I'm getting sort of proficient with the guitar but there is one thing stopping me from learning a song I wanna learn. Bar chords. I have short fingers so I can't use a classical guitar but my fingers are way too stubby and thick for a smaller guitar. I feel like this ends any possibility of me playing guitar

  • 1
    Your last sentence is self defeating. There are many great plyers with short stubby fingers, they just learned to adapt to their instrument, simple as that. Commented Nov 3, 2018 at 14:43
  • 1
    I’ve been playing guitar for 25 years, including paid professional gigs, and I practically never play barre chords. Commented Nov 4, 2018 at 8:33
  • @ToddWilcox - if it was as a lead guitarist, I wouldn't be surprised. As a rhythm or only guitarist in a small band, I'd love to know how and why. In a big band situation, with so many other sounds going on, it's often best to play small chords.
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 4, 2018 at 14:23
  • @Tim I’ve been the only guitarist in a three piece (where I learned less is definitely more), a five piece, and several musical orchestra pits. How is that you don’t have to barre to play those shapes and you can leave out the top and/or bottom note (depending) with no one noticing. You can also revoice barre chords to other shapes. Why is because barre chords hurt my hand. Commented Nov 4, 2018 at 14:34
  • How long are your individual fingers? I use an alternative tuning which might be helpful if your index finger can reach across all six strings while barring the furthest four but your other fingers are shorter. For most chords the upper fingers only play on the nearest three strings (for a couple kinds of chords the ring finger reaches to the fourth string). Fingerings are shown pretty clearly on youtube.com/watch?v=nHUQQQGpVUc if you want to see how they look.
    – supercat
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 21:48

4 Answers 4


Classical guitars usually have wide fingerboards and deep necks. This doesn't help players with small hands to play barre chords. Also, fingerboards are generally flat. To get round this, you need yo try out some acoustic guitars. Their necks are thinner, their fingerboards are narrower, and they're usually cambered.

There is always the issue of string gauge. Usually the strings on acoustic guitars are something like .011, .012, .013", making them sound rich, but at the same time, making them harder to press down. By changing to .008 or .009", they will be easier to play barre chords. Also bear in mind that with a lot of barre chords, the barre finger will actually only have to press three strings - the others are either muted, not played or pressed down a fret or two higher up the fretboard. And with a well set up guitar, there should be no need to strangle the neck to press them down anyway.

You'll struggle initially to fit stubby, thick fingers onto where they belong, but eventually, you'll find ways - using one finger for two adjacent strings, for example, and won't look back. Try out several guitars - the neck profile, fret width and camber all contribute to subtle differences in playability. There will be one out there that says 'take me home'.


From personal experience, I started out with acoustic guitars. Yes, barre chords are difficult and it was more so for me since the guitar I used before have thick strings. Only after a long time of practice was I able to learn barre chords. I was also able to stretch my fingers and easily do chords that I can't before. Don't give up yet and continue practicing.


I'd ask how many years you've been playing.

No one on this planet is perfectly sized for a given instrument. That said we will tend to gravitate towards instruments that fit us best. There are some famous violin players with huge hands and stubby fingers and they play those tiny instruments beautifully. The key is learning to use what you have. As you learn an instrument you are really learning to use and control your own body. You don't master or conquer the instrument, you master and conquer yourself. It takes time, patience and lots of practice. So, I would recommend wood shedding bar chords, learn to finger them the best you can and adjust what you need to to grab the chord. Sometimes you don't really need to grab the whole chord to play what is written (this is a common misunderstanding among folks who don't take lessons). Also, as has been said, the classical is very wide compared to electric guitar necks.

In addition to the neck width the spacing of the frets can be altered (but this may require a custom guitar build and can be expensive). I have a Jackson made in the 80's with custom fret spacing to make the 15th fret closer to 12th fret spacing so I could play in the very highest register with all 4 fingers.

There is no dead-end only quitting so look for learning resources that can help you get a handle on the things that seem difficult. After time and practice these things will become easy.

  • How the heck is the thing in tune with an altered 15th fret?
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 3, 2018 at 17:03
  • 1
    You just need to scale everything else up appropriately.
    – user50691
    Commented Nov 3, 2018 at 17:16
  • The whole ax is non-standard, but works
    – user50691
    Commented Nov 3, 2018 at 17:16
  • You mean it was re-intonated, and worked, or most of the frets were moved subtly?
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 3, 2018 at 17:21
  • No, it was made that way from scratch, not "reworked". It was not an off the rack ax. Whether or not the template was "reworked" I can't say. I gave them specs and they worked it out. The physics of it is sound.
    – user50691
    Commented Nov 3, 2018 at 17:34

Perhaps you can try other instruments at your local shop like mandolin 8 strings lot of tuning but less than 12 string guitar. The Bass guitar might be an option too I play my bass like electric and I palm mute on electric with 400 watt SWR Bass and EQ and it makes a better bass guitar sound In My Opinion.

Electric guitar is a lot less difficult to fret (push down on strings). Also I think you can try alternative tunings like drop D 75545 or try tuning 55555 straight across until you understand the scale patterns. And why you have to compensate on the B and high E strings. I use this mnemonic to remember +5 fret pattern:

Angler Dogs Get Cat Fish it repeats sharped A#D#G#C#F# and I remember 7th fret BEAD.

Get tuxGuitar software and GuitarTuna on your phone. Also see Anki flashcard app and you can learn a lot of stuff and make your own flashcards.

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.