Any tips for someone with short fat fingers trying to play guitar?
I find that when trying to play chords, I accidentally cover other strings.
Does anyone know of a way to solve or work around this problem?
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the flexibility to stretch and fret chords accurately can be developed over time regardless of your fingers. I've taught many students of different hand sizes, and they all struggle with this same problem and eventually overcome it once they are trained in the right technique.
It's easier to demonstrate this in person, but you want to make sure that your fretting hand is pressing down on the strings with the finger tips, not finger pads. The fingers should "stand tall" so as not to accidentally mute the neighbouring strings. Here are a couple of things you can try:
(1) make sure that the joints in your fretting fingers are bent
(2) make sure that the thumb in your fretting hand is not hanging over the front of the neck excessively - if you're having trouble with chords like C, F, Am, or D, try placing the thumb in your fretting hand below the middle line of the back of your guitar neck. Your left arm/elbow should be pressing against your body. This should automatically make your fretting fingers "rise" and stand taller so as not to mute other strings, and also help you to stretch to reach frets easier.
I hope this helps.. It can be frustrating in the beginning, but the other thing this also requires is time and repetition as you train your muscles to contort in uncomfortable new ways!
Go finger by finger. If you can't hold all the notes in a chord, try to hold just a few of the notes. Then, one-by-one try placing your fingers to the right position, while checking for cleanliness between every move. It is a slow and tedious process, but ultimately you will be able to learn even the difficult chords this way. Also, for inspiration, check out these amazing players with short fingers: Shawn Lane, Michael Romero. So, don't think short fingers can stand in your way.
When I first began playing I was trying to look at my chord forms, and unknowingly this was tilting the fretboard toward my body. This meant an even greater stretch of the fingers and an uncomfortable wrist position. First idea, get comfortable with the chord shapes, don't try playing until you can place them without looking. Also my first guitar was a cheap and nasty one, my playing started to improve when I earned enough for a narrow, curved fretboard. Worth keeping at it!
Others have answered re technique, but I wondered about the guitar itself. Horses for courses.. maybe your guitar doesn't suit your hands?
Neck width: Not all guitar fretboards are the same. Acoustic guitars, especially nylon string guitars, tend to have wider necks meaning there's more space between the stringss, so if you have larger finger pads, you stand a better chance of baing able tofret a note cleanly. The flipside is that you may have to reach further across the neck. Sometimes the difference doesn' look like much but when yo come to play the guitar, it can feel quite a lot different.
This is also true of electric guitars, although the divide is less obvious. Different models of the same guitar have different neck widths. Eg a Fender Stratocaster can but in standard or wide neck form, and Yamaha guitars tend to have good variance. It's probably worth going to a well-stocked guitar shop and explaining the problem, and trying a few.
This is the amount of wood on the nect that you have to reach around. If this is too chunky, you need to reach further which won't help.
Neck length: Some guitars have shorter necks, too. eg if you're looking at electric guitars, Gibson generally tend to have slightly shorter necks than Fenders, meaning the frets are nearer so you have to stretch less.
Action: A further aspect is the Action (the distance between the guitar string and the frets). If this is too high, then any guitar will feel like a handful to play. 2-3mm is usually about right, around the octave (13th) fret.
The Nut: This is the bridge nearest the tuning pegs. If this is set too high then the action at that end is high, and all the "usual" chords played at the low end of the neck (C, E , especially F) will feel like real hard work.