Let's think about how we look at height and hand size.
So again, like with guitar shapes and sizes, we often think of or look at the human image as a repetitive set of forms that when approached in mass is faceless, featureless and devoid of detail like identical yet shapeless silhouettes. Like some flowers, animals, bugs, clouds, trees, (and musical instruments)… very easy to recognise, but to draw? measure? describe?
"It’s like spilling a small amount of ink on a page. We glance; we see a splotch of ink. One splotch of ink is like any other splotch of ink, until we are asked to describe it or measure it. Then it becomes a challenging conundrum."
Sounds like guitar sizes all over again!
There are a very many ways to measure and many measurements that can be taken to render human hand size.
We are interested only in two of them, hand “span” and hand “length”. Both measurements are easy to understand and carry out.
Hand span is easy. Here is my hand laid out on a ruler in the correct position to measure the span between the tip of my thumb and the tip of the small "pinky" finger. Just stretch the hand out as far as you can. Don't force anything just use a little friction against the ruler for control and make a note of the distance. In my case just about 230mm.
This hand size chart shows span relationships to Scale Lengths of guitar
Hand length is also and easy measurement to carry out. This measurement can give you an approximate standing height of a person.
Hand length x 9 = Height. (see Guitar Sizes Guide PDFs)
For our use we want to measure from the the base of the palm where the wrist crease is:
To the tip of the middle finger across the length palm up:
Just lay a ruler across an open palm and line up the wrist crease at zero and see what you get at the tip of the middle finger. I slipped a bit when I took the photo. It is important to know that because my finger came out more like 200mm and a bit (not the 194mm shown). That is only important because I have mentioned my height on an earlier page as being about 6ft (1.83M). The human hand is fairly consistently 1/9 of your over all height. So 200mm x9 = 1800mm (or 180cm or 1.8M). I don't want to risk any confusion here.
To music therapists and care workers or other health and education professionals this ratio of 9/1 could be important. (If in doubt about any health related issues to do with music practice always seek advice from a qualified professional health specialist). This brings us to the "why bother" measuring hands part.
The height and dimensions of a whole body can be in certain circumstances much a more challenging measurement datum to obtain. For instrument choices based on body size relationships hand measurement may at times be the best option.
In my experiences such as with with special needs learners, people with medical conditions and permanent disabilities, people dealing with injuries and differences from birth, sometimes things don't require more thought so much as just a different way of thinking.
The point: If whole body size measurement i.e. heights aren’t an easy option go for hand length measurement x9 in order to get that more common height reference. The hand span and length measurement can tell you enough from basic beginners choices to adult, bespoke custom fit scale lengths. Remember also we are after a starting point and nothing more.
You can trace around a hand
You can measure a calm persons hand size
You can more easily measure a wheelchair users hand than overall height
You can photograph a hand with a reference object if necessary
You can put a known size object in a hand for observation
You can compare your (known) hand size to others
You can even photo copy a hand!
Matching the perfect guitar size and scale length to a player is not an exact science. Remember we are dealing with uniqueness all through the journey. No two people and no two guitars are the same. Use the guides on this site as a way to reach a starting point. Keep in mind human emotions, personality traits, physical attributes (i.e.small hands) and any other considerations that may arise. Will weight and nut width need to be considered? To see more about how the hands work in practice for guitar playing go to The Pencil Neck Video.
Is the person still growing or finished growing? Are they on the cusp or on the line between two hand size brackets? Does anyone make a guitar that seems to be the size that will match best? What is your budget realistically? Good luck and... just enjoy the ride!
Happy Playing Folks!
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