Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...
dbeau
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Location: Imperial Valley, California

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Postby dbeau » Mon Jan 09, 2012 10:43 pm

This thread is illuminating to me, i.e., a shorter scale s/b in my future!
I am now have/play a 655. 664 and mostly a 660.
Pinky > Thumb 220
Pinky > Index 170
Pinky > Middle 135
Pinky > Ring 85

mk49
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Location: San Jose, CA

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Postby mk49 » Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:50 pm

Maybe, my hand isn't as small as I thought (or most people who posted have small hands). Just comparing the numbers posted to mine, I think my thumb is shorter than most people.

Pinky > Thumb 210
Pinky > Index 175
Pinky > Middle 140
Pinky > Ring 95

I prefer 640mm/52mm.

kechance
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Postby kechance » Thu Jan 19, 2012 6:46 pm

Some good data is collecting. Thanks to all who have posted so far, and a repeat of the invitation to others to post if they have not yet done so.

Someone advised 'playing the smallest instrument one can comfortably manage'. I'm interested to hear others opinions and experience about this.

In terms of myself, I find that I can be more accurate with wider string spacing (nut width and string spacing in the nut notches) - in other words my right hand nails do not bump into neighboring strings, either muting them or causing them to sound accidentally.

And as for the longer neck, the other aspect of room on the fingerboard, I find I have more room for chords, especially in the higher positions. The downside of longer scale length is one's arm and hand have to be faster in making long jumps (e.g. from position IX back to position II), but I do find that I can compensate with some added arm/hand speed. But as for fitting one's fingers onto a small fretboard, if it is cramped, there simply is no way to compensate.

I also find the tone of longer scale length instruments to be more powerful, richer in deeper overtones and in the sustain of the notes. But if bright, clear and crisp are called for, then those are not necessarily the best properties for an instrument.

So, the choice about the direction to go 'play the biggest guitar that you can' versus 'play the smallest guitar that you can', is a choice about the direction of one's music, too, as well as being an ergonomic decision. I play a lot of saudades, barcaroles, largos, arpegiated preludes, tremolos and the like because I like the feel of those pieces, and the droning sustain of a bigger instrument adds something to them. But those kinds of preferences are purely personal, and they lead me in the direction of playing the biggest instrument that I can manage comfortably. One of my guitars is a 670mm/52mm. Ah, if only it were 670mm/54mm, it would be perfect...Well, I'm speaking a bit tongue in cheek because something like this would not be for everybody.
Last edited by kechance on Sun Jan 22, 2012 7:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Lovemyguitar
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Postby Lovemyguitar » Fri Jan 20, 2012 6:30 pm

My measurements:

thumb to pinky: 205 mm (210 mm with effort)
index to pinky: 148 mm (150 mm with effort)
pinky-ring-middle: 35mm
preferred scale: only ever played 650
preferred neck: only ever played 52

Wayne S

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Postby Wayne S » Sat Jan 21, 2012 2:09 am

kechance I was the person that stated that one should play the smallest string length that they are comfortable with, this is separate from the string spread at the nut and the bridge.
The spacing between the strings is very important as you stated so there is no buzzing or muffled notes against the fingers for both the right and left hands.`

String length has a direct effect on technique if a player has to constantly stretch while playing then there is more stress on the hands and fingers, less stress promotes a more fluent technique. In saying that yes if the string length is to short the fingers do bunch up and it is hard for chords in the upper register. There are many pieces that need stretches and long string lengths tend to cause over stretching in the lower part of the neck.

Changing the scale length say 20mm does not have a great effect on the higher fret spacings which is less than 1mm. Closer to the nut the difference gets larger.
The difference of say 20mm or 30mm in scale length can make a big difference to the playability of the guitar for a player with small hands and visa versa especially in the lower part of the neck.

I think the response and playability of an instrument is possibly more important than the volume that is perhaps gained from longer string lengths.
Having the best possible guitar that fits the players hands will enable that player to develop their technique to their maximum potential without having to fight the instrument.

The real question you have posted in this tread is "What is the best scale length for players with different sized hands" and this post will be invaluable in answering that question so I thank you for bringing this to the forum.
Cheers Wayne S
:D

hemiphractus
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Postby hemiphractus » Sat Jan 21, 2012 5:54 am

The biggest problem I have is string spacing. My guitar has 650mm string length with a 50mm nut and 42mm string spacing (E-e) at the nut and 46 mm at the 12th fret. This is a tad too close and I tend to muffle adjacent strings to some degree.

