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Thread: Damn These SMALL Hands!

  1. #1
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    Exclamation Damn These SMALL Hands!

    Ok, so, I read this lesson on how to prevent RSI a long time ago - didn't pay much attention to it.

    01. Check Your Fretting Hand
    Having a poor hand position can be a factor is having more tension in your fretting hand, this is usually because the placement of the thumb is too high and that the wrist has to bend to allow the fingers to do their job. Depending on the size of your hand and how comfortable you are with playing with your thumb quite high this should be seen as a problem that needs sorted -- look at your wrist and that should tell you everything.
    Now, I have VERY small hands, but I don't have problems with wide stretches, or anything. The only kink in my fretting hand's posture is that, to reach the 3 low strings (E, A, and D), my wrist HAS to bend, no matter what. With the 3 high strings, this problem is almost non-existant. Help, please.

    EDIT: This is what my hand posture is like:


    EDIT 2: Can this problem be fixed by using a guitar with a different neck width (I'm using a Washburn X30, at the moment). If so, please state which one. =D
    Last edited by Wash & Burn; 07-09-2008 at 12:28 PM.

  2. #2
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    I too have small hands, however, I see some of the gals doing things I can not so ......... if you do not find a solution to your problem --- adapt.

    Push your elbow out into the room, that should bring your fingers up over the strings and may eliminate the problem.

    I use a combination of four string root on the 1st string and "easy one finger chords" for my chords. The 4 string root on the 1st is about the same as what a tenor 4 string guitar would do. I also use a modified CAGED system, by modified - with the A position I sound only the middle strings.

    There is always another way to make a chord. People missing fingers figure it out I'm sure you will also.

    Sitting with a teacher for a few minutes may be the solution.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 07-09-2008 at 12:46 PM.

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    Is it really, truly necessary to keep it PERFECTLY straight?

    I know this person with pristine technique, but look at the way his wrist bends when starting the 2nd lick:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-1EQxg0vJM

  4. #4
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    All that is necessary is that YOU can play the song. Notice his index finger spans the entire neck with some left over, he does not have small hands.

    BTW that video IMHO was just a lot of noise, but, if you like it who am I to judge? Knock yourself out.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 07-09-2008 at 03:10 PM.

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    I was talking about the technique. =/

  6. #6
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    So was I. Noise.

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    No, it is not necessary to keep your wrist perfectly straight at all! However, excessive bending of the wrist can cause strain and is likely to be exacerbated by holding the guitar low. I agree with Malcolm that you can push your left elbow forward further to ease the strain on your wrist.

    And looking at your picture, you may not have huge hands, but they don't look that small to me! DO NOT USE THAT AS AN EXCUSE! You can do pretty much anything you want with those hands.

  8. #8
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wash & Burn
    Ok, so, I read this lesson on how to prevent RSI a long time ago - didn't pay much attention to it.


    Now, I have VERY small hands, but I don't have problems with wide stretches, or anything. The only kink in my fretting hand's posture is that, to reach the 3 low strings (E, A, and D), my wrist HAS to bend, no matter what. With the 3 high strings, this problem is almost non-existant. Help, please.

    EDIT: This is what my hand posture is like:
    That hand doesn't look small to me! (But I know it's hard to tell from a picture like that.)
    If you find you have that wrist angle consistently, I suggest raising the neck. Shorten the strap if necessary, but bring the neck up a little. Make sure your forearm is roughly at right angles to the neck (don't tuck your elbow into your body).

    Electric and steel-string acoustics are all designed with narrower necks than classical guitars - and even classical guitars are designed to be played by people with various sizes of hand. (Some steel string necks actually encourage the thumb to wrap around, without inhibiting finger movement too much.)

    If you do think the neck width may be the answer, Teles (AFAIK) have the narrowest necks - but I don't know how much narrower they are (if at all) than your Washburn.

  9. #9
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    ^^ LOL, those aren't my hands. That's just a picture showing how my wrist bends. I shall post the fingers ASAP.

    EDIT:
    A small breakthrough, if I may be allowed to use such a word; if I tilt the guitar to 45, the wrist becomes neutral. BUT, i can ONLY play stuff spanning 4 frets,
    such as,
    on the low E,

    Code:
     
    7-8-10
    Stretches (on the 3 low strings) require bending, no matter what. That's how small my hands are.
    Last edited by Wash & Burn; 07-11-2008 at 03:18 PM.

  10. #10
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    I think most of us can only span 4 frets -- and make good chrisp notes or chords.

    Keep experimenting and see what you can come up with. When I sit the neck is at about 45 degrees, however, when I stand it's closer to 90 degrees. I learned sitting, and moving to a standing position took a couple of weeks to pull off.

    Keep plugging, it'll come.

  11. #11
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    If you simply have "small" hands, as opposed to "abnormally tiny" hands, then in my experience you can teach yourself to make quite wide stretches simply by constant practice.

    I have quite small hands, and at one time I found it literally impossible to make stretches from say 5th to 7th to 9th fret on the low-E string. Eg, trying to play the basic shuffle in Jonny B.Goode was impossible.

    It wasn't just "uncomfortable", it wasn’t merely "painful", it was excruciating, as if the bones of my hand were being ripped apart in a crushing machine.

    I also had an additional problem with that left hand, ie an old wound with 20 stitches in the palm of the hand, an injury which partly severed a nerve. So for several years those wide stretches pulled that old stitched area quite badly and that pulled on the damaged nerve ... it was horribly painful to play any stretches at all.

