some physical changes, your hands and fingers will develop muscle, ligament, and tendon strength.
Your fingertips will develop calluses and dents while your fingers, especially the ones on your fretting hand will stretch and that might make them appear longer.
That’s all part of the game, but long fingers are not what will make you a better guitarist, instead it’s your finger dexterity, coordination, and strength that will help you improve your skills and produce the music you want to hear.
So, no matter how short, long or thick your fingers might be start playing now and remember to work and improve on your skills instead of obsessing over your finger length.