For Guitars, Size Matters

Welcome to this edition of Fingerstyle Monthly. This month we'll look at how the guitars size affects its playability.

One of the most overlooked features when choosing a guitar is it's size. The size and shape can be the biggest factors in whether or not you can play at your highest level.

That shouldn't be a surprise. Bicycles have adjustable seats. Cars have adjustable seats and mirrors. Cars and bikes are adjustable so that they can be safely and comfortably operated.

That doesn't hold true with guitars. Sure, you can adjust the action to make it play easier. You can use lighter gauge strings to make it play easier. But that's about it. You can't change neck shape, fingerboard width, or the shape and size of the body. And those are all things that affect the playability of the instrument.

What's Your Body Type?

The size and shape of the guitars body are critical factors. Here's why.

Most people play with the guitar sitting on their lap. They use either the classical technique of it sitting on their left thigh or they rest it on their right thigh.

This has an affect on where the right hand is positioned over the strings, and where the left hand intersects the neck. Also, an elevated right shoulder, reaching over a large guitar, can cause shoulder pain for some players.

If the body's too big, their right hand might not be in the best position to get a good tone. And, too large a body can be hard to hold. Energy spent wrestling with your guitar, is better spent playing.

Ideally, your left hand fingers should meet the strings squarely. They shouldn't be at an angle to the strings. The neck of a large bodied guitar will meet your left hand at a different angle than the neck of a smaller bodied instrument

Wait A Minute...

You may be someone who always uses a strap when you play. You may think that all this talk about guitar size doesn't concern you. Let's think about that for a minute.

A deep, large bodied guitar can be a lot to reach over. If you wear your guitar high on your chest, you may get that pesky shoulder pain again. You may find that playing a solidbody guitar causes an extreme bend in your right wrist that becomes painful over time.

A guitar with a "belly cut", like a Strat, may make the guitar hang to one side. This can mean that the left hand turns at too much of an angle when playing toward the guitars body.

What To Do

I'd like to say that there's a shortcut to finding the best guitar for each different player. Sadly, there isn't. It's a matter of trial and error for most players. Of course, since most of us are gear heads, that may not be a bad thing.

Take a critical look at the guitar that you're playing. Because, for guitars, size matters.

I hope that you enjoy this issue of Fingerstyle Monthly. If you have friends that you think would enjoy it, feel free to pass it on.

As always, if you have questions, contact me.

See you next month!

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