    But I carried on nevertheless, because I really wanted to play decently.

    One thing I can tell you - if you practice those wider stretches through the pain barrier, then you will eventually be able to stretch an extra fret quite comfortably, and maybe 2 extra frets with some acceptable difficulty, ie you will be able to make the sort of stretches found on Paul Gilbert’s Intense Rock DVD (if you don't know that DVD ... he has very long fingers and his stretches are about as wide as any normal person would ever wish to attempt).

    At least that was my experience ... summary:- you just have to practice through the pain barrier, and you will slowly gain the ability to make quite big stretches even with small hands.

    2:cent’s and just my personal experience. And obviously the usual health warnings apply if you are worried about doing any permanent damage.

    Ian.

    Last edited by Crossroads; 07-11-2008 at 11:00 PM.

  12. #12
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    Well, do you feel any pain? If not, I don't think it's a problem that your angle's not "perfect".

    For those stretchy things, I find it very good to attempt stretches that seems impossible. I practised those shawn lane-styl diminshed stretches for a while (painful, to say the least), but after that your normal scale fingerings became a piece of cake. Now I can even do those diminished stretches quiet good!

    Don't do it to much of course, THAT will lead to injuries, but practise through the pain a couple of weeks and it will be fine, I promise.

    Cheers
    Why do today what you can leave for tomorrow?

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sperzel
    I practised those shawn lane-styl diminshed stretches for a while (painful, to say the least) ....
    If guys watch Shawn Lane (Youtube, or better still buy his video), they'll see he's constantly shifting the way he holds the guitar, pointing the neck up at a steeper angle etc.

    That was not because he was overweight and found the instrument uncomfortable to hold lol.

    It was because he was constantly adjusting the angle to get the best position for stretching to each different lick. Ie, he was approximating the classical way of holding the guitar (but whilst standing).

    And of course, a vital part of that was making sure his thumb position was waaaay around at the back of the neck - you can never make those stretches unless you have the correct hand position with the thumb at the back of the neck and the line of the knuckles nearly parallel with the lower edge of the fretboard.

    That's what I was illustrating with the clip of Paul Gilbert. But unlike Gilbert, Shawn Lane did not have particularly big hands, so Lane had to adopt quite extreme positions in order to make the stretches, and especially to do that whilst picking accurately at high speed.

    Extra long fingers & flexible finger-joints are a huge help, of course ... but you can train even small hands to make bigger stretches, however, that does take a lot of painful practice with wide stretched exercises ... as I say - it's worth guys working from that Paul Gilbert instructional DVD as part of your regular practice, because although the main purpose of the DVD is to show you how to pick fast, all the licks/exercises involve those wide 3nps stretches.

    Ian.


  14. #14
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sperzel
    Don't do it to much of course, THAT will lead to injuries, but practise through the pain a couple of weeks and it will be fine, I promise.
    IMO this is very dangerous advice. Most (if not all) pain is a warning to stop what you're doing.
    Guitar playing can cause different kinds of pain, and some of them are normal and to be expected (eg pain in fingertips, before the skin toughens up).
    There may be some situations where "playing through the pain" is OK. But I can't think of any... (even the fingertip thing, if it really hurts you should stop; you "play through" to a certain extent - a few minutes maybe.)

    Your advice is actually contradictory. You say "Don't do it to much of course, THAT will lead to injuries" (good advice) - but "too much" may mean "when it starts hurting". Otherwise, how much pain do you know is "too much"? How far can you "play through" it without causing injury?

  15. #15
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    I think that different guys may experience quite different levels of pain when trying to play awkward guitar pieces, or when practicing in extreme ways?

    But I also think it IS true that, for many people, they will have to play through quite considerable pain barriers. And possibly suffer that for many months, or even several years.

    In my own case, it's definitely true that I had to force myself through that pain for about 18 months, practicing 5 or 6 hours a day or more (which is admittedly quite extreme).

    At the time it led to various different pains which persisted long after the practice sessions. I should stress that these were not low-level pains (we are not talking here about simple sore fingertips), but really quite dramatic pains. Eg, for about a year my left hand would keep me awake at night, throbbing like a bad case of "vibration white finger", with all sorts of shooting pains and very strong sensations of pins-&-needles and deadened sensations of the fingertips ... presumably minor nerve damage).

    Another effect was a raised “bony” lump on the first joint of my thumb (where it's constantly flexing & changing position against the back of the neck). That was very odd, and again lasted about 12 months before slowly disappearing. It's now gone completely. Again, I suspect that was probably just the body's natural reaction, building up fluid or tissue on that joint in an attempt to protect the joint from the rather extreme stress/wear that I was subjecting it to.

    But the main thing is - none of that has led to any permanent damage whatsoever. And now I really don't get any such pains at all. Nothing beyond what I’d regard as the usual minimal low-level feelings of the hand having been through some basic physical exercise.

    Of course I definitely do not recommend that anyone else plays/practices in the reckless way that I did. That was really crazy. And I really had no idea if the damage would be permanent or if I was causing serious injury, so I was taking a BIG risk...and that's just not worth it.

    But I'm just describing my own experiences. And I can only assume that some others will probably find the same as me ... namely that if you are prepared to risk it (which might be a very silly thing to do), then you may find, like I did, that you can play through quite extensive pain barriers without causing any lasting damage.

    As always ... be sensible about it!

    Ian.


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