Hand Size And Scale Length

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...

Re: Hand Size And Scale Length

Postby pablus » Fri Feb 11, 2011 12:20 am

bobg wrote:
pablus wrote:I played 640mm for more than 2 years. Once my fingers got used to it, every time I picked out
my flamenco guitar, 650mm, I felt like it was a very big instrument. I sold my 640mm eventually since not only it
did not improve my playing but I got a bit of unwanted tension in my left hand. The reason for that was that
my 640mm got string spacing at nut a bit too narrow for me (I like 43.5mm). My hand span is around 8".
My lesson is that the most important parameters in a guitar are string spacing (at nut and saddle)
and neck thicnkess (I like very thin). Try to optimize these things first.
Finally, if my hand span was 7" I would definitely go with 640mm or even 630mm.
P.

It's my understanding that a 'standard' 650mm guitar has a 52mm nut width. Do you have a 650mm with 43.5 width? If so, is this a custom guitar or a specific production guitar? I would be very interested in anything that could make life easier for my left hand.

With 8-1/4" hand span, my 630mm is difficult to bar with '1' and simultaneously span past three of the lower frets with the '4' finger. I can do it but I have to hit it just right. At best, it's not a pleasant experience. Nevertheless I can still make this span on a 650 at which point it is down right painful. I think it partly has to do with the strength in the '4' finger. Being an old geezer, strength takes a long time for me to develop. Fortunately, there isn't a lot of call for this particular acrobatic. Unfortunately my favourite piece requires it.

I also have a 3/4 student guitar which is quite a bit easier to play than my full width 630mm but there's not enough clearance between the strings and the sound is not very good (cheap guitar). It sounds like a cross between a guitar and a ukulele.

I find that playing different sized guitars is easy if you have the piece memorized and can look at the fretboard. It might be a little trickier with sight reading.


All my guitars have been built to my specifications by luthiers. I do have a 650mm wit 43.5mm string spacing at nut.
I find it easier to play than 42mm as my hand is more relaxed with the wider fingerboard/string spacing.
There are many other playability aspects but at least two parameters can be checked. First is to shorten the scale length
by using a capo and see if the guitar plays better. 650mm with a capo would give 613.5mm. String spacing at nut can be optimized by installing a nut with some wider/narrower spacing.
Again this can be done without a problem on an existing guitar (as long as the fingerboard is wide enough).
I also like thin necks and tall frets, and feel that they improve my playing.

Its difficult for me to give a specific advise for you since the age and the inevitable loss of dexterity comes into play. For me 630mm is small already.
Other things that may helpe are: trying lower tension strings. Checking if the guitar has a good setup, no excess relief, neck is staight etc.
Good luck
P.
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Re: Hand Size And Scale Length

Postby kechance » Tue Oct 18, 2011 8:25 pm

I've been reading through some of the posts today - long scale vs. short scale...I think it is a false choice. I think that the discussion should be framed in terms of hand size to fingerboard dimensions. Shouldn't guitar sizing also take account of the player's hand size? (Like shoes take account of foot size, hats take account of head size, rings take account of finger size, etc.)

I played for years on a guitar with a scale/neck width of 650mm/52mm, and forever my fingers were running into each other. By chance, I got a Ramirez flamenco in hand with a 656/53 neck, and my playing was instantly better. And enticed by that, I got a Ramirez concert classical with a 664/54 neck. Now, that was the sort of soccerfield-sized board that I needed to run around on. I could finally stack my 4-3-2 fingers to make B-chords and their relatives... My fingers don't get tangled up making jumps, like on the Bach Bouree. And my plucking fingers seldom run into neighboring strings, like on tremolos. At last, I feel like I have room to breathe! When I read about these 640, 630, 613.5mm guitars, I feel an attack of clausterphobia coming one...

I'm not saying any of this to extol long scale length guitars - but for me, and probably for others with big hands, they are downright comfy.

So, is there a way to relate scale length and neck width to the dimensions of one's hands?? The key hand dimensions, I think are palm width, lengths of the index, middle and ring fingers, pinky to thunb span, index to pinky tip span, and 4-3-2 finger stack width.

From my own hand: pinky to thumb 250mm, index to pinky 190mm, palm width (index knuckle to pinky knuckle) 100mm, 4-3-2 stack width 44mm...That last one, is almost as wide as the whole board, in just my three smallest fingers, so I have to bunch them, with occasional buzzing...sigh.

And for those who want a good laugh, I can recommend the You Tube video entitled, Rachmaninov Had Big Hands...It's about piano, but some will be able to relate. Here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifKKlhYF53w
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Re: Hand Size And Scale Length

Postby soltirefa » Sun Oct 23, 2011 1:31 pm

There is a 630mm for sale here.

