That dude with a small Martin acoustic guitar in the banner photo is Ed Sheeran, and he's the real deal.
If a small acoustic guitar is good enough for him, you should feel no shame or hesitancy about using one if it suits your physique better.
In fact, some just prefer smaller acoustics with smaller necks, like Sheeran.
It's not as though it's some handicap or compromise that you have to "settle" for.
Many of the best acoustic guitars for small hands are simply some of the best overall, without regard to size. While they're more accommodating to small hands and shorter fingers, they're just solid acoustic guitars, in general.
From beginner to advanced, these acoustic guitars are great options.
We'll cover two of our favorites.
Best Acoustic Guitar for Small Hands: GC Top Picks
|#1||Little Martin Acoustic Guitar (LXK2 with Koa Tonewood)|
|#2||Baby Taylor Acoustic Guitar (Taylor BT2)|
What makes you a better fit for a small acoustic guitar?
Aside from preference, there are a few signs that would suggest you'd be more comfortable with a small acoustic guitar.
The most compelling evidence is simply an extensive discomfort with a normal sized acoustic, particularly as it relates to the guitar's neck. If you experience discomfort in your fingers, wrist or forearm, as you simply try to reach chords, that might indicate you'd be better off with a smaller guitar.
Now, that's not to say that your fingers won't hurt or need to stretch.
In fact, normal "growing pains" of playing guitar would include the following:
- Sore forearm
- Sore fingers (from stretching)
- Pain in finger tips as callouses develop
Getting an acoustic guitar neck for small hands
But there's a difference between typical finger pain and undue stress on your wrist, stemming from a guitar neck that's simply too larger for your hands.
Moreover, if you're having trouble even reaching certain chords, you need a smaller neck that will make guitar playing more practical and attainable. The easiest way to tell if that's the case, is to focus on your wrist.
A common sign that your hands are too small for a fretboard is what I'll call the "bent wrist" problem.
This is when you have to bend your wrist and angle your hands straight up to reach the lower strings on the fretboard.
Your posture should be more like this:
Here's what it looks like on an actual guitar:
You'll notice there's a slight bend in her wrist, but it's subtle, which is where it should stay.
If that bend gets sharper, or if you need to "reach" harder for certain notes or chords, guitar hand pain and soreness could be soon to follow.
While good posture habits help, folks with smaller hands or shorter fingers might need to consider a different guitar entirely.
If that's you, here are the two acoustic guitars for small hands we'd recommend, both of which have been pulled from our master list of best acoustic guitars.
1. The Little Martin Acoustic Guitar (LXK2 with Koa Tonewood)
Everything about this acoustic guitar is scaled down, making it far easier to play than a full-sized Martin.
While Sheeran plays a more expensive version, this one is similar to the model you see him pictured with in the banner photo.
Ed Sheeran digs the small Martin acoustics too. | Flickr Commons Image via Kmeron
The smaller design, while beginner friendly, is intended for all skill levels and not something we consider an exclusively beginner guitar.
It's dimensions are just ideal for smaller hands and/or shorter fingers.
Specifically, those dimensions are the following:
- Fingerboard width at 12th fret: 2 1/16"
- Fingerboard with at nut: 1 11/16"
- Scale length: 23"
The LXK2 doesn't have built in electronics, so you're saving money in that area if a preamp isn't something you were interested in. If you like the guitar, the price and want to amplify it, a simple solution like the Seymour Duncan Woody acoustic guitar pickup will do the job for under $40.
The Seymour Duncan "Woody" pickup. | Image via Seymour Duncan
As you can see from the photo, this type of pickup simply fits into your guitar's soundhole (one size fits all) and includes a connected cable that you can then run to a preamp or PA system.
This is your easiest (and cheapest) option for amplifying the Little Martin.
If you don't want to amplify it, the Little Martin is good to go right out of the box, shipping with a set of Martin acoustic strings and a soft gig bag.
The screenshot below gives you a better feel of the guitar's actual size.
A look at the actual size of the little Martin. | Image via Dawson's Music
The neck is quite small, making the fretboard a breeze to play on.
Moreover, there's nothing at all bulky about the guitar's body which keeps the weight low and provides easy access for your strumming hand.
Features and tone of the MXK2 Little Martin
Some nifty green artwork on the LXK2 Little Martin. | Image courtesy of Martin Guitars
The Little Martin's tone is surprisingly full and resonant for such a small guitar. It's warm, with an airy quality to it, reminiscent of a mix between the larger Martin dreadnoughts and nylon string classical guitars.
