Left-Handed Guitar Playing Guide

Navigating the guitar world as a lefty can feel like wandering through a mirror image. Everything is familiar, yet subtly different, compelling us to rethink our perspectives on guitar playing. Being a left-handed guitarist is unique, challenging, and rewarding.

It’s not just about playing the instrument with a different hand. It’s about understanding a distinct set of skills, adapting to the guitar landscape, and finding inspiration in the success of famous left-handed players.

So, whether you’re a seasoned southpaw guitarist, a curious right-hander, or a beginner keen on exploring this less-trodden path. We’re here to unwrap the fascinating facets of left-handed guitar playing.

From the roles of the right and left hand, understanding left-handed guitars, to the inspiring journeys of renowned guitarists, there’s a lot to strum through. So, tune up and let’s hit the first chord on this exciting exploration!

The Anatomy of Left-Handed Guitar Playing

Alright, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of left-handed guitar playing. It’s more than just a mirror image of the right-handed world. Let’s break it down:

Defining the Roles: Right Hand Vs. Left Hand

In the world of guitar, there’s a rhythm section and a lead section. The rhythm’s all about that steady beat and pace, usually played by the strumming or picking hand.

That’s your right hand if you’re a lefty. Meanwhile, the lead section, handled by your left hand, is where all those killer riffs, chords, and solos come to life.

The Fretting Hand: Challenges and Techniques for Lefties

For right-handed players, the fretting hand is their left. Flip that for lefties, and things get a tad more complex. The fretting hand is where most of the action happens. It’s your right hand if you’re a left-handed player.

Fretting is all about precision and dexterity, so mastering those intricate chords and fingerings is crucial.

The Picking/Plucking Hand: How it Differs for Lefties

Here’s where the rhythm magic happens. Your picking hand defines the tempo and tone of your playing. For lefties, that’s your trusty left hand!

The picking hand’s role is often underplayed, but let me tell you, it’s just as vital as your fretting hand. It’s all about synchronizing these two hands to create that seamless, soulful sound.

So, lefties, remember, your picking hand deserves as much attention and practice as the one you use for fretting.

Left Handed Guitar

Understanding Left-Handed Guitars

Now that we’ve got a grasp on the anatomy of left-handed guitar playing, let’s talk about the instruments themselves. Left-handed guitars aren’t just regular ones flipped over! There’s more to it than meets the eye.

Left-Handed Vs. Right-Handed Guitars

One look at a left-handed guitar, and you might think it’s just a right-handed guitar reflected in a mirror. But look closer. Notice how the strings are reversed, with the low E-string on the bottom?

Observe the position of the pickguard, the knobs, and the switches? These are deliberate design choices made to cater to left-handed players. They’re not just aesthetic differences, they significantly impact the way you play.

What Makes Left-Handed Guitars Unique?

Left-handed guitars are designed with the lefty player’s comfort and convenience in mind. Every element, from the position of the strings to the location of the guitar’s controls, is structured to facilitate a smooth playing experience for left-handed musicians.

These subtle design tweaks may not seem like much, but trust me, they can make a world of difference when you’re jamming away on your six-string.

So, lefties, rejoice! You’ve got a guitar that’s tailor-made for you! Designed to let you play your best and feel comfortable doing it. It’s time to embrace the left-handed guitar and make some sweet, sweet music.

Ambidextrous Players: The Best of Both Worlds

Ever wished you could switch your dominant hand on a whim? Some ambidextrous players can do just that, and it’s a pretty sweet skill to have, especially in the world of guitar playing.

Advantages and Challenges for Ambidextrous Players

Being an ambidextrous guitarist is like having a secret weapon. You can switch between right-handed and left-handed playing, giving you a wider range of possibilities. It opens up a whole new world of techniques, styles, and flexibility.

But, as with any superpower, there are challenges. It’s not just about being able to play both way. It’s about playing both ways well!

Mastering the guitar requires dedication, practice, and consistency, and doing it with both hands doubles the effort. It can be a steep hill to climb, but the view from the top is absolutely worth it.

Remember, whether you’re a righty, a lefty, or an ambidextrous player, it all comes down to the music you create. And in the end, that’s what truly matters!

Why is the Picking Hand Dominant in Guitar Playing?

There’s an age-old debate that’s sparked countless discussions among guitarists: why is the picking hand considered the dominant hand in guitar playing? Well, strap in, folks. We’re about to delve into this intriguing topic.

Historical Perspective

Historically, the dominance of the picking hand has roots in the tradition of stringed instruments. Think of the bowing hand in violin playing or the plucking hand in harp performance.

It’s about control, rhythm, and tone. The picking hand sets the pace and brings the music to life, hence its perceived dominance.

The Physiological Factor

From a physiological standpoint, the picking hand requires a specific set of fine motor skills. It’s all about coordination, timing, and precision, skills often associated with our dominant hand.

