Many years ago my brother said that playing right-handed is right. Of course, cause he is righty:)
At the start of my musical journey, I honestly try to play “right”. It was an uncomfortable experience and after a few months, I drop down learning for a year and a half. But my love for music was stronger than any “right” way:) That’s why I decided to take the plunge and learn guitar left-handed.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll share my journey and provide tips on how you can learn to play guitar left-handed too. This guide will help you take the first steps toward becoming a skilled guitarist. So grab your guitar (if you have it:)) and let’s get started!
Why Play Guitar Left-Handed?
As a left-handed person, playing guitar right-handed may not feel natural or comfortable for you. When playing right-handed, your dominant hand is required to do the more intricate finger movements, while your non-dominant hand strums and picks the strings. This can make it more difficult to achieve precision and control in your playing. It can also lead to bad posture and discomfort in the long run.
Playing guitar left-handed allows you to use your dominant hand for fretting and picking, which may feel more natural and comfortable for you. This can lead to better control and more fluid playing. You’ll be able to play comfortably and improve your technique much more easily.
Getting a Left-Handed Guitar
The first step in learning to play is to get a left-handed instrument. Below we look at a few options for getting a guitar. And then you choose the option that suits you.
#1 Acquiring a Left-Handed Guitar
The best option is to just purchase a left-handed guitar from a local music store or online retailer. You get an instrument specifically designed for lefties.
You won’t have to redo, restring, and get used to the awkward arrangement of the switches. You just open the box, admire the guitar (first love, after all), plug it in, and buzz like a rockstar. Joke:)
Many guitar manufacturers produce left-handed models, including popular brands like Fender, Gibson, and Ibanez. You can also find left-handed guitars from more affordable brands like Harley Benton.
#2 Restringing a Right-Handed Guitar
Another option is to restring and flip a right-handed guitar so it can be played by a left-handed person. If you already have a right-handed guitar and don’t want to buy a left-handed one, you can try this.
To do this:
- Remove the strings and put them in reverse order: the thinnest string at the top and the thickest string at the bottom.
- Then flip the guitar under your left hand. Done, you’re ready to play.
NOTE: keep in mind that for this you also need to turn a zero fret nut and bridge so that the size of the slots for the strings coincide.
Benefits of restringing:
- Cost-effective: It is often less expensive to restring a right-handed guitar than to purchase a new left-handed guitar.
- Access to a wider range of guitars: Most guitar models are only produced in a right-handed version, so restringing allows left-handed players to access a greater range of instruments.
- Customization: By restringing a guitar, left-handed players can customize their guitar to suit their specific playing style and preferences.
Disadvantages of restringing:
- Unsuitable guitar shape: Not all right-handed guitars are suitable for restringing. Some guitars have symmetrical shapes and can be restrung without issue, while others have asymmetrical shapes that can make playing difficult or even impossible.
- Uncomfortable playing position: In the upside-down position, the guitar can have poor balance and tend to bend. Also, the volume and tone controls, pickup switch, and bridge lever will be in an awkward position. You’ll have to take all of this into account and adjust as you play.
- Technical difficulty: Restringing a guitar involves adjusting the bridge and nut and ensuring that the guitar is properly intonated. This process can be challenging for beginners and may require the assistance of a professional guitar technician.
- Bad sound effects: String toning may be disturbed because the length of the tensioned strings has changed. This can negatively affect the sound of the instrument and its ability to hold the correct tuning.
Overall, restringing a right-handed guitar can be a viable option and an interesting experience for left-handed players. So, it’s up to you:)
#3 Upside Down with Strings Backward
Finally, you can simply flip a right-handed guitar and play it with the strings in reverse order. I don’t understand how it’s possible to play that way. In that case, all the usual logic is broken: chords, scales, solos, and strumming happen in the inverted order. Nevertheless, some musicians play this way and play it perfectly.
Perhaps that’s your way, too. Especially if you are a complete beginner and there is no concept of “normal” musical logic for you yet. Everything is unfamiliar to you and needs to be learned from scratch.
Set Up a Guitar and Prepare to Play
Once you’ve got a left-handed guitar, it’s time to set it up and get ready to play.
How to String a Left-Handed Guitar
If you’ve purchased a left-handed guitar or restrung a right-handed guitar, you’ll need to know how to properly string it. This involves threading the strings through the bridge and tuning pegs and securing them in place.
If you bought a new left-handed guitar, it already comes with strings installed. All you have to do is tune the guitar.
To install new strings properly, you need to:
- Necessary supplies: A set of guitar strings, and a pair of wire cutters.
