Rule of thumb for fitting hand size to fretboard length?

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
Dave1947

Rule of thumb for fitting hand size to fretboard length?

Post by Dave1947 » Wed Apr 04, 2012 5:04 am

Is there a common formula or measurement that's used to match the size of a players hand to the length of a frettboard?

eyedoc
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Re: Rule of thumb for fitting hand size to frettboard length

Post by eyedoc » Wed Apr 04, 2012 6:05 am

None that is universally accepted!
Too many variables determine 'playability':
String length , neck width, neck profile, fingerboard radius, fret height, etc.
Smaller hands (less than size 7 glove) may do better on 640 string length, however and narrower (51mm)
Neck width at the nut
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lagartija
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Re: Rule of thumb for fitting hand size to frettboard length

Post by lagartija » Wed Apr 04, 2012 2:10 pm

eyedoc wrote:None that is universally accepted!
Too many variables determine 'playability':
String length , neck width, neck profile, fingerboard radius, fret height, etc.
Smaller hands (less than size 7 glove) may do better on 640 string length, however and narrower (51mm)
Neck width at the nut
Don't forget string spacing along with all those other items. I have slender fingers and benefit from closer string spacing to increase playability.
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Re: Rule of thumb for fitting hand size to fretboard length?

Post by Alan Carruth » Wed Apr 04, 2012 6:18 pm

Alicia Kopfstein-Penk has written a book, called 'The Healthy Guitar', about that. She came up with a rule based on how many frets you can span with your index and pinky finger, and gives a chart for finding the 'right' scale length for your span. I find her chart to be conservative: most people seem to be able to get along with a moderately longer scale than she suggests, but it's certainly a good start.

Dave1947

Re: Rule of thumb for fitting hand size to fretboard length?

Post by Dave1947 » Thu Apr 05, 2012 4:37 am

I'm finding that as I get older (65 yrs.) the 65 cm scale is getting more and more comfortable. I almost bought a 664 mm but I could tell that it was a little harder on the left hand in the lower positions. I'm going to look up that book, "The Healthy Guitar" sounds like it would have some good info. My old Sakurai had a 66 cm scale and wide string spacing and was work to play but easier to play cleanly.

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Guitar-ded
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Re: Rule of thumb for fitting hand size to fretboard length?

Post by Guitar-ded » Fri Apr 06, 2012 4:16 pm

Wasn't there something somewhere saying that the rough way of measuring suitable scale is to measure the distance between your outstretched thump tip and little finger tip and if this was 9 inches or more 650mm was the way to go?
Turns out if you do a search here on DC there are a bundle of threads dealing with this, or similar topics.
You could start with the few below if it helps.

viewtopic.php?f=71&t=64592
viewtopic.php?t=64978&p=713636
viewtopic.php?f=11&t=30310
viewtopic.php?f=71&t=53237
viewtopic.php?f=71&t=63971
Getting better bit by bit, day by day.

Dave1947

Re: Rule of thumb for fitting hand size to fretboard length?

Post by Dave1947 » Sat Apr 07, 2012 5:09 am

Thanks Guitar-ded I'll check them out.

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robin loops
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Re: Rule of thumb for fitting hand size to fretboard length?

Post by robin loops » Sat Apr 07, 2012 5:51 am

Rule of "thumb"... Pun intended?

For me string spacing makes a much bigger difference in playability than scale length. Even as far as stretches go, since the strings are closer together they end up not having to stretch as far (since most stretches also span strings).

The crazy thing about spacing though is the fact that a half a millimeter is a world of difference in feel...
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soundknight21

Re: Rule of thumb for fitting hand size to fretboard length?

Post by soundknight21 » Sat Apr 07, 2012 6:54 am

There is a lot of argument back and forth about weather string length or string spacing Will improve playability of a given guitar. Some people swear that the string spacing is more important. I think if you are going to get a good guitar handmade you should find out for yourself which string length and which string spacing works best for your left hand.
In my own research I have discovered that string spacing has 2 factors, factor 1 being the ability to contract and stretch the finger backward and forward, like playing f on the 6th string and then straight away f on the first string without using a barre just a single finger. A wide string spacing here could be challenging for some small hands. Factor 2 the shape of your fingers and how wide they are will also play a role in string spacing as well. Too wide fingers could make a short string spacing too difficult for clustered chords and some romantic guitar music. Narrow fingers could easily create clustered chords but would be better suited to a small string spacing. I think a good way to test is to play Bach's lute suite 1 bouree and compare two different spacings.
Wide fingers also play a role in choosing appropriate string length as when you played up high on the fretboard the frets become closer together and very wide fingers are at an extreme disadvantage in these positions. A great piece for testing this is Barrios' "La Catedral" the prelude.
String length contains a number of factors also. Factor 1 is string tension, generally small hands do not have the strength to play high or very high tension strings, John Williams disagrees with this but that's okay because he is John Williams. The longer the scale the higher the tension needed to reach concert pitch. The higher the tension of strings the more work and energy is needed to hold them down properly at each fret.
Fact or 2 is something not often discussed: shoulder width. Normal and wide shoulders can stretch the arms out that little bit better to play comfortably in first position. Where as smaller shoulder width creates tension in the wrist as it twists further to reach the open hand position.
I believe if u're experiencing enough trouble and are perhaps feeling tired after practicing then you should begin to think whether "Bigger is better", or "Good things come in small packages"? Adjusting these parameters will not make you play like segovia or john williams, but I believe it will help you sound more like yourself.
Some luthiers online have stated that they do not believe sound of the guitar is sacrificed with different string length and or spacings.
Please pardon my very long message, any comments?
P.S. There is more on this topic: fret shape and size.