Pinky > Thumb 205
Pinky > Index 150
Pinky > Middle 120
Pinky > Ring 75

Wayne S

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Postby Wayne S » Sat Jan 21, 2012 6:41 am

hemiphractus I have also found 50mm at the nut (42mm spread) to be a bit narrow, however you could make a new nut and space the strings a little wider say 44 or 45mm.

My guitar is 52mm at the nut and has a 45mm spacing at the nut, 51mm at the 12th fret. The string holes on the bridge are 11.5mm apart.

I will make my new guitar 54mm at the nut with 45mm spread and a larger 1st string offset from the edge of the neck. I might make the string length 640mm this might improve playability for me as I don't have long fingers like some players but I have a wide hand.
Cheers Wayne S

Gil_Wade
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Postby Gil_Wade » Wed Feb 15, 2012 11:09 pm

The guitar grew longer and larger as audiences grew larger and there was a need for more volume. Jose Ramirez III came up with his 664 design as the best configuration for a professional guitarist in a large auditorium...and amazingly it works in smaller venues too. If you haven't seen videos of the oriental girls playing guitars almost bigger than they are then you need to go look at them. In essence you can do about anything you want to do.

I believe the question is "what do you want to do with the guitar". If you want to be a performing guitarist in a concert (none amplified) environment you need a 650 or larger guitar and you need to learn how to play it. For all the rest of us, we have many choices...all you need is to go play different guitars until you find the one that "speaks" to you...and not really care whether it is 664 or 650 or 640 or... Any other measurements are just very general guidelines that have exceptions all over the place.
Gil ( o )===:::

Gilbert Wade, Certified Music Practitioner

"Use the talents you possess, for the woods would be silent if no bird sang except the best." Anonymous

"I get a lot of requests...but I play anyway." from a cartoon

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AndreiKrylov
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Postby AndreiKrylov » Thu Feb 16, 2012 3:37 am

Gil_Wade wrote:The guitar grew longer and larger as audiences grew larger and there was a need for more volume. Jose Ramirez III came up with his 664 design as the best configuration for a professional guitarist in a large auditorium...and amazingly it works in smaller venues too. If you haven't seen videos of the oriental girls playing guitars almost bigger than they are then you need to go look at them. In essence you can do about anything you want to do.

I believe the question is "what do you want to do with the guitar". If you want to be a performing guitarist in a concert (none amplified) environment you need a 650 or larger guitar and you need to learn how to play it. For all the rest of us, we have many choices...all you need is to go play different guitars until you find the one that "speaks" to you...and not really care whether it is 664 or 650 or 640 or... Any other measurements are just very general guidelines that have exceptions all over the place.

Why do you need to play loud? Even if you would have a perfect, strong sounding guitar, then acoustics of the place there you play could be bad... :)
Yes guitar is the tool, but purpose of the tool is not a production of LOUD sound, but BEAUTIFUL sound!!!
It seems looking at the guitar forums that most important thing for guitarists now to play as FAST as possible and as LOUD as possible...
And next thing after guitarists reached those goals - they complained that they have Carpal tunnels tendinitis etc...

Those are not important things (Loud,fast)... - most important to enjoy what you do! to have less effort and more nuances, more colors, more ideas!
Yes it is probably possible to make even Larger, longer and Louder guitar and then what?
What about music?
The Louder music sounds - the better?
Why not simply to play VUVUZELAS? :)

This statistics irrelevant ...
for example many Flamenco guitarists with big hands and long fingers play with Capo almost all the time...
Why? - because they use less effort, less power and stretching but more nuances, more emotions, more passion...

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 :)

This theme in general reminds me an argument about our interest to opposite sex…
So, following this logic - large men must be with large women, small men with small women etc…
Isn’t really what we see around us? … :)


And I hate argument that guitar must be as loud as possible.
Beauty, delicacy, intricacy, nuances, passion is purpose of guitar playing!
I'd better speak by music...Please listen Andrei Krylov at CDbaby, iTunes, Spotify, Amazon etc. Thanks!

Wayne S

Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Postby Wayne S » Sun Feb 19, 2012 6:59 am

Yes the longer string lengths have made for louder guitars but at what cost to tone and playability. I was a CG teacher for about five years when I was younger and I must say that most students do adapt to the guitars they own but the best students usually had the guitars with the best action and string length to suit their hands.

