Back in my teens, I was amazed when I found out that Angus Young was the same height as me! As quite a shorty myself (5’1½”), I always thought guitars seemed so huge when I held them.
Once I knew that some of my musical idols (Young, Prince, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon) weren’t very tall either, it gave me hope that my height, short arms and little fingers didn’t matter.
But sometimes I ponder the question: Do taller guitar players have an advantage?
Today I’ll explore a few ways that height can impact guitar playing.
How Your Height Affects Guitar Playing
To really explore this topic, I’ve split “playing the guitar” into four sections:
- Guitar size
- Holding the guitar
- Playing chords
Let’s see how height may affect each one.
Guitar Size (vs Your Body Size)
Before we leap into the actual playing, let’s have a quick look at guitar sizes. Ultimately, the biggest factor that will make your guitar easily playable is how well it fits you.
Guitars come in various sizes. The most important part to measure is the scale length. This is from the nut (the top of the neck) to the bridge (where the strings end, near your strumming hand).
Why is scale length important?
Well, this is the area in which your hands will be doing the work. If you’re on the short side (or have short arms), you might find a ¾ guitar more playable than a full-length one.
Taller guitarists usually have longer arms, and can get away with playing comfortably on a longer scale length.
When you hold the guitar, you should be able to easily reach the guitar head with your fretting hand. A guitar that’s too long for you will be harder to play naturally.
Holding the Guitar
It doesn’t matter if you’re tall or short. The way you hold your guitar is personal preference and is all about how you wear your guitar strap.
You should find it easy to reach every fret without straining. If your guitar strap is too low, you may struggle to reach every fret comfortably. If it’s too high, you may find that your fretting arm can’t move freely.
If you prefer wearing your guitar low, you can always tilt the neck upwards. This might look like you’re playing it almost vertically. In this case, you can still reach everywhere. But it may place extra strain on your arm and wrist due to the unnatural position.
Do Taller Guitar Players Have an Advantage When Holding a Guitar?
Holding your guitar in the right place is all about your strap. So it’s safe to say that taller guitarists don’t have an advantage in this area.
Position your guitar at a height that’s comfortable for you, then your own height doesn’t matter much.
Now we get down to the actual playing part. This means wrapping your hands around the guitar neck and getting your fingers in the right place!
A few things come into play here: the size of your guitar’s neck, your dexterity, and the strength of your wrist and fingers.
Wrist flexibility and finger strength will help you to hold chords more easily. Check out these handy stretches for improved flexibility!
But is it different for tall and short guitarists?
Do Taller Guitar Players Have an Advantage When Playing Chords?
Generally, taller guitarists have bigger hands, or at least longer fingers. This could make it easier for them to position their hands and fingers comfortably when playing chords. This is especially true for barre chords.
Shorter players may struggle to hold chords on guitars with thicker necks. Curling a small hand around a big guitar neck doesn’t leave much space and freedom for the fingers!
Taller guitarists may have a slight advantage if they have longer fingers. But it also depends on how dextrous those fingers are!
Another case where long fingers and bigger hands will make a difference is if you’re playing a 7-string or 8-string guitar!
You’ll be pleased to know that technique, muscle memory, and practice are the things that build lead guitar skills.
Your height, arm length, and finger length may make a slight difference. But not much!
Do Taller Guitar Players Have an Advantage When Playing Solos?
Taller guitarists have a wider reach on the fretboard, thanks to their larger hands and longer fingers.
But is a wider reach an advantage?
Soloing is quite diverse. While those with longer fingers may do well on wider frets, they may feel cramped for space higher up the neck.
And just because taller guitarists can reach the notes more easily, it doesn’t mean they can play solos fluidly!
We can conclude that taller guitarists have a wider reach. But that doesn’t necessarily give them an advantage in terms of playing solos skillfully.
What Else Gives a Guitarist an Advantage?
There’s no substitute for talent and hard work! If you’re good and if you work on it, you can pick up any guitar and make it sound good.
So what gives one guitarist an advantage over another?
If you want to take your playing to the next level, there are a few things that could give you an advantage if you use them the right way.
- Choosing a specific pickup configuration
- Using an effects pedal (we reviewed the best acoustic guitar pedals and the best bass fuzz pedals)
- Experimenting with string gauge
- Learn a new guitar technique (like slide guitar, slap bass, or sweep picking)
Any guitarist can learn these things, whether they’re tall or short!
The Tallest Guitarists Around
Whatever you believe about short vs tall guitarists, some of the best guitarists the world has ever seen are big!
Here are some more of the tallest guitarists ever.
- Krist Novoselic (Nirvana) – 6’7”
- Oliver Riedel (Rammstein) – 6’7”
- Jim Root (Slipknot) – 6’6”
- Adrian Vandenberg (Whitesnake) – 6’6”
- Blake Shelton – 6’5”
- Tom Scholz (Boston) – 6’5”
The two tallest guitarists in the world (that we know of) are not household names. Arjen Lucassen and Pete Steele top the list at 6 feet 8 inches each!
So, do taller guitar players have an advantage?
Well, there’s no real evidence to suggest that they do. Sure, some of the best musicians out there are giants. But, some of the greatest are also pretty tiny.
While having long fingers may help you get around the fretboard faster, in the end it comes down to a few factors:
- How you hold your guitar
- Your technique
- How much work you put into it
If you’re short like me, there’s no need to worry. We can rock just as hard as the tall guys and girls!
Thanks for reading!