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robin loops
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Re: Rule of thumb for fitting hand size to fretboard length?

Post by robin loops » Sat Apr 07, 2012 8:37 pm

soundknight21, please go on... Another post equally as long about fret shape and size. This is the one thing that really eludes and supasses my understanding... There are so many different opinions on this one and I would be very interested to hear yours.

One thing I'd add (or more of an example of what you're talking about above): I have an irregular shaped first finger on my left hand. It's slightly curved with a rather larger indentation at the joint. This gives me terrible issues with certain barre situations and I have to have extremely accurate placement to avoid loosing notes sometimes. In my case this is an important factor when considering string spacing as a tiny bit closer spacing (and perhaps even a slightly larger) changes where different parts of my finger will sit. These types of variables are why there can never be a rule of thumb that would work for everyone and at best we can come up with generalizations about what may work best.

Another thing not mentioned already is action as this effects all the other variables mentioned here.

So to sum up the posts on this page: Rule of thumb for fitting hand size to fretboard length (as well as string spacing, string tension, etc): Play as many guitars as possible with as many variations as possible to find the variation that works best for you and your particular body type and size and hand type and size, etc. and your style of playing and music you play. Perhaps the best reason why a beginner shouldn't run out and spend several thousand $ on their first guitar...
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.
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Alan Carruth
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Re: Rule of thumb for fitting hand size to fretboard length?

Post by Alan Carruth » Sat Apr 07, 2012 10:30 pm

It's relatively easy to experiment with string spacing: get a new nut cut with the string slots closer together and shifted over toward the treble a bit. It's not free, unless you can do the work yourself, but it's a lot cheaper than getting a new guitar to try out a slightly shorter or longer scale.

Pete Morrison

Re: Rule of thumb for fitting hand size to fretboard length?

Post by Pete Morrison » Sat Apr 07, 2012 11:09 pm

Alan Carruth wrote:It's relatively easy to experiment with string spacing: get a new nut cut with the string slots closer together and shifted over toward the treble a bit. It's not free, unless you can do the work yourself, but it's a lot cheaper than getting a new guitar to try out a slightly shorter or longer scale.
That sounds like a great idea Alan and i would like to give that a try in the absence of other sized guitars to experiment with. At first i thought that because that would tend to gradually diagonalise the strings though (particularly the 6th string which would be most affected) that it would change the relative fret spacing between all the strings resulting in 'off' note creation but i realised that since the string (6th say) would now be longer this would compensate for that and correct relative spacing would be retained.

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Re: Rule of thumb for fitting hand size to fretboard length?

Post by Kintla » Sun Apr 08, 2012 2:58 am

There really are too many variables, especially when one considers that each variable will have a slightly different effect from person to person because of individual hand strength differences and anatomy, and what each is comfortable with. So take the generalizations with a grain of salt because that is what they are. I am always amazed to play my friends Camacho which is 655 I believe, and with high tension strings, it "seems" far easier to play than my 650 with narrow string spacing of 41.5 at the nut and 57.5 at the saddle, and a radiiused fretboard. Again these things are so subjective, we all get used to what we play and then when we play another guitar it "seems" different, but is it really "easier". Easy to get deluded, and hard to find an answer. Sometimes I think the longer scales are easier to play and my hands are not large. One thing I do know on my 650 guitar, high tension strings increase the difficulty of playing.
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robin loops
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Re: Rule of thumb for fitting hand size to fretboard length?

Post by robin loops » Sun Apr 08, 2012 3:09 am

Not sure about this idea (could be good or may be crap, just a thought)

Another thing aside from playing with your nut, is try putting a capo on at first fret. While this makes quite a change to the scale it can at least give and idea how a 4 cm difference feels. And while won't really simulate a 540 scale it could give you an idea if the scale of your guitar is too high. Keep in mind that unless the action is already pretty low at the nut of the guitar this will also affect the action quite a bit.

On second thought it is probably worthless advice... But I'll post it anyway
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.
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soundknight21

Re: Rule of thumb for fitting hand size to fretboard length?

Post by soundknight21 » Mon Apr 09, 2012 8:54 am

Yes I just posted something about putting a capo on the 1st fret in another discussion thread just opened up. I found it worked fantastically in reducing my strain and my wrist rotation issues. As well as upper back pain.

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