This doesn’t downplay the importance of the fretting hand, it just highlights the distinct roles each hand plays in creating the melodic magic we call guitar music.

So, is the picking hand truly dominant in guitar playing? Well, like many things in music, it’s subjective. It’s about how you perceive and approach your playing.

Whether you’re a lefty or a righty, what truly matters is the harmony between your picking and fretting hands, and the beautiful music that they produce together.

Left-Handed Guitar Playing

Navigating the Guitar World as a Lefty

Taking on the guitar world as a lefty can seem like a daunting journey, but fear not, my left-handed friends. It’s a path filled with discoveries, challenges, and rewards. Let’s explore how to navigate it.

How to Play Left-Hand Guitar: Tips and Techniques

Learning to play left-handed guitar involves more than just flipping the instrument around. You’ll need to master a distinct set of skills and techniques, from fretting and picking to strumming and sliding.

It’s about knowing your instrument, understanding your body, and practicing until the music flows naturally from your fingertips. Remember, each practice session is a step towards becoming the left-handed guitar maestro you’re destined to be.

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.


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.

Adapting Right-Handed Guitar Methods for Left-Hand Players

In a world dominated by right-handed guitars and methods, lefties often find themselves adapting and improvising. But here’s the silver lining: this unique challenge can lead to unique solutions.

It’s about flipping scales, chords, and tabs in your mind, about using right-handed gear in left-handed ways. It’s about innovation and creativity, about turning obstacles into opportunities. So, lefties, let’s embrace the challenge and play on!

The Best Left-Handed Guitarists

Throughout the history of music, left-handed guitarists have left their indelible marks, often challenging the norms and pioneering new styles. Let’s take a moment to celebrate these iconic southpaw players.

Tony Iommi: The Man who Defined Heavy Metal

Tony Iommi, the legendary guitarist of Black Sabbath, has left an enduring legacy in the world of heavy metal. His left-handed playing, combined with his innovative use of dropped tunings and power chords, shaped a genre and inspired generations of guitarists.

Kurt Cobain: The Lefty Grunge Icon

Kurt Cobain, the frontman of Nirvana, took the grunge scene by storm with his raw and powerful left-handed guitar playing. His unique style and emotive performances have made him an icon for left-handed musicians worldwide.

Jimi Hendrix: The Southpaw who Changed Guitar Forever

Arguably the most famous left-handed guitarist, Jimi Hendrix turned the music world upside down with his revolutionary playing style. His experimental techniques and expressive performances continue to inspire left-handed and right-handed guitarists alike.

Tim Armstrong: The Punk Rock Maestro

As the driving force behind punk rock bands like Rancid and Operation Ivy, Tim Armstrong’s aggressive left-handed guitar playing has left a lasting impact on the punk rock scene. His no-holds-barred approach embodies the rebellious spirit of punk music.

Paul McCartney: A Beatle’s Journey with the Bass Guitar

Sir Paul McCartney, the iconic Beatle, is renowned for his left-handed bass playing. His melodic bass lines and innovative techniques have significantly influenced the role of the bass guitar in popular music.

Each of these left-handed guitarists has demonstrated that being a lefty in a right-handed world isn’t a limitation! It’s an opportunity to innovate, to challenge norms, and to make music that resonates across generations.


As we strum the final chord on this exploration of left-handed guitar playing, there’s one thing that’s clear! Lefties bring a unique perspective to the world of guitar playing. They navigate challenges, overcome barriers, and along the way, create beautiful music that enriches our lives.

Remember, being a lefty guitarist isn’t just about playing with a different hand, it’s about approaching music from a distinct angle. It’s about seeing the guitar world through a different lens and, in doing so, discovering new ways to express your musicality.

Additional Resources for Left-Handed Guitarists

As we wrap up our left-handed guitar journey, it’s essential to equip yourself with the right tools and resources to continue strumming your path.

Recommended Left-Handed Guitars and Gear

Finding the right guitar can make a world of difference in your playing. Some of the trusted brands offering left-handed guitars include Fender, Gibson, and Ibanez.

You might also want to check out specialized gear like left-handed picks, strap locks, and capos. Just remember, each guitarist’s preference is unique, so take your time and find the gear that suits you best.

Online Communities and Learning Resources for Left-Handed Players

The internet is brimming with resources for left-handed guitarists. From YouTube tutorials specifically designed for lefties to online communities where left-handed guitarists share experiences, tips, and tricks. You’ve got plenty of learning resources at your fingertips.

Some of the popular online platforms for left-handed guitar lessons include Justin Guitar and Guitar Tricks. As for communities, check out LeftyFretz and the “Left-Handed Guitarists” group on Reddit.

Armed with these resources, your left-handed guitar journey is set for success. So, gear up, get online, and get playing!

Photo of author

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!