Left-Handed Guitar Playing Guide

Whether you are getting started or trying to find your groove, the guitar you choose must be the ideal fit. This starts with discovering the hand you should strum with and which one will fret the notes. 

This is different for everyone, and it really doesn’t matter which you write with. There are many people who use the opposite hand to play guitar. Then there are some who can use both!

A left-hand guitar is a mirror image of a right-handed model. The manner the guitar is played is the only significant difference. In this instance, the strumming, picking, and fretting would all be done with the left hand.

In this article, we will explore what this all means and see if playing as a lefty is any different!

What is Left-Handed Guitar Playing?

Strumming the guitar is one simple approach to deciding which hand to play with. This is crucial while you’re attempting to make this decision.

First, begin with your right hand and then flip the instrument over and strum with your left. If you have access to both guitar types, try each one. Then ask yourself these questions:

  • Which hand feels more comfortable? 
  • Which feels more natural when strumming?
  • Does one hand feel more accurate than the other?
  • Does one feel stronger than the other?

You see, the strumming hand will be your more dominant. If you are truly serious and devoted to learning the guitar, you will need to make sure this is your strumming hand.

This is because as you progress as a player, this will require more accuracy. Things like strumming and plucking single strings. Finger and palm timing accuracy is also critical. The list goes on, and to do this while not looking at your strumming will need your dominant hand on duty!

Learning To Play Guitar Left-Handed

Right-handed players are much more prevalent. However, this does not indicate that learning guitar with your left hand would be any harder.

The guitar in general is a difficult instrument to learn as you train your body, fingers, and mind. Some people insist that playing with the left hand is more difficult. This is accurate for a player who uses the opposite hand!

The learning curve is the same if you play left or right. Playing left-handed doesn’t come with any additional hurdles. And there are plenty of tools and resources available to do so.

Left Handed Guitar

Left-Hand Guitar Chords

Many beginners have a concern with the learning material for left-hand guitars. If the guitar is a mirror image of a right-handed instrument, what does that mean with chords and notes?

If this was a concern of yours, then you will be relieved to know that it changes nothing at all. The chords are also a mirror image. Here are the left-handed chords of A major and minor as examples:

A major left hand chord
A minor left hand chord

The chords are a better match to the fretboard on a left-handed guitar. There are many chord charts for left-handed players all over the internet. So you will have no issues learning to play this way.

What About Tabs?

Many musicians use guitar tablature as a very helpful tool to read and play tunes. You will also benefit from tabs as a lefty. And as we have already seen! There are numerous similarities between right and left-handed guitar playing.

Tabs are also oriented to be read with the left hand and are fairly similar to one another. There is nothing to be concerned about here either, as you can see in the image below!

a major tablature left hand

This tablature is of an A major chord, like our chart above. As you can see, it’s easy to read and can be played by a left-handed person who has become familiar with it. This will take time, but will be easy once you get used to it. When looking for tabs, Ultimate Guitar and Songsterr are the best sources.

Left vs Right-hand Guitars

The main difference between left and right-handed guitars is that the strings are reversed. The guitars are mirror images of one another, yet their string arrangement stays the same. This includes all controls and any additional features on the instrument.

If you are unfamiliar with left and right-handed guitars, there is one simple way to know. Hold the instrument in front of you vertically, like it would be hung at a music store.

  • If the thickest string is on the left, it’s a right-handed guitar.
  • If it’s on the right, the guitar is left-handed.

Now, this is assuming that it’s not a restrung right-handed guitar. But this too can be determined quite easily should you have a few guitars around you.

Are they mirrored images of one another, or are the volume and tone controls on opposite sides? If so, then it’s a left-handed guitar. There are many other differences between the two types of models. But this is a quick way to tell when you are not quite sure what to look for.

Does a Left-Handed Person Need a Left-Hand Guitar?

You might be wondering if you have to play a left-handed guitar if you’re a left-hand musician. The quick answer is that left-handed people are able to play with either guitar! Even still, there are key distinctions to take into account.

The guitar’s string orientation is an important consideration. The low E string is placed at the top of a left-handed guitar. While the high E string is placed at the bottom, in contrast to a right-handed guitar. This allows a left-handed player to strum and pick the strings in a more natural motion. All without any modifications!

Yet, it’s worth noting that many left-handed guitarists choose to play right-hand guitars. This is accomplished by simply flipping the instrument over. Then, restring it with the strings in the opposite order. This can be a cost-effective option, as left-handed guitars can be harder to find and may be more expensive.

Converting a Right-Handed Guitar

There are plenty of guitars made for left-handed players. But there are limitations to what is available. Some manufacturers do not offer some of their instruments in left-hand models. Some colors and extras may not be available.

As a result, a lefty will then become curious if they can convert and play a right-hand guitar instead. While it’s possible to flip a guitar over and restring it, this shouldn’t be the approach a beginner should take.

A right-handed model is designed to fit comfortably in the lap or on the body of a certain player. The instrument may feel strange when turned around. Therefore, for comfort’s sake, a left-handed model would be the more ideal option for a beginner. This would lead to having more inspiration to play.

Flipping around a guitar also means the volume and tone controls will be in the wrong position. These controls can have a large impact on your playing. So learning with them in the correct place is important.

