One of the most popular articles on this site has to do with how to hold your pick and keep it from slipping out of your fingers.
(check out that article if you’re looking for tips to keep your guitar pick from slipping and sliding around in your fingers while playing)
If you’re interested in trying out something new that will keep your pick from slipping… JimsPick are worth a try.
A few days ago I received an email from Jim asking if I’d try out his new patented and trademarked picks. Of course I’ll try them out! He was kind enough to send over some samples.
Here’s what he sent:
I recently got an e-mail from a reader asking about getting their guitar “set up”. I realize that I often recommend folks get their guitars set up, but I don’t often explain it.
Sometimes you may hear a guitar player talk about their set up.
But what does it mean to get your guitar set up?
Should you get your guitar set up?
A while back I got a question from a fat-fingered Severn River Music reader (sorry Robert, but you said it, not me). Here’s what Robert said:
I just started (1 week ago) teaching myself to play on an old classical acoustic guitar that was given to me. Eventually want to learn to play some old and new rock/pop songs so is learning on a classical guitar ok? I’m just doing basic dexterity/scales practice for about 20-45 mins a day and started learning a few chords. I do have some issues due to having smaller hands/fat fingers and was wondering if that will always hold me back or will it just take longer to get the needed dexterity? Also, calluses are coming along nicely so it’s not as painful now!
Hey Robert – Ahhh yeah, the old fat/stubby/little/short finger issue. A few things that may help:
Use A Big Fat Guitar
Using a classical guitar will probably help anyone who has thicker fingers. Generally, classical guitars have wider/thicker necks, which usually means that the strings are further apart. This lessens the issue of your fingers rubbing up against the wrong strings. Rubbing up against the wrong strings mutes the strings (or gives you that buzzy sound).
Unfortunately, wider necks can make it more difficult for players with small hands.
Capo That Baby Up!
Using a capo on the 4th or 5th fret (or playing your scales on higher frets) may help as well.
As you get further down the neck of the guitar, the frets become closer together. This means that you don’t need to stretch your fingers as much as you would in the first position (up near the headstock of the guitar).
Closer frets means less stretching which can make playing guitar easier for people with small hands.
Examples of Famous Guitar Players with Fat Fingers (or no fingers)
Check out this post (and video) of Django Reinhardt. One of the best guitar players ever, and he only used two fingers. He lost the use of his pinky and ring fingers, leaving him only able to play guitar with his pointer and middle finger.
Read the full post for all of the details, but the bottom line is: don’t let your physical limitations, limit your guitar playing.
Another example is Richie Havens – who had super large fingers that made normal open position chords tricky to play. Basic things like G, Am, Em, F, etc – so he relied on open tunings to get the sound he wanted. You can see a video of Richie Havens (and his fat fingers) in action here.
From the New York Times...
His hands were very large, which made it difficult to play the guitar. He developed an unorthodox tuning so he could play chord patterns not possible with conventional tunings. The style was picked up by other folk and blues singers.
“A person looking at him might think he was just flailing about,” the guitarist Barry Oliver said in the magazine Guitar Player. “But the way he flailed about was so musical, and it went perfectly with what he was portraying. He’s a good example of not having to have to be a technically perfect guitarist in order to come across.”
I love that quote: “not having to have to be a technically perfect guitarist in order to come across”. I also love the his style was picked up by other folk and blues singers! He couldn’t play using traditional methods so he created his own method out of necessity!
Real Life Examples (from Normal People)
My 48 year old student.
He plays a Gibson Les Paul.
He has smallish hands and thick fingers.
I have yet to find a song that Gus can’t play. Now granted, he does a lot of power chords. But he also plays solos and intricate arpeggiated chords. I’m talking bar chords… C shaped bar chords.
He loves Red Hot Chili Peppers. These aren’t the easiest songs to play… and play well. But Gus can do it.
It takes him a little longer to find the chords. He has to really focus his efforts. It certainly doesn’t come as easy to him. But he loves the music and he loves guitar so he makes it work.
I’ve had other students with gigantic bear sized hands and sausage fingers. Yet they still execute chords and scales perfectly. It takes patience and deliberate practice.
Thanks for everyone that comments and asks questions. If it weren’t for you, I would never be able to address questions like the one in this article. That’s it! If I missed anything (or if you have any questions) let me know in the comments below!
Jake Posko is the owner of Severn River Music – proudly and happily providing in-home guitar, piano, drum and music lessons in the Maryland area including: Annapolis, Edgewater, Severna Park, Pasadena, Crownsville, Arnold and Kent Island, inquire about lessons by e-mailing him at email@example.com
If you’re looking for the best guitar strap, you may want to check out the top selling straps here.
For more details, read on…
How to Use a Guitar Strap
Guitar straps are super easy to use and attach.
