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Players with small hands often find the neck on 5-string bass guitars too thick for comfortable playing, particularly for low notes close to the nut. Electric bass with full 19 ¾” bridge spacing are also challenging for smaller hands.
5-string P-basses are a good example of wide-necked guitars which are harder to play for a person with small hands. These players often have a hard time spanning 4 frets in the lower notes, e.g. when playing a I-IV-V in G. For such small-handed bassists, a small neck helps them reach the low B string more easily, including between the 5th and 12th frets.
Some 5-string basses tend to have slightly narrower nut width and shorter string spacing, making them a bit more comfortable for smaller hands.
While hand size is not necessarily a major hindering factor for playing a 5-string bass, and good technique can make a huge difference. Nevertheless, some basses are definitely better-suited than others for small-handed people.
5-string bass for small hands
Generally speaking, small-handed bassists should look for a 5-string bass with a slim neck profile, narrow string spacing (less than 18mm at the bridge), and standard or short scale length (34″ or less).
Neck profile (aka back-shape) refers to the shape of the back of the electric bass guitar neck in cross-section. It has no impact on the sound but only affects the playability of the bass. Neck width is also a consideration but not as important as the neck front-to-back thickness.
The neck-profile variations include C, D, V and U-shaped necks. The C-shape neck is the most common in production bass guitars. The D is similar to the C but has a flatter profile. The V radius is the smallest at the point where you normally place your thumb.
Width refers to nut and bridge width, both of which can impact playability for small hands. A bass that is narrow at the nut is considered ‘faster’, while a narrow bridge width will impact running up the string. The most common nut-width for 5-string bass guitars is 45mm.
Small-handed players generally find that a flatter neck profile does more for playability than a narrower width.
Short scale basses are generally easiest for smaller bass players. Some basses have scale lengths as short as 28 to 30″. For most players, however, a 32 or 33″ scale 5-string with close string spacing can work well.
close string spacing makes a 5-string bass more playable for small hands. The Ibanez 5 string bass guitar have narrow spacing between 16.5 and 17mm. The EBMM 5ver has a 17mm string spacing. Some small-handed players, however, still prefer a healthy string spacing such as the Fender 5’s 18mm – ultra-narrow spacing can make both fingerstyle and slapping harder.
A combination of shorter scale, low action, and light-tension strings can make a 5-string bass easier both on the right hand and left hand. You can opt for flatwounds like La Bella or TI Jazz Flats if you don’t mind forfeiting the slap tones.
Beyond small hands, smaller sized musicians should generally look for a 5-string bass with a relatively slim body, an ergonomic shape, and lighter weight – a 10-11lb bass will get you exhausted after a couple of sets.
Some good 5-string basses for small hands
ibanez SR 5 string best 5-string bass for small hands
The full-scale Ibanez SR 5-string basses have a very slim neck, making them easier to play than even the slimmest Fender Jazz model. The lower numbers of the series have a 1.77/45mm nut and a narrow heel and bridge spacing.
The SR 805, SR 755, SR505 and SR305, are all great 5-string options for a small-handed player. The SR505 is a great bass overall, and even better for small-hands. The SR505 is also narrow at the nut, with a thin neck and very low action – it plays beautifully with smaller hands.
The SR series has very consistent QA and comes with modest price tags. The only caveat is if, despite small hands, you may find the 16.5mm spacing of some SR models too close for your liking, even for small hands. You may also need to pivot your fretting thumb more to adjust to the design.
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