Learn to Play Guitar — Left Handers

If you are left handed, you have a decision to make. Should you learn to play like a righty? Or should you get a left-handed guitar?

Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix

Here’s a suggestion from a left-handed guitar player. “Go into a guitar shop and pick up the best guitar. Sit down and without too much thought, put the guitar in playing position. Did you put the neck in your left hand (like a right-handed player), or did you put the neck in your right hand?

“If you positioned the guitar like a right-hander, you’ll probably want the typical right-handed guitar. If you positioned it like a lefty, you’ll probably want a left-handed guitar.”

If you decide to go with a left handed guitar, I’d recommend that you buy a left-handed guitar, and not convert a right-handed guitar. If you do decide to have a right-handed guitar converted, don’t just restring it. Take it to a repair shop and have the nut recut and the bridge altered accordingly.

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How to Practice Guitar With a Metronome

Some things to consider…

Guitar playing is a two-handed activity. No matter what your orientation, both hands are going to be called on for unique and demanding actions.

For left-handed beginners it may actually be easier to play a right-handed guitar. When starting out, the fretting hand (left) requires more strength and coordination than the picking hand. However, as players progress, much of the artistic expression comes through the picking hand.

Elizabeth Cotten
Elizabeth Cotten plays left-handed guitar

If you decide to play right handed, you’ll be able to pick up any guitar and play. Otherwise, you’ll be obliged to tote your left-handed guitar to any possible playing situation.

Most music and instruction books are written for the right-handed player. Virtually all chord charts, tablature, and fretboard diagrams are presented from a right-hand orientation.

Consider the availability of left-handed guitars at local shops. If you’re shopping for a left-handed guitar at a local shop, the selection will be limited. If you’re planning on buying from a reputable online dealer, then this won’t be a factor.

Lefties Who Play Right-Handed Guitars

A couple of lefties who play regular, right-handed guitars…

  • Paul Simon
  • Glenn Frey

Lefties Who Play Left-Handed Guitars

Albert King
Albert King

Lefties who play left-handed (or converted right-handed) guitars…

  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Paul McCartney
  • Tony Iommi
  • Kurt Cobain
  • Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of Mars Volta
  • Cesar Rojas of Los Lobos

Lefties Who Play a Right-Handed Guitar Upside Down

These lefties turn a right-handed guitar upside down with no conversion (the bass string is toward the floor)…

  • Elizabeth Cotten
  • Dick Dale
  • Albert King