Andre, I have to agree with you, the demand over the last 20 or so years for bigger, louder guitars is becoming a bit overrated and the players over the last 15 or so years want to play every piece of music as fast as possible as though they were trying to record a Guinness World Speed Record for the fastest piece of music played on a CG.

I have looked at many young players on youtube and they all play the music too fast, they don't adhere to the speed of the music written by the composer so they are not playing the real intent of the composer.
Even Nicola Hall played too fast.
I have heard pieces played at Allegro when they should have been played at moderato and it sounded horrible. There was no soul or feel for the music from the player only the desire to play as fast as possible.
Like you I feel that the whole purpose of the guitar is convey the beauty of the music with nuances and tonal quality derived from the guitar and not how loud or fast it can be played.

The most beautiful sounding guitar I have ever played was made by Jose Romanillos, it was sublime the tone was made in Heaven, yet it was not as loud as a Greg Smallman I played. The Smallman was easy to play and very powerful with a good balanced tone.
Both guitars were great but I would rather play the Romanillos.

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AndreiKrylov
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Postby AndreiKrylov » Mon Feb 20, 2012 3:44 am

Wayne S wrote:Yes the longer string lengths have made for louder guitars but at what cost to tone and playability. I was a CG teacher for about five years when I was younger and I must say that most students do adapt to the guitars they own but the best students usually had the guitars with the best action and string length to suit their hands.

Andre, I have to agree with you, the demand over the last 20 or so years for bigger, louder guitars is becoming a bit overrated and the players over the last 15 or so years want to play every piece of music as fast as possible as though they were trying to record a Guinness World Speed Record for the fastest piece of music played on a CG.

I have looked at many young players on youtube and they all play the music too fast, they don't adhere to the speed of the music written by the composer so they are not playing the real intent of the composer.
Even Nicola Hall played too fast.
I have heard pieces played at Allegro when they should have been played at moderato and it sounded horrible. There was no soul or feel for the music from the player only the desire to play as fast as possible.
Like you I feel that the whole purpose of the guitar is convey the beauty of the music with nuances and tonal quality derived from the guitar and not how loud or fast it can be played.

The most beautiful sounding guitar I have ever played was made by Jose Romanillos, it was sublime the tone was made in Heaven, yet it was not as loud as a Greg Smallman I played. The Smallman was easy to play and very powerful with a good balanced tone.
Both guitars were great but I would rather play the Romanillos.


Thanks Wayne! I agree 100%, I would just add that there are a lot of great players and composers of all ages now ,who really "convey the beauty of the music with nuances and tonal quality derived from the guitar", and hopefully this attitude (about nuances and not speed and sport like) will prevail because nuances are nature of music itself :)
And I think that there is such tremendous choice of different guitars that anybody can try to play different Scale length and neck width guitars and then decide what is the best for him. I went this way...
Certainly it is probably a psychological thing too because some people have their own analytical mind and opinion and others need words of the authority, teacher... I've seen many people (and pupils too) in my life who can't make their own decision and wait for teacher, parent, boss etc. for that ... :)
I'd better speak by music...Please listen Andrei Krylov at CDbaby, iTunes, Spotify, Amazon etc. Thanks!

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robin loops
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Postby robin loops » Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:23 am

John Williams comes to mind... I love his playing but have always wished he would slow down a bit. As an experiment I popped some of his works in Ableton Live (able to change tempo without changing pitch) and low and behold I liked him even more...

I think the too fast phenominon (my own achilles tendon) is often due to lack of musicality in single notes (at least in my case it is). I tend to think of the music coming from the combination of the notes only. What I try now is to slow it down and make every single note/sound that comes from the guitar musical enough to stand alone. I'm finding this much more difficult than playing with just sheer speed. Having a finer guitar helps this a lot and is perhaps the best argument for starting out on a very good instrument, so as to avoid the pitfall of becoming a speed player.

After watching tiny little prodigy children play guitars bigger than themselves (in one very disturbing video of Korean children you almost can't even see the kids sitting behind the guitar) better than I could ever dream of playing, I think size doesn't really matter much. It's much easier to be obsessed with scale length, finding the perfect nail shape, posture, and a million other tiny things than to build strong technique through intensive study of scales and right hand studies and other tedious tasks. I personally fall into this category... "If my nails were only healthier", if my thumbs weren't so stunted (got tiny little thumbs), and so on and so on, or even posting here instead of practicing another hour... But recently I have realized that none of these things really matter nearly as much as technique and muscle memory. This is making a very big difference in my playing. Also have realized that some of what I previously obsessed about aren't limitations at all. Example is my nails separate from my finger very far from the tip, which actually allows me to have the best of both worlds -long nails with very good skin contact at the same time.

