Left Handed Guitar Playing Expert Guide 2022

Whether you are just getting started or trying to find your groove, the guitar you choose must be a perfect fit. This starts with discovering which 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 write with their right and play left handed guitar. There are people who write with their left and use the opposite hand. Then there are some who can do both! Some people play right handed while using their left leg!

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. 

Left Handed Guitar

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But that doesn’t mean that it is the best fit for everyone, and if you’re here reading this article, then you have probably found that left handed may be your groove.

Which hand Do You Strum A Guitar With?

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 a right and a left handed guitar try each one.

Then ask yourself these questions:

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

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

This is because as you progress as a player, your strumming will require more accuracy. Things like:

  • Strumming Individual Strings
  • Plucking Individual 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 strumming duty!

Still not sure which you should play? 

Here is another exercise that teachers will try with their new students. Now, don’t think about it just do it..

Play air guitar!

Which did you strum with when you played?

Was it was your left hand? Then you may indeed be. If not, then perhaps you are right handed.

Is It Harder To Learn Left Handed Guitar?

There are many more players who use their right hand. But this does not mean that learning guitar oriented left would somehow be a more difficult task.

The guitar in general is a difficult instrument to learn as you train your hands, fingers and mind.

There are some myths floating around that might suggest that left handed playing is more difficult to learn. And for a someone who plays with 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 as right hand.

There are no extra hurdles involved with playing left, and there are plenty of instruments and equipment available.

Left Handed Guitar

Should I Relearn Guitar Left Handed?

There are many reasons why a person might want to consider relearning the guitar with the other hand.

The main reason however is that they started learning with the right and have discovered they are possibly better or 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.

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.

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.

Can a Left Handed Guitarist use the opposite to Play?

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 extras may not be available.

As a result, left hand person will then become curious if they can play a right 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 in your playing and 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!

Differences Between Left and Right Handed Guitars

If you are not familiar with the differences between a left and right handed guitar there is one quick way to tell. 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 mirror images of one another? 

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 really 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 Musicians Who Play Left handed Guitar

While a large portion of guitarists are right handed, the lefties are well represented by some famous players!

Some 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

Jimi Hendrix was a rare case where he was able to play with both hands. While naturally left handed, 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. Jimi was also able to play right oriented with the strings upside down. A very talented player indeed!

Paul McCartney

Paul was naturally right, but struggled with strumming with this hand. He eventually decided to play left handed 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

While Kurt normally played left handed, 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, Kurt is seen using his 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.

So what about you?

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.