If you’re in the market for a new electric guitar, then you’ve probably had your head turned by the iconic Les Paul. It’s well known for it’s heavy, thick and warm tone that’s perfect for a range of different styles of music, not to mention, it looks great too. But do you know how easy it is to play?
It’s common knowledge that Les Paul’s have pretty hefty necks, but does this cause an issue for players with small hand? I’ll go through this issue in this article, so you can decide if the Les Paul is the right guitar for you. So let’s get started?
The Quick Answer
Some Les Paul’s can be difficult for players with smaller hands because the necks are fairly wide and rounded. Gibson and Epiphone Standard ’50’s, Tribute and Junior are usually the hardest or small-handed players. Some Les Paul’s have slimmer necks, like the Modern, Classic and Studio models, these are often preferred by players with smaller hands.
Problems with Les Paul's for Small Hands
When we talk about the Les Paul being harder to play for people with smaller hands, we’re really talking about the neck of the guitar.
Small hands won’t hold your picking hand back, but it can sometimes make it more difficult for your fretting hand. Les Paul’s are pretty well known for having fairly thick and wide necks, which can make it hard to hold barre chords, power chords and play riffs on the lower strings in particular.
To understand this more, we need to get clear about the shape of a Les Paul’s neck.
When we talk about the neck, there are three things to consider:
- Width: so this is the how wide the face of the fretboard is.
- Depth: this is how “thick” the neck is, when you look over it as you’re playing.
- Profile: this refers to the overall shape of the neck. There are three main Les Paul neck profiles. From slimmest to thickest: asymmetrical slim taper, slim taper, C-shape and rounded.
Different Les Paul Necks Types
It’s important to know, that not all Les Paul’s have thick necks that are challenging for players with small hands. There are loads of different varieties of Les Paul’s, some with thinner necks which are actually great for small-handed guitarists.
Here’s a quick rundown of the different neck profiles of each main Les Paul model, and how easy they’ll be for most players with small hands.
|Les Paul Model||Neck Shape||Suitability for Small Hands|
|Modern||Asymmetrical slim taper||Very High|
|Slash Les Paul||C-shape||Moderate|
How Much Does It All Matter?
Okay, so with all that said, how much does neck shape actually matter?
Unless you have super small hands, and you physically cannot reach the top frets on the guitar, then it doesn’t matter all that much what size your hands are.
Of course, if you have smaller hands, you’ll probably find it harder to play on a rounded Gibson Les Paul Standard ’50s neck, but in most cases you’ll simply get used to it.
Once you’ve been practising for a while, you’ll learn how to position your wrist and hand in the comfiest way, and your small hands won’t really hold you back, no matter what guitar you’re playing.
So if you love the look and sound of a 50’s Les Paul, then give it a go in the store, and see how you get on. If it feels great, then go for it. It’s all about personal preference, so don’t let anyone say that you can’t play a Les Paul because you have smaller hands.
Personally, I play a Slash Les Paul and I have super small hands, and I’ve never found it to be a huge issue.
How Does Hand Size Affect Playability
There are actually a couple of ways that hand and finger size can affect how easy a guitar is to play.
- Thick necks are hard for small hands to hold
- Wide frets are difficult for small fingers
If you have small fingers, and the frets are spread wide apart, for example, if the guitar has jumbo frets, then your fingers will have to stretch farther. This can make it difficult to play quick riffs that span multiple frets, and it can make it hard to hold power chords and barre chords.
Luckily, the Les Paul is actually a pretty good guitar for small hands in this respect. Les Paul’s have medium sized frets, and a pretty short scale length (length between the bridge and nut), meaning your fingers never really have to stretch that far. Which is great news for small-handed guitarists.
How Will I Know If My Hands are Too Small?
Okay, so the chances are, you’re here because you are looking to purchase a Les Paul, but you’re worried you’ll end up regretting it because your hands will be too small to play it properly?
So what do you do?
Well, hopefully you feel a bit more clued up about the different Les Paul models, and generally how easy they are for small-handed player. But the best way to know for sure, is by actually trying the guitar yourself.
If this is your second guitar, or you’re a more experienced player, then hop down to your local guitar store and give the different models a try. They may take a bit of getting used to, but you’ll know almost straight away if your hand size will hold you back.
If you’re a complete beginner who’s never touched a guitar before, then you should still try holding the guitar to see how it feels. You should also ask the store assistant for their advice. They’re usually pretty clued up and keen to offer advice.
Your best bet, if you’re still unsure, is to go for a Les Paul model with a slim tapered neck e.g the Les Paul Modern, Studio or Classic.
Check out this post to learn more about buying your first guitar.