Another "Are my hands too small" thread

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by green3101, Feb 29, 2024.

  1. green3101


    Aug 31, 2016
    Hi guys,

    Getting stuck inside my own head a bit on this one.

    I'm a pretty tall guy (6'2) with fairly long arms. However, oddly I have quite small hands. My fingers (not including thumb) on my fretting hand can only comfortably stretch between 12-14cm.

    It's always slowed me down a bit unfortunately with how I play/what I can play and progression. I don't think my technique is the absolute worst but then who's perfect? I've had to deviate a little and do what works for me, to get around my hand size relative to the instrument.

    I do suffer from RSI quite often in my fretting hand and left in a bit of pain after playing. I've tried smaller scale basses but I find the smaller bodies and smaller necks alien to me (i'm 32 and i've been playing since I was 14), I learnt on a Fender Jazz knock-off peavey bass when I first started.

    I currently own a 2013 Fender American Standard Jazz Bass and a brand new Fender American Pro II Precision Bass.

    I love my two basses, especially my new P bass. The neck on it is a little chunkier and I can definitely feel it, especially after playing when my wrist/forearm is in some discomfort. I love the sound of a P bass and I really don't want to part company with it. Surely there is a way round the issues I face but still be able to love and play a bass that i've wanted for years?

    Apologies this thread doesn't seem to be asking a real set question. I just wanted to ask for people's advice I guess and really don't want to give up. I love the bass and always have ever since I started it when I was at school. Sounds daft but it's part of me and part of who I am. I guess ultimately my question to everyone is - "are my hands just not built to play the bass?". Seems like a stupid question I guess, but with the pain and discomfort I experience, it's rather soul crushing and does bring me down a lot.

    I'd be very grateful for any help or advice offered. Need my fellow TBers to pick me up a bit here!

    Wyrdlow, BBQisgood, DJ Bebop and 2 others like this.
  2. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass Supporting Member

    May 10, 2006
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2024
  3. onda'bass

    onda'bass Supporting Member

    Sep 5, 2010
    Buffalo Ny
    Hand size doesn't matter. I have average hands and do fine. Never held me back either.
    JRA, thetaxmiser, moorebass and 3 others like this.
  4. Michael Stanley 2112

    Michael Stanley 2112 Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 23, 2020
    I have small hands as well and I have always used what I call "micro movements" to compensate for it.

    As I have said here many times: I was a guitar player who dragooned into playing bass and I didn't have time to learn "the proper way" until later on.

    I'm missing two finger tips on my right hand. So, I played with a pick for a long time (and still do, occasionally. Please see the whole, sad, story here.)

    Play however you need to to get the job done.
  5. KenD


    Oct 25, 2020
    Vancouver Island
    You will have to compensate for a shorter finger stretch by improving/perfecting your shifting technique, recognition of shape and note placement options, etc. That can all be done very successfully.

    For example, Rufus Philpot claims in one of his youtube video lessons to have small hands and he seems to have done quite well:

    Kubicki Fan, One Way and USAJO like this.
  6. USAJO


    Apr 13, 2005
    There are incredibly successful pianists, guitarists and I’m sure bassists with small hands. When I start thinking about these types of things I have to remind myself they are excuses not reasons.

    Right now I’m wondering if I don’t have enough flesh on my fingers and if that is affecting my tone. Lol
    Kubicki Fan and Sam Evans like this.
  7. ADHD librarian

    ADHD librarian

    Jul 18, 2020
    First, a caveat: I am not a great bass player

    Now, my opinion...
    practice with what you've got & you'll find the way to play that works for you.
    I have had boxer's fractures on both hands, have broken most of my fingers & my left thumb multiple times & my little fingers are all but useless decorations (many years playing rugby).

    So, I play with flats, slide between notes on the same string, try to get my hand ready for the next shift in advance & generally look for shortcuts. I am sure a music teacher would look at my technique in horror, but I have managed to do what works for me so that I can enjoy playing.
    I do sometimes sit down and practice more orthodox techniques, to try and get my little finger back in the game & because the more I do that the more movement I am regaining in my fingers. But that's a slow progression & I'm still having fun even without good style.
  8. USAJO


    Apr 13, 2005
    I was told three finger fretting is a traditional way of playing that is taught. Not sure if it’s upright bass or what. Fact or fiction?
    Michael Stanley 2112 likes this.
  9. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA

    Are her hands too small? Nuff’ said
    gebass6, JRA, LG TPAFL and 13 others like this.
  10. Dincrest

    Dincrest Supporting Member

    Sep 27, 2004
    New Jersey

    Microshifting is your friend. I do not have big hands.

    I have one 5-string with a 45mm nut and 16.5 mm string spacing and another one with a 1.875" nut and 19mm string spacing. I have to approach both differently in terms of my playing. I utilize microshifting a lot more on the 19mm bass. That being said, I find chords easier to play on the narrow-necked 16.5mm bass but slap is cleaner on the 19mm wider-necked bass.
    DJ Bebop likes this.
  11. salmon256


    Jul 10, 2021
    If you want to stay within the long scale range, Ibanez, Yamaha, and of course Jazz basses generally are skinnier and smaller necks. I love Ibanez necks, depends on model of course. Also a P-bass neck to Jazz neck may help you a lot, that is my planned project for my P maybe or selling it.

