Whether you are just getting started or trying to find your groove, the guitar you choose must be the perfect 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!
This is different for everyone and can only be discovered when you are able to sit down with a few guitars and find what feels best for you.
Up to roughly ninety percent of the playing population is right-hand oriented.
But that doesn’t mean that it is the best fit for everyone. If you’re here reading this article, then you have probably found that left-handed guitar may be your groove.
Left-Handed Guitar Playing
When you are trying to discover which orientation to play, one quick way to decide is to strum the guitar.
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 Individual Strings
- Plucking strings in different sequences
- Strumming with and without a pick
- Utilizing finger and palm timing
The list goes on, and to do this with complete accuracy while not looking at your strumming will require your dominant hand on duty!
Are Left-Handed Guitar Players More Gifted?
So, what makes left-handed people more likely to be musical prodigies? Some believe that it has to do with the way that the brain is wired. Left-handed people often have a different way of thinking and processing information, which many believe 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 because most instruments are designed for right-handed people, so left-handed players have to adapt and find their own way. This may make them more creative and innovative as well.
Some studies certainly suggest that there is a correlation between being left-handed and being musically gifted. But it is important to note that not all left-handed people are musically gifted. In fact, the majority are not prodigies.
Another thing to consider is that only 10 percent of guitar players are left-handed. But at the end of the day, it is all about doing what you love.
Difficulty of Learning Guitar Left-Handed
There are many more players who use their right hand. But this does not mean that learning guitar with your left would somehow be a more difficult task.
The guitar in general is a difficult instrument to learn as you train your body, fingers and mind.
There are some myths floating around that might suggest that playing with the left is more difficult to learn. And for someone who plays the opposite, this is indeed true!
But when you have discovered that you are more comfortable playing left-handed guitar, the learning curve is the same with either side.
There are no extra hurdles involved with playing left, and there are plenty of instruments and equipment available.
Switching From Right to 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 they are more comfortable with the left. 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.
However, if you have made up your mind, then you are not alone. There are many people who discover this later on and have made the switch. This can be like starting over and can present some new obstacles, but can be very beneficial as time goes by. 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 with the opposite model 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, and so a lot of knowledge can be reapplied.
But some guitars will not and should be replaced with proper left-handed models.
Ultimately, this is a decision only you can make, but it is not impossible and has helped many players reach new levels as a result of the switch.
Playing a Right-Handed Guitar Left-Handed
While there are plenty of guitars made for left-handed players, there are limitations to what is available. Some manufacturers do not offer some of their instruments in these models, or colors and some extras may not be available.
As a result, a lefty will then become curious if they can play a right-hand guitar instead.
While it is possible to just flip a guitar over and restring it, this shouldn’t be the approach a beginner should take.
A right oriented model is designed to fit comfortably in the lap or on the body of a certain player. When they are simply flipped around, the instrument may feel weird.
And so for a beginner, a left oriented model would be the ideal choice for comfort, which would lead to inspiration to play.
Another issue with flipping around a model is that the volume and tone controls will then also be in the wrong position.
These controls can have a large impact on your playing, so learning with them in the correct position is important.
If you are a seasoned player who simply wants to collect some rare guitars not available left-handed, then flip them over, restring and rock out!
Don’t forget, the option of custom-made units is also an option. Yes they could be slightly more expensive but at least you get what you need!
Left-Handed vs Right-Handed Guitar
The main difference between left-handed and right-handed guitars is that the strings are reversed between the two models. Their string order remains the same, but the guitars are mirror images of one another. This includes all controls and any additional features on the instrument.
There is one quick way to tell if you are not familiar with the differences between left and right-handed guitar. Hold the instrument up vertically in front of you, like you would find them hanging in a music store.
- If the thickest string is on the left, it is a right hand.
- If the thickest string is on the right, the guitar is left hand.
Now this is assuming that it is indeed that and not a restrung right. 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 is indeed 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.
Ambidextrous Guitar 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. Have a few songs ready to try so that you can gauge what feels better when strumming. Then decide which orientation was more comfortable when playing.
If you are still struggling to decide and need some help, you can also try the 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 as well have the same gift.
Famous Left-Handed Guitar Players
While a large portion of guitarists are right-handed, 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 too had to figure out what hand they would eventually settle on!
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 oriented with the strings upside down. A very talented musician and very Influential!
Paul McCartney was naturally right, but struggled with strumming with this hand. He eventually decided to use the left when he saw Slim Whitman playing this way.
He eventually found his groove as a lefty on the guitar, even though he did everything else right-handed.
Kurt Cobain normally played left-handed, but he was known to be able to write with either orientation. Some say he was ambidextrous but favored the right.
Whatever the case may have been, Kurt was a very talented player who was named 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.
Are you a right-handed player or left, maybe both? Which ever 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.
Left-Handed Guitar FAQ
Below, you will find the most commonly asked questions about playing the guitar left-handed.
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 as well. But this should only be considered if it is 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 right-handed?
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 hand oriented that play guitar left-handed because it is easier for them. So it is best to figure out what feels more comfortable for you and then learn the guitar with that hand.
Are Left-Handed Guitars Strung Differently?
No, left and right-handed guitars are strung the same way, they simply mirror each other. In order for the two instrument types to follow the same notes, positions and nomenclature, they must be identical. And so you will find that the strings are the same on the neck of both types.
Are Left-Handed Guitars More Expensive?
Yes, normally you will find that a left-handed guitar is a bit more money. This is because they are not in demand like a right-hand guitar. And so it usually costs the manufacturer a bit more to produce and sell them, and 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.