So I say that the age old adage that "Size doesn't matter, it's how you use it", applies here. A larger guitar with great action would be easier to play than a smaller one with not so good action. That said, from my experience 9 times out of ten that someone gives up on playing an instrument, it's due to having an inappropriate instrument. Too big, too small, action too high, too cheap (hence crappy sound) and so on. Therefore finding the right instrument (scale, action, tone, etc) does. I certainly wouldn't ever consider a 664 scale guitar with my little hands (mostly tiny thumbs/ kind of the reverse of that Uma Thurman flick). May even have nightmares tonight about having to play Barrios pieces on giant guitars. And on that note I'm off to bed.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.
-James-

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AndreiKrylov
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Postby AndreiKrylov » Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:03 pm

I agree with the post of Robin, with only exception "9 times out of ten that someone gives up on playing an instrument, it's due to having an inappropriate instrument. Too big, too small, action too high, too cheap (hence crappy sound) and so on. " there are so many guitars everywhere and in California that to find a convenient guitar is not really a reason why people would stop playing :) I think they more likely could stop playing because it is demanding a lot of effort and when justify it by "bad guitar" ... :)
I'd better speak by music...Please listen Andrei Krylov at CDbaby, iTunes, Spotify, Amazon etc. Thanks!

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dng
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Postby dng » Mon Feb 20, 2012 9:10 pm

I guess I have a small hand..

Pinky > Thumb 220
Pinky > Index 190
Pinky > Middle 145
Pinky > Ring 90

I have 664 and 650 guitars.
"Nothing is more beautiful than a guitar, save perhaps two.”
-Frederic Chopin

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robin loops
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Re: Scale length and neck width versus hand size

Postby robin loops » Tue Feb 21, 2012 6:21 am

That is very true but the fact that there are good instruments available (and often very inexpensive) unfortunately doesn't mean that they are the ones that parents will choose for their kids. Or even that a beginner will get for themself. Mostly I was referring to children and beginners that I have known and from garage sales, where I always ask the story behind the instrument for sale, whose parents (or themselves in the case of a couple of older guys that choose their own instruments) decided to start them off on something really cheap (often times a $100 walmart starter kit that even I couldn't play), with the idea that they would get them a better, more appropriate instrument once they learned to play. The fact that decent instruments are so easy to come by, makes it even sadder that kids from my guitar class dropped it after the first year, whereas, if they had started with a decent guitar to start, may very well have enjoyed it enough to stick with it. This is why I personally believe it is very important for parents to select a decent instrument for their kids from the start. Especially when a better instrument would retain its value and could be sold if it doesn't get used (after first year, etc)

(so from my experience it is about 9 out of 10, but that number is just an estimate, perhaps more than a statistic this is an american english expression meaning 'most of')

As far as people that get past the beginning stage, my guess is at that point they would know enough themselves (or have someone around that could help them) to find a decent guitar.

About affordable instruments in california: It is incredible what you can find around here (even more so in the past) for dirt cheap (very very inexpensive). My best friend growing up, got an italian made (can't remember what) guitar that was appraised at somewhere around $4,000 (20 years ago) for $300+/-! And I got my first good classical guitar (Spanish guitar :) ) valued at around $1,500, second hand but unplayed, for $300. It's gotten a lot harder to find deals like this now that people can put it on e - b a y or at least do some research on the value, but they are still out there. Still kicking myself for not buying a $600 yamaha at a garage sale for $100 a few months ago. Would make the perfect beater guitar (extra guitar that doesn't need to be protected, and babied, and can be taken camping etc.) or a second super low action one. I sometimes use a super low action guitar for sight reading practice. At the moment I use an old epiphone for that, and it actually sounds pretty decent for a $300 guitar that I picked up for $15. So yeah, Cali is definitely a good place to find used instruments cheap. So is e - b a y: I picked up a ramirez Estudio 3E from just before they restructured the company for mass production and outsourcing of the student models, in near perfect condition (minus a few issues) for under $800. The best guitar I have had the pleasure to play, much less own :D

the only time someone selling a used instrument doesn't make me a little sad, is when they are upgrading to something better.

And finally: 9 out of 10 statistics are made up on the spot :wink:
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.
-James-


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