I have tried to learn to play multiple times, but I have an issue with my finger ends. While my fingers themselves aren’t overly wide for a male, my finger ends are. I bit my nails for the first thirty years of my life so the ends are very fat, very wide, with huge pads.
I’ve tried learning with Fender Strats, Squire Strats, Yamaha strats and sime cheap acoustic as well as trying with a Epiphone SG.
The problem I have is that even when my finger ends callous, they still spread and I mute strings unless I go very, very slowly. Also, because of how fleshy they are I have to place my fingers on the string in one way, so the callouses are very specific. It’s that bad, that I even struggle to get my fingers together for alternative A chords without muting other strings.
I’ve asked my local guitar shop and they’re not much help - they just give the old ‘well, give it time’ crap.
Are there any electrics with a wider neck? I’ve looked at the PRS Custom 24 which has the thin, wide neck that gives a little extra width at the nut. The problem is, my nearest guitar shop is 50 miles away so I can’t just pop over to try one! (I’m in the UK so petrol aint cheap!)
I don’t want to give up, but I’m coming to the conclusion that I may need to learn piano instead…
Has anyone else had a similar issue that they’ve overcome?
For electric, if you can afford it, there is this:
I don’t know how good they are or if they ship overseas. They are in California (I would have guessed Texas or Louisiana…)
Have you thought about a nylon string classical (nut 50-54 mm) or a crossover (nut 48-50mm)?
There are a lot of successful sausage fingered players out there, so it is possible without special equipment. Frustrating no doubt, but possible.
anther thing to consider is what you want to play. I’d bet you can play power chords, most triads, and single notes without the finger size being in the way. Even the barre chords can be played with large finger tips. You probably won’t need to work at muting adjacent strings as much as I do!
If your goal uses those styles, maybe you can understand the open chords and move on to play the stuff that is more forgiving for your fingers?
Hi, I’ve seen them. Need to see if they ship to the UK.
You have some wider neck options with acoustics. I share your love of a wider neck and getting an acoustic with a wider neck made learning a lot easier for me.
I have similar shape fingers, with what I call ‘bulbous’ pads.
I had this exact problem for about the first year, and it really started to get to me. It was my absolute number 1 problem on guitar. I felt I was progressing pretty rapidly in all areas, but couldn’t play a consistently clear open A7 etc. It was ridiculous, and to be honest, silently very depressing, and seemingly impossible to resolve. So I know where you’re coming from mate. A wide neck guitar? Not alot of difference really in guitar neck widths, unless you want play a classical guitar. So maybe ditch that idea for the moment.
My solution? Firstly I researched it to death, got some good info, and realised,
- It was certainly ‘fixable’, and
- In the scheme of things, many others had overcome much bigger guitar challenges than this.
After going over my basic technique, I began filming myself from all sorts of angles to get an exact picture of the problem. I think this is a crucial step. The upshot was I had about a 1mm ‘wriggle’ room between a clear and muddy A7 chord. This gave me a clear picture of the problem. So I worked meticulously on my technique ie. ,perpendicular fingers, correct posture, correct hand position, and importantly, lowering tension. Mainly doing chord change exercises, and ‘set and release’ exercises. To be honest, it was very frustrating for some time, but the problem has been largely resolved. So, identifying the EXACT nature of the problem, focused perseverance and patience man. Sorry, but thats the way.
Today, 2 years on, I still have to be somewhat mindful when playing a chord etc with fingers 2 and 3, with an open string in between ( eg. an open A7). I suspect it’ll disappear completely into the subconscious one day
The upside to all this is that this ‘problem’ instilled in me the crucial importance of the the 2 ‘T’s’ - technique and tension - and believe its been a great benefit in everything I’ve learnt since. Whenever I can’t play that lick properly, or keep messin up the same section of a song etc, it’s invariably technique and/or tension that are most often the cuplrit.
So, there’s a way forward man. Being scientific and methodical about it I think helps to minimise the psychological aspect of it too. Best of luck.
So when offered advice you call it crap and look for a different solution?
What @sclay and guitar shop guy said is right. It disappears in time.
An acoustic might be easier than a strat for open A7 type chords.
However wide fingers can help with muting as well, which is a hugely important thing. Barre chords may be easier than for someone with small fingers.
Plenty of guitar players with thick fingers. Look at Kyle Gass from Tenacious D for example.
A one-time hundred-mile round trip to try guitars to find one you’re comfortable with is out of the question because of fuel price? What are we talking about, four gallons (15 liters)? If you really want to solve your problem, that seems like a fairly minor sacrifice.
If you doubt it can be done, watch Ricky Skaggs play mandolin - big guy, big fingers, little instrument & amazing results… I’m sure he had to overcome the big finger problem too! Just keep on plugging away. As Justin states over & over, we’re all built differently with our own physical issues to work around or overcome. You can do it Steve!
If you wanted to go the wider neck route there are loads of PRS guitars with a “wide fat neck” profile, these are 1 11/16 at the nut. I struggled with a strat when I started but can play it without issue now. In the interim I bought both an electric and acoustic PRS with the above neck profile. The distance between strings seemed minute on paper between a strat and the PRS fat neck but in practice it’s huge.
Thanks for your reply, Shane.
I will certainly take your advice to heart and drop the wide-neck search. As, as you say, there really isn’t much difference and I really don’t fancy going to a nylon string guitar!
I’ll give filming etc a go.
Maybe I didn’t explain myself well.
What I should have said was that after 12 months of struggling with no improvement in catching adjoining strings, I asked a few shops, over a period of months, for advice. Even if that advice meant buying a different guitar from them. I also scoured the internet.
All I got was the same advice - just give it time. No help on possible things I could be doing wrong.
I felt they were treating my issue as typical beginner issues - but they improve with practice and callouses. I think I was frustrated.