Height, Hand Size and Guitars

How do we measure people? 

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!

Measuring the Human Hand

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

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

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.

Why Should we measure Hand Size?

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. 

For examples:

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!

Here below are the PDF Guitar Sizes Guides

Electric Guitars

Nylon String Guitars

Steel String Guitars

Final Considerations

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!

If you find anything on this site of help to you please do the "Like, Share, Subscribe" thing! You can also visit my visual designs "merch page" for musical and humourus type gift ideas and various printed household items. 

Home>Top>Hand Span & length>Back to Guitar Sizes

If you are local to the United Kingdom West Midlands Coventry Kenilworth Leamington Warwick Rugby Stoneleigh  CV8 Post Code area and are interested in tuition feel free to arrange a “First session Free” Guitar or Theory Lesson. Perhaps you just want to *chat over a cuppa about the options for your children’s music education.

*N.B. Until further notice all interaction will be virtual or in full observation of distancing practices.

Playable Guitar 

Rural Innovation Centre Unit 32 Avenue H 

Stonleigh Park CV8 2LG   +44 2476 998 500

International? Please contact me about Skype lessons. Se habla español – pues bueno un pocito! 

Buy Me a Coffee!   

click here to see other ways to support this site

Contact me directly 

Got suggestions or questions?

Want to try a free Skype or Zoom lesson?

Got a testimonial? click here

Click the link to the contact form above or write to me at the address shown and I will get back to you as quick as I can !

Happy playing!

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.