I am a beginner guitar player and understand that harder chords and barre chords take time to play well as I build hand strength, toughened fingers, etc. But I've wondered if it's possible I simply have too big of a guitar. Do guitar come in proper sizes for adults in general, or is it only in extreme cases that people use smaller guitars, such as for children? My hands are probably smaller than average simply because my height is 5'6", but not to the point that it seems impossible to play these chords crisply.

I'm familiar with string instruments having played viola for 6 years, so my question is somewhat asking if guitars are more like violas where they fit to many different sizes, or if they're more like violins where there is pretty much a capped full size that most everybody uses past a certain age when they grow tall enough.

  • Acoustic? Electric? Body size? Neck size?
    – jonrsharpe
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 17:47
  • I've played guitar for about eighteen years and I'm perfectly average size. With that in mind, I almost never play a barre chord. I just revoice and/or refinger chords to make them comfortable. Just another take on dealing with the difficult chords. Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 12:53

4 Answers 4


I commend you on your desire to learn to play guitar. It is a very versatile instrument and can provide a lifetime of enjoyment at any proficiency level. But it is not the easiest instrument to learn to play because of the need to train your brain to get your hands and fingers to contort in very un-natural positions, not to mention tender fingertips against steel strings.

In answer to your question, guitars come in all manner of different shapes and sizes - even among what is considered a full sized or full scale guitar.

Many acoustic guitars are of the dreadnaught shape which is quite large. I have a dreadnaught guitar but find it a little more cumbersome to play than my concert body guitars that have a narrower waist. Some folks like the big boomy bassy sound of a dreadnaught.

In addition to varying shapes, acoustic guitars also come in varying depths. I generally prefer a slightly thinner body guitar personally as it is more comfortable to hold and play.

In addition to different body sizes, full size guitars also come with different neck profiles, widths and thicknesses. They can have a C shaped neck or a D shaped neck or a V shaped neck. I personally prefer a C shaped neck as I have smaller hands.

Neck widths on an steel string acoustic folk guitar can range from 1 5/8" at the nut to 1 7/8".

There are also full scale acoustics that have a neck that joins the body at the 12th fret instead of the 14th fret. These may have the same scale length as a 14 fret but a longer body with a different orientation of the sound hole relative to the bridge.

Here is an example of some of the different shapes you might find on a full size acoustic guitar either in a standard 14 fret or 12 fret configuration.

enter image description here

If you feel you might benefit from trying a slightly smaller guitar, many of my students love the Taylor GS Mini. It's slightly larger than a 3/4 size guitar but has a very full sound and comfortable neck profile.

Here is a link to the Taylor Website GS Mini Page Taylor GS Mini

You can find these used for less than $400 and new for under $500.

You might want to visit a local music store that carries a large variety of guitars and just try out as many as you can. I would stick with the smaller waisted body styles (like the grand concert or the auditorium 000) though if playing comfort is important to you.

Don't become discouraged by a guitar that makes it more difficult to play. Keep playing the one you have while you shop for one that is more comfortable to play.

You may also want to read this How to minimize the pain of learning to play guitar

Good luck on your journey to learning to play this wonderful instrument we call the guitar.


There are definitely different sizes of adult acoustic guitars. If you have to "hulk" around the body of your instrument it is probably going to make life very hard while playing. Travel or gig size guitars can still have a very full sound and there is no "benefit" to having one size or shape, it comes down to personal preference.

Further difficulties in playing may come from factory strings, which can be over-stiff, or a poorly set nut or bridge, which are the locations where the strings rest at the top of the neck and below the soundhole. These can make the strings too high and require more strength and accuracy to press down and also it can lead to unintentional muting of adjacent strings. I don't recommend going straight into modifying the workmanship on a guitar but nice, flexible strings are a must.

I personally could not play barre chords on my acoustic until I changed the strings, my electric allowing me to hit barre chords much more easily.

Anyway, you're local music store should let you try out different guitar sizes, after a few hours of practice on the one you have, you'll be able to tell right away if another one had a better feel.


The previous commenters are giving useful information, but as an amateur acoustic guitarist with small hands, I think the critical issue is not the size of the body, but the width, depth, and length of the neck.

  1. Small hands make it harder to span the frets, especially at the bottom of the fretboard where the beginner or "cowboy" chords live. One cool trick is to play with a capo on the first or second fret. All the fingerings will "work" the same (sounding a little higher), but the distance between frets will physically decrease. Instant larger hands!

  2. On the other hand, you might find that further up the fretboard, the neck of your guitar becomes too wide or (more usually) too thick to grip the chords. Barre chords get easier to stretch, but harder to press down, and thumb grips get much harder.

  3. Ideally, you'd have a guitar with a neck that's not too long, too wide, or too thick. You can choose, within reason, a scale length: most Martins are 25.5" long, while Gibsons are a little shorter at 24.7". Some travel or parlor guitars have even shorter scale lengths, so that might help. You can also choose nut width, and anything wider than 1 3/4" at the nut is going to be harder to play. My favorite instrument has a scale length of 24.7" and a nut width of 1 11/16", and there are even guitars that go a little narrower, although most of these are electrics. Thickness is the wild card: there is no way to predict how a given guitar's neck will be shaped except to try it out. One might avoid necks with a "V"-shape or a "C"-shape, and try necks that are advertised as "modern" or "fast" or "comfortable," all of which are code for "not as close to a baseball bat as we might have made it."

This is why guitar stores are still the best place to buy a guitar. You can't tell until you actually play one how well the neck is going to fit you.


I’ve had terrible elbow and shoulder tendon issues for nearly 3 years before getting past barre chords and what really helped me with my smaller hands, smaller body, and unresolved injuries was a combination of treating guitar practice like a sport and doing things that would help my body recover better from hard playing sessions, and then getting a shortscale 24” electric guitar, and a shortscale 24” acoustic. Now I’m playing barre chords some of my mentors don’t like and getting much better.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.