Tips For Left Handed Guitarists

Andy | July 29, 2013 | 5 Comments

Left handed?

Start here.  10% of us our left handed.  That makes about 32 million of us in America. When I started out wanting to learn guitar, I asked folks if I should learn left handed, or as a righty.  I was given the advice to try and learn as a righty. Actually, it may not have been advice.  I may have been forced, I don’t remember exactly.  My brother had an old acoustic he never touched, so I learned on that.  So, odds are that is what drove my choice.  I 100% agree with that 25 years later. 

Allow me to explain why.

First off, not being a dominant righty will not hinder your ability on any level.  To this day, I still can’t do a damn thing with my right hand.  Think of all the stuff your left hand would do on the fret board.  It takes major hand strength and dexterity to hold those chords down and move around the neck comfortably, especially if you are just learning.  In that sense, I think being a dominant left handed person is a plus.  All of the hard work is being done by the left hand.

There are also SO many practical reasons to learn as a righty. 

First is just availably of guitars.  Guitar center, for example, has about 200 hundred guitars on their wall here in town.  Of those, 6 are lefty guitars. Left handed guitars are generally more expensive, for absolutely no good reason.  It is exactly same the hardware. So, you don’t get much choice. I love to go into guitar shops and play around with all the guitars.  I wouldn’t be able to do that if I played left handed.  Think of rare and expensive guitars – like a Gibson double neck that Jimmy Page made famous.  I doubt you will find one of those in left handed.  I know you don’t care about it now, but down the road you will.

Jimi Hendrix, for example, would not buy left handed guitars (though he did play left handed).  Because they are so rare, he felt they would not be uniform in sound.  So, he always bought right handed strats and strung them upside down.  Go ahead, google him now.  You will see in every single picture, his headstock is upside down.  Jimi didn’t trust left handed guitars, and that is good enough for me.

The other part is the practical nature of learning with the majority.  You can play other people’s guitars, and they can play yours.  Let’s say you get invited up on stage to jam, in time you will, I promise.  Odds are that person/band doesn’t have a lefty guitar.  Are you doing songs camping, or at the beach?  We pass the guitar around to those who can play.  Everyone does a song, and then passes it over.  I could not do that if I had learned as a lefty.

 So, it is a practical decision.  I am confident there are absolutely no deficits, physical or mental, that would keep you from being a 100% awesome guitars by learning opposite how the others do.  Also, you are a lefty, so you have a VERY adaptive brain.  I have been studying the neurology of left handedness for about 20 years.  You are an exquisite and adaptive animal that has learned to thrive in a right handed culture.  Odds are against you as a lefty in society..  Lefties stutter, die younger, and are more prone to alcoholism.  However, they are also considerably more creative.

Do you know what the Latin word for left handed is?  Sinister.  Yeah, sinister doesn’t mean evil or bad.  It means left handed.  Latin for right?  Dexter.  To have dexterity simply means to be right handed.  So, even language is biased against.

kurt-cobain-image

You are also in good company as a musician, though.  Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, Tony Iommy, and Kurt Cobain are all lefties.

Article by Kevin Lang.

Kevin ‘Lono’ Lang lives on a small ranch just outside  Denver, CO with wife and dogs and horses. He has been playing for 25 years. He actively plays both guitar and bass in Denver rock band ‘ClownFight’. 

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Category: Guitar Stuff, July 2013

Comments (5)

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  1. Anees Shah says:

    Why we are left-handed or right-handed? According to new scientific research, it would not be the brain, but the spinal cord, which would determine that we use the left or right preferably.

  2. Kevin Lang says:

    David,

    I disagree. I am a lefty playing in a right handed world on a right handed guitar (I also am the author of this piece). I can do virtually nothing with my right hand. Can’t right, catch, throw… anything. It is basically a decorative prop so I don’t fall over to the left.

    however, I have learned rhythm extremely well using my right hand. In fact, I am just finishing a new piece on this as we speak (which is why I came back). I am able to do so much with rhythm and strumming that I literally can not think of a better rhythm person than myself. My cat can play better lead, but strumming is my ace.

    Also, think of this; where you need the actual physical strength in playing guitar is with your left hand. That is where you have to stretch your hand and hold those chords. I think how unpleasant it was to learn the barred F chord… and I shutter to think how long that would have taken as a righty.

    Sarah mentions above how she finally was able to save up and get a left handed guitar… at 33. If she had learned right handed, she would already have 20 years of playing under her belt. All styles are welcome, but the flexibility you get by playing right handed far outweigh the brief learning awkwardness.

  3. Abhi says:

    I have a doubt ,m lefty Frm childhood nd I used to sing so it’s very imp to learn how to play guitar for me . So can I have some suggestion ??? How to chose a right guitar ???

  4. Sarah S. says:

    I am a beginner lefty and I have gone back and forth (in my mind) with learning left or right handed. I read an article that said to, without thinking, start playing air guitar. The way you hold your air guitar is the way you should learn to play real guitar. For me, I have decided to buy a left-handed acoustic Johnson JG-624-CEN. My ex bought it off some dude out in the boonies for $100.
    I will say that if I had chosen to play righty, my father would’ve taught me on his own Gibson a long time ago, but we were not rich and I was never able to get my hands on a left handed guitar (until now, I’m 33). There is no way he would’ve let me restring that original 1960’s custom Gibson Hummingbird! Funny thing is, it is now willed to me but I will never be able to play it…
    Left-handed people use their right hand a lot more than anyone realizes. Most doorknobs are on our “wrong side,” the shift knob in your car (in the US), measuring cups (this one is so annoying! we always see the metric side!), faucets, everyone knows about notebook spirals and smudging pencils, but even the mouse on your computer! I could go on and on.
    I joke to my boyfriend that when I learn to play the guitar well, I will buy a really nice guitar…that will never be worth nearly as much as the same right handed guitar.
    Anyway, I have decided to stay away from learning left handed, ie: left handed guitar chord charts. There are not that many out there, I feel many are incorrect, and once you start learning by looking at them backwards (left handed), it will be especially hard to read them the other way around (right handed).
    Make your own choice. If you have no access to a left handed guitar, but you do have a righty laying around, I’d say not to let anything hold you back. Just go for it. It’s gotta feel normal eventually. But if you can get a lefty, I would definitely suggest that.
    And for everyone out there who says a lefty guitar sucks because you can’t share your guitar at campfires or jams, I say GOOD!!! Honestly, watching someone jam and grind up on my guitar and my strings makes me want to hurt something! Like watching your child get slapped!!! No thanks!

  5. david h says:

    how about all your rhythm is in you dominant hand. like it is very difficult to learn strum patterns with your right hand, being left handed. this is my experience.

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