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=63098
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Re: Hand Size And Scale Length

Postby dedos » Sun Oct 23, 2011 3:03 pm

I remember the first time I shook Paulino Bernabe's hand back in 1970 and was amazed that a man of his size had such large hands. At the time, the scale of his guitars were mostly (I don’t think he made any shorter) 660mm and when I first played one I wondered at the size. Although I had played other guitars of this length, his guitar felt large. I asked him about it and he told me that a professional would have no problem and that indeed, he had no problem with the fretboard size.
The image shows why he had no problem with the 660mm size.
An additional note about his hands. If you ever met him you would always notice his hands. After he died, his wife remarked at the number of people who commented on his hands. In a word, they were artistic.

Paulino's-hands.jpg
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Re: Hand Size And Scale Length

Postby kechance » Mon Oct 24, 2011 9:31 pm

Great picture. Thank you for sharing one from a true master. He left us all a great legacy of workmanship and sound.

I think he and I must have the same hands, though I have only his physiognomy, and none of his talent, I am sure...

Going back to the premise of thread - is there a scale for relating fingerboard dimensions to hand size? This would be a useful thing to develop if it does not exist. It would help beginners find the right size guitar for themselves, and it would get us all away from the idea that there is a 'right' or 'best' set of fingerboard dimensions. As in every endeavor involving human factors, there is a relationship between the size of the person and the size of the tool. In that relationship, one finds what is best for oneself.

I personally think, for me, a 656-664mm scale length with a 54mm width is probably best since I have a wider-than-average-hand, and longish, fat fingers. I even saw a 652/56 avertized recently. That looked very interesting! Wish I could remember where I saw it...Alzheimers will surely get me before I find the 'perfect' guitar, or more importantly, before I perfect my skill...
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Re: Hand Size And Scale Length

Postby wezly » Tue Jan 24, 2012 3:32 pm

I've read it somewhere and the posts here that suggests smaller size guitar for small hands. Are these shorter scale length CG - 615mm; 630mm: or 640mm have a shorter spacing between frets than the 650mm? My understanding is that these frets spacing are measured for proper intonation. so if you shortened the spacing, wouldn't it have a problem with intonation? If fret spacing are the same, then it wouldn't help any at all even if you play smaller size CG as far as horizontal stretch is concerned. Please correct me if i'm wrong.. I know there are narrower nuts but it will only matter as far as vertical stretch is concerned.
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Re: Hand Size And Scale Length

Postby kechance » Mon Feb 06, 2012 3:52 pm

I am no luthier, but it is my understanding that the distribution of the frets on the fretboard follows a mathematical formula, based on the scale length. It is approximately, "Take 1/18th of the scale length to place the first fret, then take 18th of the remaining length to place the second fret and so forth." This is only an approximation, to my understanding, and some adjustment is needed to get perfect intonation. (Luthiers - please comment!)

This explains why shorter necks have more closely spaced frets, since with a shorter neck, you're starting with a smaller length to subdivide.
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Re: Hand Size And Scale Length

Postby kechance » Wed Feb 15, 2012 2:45 pm

Just to clarify my previous comment: intonation should theoretically be fine on an instrument if the frets fall into the 'intonation-perfect" mathematical relationship to the scale length. In other words, for each scale length, there is some appropriate scale length that will provide for good intonation, and it is mathematically defined.

I'm still hoping to receive more hand measurements on this thread - there have been almost 2000 views, but only approx 20 measurements of hands. That is about 1 reader in 100 who is contruibuting measurements. Don't be shy! :D This is an attempt to crowd source!

I have noticed, that when I play harmonics, I have an easier time plucking them with volume on guitars of longer scale length. Is there a bigger sweet spot for the harmonic on a longer string? Also, I guess, since the harmonics create a sine wave in the string, the longer string will have a longer wavelength and can achieve slightly greater amplitude (and hence volume) as a consequence. Have others noticed this, or have had contrary observations?
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Re: Hand Size And Scale Length

Postby Les Backshall » Wed Feb 15, 2012 3:23 pm

kechance wrote:I am no luthier, but it is my understanding that the distribution of the frets on the fretboard follows a mathematical formula, based on the scale length. It is approximately, "Take 1/18th of the scale length to place the first fret, then take 18th of the remaining length to place the second fret and so forth." This is only an approximation, to my understanding, and some adjustment is needed to get perfect intonation. (Luthiers - please comment!)

This explains why shorter necks have more closely spaced frets, since with a shorter neck, you're starting with a smaller length to subdivide.


It's generally known as the 'Rule of 18', but these days with spreadsheets etc... the figure usually used is 17.817 - this puts the octave at F12 at exactly half the scale length. This formula assumes that the strings are perfect and vibrating freely i.e. not being fretted - so no account is taken of string imperfection, stretch, stiffness etc... These are usually 'corrected' for by adding a small amount - +-2mm - to the scale length at the saddle and then further adjusting for each string. Some makers also make adjustments at the nut. There have been many threads about intonation in the luthiers forum and elsewhere here.

Just as examples, the nut to first fret distances (to nearest .1mm) for a few popular scale lengths are as follows:
660=37.0
650=36.5
640=35.9
630=35.4

Les
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Re: Hand Size And Scale Length

Postby Tomzooki » Wed Feb 15, 2012 3:31 pm

kechance wrote:I'm still hoping to receive more hand measurements on this thread - there have been almost 2000 views, but only approx 20 measurements of hands.


