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Thread: Getting Small Chubby Hand/Wrist to Reach Around

  1. #1

    Question Getting Small Chubby Hand/Wrist to Reach Around

    [FONT=Comic Sans MS]Howdy Folks. I was just reading another thread about the mandolin and people concerned about large or fat fingers on the frets. I just got my mandolin and, upon the first try, didn't even get that far--due to small chubby hands and short fingers. (I specifically chose mandolin because of the narrow neck.)

    While waiting for months to receive my instrument, I've watched countless videos, so I thought I'd be prepared as far as posture and how to hold my mandolin. But I can't figure out how to wrench my wrist around enough so that my short fingers are able to adequately press on the strings. What I mean is, the fingers must curl straight down in order to use the tips, not the fingerprints, but to reach around that far I must bend my wrist almost back on itself. And that position leaves no strength in the fingers when they are curled like that. I should say I'm a senior citizen and brand new to any fretted instrument. I used to play Slovenian button accordion with a group years ago, and I do play some piano. Hope I didn't bite off more than I can chew because I just spent a lot of money on a beautiful mandolin. Any ideas what I'm doing wrong? I just want to be able to learn basic "Sing Along with Mitch" type songs for family fun.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Getting Small Chubby Hand/Wrist to Reach Around

    Welcome Gramma and congrats on your new mandolin. I strongly suggest you take a few live lessons with a mandolin teacher who will get you started off on the right foot..ummm hand. Many, many pros do Skype/Facetime/Zoom lessons and most are pretty reasonably priced at $50-75 per hour.

    There are lots of online courses and YouTube videos but right now you need someone to tell, show, and watch you play since you say you’ve never played a fretted instrument. The mando is not a little guitar so make sure you get a mando player to teach you. Have fun and keep us posted. What kind of mando did you get?
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  3. #3
    Registered User Bruce Clausen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting Small Chubby Hand/Wrist to Reach Around

    Quote Originally Posted by GrammaSherry View Post
    [FONT=Comic Sans MS] I can't figure out how to wrench my wrist around enough so that my short fingers are able to adequately press on the strings. What I mean is, the fingers must curl straight down in order to use the tips, not the fingerprints, but to reach around that far I must bend my wrist almost back on itself. And that position leaves no strength in the fingers when they are curled like that.
    I thoroughly agree that you should get in-person lessons to get started. But from what you've said here, it may be that you're trying to hold the mandolin in your lap, or at any rate way too low. If so, try holding the instrument high on your chest (with a strap) and with the neck more or less horizontal. Your elbow then hangs at your side and your left hand rises to face the strings, nearly at shoulder height. Your wrist hangs down, bending only slightly, and your fingertips face your left thumb through the neck. This isn't the only way to play, but it might be something to try.

    Or the problem could be something else entirely. Good luck with your new project!

  4. #4

    Default Re: Getting Small Chubby Hand/Wrist to Reach Around

    Everyone's fingers feel clumsy at first! I guarantee you, your anatomy/anthropometry is not an impediment to playing. Be patient with it, it'll feel natural in time. Plenty of excellent players have shorter or wider fingers than average, just give it time.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Getting Small Chubby Hand/Wrist to Reach Around

    The fingers should be more in line with the neck the way a violin player contacts the strings rather than straight down on the tips as a guitar player does. That helped me a lot. Actually you should be more on the fingerprints than the ends.

    Using a strap and adjusting the neck angle may help. Also look at how the mandolin is rotated top to bottom. A small change of neck angle or rotation can make a great difference. Each player has to position slightly differently due to differences in body shape and size.

    Your fingers should be right behind the frets, not on top of them or in the middle. It should take very little pressure to get a good sound if your fingers are in the right place. Your wrist should be as straight as possible. A bent wrist can lead to carpal tunnel and tendonitis issues down the road, sometimes not very far down the road.

    The ring and pinky finger on my left hand were badly damaged in a workshop injury and I will guarantee they are shorter and fatter than about anyone. Working with your fingers over time will give more mobility and flexibility. Be patient and careful. As you noted the extreme bent wrist is not a good thing. It will lead to injury over time. A good teacher with experience on the mandolin may be able to help you right away.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Getting Small Chubby Hand/Wrist to Reach Around

    Welcome to the forum, GrammaSherry.

    I am just a senior citizen newbie, so not much help in solving your problem. While you are trying to decide about on-line or in-person lessons, you may want to spend a little time watching some of the beginning free lessons on Mandolessons.com, etc. if you haven't already (you said you had been watching some).

    Most of all, just relax and have fun. For sing along music, you might want to start with learning a few two finger chords. I have a book by Dix Bruce that starts out that way, and you can play a LOT of songs with just a few chords (like G, C, D) which only need two strings fretted and can be done up on the skinny part of the neck. Another one of his books that I recommend you look at is Parking Lot Pickers. It has a lot of popular songs in easy to play keys.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Getting Small Chubby Hand/Wrist to Reach Around

    First off, I want to assure you that even with small, chubby hands and short fingers, you will be able to fret the mandolin in time. Look at Sierra Hull for an example of someone with small hands that has no problems moving around the instrument.

    I really struggled getting my pinky to the strings cleanly in the beginning. The only way I could reach the G string with my pinky was with it flat across all the other strings. The thing that helped me was starting with the pinky first. I would get my pinky into the most comfortable position I could and then slowly place the other fingers down. Then I would just practice lifting and placing each finger in turn. I also tried changing the angle on the mandolin neck. I tried moving he instrument further away from my body and a steeper angle (around 45 degrees) up. This somehow helped me find a better position for my short pinky.

    Give yourself time. Your fingers will "loosen up" over time. They will also get stronger. If you don't have light gauge strings on your instrument, I would recommend them.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Getting Small Chubby Hand/Wrist to Reach Around

    You were exactly right--I was holding it wrong, with the fret board facing slightly upward in order to see what my fingers were doing. That caused a need to wrench the wrist. Hard to believe, now, that I thought reaching the frets would be a problem. Thanks for your advice.

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    Registered User Cobalt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting Small Chubby Hand/Wrist to Reach Around

    Quote Originally Posted by GrammaSherry View Post
    You were exactly right--I was holding it wrong, with the fret board facing slightly upward in order to see what my fingers were doing. That caused a need to wrench the wrist. Hard to believe, now, that I thought reaching the frets would be a problem. Thanks for your advice.
    That's understandable. When I first started, and was more or less teaching myself, I had the mandolin body placed flat on my lap as I sat. It does make everything visible, but doesn't help much with the rest of things. It should just feel comfortable when holding and playing. No stress - apart from sore fingertips and some stretching of the fingers to extend the reach to different frets. After a while those feel comfortable too.

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    Registered User J Mangio's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting Small Chubby Hand/Wrist to Reach Around

    Check out Mike Marshall on Mandolin Tips on you tube.
    2020 The Loar Supreme LM700 VS

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