There are two ways to attach a guitar strap:
- Using the buttons on your guitar
- Using one button and using a string.
Using the Buttons
In the photo above we can see the button on the bottom of the body of the guitar.
This is where we attach the guitar strap.
For newer guitar straps, it may take some work to fit the strap onto the button. Over time, the strap will start to wear down and attaching it will be easier… just make sure it doesn’t get too loose (otherwise it may slip off).
For many guitars there is another button located at the base of the neck of the guitar, or on the opposite side of the body of the guitar.
In the photo above you can see where the two buttons are located.
If your guitar has two buttons, attaching the strap is pretty straightforward.
If it only has one button at the base of the guitar, here’s what to do.
Using one button and using a string
If your guitar only has one button for the strap, you’ll need to use a string or other rope-like device to tie off your guitar strap.
In the photo above you can see where the guitar strap has been tied off.
You’ll need to thread the string underneath the guitar strings just above the nut of the guitar.
It can be kind of tricky at first, but that’s how it’s done.
You could also get one of these cool snap-on guitar strap attachments to make things little easier:
Now that you’ve got your strap attached. There are some other things you’ll probably want to keep in mind…
You gotta practice with a strap.
I’ve written previously about how I regret not using a guitar strap early in my life.
I exclusively played while sitting down – this included when I performed at gigs.
It didn’t really matter from a performance perspective since I was using just singing and playing by myself.
When I started playing with other people, I had to stand.
I wasn’t used to standing up so my playing suffered.
Plus it was exhausting.
I’ve learned my lesson and now I practice standing up every so often (especially if I have a gig coming up).
I also teach my students to practice while standing if they have a gig.
It will make you that much better when you actually perform.
Plus, it will force you to test your strap out prior to playing
You gotta test that thing out.
Last thing you want is your strap to slip or break.
If you want – you can get a locking guitar strap.
I’ve used them before (though not often).
They work pretty well and they keep your guitar secure…. they’re just kind of a pain to change on and off.
Even if you use a traditional guitar strap – make sure you test it out so that it’s working.
I’ve had cheap straps that slip off the button on my guitar while I am playing.
This is obviously dangerous for your guitar.
Test your straps and have an extra on hand just in case.
For those of you with acoustic guitars that don’t have buttons behind the neck by the body, you’ll need to tie the strap just above the nut by weaving a string, shoelace, rope, or paracord underneath the strings.
Make sure you don’t tie it off on top of the strings or it will alter the tuning and the sound.
I usually use a hefty shoelace, nylon rope, or paracord.
You gotta use it at the right length.
Just as you want to test out the strap durability, you should also test various lengths.
So, how long should a guitar strap be?
Really it just comes down to personal preference.
I like to have my guitar hang around my belt buckle or belly button.
Any lower and I can’t play as well.
Any higher and I feel restricted.
Don’t be afraid to play around with different lengths.
I also find that when I play my acoustic, I have the guitar slightly higher.
When I play the electric I have the guitar slightly lower.
Again… personal preference.
Get a few different kinds.
I have a few straps that are my go-to guitar straps.
And I have a few cheap backups.
Don’t be afraid to express yourself with your guitar strap.
That’s it! If I missed anything (or if you have any questions) let me know in the comments below!
Jake Posko does Online Guitar Lessons and Coaching as well as in-home lessons in the Annapolis, Maryland area including: Annapolis, Edgewater, Severna Park, Pasadena, Crownsville, Arnold and Kent Island, inquire about lessons by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Credit: Tim Walker
If you’re looking for the best travel electric guitar or the best travel acoustic guitar, you can check out these articles.
If you’re looking for the best travel guitar amp… read on.
Overall, I recommend the Line 6 Micro Spider 6-Watt Battery-Powered Guitar Amplifier. It’s the one I have used for a few years now. It takes 6 C batteries or you can plug it in with a power adapter (included). I like it because it pumps out a lot of power in a little package. It also has a TON of build in effects (even the presets work really well right out of the box). You can read the full review below, or check it out here.
Just buy this amp.
Yesterday I reviewed and recommended the best travel acoustic guitars.
Today we’ll cover the best travel electric guitars.
Decent travel guitars are hard to find.
They often end up feeling awkward (Martin Backpacker… I’m talking about you).
But don’t worry.
There are actually some decent options out there if you’re thinking about taking your electric guitar with you on a road trip (or any kind of trip).
Here’s what I suggest:
Child Sized Guitar
Squier by Fender “Mini” Strat
If you’re looking to save money on a cheap travel guitar, I’d suggest first looking at a child sized (or 3/4 sized) guitar.
I usually recommend the Squier to all of my younger students.
With the three single coil pickups, they’re super versatile – just like a standard stratocaster.
They usually run about $100 so they’re very affordable.
Their low price is also nice in the event the guitar is lost or damaged during travel.