OK, here are mine:
Thumb to pinky span: 204mm (8 1/8 inches)
Index to pinky span: 171mm (6 13/16 inches)
Thumb length: 54mm (2 1/8 inches)
Index length: 69mm (2 3/4 inches)
Middle finger length: 78mm (3 inches)
Ring finger length: 73mm (2 7/8 inches)
Pinky length: 61mm (2 3/8 inches)

I am a 5'3" woman...

My beloved Raby guitar is a standard 650mm scale with a 52mm width. I can play Un Sueno en la Floresta by Barrios on it... My guitar is quite easy to play; years ago I was playing the same piece on a guitar with the same dimensions, but hard to play... I was still able to play it, but it was an ordeal... Not because of the dimensions, but because of the hardness of the guitar and my weak woman hands.

There is a cute story around the piece, Un Sueno en la Floresta, and me. I was playing it at the Conservatory where I met my husband. He just loved that piece, it is still his favorite CG piece. Of course I stopped to play that monster of a piece, and later stopped completely CG. :( After a 10 years hiatus last year I took back CG :D Of course Hubby asked me to play that piece again :D But I could not; the guitar I was playing was too hard to play and my left hand had lost a lot of its strength. I told him "When I will have a new good guitar easy to play, I will play it again" So last fall, when I was trying potential new guitars, the question he was always asking was "is it easy to play??" I finally acquired my Benoît Raby guitar, which is quite easy to play (not the most easy I tried, but still easy, and we can't have everything, I just loved the tone of that guitar... :roll: ). Now I am learning back Un Sueno en la Floresta, and I am almost surprised to see that finally I could play it without suffering and sweating :mrgreen:

BTW, concerning the width of the neck, don't forget you can simply adjust the distance between strings by changing the nut... :wink:
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Re: Hand Size And Scale Length

Postby AndreiKrylov » Thu Feb 16, 2012 4:03 am

Yes this statistics irrelevant ...but it could prove another point...
It would be interesting to know how many of those who play larger and larger guitars have some health problems with hands ...?

I see that Tomzooki with small hands playing larger neck than me... and she complained about Carpal Tunnel, so size of the neck, and easiness/uneasiness of playing on her guitar, could be as well one of the reason of her problem...?

I measured my hand again 250mm between pinky and thumb (it is funny on my right hand it is easily 260 mm)
and 190 mm between pinky and index
But I prefer 650mm scale and 42mm between 1 and 6 string (I play mostly 7 string guitar)
I like to use capo too.
I have a large hands, but I don't like long and wide necks

Yes guitar must be as convenient as possible, but it is not as simple as shoes size.
If it will be that than why violinists would not start to play different size of violins according to their hand sizes?
I'd better speak by music...Please listen Andrei Krylov at CDbaby, iTunes, Spotify, Amazon etc. Thanks!
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Re: Hand Size And Scale Length

Postby wezly » Sat Feb 18, 2012 11:05 am

kechance wrote:I am no luthier, but it is my understanding that the distribution of the frets on the fretboard follows a mathematical formula, based on the scale length. It is approximately, "Take 1/18th of the scale length to place the first fret, then take 18th of the remaining length to place the second fret and so forth." This is only an approximation, to my understanding, and some adjustment is needed to get perfect intonation. (Luthiers - please comment!)

This explains why shorter necks have more closely spaced frets, since with a shorter neck, you're starting with a smaller length to subdivide.


Ok now i understand why those with smaller hands should prefer shorter scale guitar. My hands are not that big but i have a 650 scale CG. What about the volume? they say longer scale has more volume than shorter scale. Is it true?
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Re: Hand Size And Scale Length

Postby Tomzooki » Sat Feb 18, 2012 8:16 pm

AndreiKrylov wrote:I see that Tomzooki with small hands playing larger neck than me... and she complained about Carpal Tunnel, so size of the neck, and easiness/uneasiness of playing on her guitar, could be as well one of the reason of her problem...?


I never had CP problems before. It correlates more with my hypothyroidism trouble than CG playing. At least I hope so... It is far better now :mrgreen:
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Re: Hand Size And Scale Length

Postby daowens » Thu Feb 23, 2012 9:30 pm

My hand is 8.25 inches thumb to pinky and I play a 650 mm scale, but I do encounter a few problems, but not
many. Thickness of the neck affects stretch to some degree.

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Re: Hand Size And Scale Length

Postby MatthiasYoung » Fri Mar 02, 2012 7:47 pm

I've recently discovered some shorter scale classical guitars and I find them extremely comfortable to play. I've never measured my hand span, but I can reach the interval of an 11th on the piano. And "full" scale is 650mm. So a Les Paul is a child's guitar at 630mm? I think not. 19th century guitars were in the 610mm-620mm range. The guitar scale length has grown to accommodate the need for more sound, but it gets to a point where there is a diminishing return. If a string is longer, it takes more energy to move air, so at a certain point, it's not louder, hence why bass guitars are quiet.
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