Monday, March 8, 2010

Small Hands

I've been told by someone I trust to do my taxes and who helps me make many of the important decisions in my life that if my left hand doesn't fit around the neck of a guitar, I'm not meant to play it. He suggested I try a ukelele, instead. While I normally defer to his judgement, everyone knows that that particular instrument only works well when the player (and, consequently, the hands) is/are much larger than the instrument.

While I may be six feet tall, once I place my hands on said ukelele they are clearly proportionate to its size. That is too disturbing for me to deal with. Also, I lack the gravitas to pull off the whole ukelele thing.

He bought me a guitar anyway, and by God, the man appeared to be right. I couldn't get my damned little fingers to curl around the neck properly, nor could I strum a clear chord. I've been wanting to be a bad ass guitar player since I was 14, and so I did what any music nerd would do: I armed myself with a quick "small hands guitar" search on mother Google and discerned three main approaches to the small, carny hand dilemma. The description follows, in no meaningful order.

The most obvious one is to purchase a smaller guitar, and it's the one I've gone with. I am the proud owner of a 3/4 size Ibanez acoustic guitar with nylon strings that not only emits a beautiful, melodic sound, but also is a sane fit for the carny-handed. (Aside-I feared that I'd have to look for a used guitar in one of the seedy second-hand guitar stores that litter the outer rings of Cleveland. I feel strange buying second-hand instruments: touching someone else's grease, debris, and sweat (or "soul") poured into the neck and the frets. Someone not famous. Someone whose sweat and "soul" won't fill me with talent and skill...) The smaller guitar feels great, but here's the catch: the three-quarters size does not refer to the width of the neck, but the overall length or size of the guitar. So, while the smaller guitar body is more comfortable for me for some reason, the neck is still to wide for my hands.

The next best thing appears to be investing in classical guitar lessons. Positioning and technique can win out over brute force (or in this case, larger hands). Newbies with carny hands, don't despair. There is a way to eliminate those muddy notes. Getting your fingers to curl in unnatural ways is unnatural. Making the adaptation takes time. Plenty of classical guitar teachers (and the other hacks) assure us that we must get our hands accustomed to the strange positioning and assure us to look forward to calluses. Sounds good to me. This also brings up an obvious point: practice makes progress. So practice, and the body WILL adapt.

That is the most interesting bit of obvious information I scrounged up. It's silly that I forgot about the potential for physical change in a human's body. A hand will adapt to the uses it is put to: calluses, thicker muscles, claw-like shaping. One gentleman said he noticed his left hand had gotten one inch longer after two years of playing. Better yet, females appear have superior abilities for change thanks to the power-hormone, estrogen. It seems to add to a female's elasticity, making it easier for her to flex her hands for reach. Pregnancy is supposed to "help", too, but I haven't found the scientific evidence, and... quite frankly, I'm not that committed to finding out.

So, I've got to practice my guitar chords diligently on my smaller guitar while taking vitamins and exercising in order to get my hands accustomed to the guitar playing. Why the vitamins and exercising? To keep that estrogen flowing, baby! Delicious estrogen will be my next topic of bloggersation.

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