The downside to using a child sized guitar for travel purposes is the size.
Even though it’s not as large as a full sized electric guitar, it’s still larger than most travel guitars.
Size info: 44.5 x 14.5 inches
Weight: 11 lbs
That’s the size info from Amazon, the Fender website yields even less results. I’m guessing that it’s not really 44 inches long – probably closer to 35″. It’s hard to tell with Amazon as sometimes the size is actually the shipping size.
For those interested, the Squier Mini has a 22.5″ scale length compared to the 25.5″ scale length. When we’re talking about scale length we’re talking about the distance from the bridge to the nut.
Here’s what I mean:
It’s nice to know the scale length, but if I’m traveling I’d also like to know the actual size of the entire guitar.
A comparable guitar (size wise) is the Dean Playmate EVO Junior Solid Body Electric Guitar. I actually have one of these and measured.
Size info: 37 x 10 inches
Weight: 6 lbs
This Dean guitar is my go-to travel guitar. I recently took it with me on a family vacation to the beach. I packed it in soft gig bag and wedged it in my car with all of my other stuff.
It held up great, no scratches no damage and it was super fun to play while I was away.
If you have a larger budget and want a smaller guitar (that is a true travel guitar), here’s what I’d consider:
Traveler Guitar SONIC L22 Travel Electric Guitar
This is pretty close to a child sized guitar if only slightly smaller.
Size info: 33.5 x 10.5 inches
Weight: 5.3 lbs
Yes it’s about the same size as a child guitar, but it has a full 24.75″ scale. That means it will feel much like a standard guitar – just with a smaller body.
The other cool feature is the headphone jack.
You can plug your headphones in (no adapter needed) and choose from 4 different effects (clean, boost, overdrive, and distortion).
I love this aspect of it.
I don’t have to pull out my computer and run my guitar through Garage band. I don’t have to use an amp. I can just plug my headphones in and play.
Hofner HCTSHRO Shorty Electric Guitar
This guitar is small and cheap.
It hits the mark between travel guitar and affordability.
It has a full scale length, so it should feel like a full sized guitar in that respect…. with a notable exception:
This thing is super thin.
You’ll probably need a strap to play it comfortably (even when sitting down).
It reminds me of an electric version of the Martin Backpacker (of which I am not a fan).
But it’s pretty cheap… so it may be worth it for you.
Size info: 30 x 8 inches
Weight: 6.5 lbs
PRO MOD X Pro-Series Mod-X Hybrid Acoustic-Electric Travel Guitar
Now this is a legit travel guitar.
Here are the specs:
Size info: 28 x 5.2 inches (when arm and lap rests are detached)
Weight: 4 lbs
As you can see: It’s super light, and super compact.
It has an arm rest and a lap rest. That means that you can sit comfortably with it and play (without the use of a guitar strap). These rests can be removed when traveling.
It has piezo pickups which – when plugged in – will give it an acoustic sound. However, anyone who has ever plugged in an acoustic-electric guitar will know what that this is a little misleading. It will sound clean and clear, but probably a bit thin and tinny as well.
On the other hand, the humbucker pickups on this guitar can be split to single coil which means there is versatility in the kind of electric guitar sound you can get.
Downside – no direct headphone plug-in like the SONIC L22 Travel Electric Guitar. I realize this isn’t standard, but it should be given the nature of the guitar (and given the price).
The other downside, the lap and arm rests are detachable (as opposed to stowable/foldable). This means you’re dealing with additional parts which can be frustrating when traveling especially if you’re prone to losing things like me (Author’s Note: On my last vacation I lost my only pair of eye glasses as well as my Kindle Fire Tablet… losing things is a concern of mine).
Ultra-Light Electric Travel Guitar
This is probably the most popular travel electric guitar, and given the specs it’s easy to see why.
Size info: 28 x 5.25 inches (with lap rest stowed)
Weight: 3 lbs
It’s very small and very light (despite having a full scale length).
It has a lap rest (but no arm rest). However the lap rest can be folded for easy portability.
I should also mention that the tuning pegs on both the Ultra-Light and the PRO MOD guitars are located within the body of the guitar.
I love the efficiency of the design, even if it looks a little weird.
Time Travel Guitar
Erlewine Chiquita Travel Guitar
If I had an extra few hundred dollars laying around (or if anyone wants to get me a really nice Christmas present) this would be the next guitar I buy.
It’s a cool little travel guitar… and it is the same guitar that Marty McFly uses in the beginning of Back to the Future.
I think there is some subconscious part of my brain that locked on to that scene where he stands in front of the gigantic speaker, with a metal pick, and hits those strings.
Such power out of such a tiny instrument.
Here are the specs:
Size info: 27.5 inches long (with a 19″ scale)
Weight: 4.25 lbs
That it! Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions in the comments below. I’d love to hear about your travel guitar experience!