    If you want short scale, you have loads of options just gotta look. I like the Mikro bass, Mini Jazz from CNZ, Mustang, Fallout Bass from G&L and Rascal! So many more!

    Advice, I'm 5'3, small hands, petite guy, I am not a fan of my p-bass but for simple music that tends to be root note heavy or keep it calm I can get away with it just fine. Lighter gauge has helped me, may be I am just very skinny and lack muscle in my wrist though... Either way I say give the skinny necks a try you may be shocked by the results. If you also get pain in your wrist, a bass performance stand may be a good investment or a heavy duty strap.

    Good luck!
    mikewalker likes this.
  12. MultiScaleMale

    MultiScaleMale Columbia, MD Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    Don't be afraid to shift positions even in what some would say is a one finger per fret position. Don't anchor the thumb in one spot and let it move to make the reach doable.
    LowendG likes this.
  13. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    I have small/average size hands, been building 32” scale basses for my own use. Nice compromise between long and short scales without the sloppy string effect on some shorts.
  14. jthisdell


    Jun 12, 2014
    Roanoke, VA
    My hands are small and my technique improved greatly when I got a 42” electric upright, it forced me to shift my fretting hand slightly so my hand goes where the notes are, may be just an 1/8 or probably less of a shift, very subtle, but it helps. I also like low tension strings on both instruments , try some TI flats.
    bassobrutto and Rev_Slinky like this.
  15. Slade N

    Slade N Supporting Member

    May 28, 2005
    portland, or
    As said, many overcome small hands with increased focus on better technique
    KenD, MrLenny1 and onda'bass like this.
  16. dbsfgyd1


    Jun 11, 2012
    Mascoutah, IL
    12-14 cm, that is about 6-7” ? From where to where? If it’s 34’ scale bass, a 6” reach would allow for you to play a F major scale in the first position with barely moving your hand.

    I think the best way to measure your reach it to put your left hand down flat with fingers and thumb spread out as far as you can on a piece of paper. Make sure you push your hand a flat as possible keeping both index finger and thumb flat on the paper.

    Tips touching the paper. Take pen or pencil and make a dot at the tip of your thumb and your index finger. Then measure the distance between the two dots.

    The next step is measuring your wrist movement. Sit in an armed chair with your left elbow on the arm of the chair the forearm pointing upwards with your fingers pointing straight up pointing to the ceiling. Then, while holding wrist still, let your fingers curl like you are going to hold a baseball. Now note where your fingers are, then bend at the wrist joint noting how much distance your finger tip can travel even with only 15 degrees of movement at the wrist, you fingers likely are moving a good deal more than the width of a bass neck.

    Summery: The first test is for going up and down the finger board. The second test shows how well you can access the lower strings when using your ring finger and pinky finger.

    Reach issues in a lot of cases is often the result of poor hand placement and or elbow movement, and not entirely due to hand size. If you have not do so, usually, a few lessons with a qualified instructor might be in order.

    It may be better for you to with a smaller scale bass, but you have to give the acclamation period enough time before giving up on it.

    Keep working at it and Best Wishes.
  17. markjazzbassist

    markjazzbassist Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Shaker Heights, OH
    Try a short scale. It won’t hurt you. See how you like it. I love my hofner and won’t go back to a long scale. So much easier to play for me and the 3-4 hour gigs I do weekly my hands no longer cramp up, ache, or straight up hurt. I’m pain free. Average sized hands and fingers.
    Pimpernel Smith and Gilmourisgod like this.
  18. LowendG


    Jul 30, 2013
    Watch videos of Rocco playing! You gotta shift your hand. Sounds like you're trying to play "one finger per fret". All that forced stretching is gonna give you injuries. It's a physical instrument, it does need to be grappled a bit.
    I'm 5'7" with smallish hands, and far prefer 34" scale FSOs to any shorties. Some of the most famous bassists of all time largely only used 3 (or even 2) fingers and shifted their hands--alot. Generally, the ring finger is supporting the pinky in the lower registers--helps a ton.
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2024
    mambo4 likes this.
  19. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    My first DB teacher had small hands & short stubby fingers
    but could really play upright Jazz & Classical music.
    I say Stick with it and TalkBass. String spacing really helps.
    All my 5's are are 17.5mm spacing.
  20. CallMeAl


    Dec 2, 2016
    Ithaca Ny
    I see both sides as valid. On one hand, why make yourself uncomfortable? Play what feels good.

    OTOH, with good technique people learn things like double bass or 5 stringers all the time. Makes the difference in P vs J look microscopic.

    I say commit to that P bass exclusively for 4-6 weeks, focusing on slowing down and using good technique. See how you feel about it then.
    Kubicki Fan, Sam Evans and yodedude2 like this.