The body of the guitar is a laminate made out of Hawaiian Koa tonewood while the neck is Birch and lightly colored on the back.
Retail hovers around $300, which is an amazing bargain for someone in the right situation who needs or simply prefers the smaller body size.
Other features include a Spruce bracing, non-scalloped X-bracing construction and a 20-fret neck.
It also comes in a left-handed version.
The BT2 Baby Taylor is 3/4 the size of a full Taylor dreadnought, making it much smaller than even the Big Baby Taylor and one of the company's most popular and best-selling acoustic guitars.
Its market and intended purpose is similar to that of the Little Martin.
Everything that makes the little Martin so functional can also be said about the BT2. However, Taylor offers a few extra perks with their small-sized guitar that Martin leaves out.
Most notably, the BT2 does come with a preamp that allows you to plug the guitar in.
It's a well-designed pickup system with tone and volume controls as well as a tuner, which preserves the natural resonance of the guitar perfectly when plugged in.
There can often be a significant difference in tone between an amplified acoustic and an unplugged acoustic. However, that's not the case with the Baby Taylor. In either scenario, the BT2 sounded excellent and totally natural.
A look at the expression system that comes with the Baby Taylor. | Via Taylor
Additionally, the BT2 body sports a solid Mahogany top, while the Little Martin is entirely laminate.
Lastly, the BT2 (as with all Taylor acoustics) ships with Elixir strings.
You can see, there are a lot of perks offered by Taylor that we don't see with Martin's LXK2, even as the BT2 maintains a similar $300 price point. It's just a fantastic value for a robust and functional acoustic guitar.
Folks with difficulty stretching, injury issues or small fingers stand to benefit tremendously from the BT2, not only as a great starter guitar but a solid instrument in general, worth owning in any situation.
Tone of the BT2 Baby Taylor Acoustic Guitar
You're going to get a brighter tone from Taylor guitars, that sounds best in a finger-picking context.
The preamp's tone control functions essentially like the tone knob on an electric guitar, giving you basic shaping options that emphasize either low or high end.
I found it to be most functional when kept at the halfway point.
Social proof in a number of tone comparison scenarios (between multiple small acoustic guitars) always seemed to give a nod to the BT2.
Overall, the tone is quite good and doesn't come off as cheap or thin. Keep in mind, the guitar can be amplified, which means it can sound as big as your amp or PA system will allow.
In short, the BT2 hangs with the larger acoustic models as a serious instrument in and of itself.
You can't ask for much more out of a $300ish acoustic guitar.
Other Considerations: Guitar String Gauge for Small Hands
Getting a smaller guitar is a practical first step, but there are additional things you can do to accommodate small hands.
The easiest option is to use a smaller string gauge.
Extra light string gauges take your thickest string from .052 down to .047, thus reducing the size of each subsequent string. The difference seems small, but it will make your acoustic easier to play.
Here are a few extra light string options we'd recommend:
- D'Addario Extra Light Acoustic
- Elixir Extra Light with NANOWEB Coating Acoustic
- Ernie Ball Earthwood Extra Light (.050) Acoustic
The action on your guitar should also be properly lowered.
You can do this yourself, or take your guitar to a local music store (Guitar Center will also do this work) and have it done for a few bucks.
Thoughts, questions, concerns...
Have questions about our picks?
Drop it in the comments section or hit us up on Twitter.
If you have a different acoustic guitar that you've used and has been good for smaller hands, we'd be especially interested in hearing from you, and we may even post about that guitar as well.
Thanks for reading.
Other Acoustic Guitar Reviews and Guides
The Best Acoustic Guitars under $1000: Our master roundup of acoustic guitars that give you a ton of quality under the $1000 price tag.
Taylor 114ce Review: Bobby's full review of his own acoustic guitar.
Seagull S6 Review: Bobby's full review of the Seagull S6 acoustic guitar, which is a solid rhythm acoustic and ideal for those who want a more strum-friendly design.
Acoustic Guitar Effects Pedals: Our popular roundup of pedals that we recommend for the acoustic guitar including, delay, modulation and compression.
Pedals, Preamps and DI Boxes for the Acoustic Guitar: A second acoustic effects post that expands to include rack processors, preamps and DI boxes as well as pedals.
Setting up Acoustic Guitar Distortion: Product recommendation and how-to guide for adding distortion or overdrive to an acoustic guitar without feedback.
Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of Kmeron