Some seasoned players who want to collect some rare guitars can flip them over, restring and rock out! Don’t forget, the option of custom-made guitars is also something to consider. Yes, they could be slightly more expensive, but at least you get what you need!

Switching to a Left-Handed Guitar

There are many reasons why a person might want to consider relearning the guitar with the other hand. The main reason is that they started learning with the right. But, have discovered that the left hand is more comfortable.

There are many great musicians who are lefties that play right-handed guitar. So you need to make sure this is a switch that is worth taking. If you are learning and progressing well, then you may want to continue with this hand.

Yet, if you have made up your mind, then you are not alone. Many people learn about this afterward and have to make the switch. This may feel like a fresh start and bring new challenges, but over time, it will become highly advantageous. This is why it might be a good idea to switch to left-handed playing.

We encourage you to make sure not to give up on playing guitar if this is your experience. It can be overwhelming at first, but as you move into playing as a left-hand guitarist, it will get easier. Your experience this far will benefit you, and you will progress just fine!

There are many things to consider, like changing your current guitars from left to right. Some can be restrung as they are symmetric and comfort won’t be an issue. The string order will remain the same, so a lot of knowledge can be reapplied.

But some guitars will not and should be replaced with proper left-handed models. This is a decision only you can make. But it’s not impossible and has helped many players reach new levels as a result of the change.

Left-Handed Guitar Playing

Are Left-Handed Guitar Players More Gifted?

What then increases the likelihood of musical prodigies in left-handed people? Some people think it has something to do with how the brain is wired. Left-handed people often have a different way of thinking and processing information. Some people believe it gives them an absolute advantage in math skills.

Others believe that the dexterity required to play a musical instrument may be easier for left-handed people. This is due to the fact that most instruments are made for right-handed users. So left-handed players have to adapt and find their own way. They might become more original and creative as a result of this.

Some studies surely suggest that there is a correlation between being left-handed and musically gifted. But it’s important to note that not all left-handed people are musically gifted. In actuality, most people are not prodigies.

Another thing to consider is that only ten percent of guitar players are left-handed. But at the end of the day, it’s all about doing what you love.

What About Ambidextrous Players?

If you have not discovered which orientation to play, perhaps a visit to a music store is in order. The only way to truly know which hand is more comfortable is to go try some guitars.

Have a few patterns and scales ready to try, so you can feel them out on each hand. Also prepare a few songs to try so that you can gauge what feels better when strumming. Then decide which orientation was more comfortable when playing.

If you need some help, you can also try UCLA’s Brain Mapping Handed Questionnaire. There are a number of famous artists who are ambidextrous, as we will see. Some of them are able to play using both the right and left hand. Perhaps you also have the same gift.

Famous Left-handed Guitar Players

A large portion of guitarists are right-handed. But the lefties are well-represented by some famous players worldwide! Some names you may know and some might surprise you. But one thing is certain, they also had to figure out what hand they would eventually settle on!

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix was a rare case where he was able to play with both hands. While naturally left, his father had forced him to use the right.

So Jimi had to learn with both hands to get what he wanted but also satisfy his father. He was also able to play right-handed guitars with the strings upside down. A very talented musician and very Influential!

Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney was naturally right-handed. But he struggled with strumming with this hand. He eventually decided to use the left hand when he saw Slim Whitman playing this way. He found his groove as a lefty on the guitar, even though he did everything else right-handed.

Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain normally played left-handed, but he was known to be able to write with either hand. Some say he was ambidextrous but favored the right. Kurt was named the 75th greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine.

In Nirvana’s smells like teen spirit video, he is seen using a left-hand 1969 Fender Competition Mustang. The guitar is lake placid blue and was probably very hard to come by, being made for a lefty.

Conclusion

Are you a right-handed player or left, or both? Whichever you find more comfortable and natural is where you should start.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to practice and devotion to the art of playing. And even if one day you do decide to switch hands for whatever reason, all the work you did will make it easier to adapt.

FAQ

Can a left-handed person play a normal guitar?

Yes, anyone who is left-handed can work at being able to play with the opposite hand as well. But this should only be considered if it’s more comfortable for you.

Playing right-handed also has the advantage of more guitar models and options. Left-handed guitars, while available, are limited to what is offered.

Should a Left-handed person play guitar with their right hand?

No, a person should learn to play with the hand that is the most comfortable. Some players are able to use both hands, which is rare but goes to show you that with practice, anything is possible.

There are also people who are right-handed, but play guitar with the left because it is easier for them. So it’s best to figure out what feels more comfortable for you and then learn the guitar with that hand.

Are Left-Handed Guitars More Expensive?

Yes, you will find that a left-handed guitar is a bit more money. This is because they are not in demand like a right-handed guitar. And so it usually costs a manufacturer a bit more to produce and sell them. So the extra cost is built into the final price.

Is It Hard to Find Left-Handed Guitars?

Yes, left-handed guitars can be harder to find. Especially in mom-and-pop style music shops. This is because they are harder to sell, and so keeping inventory ties up their funds. Shopping online has made it a lot easier to find them. But there is still a limit to which models are made for left-handed players.

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Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear. I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!