Being left-handed in a world full of right-handed people can be challenging, especially when you’re a musician. If you’re left-handed and want to start playing the guitar, you might be wondering – Will I be at a disadvantage? The most obvious problem with being left-handed and wanting to play the guitar is that most guitars are designed for right-handed people. Your strumming hand on a right-handed guitar is your non-dominant hand. But you don’t have to force yourself to play right-handed.
There are alternative ways to play the guitar as a lefty. With our guide, you can discover your options as a lefty and get a head start in your guitar journey. We will go through the different choices you have on how to play guitar left handed and each choice’s advantages and disadvantages.
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Should I Play Guitar Left-handed or Right-handed?
The first question you need to ask yourself is whether you need to play the guitar left-handed. You can make your choice based on your dominant hand. Are you left-handed or right-handed? Or are you ambidextrous and comfortable using both hands? If you are right-handed, you don’t need to worry. Just walk into a music store and pick up a right-handed guitar, and you’re good to go!
If you’re left-handed or ambidextrous, you have numerous options, each of which has its pros and cons. If you aren’t sure which hand is your dominant one, you can get an idea using this questionnaire.
Can a Left Handed Person Play a Right Handed Guitar?
Yes, a left-handed person can play a right handed guitar in one of two ways – either play it as a right-handed person would, or flip the guitar and play it upside down. The first option is a lot more common but we’ll explain both below. Of course, there is another way to play and that is to completely convert the right handed guitar to a left handed one.
Play Guitar Right-handed
Playing the guitar right-handed as a lefty might not sound like an obvious choice, but it is an option you can consider. Some people might be left-handed, but they use their right hand for specific tasks. If you’re one of these people and can play guitar right-handed, this is a good option for you. Some people started playing right-handed because they didn’t know they had lefty-friendly options and stuck with it when it felt right for them. Although you have other options as a guitarist, there are some stringed instruments, like the cello, where you can’t play left-handed.
Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits is a famous lefty who plays the guitar right-handed. It was the most natural option for him because he started his journey as a musician playing violin right-handed as a child. Find out about some famous left handed violin players.
- You don’t have to worry about finding a left-handed guitar.
- You have more options when purchasing a guitar.
- Your fretting hand will be your left hand, which is stronger, which means you can fret more easily.
- You can use other people’s guitars, which is great for jamming sessions.
- Your right hand will be your strumming hand. While this won’t be a problem early on, you may have trouble strumming and picking once you become a more advanced player.
- You might take longer to learn if you’re having trouble strumming or picking.
Playing a Right-handed Guitar Left-handed
Playing a righty guitar left handed allows you to modify it to be more comfortable for you to play. You can restring it backward so that the strings will be in the right order when you hold the guitar left-handed. Most often you will have to make more modifications to a right-handed guitar to make it left-handed. Alternatively, you can play upside down without restringing.
With a classical guitar, you probably won’t need to do anything beyond restring it. Suppose you are playing an acoustic or electric guitar or an electric bass guitar. In that case, you might need to have the guitar modified by a professional to accommodate your playing. You may also need to drill a new hole for a guitar strap peg.
If you are playing the guitar with the strings upside down, you will have to keep in mind that you will have to learn how to play guitar upside down.
Some acoustic guitars are well suited to this playing style. This is because they may have no or symmetrical cutaways – the curves on the side of the guitar give you more room to move – allowing you to flip the guitar without hindering your playing. There are no knobs to get in the way of your hand, either.
It would be best to choose a model with symmetrical cutaways with an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar or electric bass. This way, you will have more room to strum. Keep in mind that the knobs might get in the way of your strumming hand if you hold an electric guitar upside down, and the tremolo bar might be harder to use.
A famous guitarist who used this playing style was Jimi Hendrix, who used an upside-down, restrung Fender Stratocaster. Albert King and Eric Gales are known for playing guitar upside down left handed, but they didn’t restring theirs.
- You don’t need to spend time searching for a left-handed model.
- If you ever decide to switch to playing right-handed, you can restring the guitar again.
- It might be expensive to go this route if you need to modify the guitar beyond restringing.
- If you choose not to modify the guitar, the dials might get in the way of your strumming hand.
- If you play upside down, it will be more difficult to learn to play since you have to invert chords and tabs.
Buy a Left-handed Guitar
A left-handed guitar is the most obvious option for a lefty. It is the same as a right-handed guitar in terms of features and functions, but the guitar is oriented for a lefty. Learn about the differences between left handed and right handed guitars so that you can tell them apart.
Some people might tell you that this isn’t a good idea because there aren’t many lefty guitar models available and you’ll be restricted from playing most guitars. This isn’t the case. In 2021, there are plenty of left-handed options for you to choose from online, and there are dedicated brick-and-mortar stores for left-handed musicians. Here are some great left handed beginner acoustic guitars and some left handed beginner electric guitars.
Which hand strums the guitar? With a left-handed guitar, you will use your left hand for strumming and your right for fretting. This allows you to use your dominant hand for increasingly complex strumming and picking as you build your skills.
Paul McCartney started playing a right-handed guitar with flipped strings but switched to a custom-ordered left-handed bass and has used left-handed guitars ever since.
- Using your dominant hand for strumming and your other hand for fretting, you will find advanced playing easier.
- You might find it easier to mirror your tutor’s playing when sitting face to face.
- You don’t have to spend extra money modifying the guitar.
- Not that many people can mess around with your guitar.
- Some left-handed guitars are more expensive than their right-handed versions.
- There are fewer models available for you to choose from.
- You’ll have to bring your own guitar to jamming sessions.
How to Hold a Left-handed Guitar
Holding a left-handed guitar is easy! It’s just like holding a right-handed guitar. The only difference is that you hold it so that your right hand is on the neck of the guitar for fretting, and your left hand is on the body of the guitar for picking and strumming.
Learn to Play Guitar Left-handed
There are lots of resources available for a lefty to learn to play guitar. You have two options for learning guitar left handed – you can teach yourself or get a tutor.
For self-teaching, the National Guitar Academy has a comprehensive list of guitar chords that lefties must know. You can also find YouTube guitar lessons for lefties, like this playlist from GCH Guitar Academy. The Academy also has a website with a dedicated section of lessons for left handed guitar playing for beginners.
If you want lessons from a tutor, you can learn from any good tutor and use your guitar of choice since you might have difficulty finding left-handed tutors.
So, which playing style is the one for you? Well, the answer to that question is, only you can decide. Your choice will depend entirely on what you are comfortable with and on what your personal preferences are. You might even start using one playing style and then switch to another because the first style didn’t suit you, and that’s perfectly alright! As long as you can unlock your potential as a guitarist with whatever method you settle on, you can’t go wrong with whatever style you eventually pick.
We hope that our guide will help you decide what path to take in your guitar-playing journey as a lefty in this world dominated by right-handed folk!