- Remove the old strings: Start by loosening and removing the old strings from the guitar. Use the wire cutters to clip the strings at the tuning pegs and bridge, then carefully remove each string.
- Clean the guitar (optional): While the strings are off, take the opportunity to clean the guitar’s fretboard and body with a soft cloth.
- Install new strings: Begin by threading the thickest string (low E) through the bridge and up through the corresponding tuning peg. Leave enough slack in the string so that it can be wound around the tuning peg a few times. Repeat the process with all the other strings in descending order of thickness.
- Wind the string: Tighten the string and wind it around the tuning peg. Make sure that the string is wound tightly and evenly, with no overlapping or crossing over, and it fits correctly in its place in the nut.
- Tune the strings: Once the strings are wound, use a guitar tuner to tune them to the correct pitch. Repeat this process for each of the remaining strings, starting with the second thickest string (A), then the third thickest (D), the fourth thickest (G), the fifth thickest (B), and finally the thinnest (high E).
- Stretch the strings: After all the strings have been tuned, gently pull each string away from the fretboard to stretch it out. This will help the strings settle into their proper tension and reduce the likelihood of the guitar going out of tune.
- Trim the excess string pieces: Once all the strings are in place, use the wire cutters to trim any excess string that’s sticking out beyond the tuning pegs.
By following these steps, you can easily restring or install new in your left-handed guitar and enjoy playing it with fresh strings.
How to Tune a Left-Handed Guitar
Tune a left-handed guitar is a similar to right-handed one. Is an essential step in playing the instrument. If the guitar is not in tune, it will sound off-key and unpleasant.
Here are the steps to tuning a guitar in standard tuning:
- Get a tuner: You can use an electronic tuner or metronome, a tuning app on your smartphone, or tune by ear with another instrument that is in tune.
- Tune the 6th low E string: Play the open low E string and adjust the tuning peg until the tuner shows that the string is in tune. If tuning by ear, match the sound to the low E string on another instrument.
- Tune the 5th A string: Play the open A string and adjust the tuning peg until the tuner shows that the string is in tune. If tuning by ear, match the sound to the fifth fret of the low E string.
- Tune the 4th D string: Play the open D string and adjust the tuning peg until the tuner shows that the string is in tune. If tuning by ear, match the sound to the fifth fret of the A string.
- Tune the 3rd G string: Play the open G string and adjust the tuning peg until the tuner shows that the string is in tune. If tuning by ear, match the sound to the fifth fret of the D string.
- Tune the 2nd B string: Play the open B string and adjust the tuning peg until the tuner shows that the string is in tune. If tuning by ear, match the sound to the fourth fret of the G string.
- Tune the 1st high E string: Play the open high E string and adjust the tuning peg until the tuner shows that the string is in tune. If tuning by ear, match the sound to the fifth fret of the B string.
- Check your tuning: After tuning all strings, play a chord or two to check that the guitar is in tune. Adjust as necessary.
It is important to tune your guitar regularly, as strings can go out of tune due to changes in temperature, humidity, and playing. Tuning before every practice or performance will ensure that your guitar sounds its best.
How to Hold a Left-Handed Guitar
I realize that advice on how to hold the guitar may sound naive and a little silly, but treat it as a basic guide. Try to do everything in a relaxed way. Yes, it’s hard to relax when you’re tense. But if you’re “wooden”, it will be even harder. Make friends with the guitar, feel its shape and surface, and how it balances on your leg. It’s music, feelings are more important than rules here.
The following steps will guide you through the proper way to hold a left-handed guitar:
First and most important, Sit in a Comfortable Position:
- Find a comfortable chair or stool and sit up straight with your feet flat on the ground. The guitar should rest on your left leg, with the lower bout of the guitar resting on your left thigh. The guitar neck should be angled slightly upward, so that the headstock is higher than the body of the guitar.
Place Your Right Hand on the Neck:
- With your right hand, reach over the top of the guitar and place your thumb on the back of the guitar neck. Your fingers should curve over the top of the neck, with your fingertips resting on the fretboard. Make sure your wrist is straight and not bent.
Rest Your Left Hand on the Body:
- Your left arm should rest on the body of the guitar, with your hand hovering over the strings. Your wrist should be straight, and your fingers should be curved, ready to pluck or strum the strings.
Position the Guitar Properly:
- Make sure the guitar is positioned at the correct height for you. If the guitar is too low, you may have to hunch over to reach the fretboard, which can cause strain and discomfort. If the guitar is too high, it can be difficult to reach the lower frets. Adjust the height of the guitar by using a footstool or a guitar strap.
Practice Good Posture:
- Maintaining a good posture while playing the guitar is important for preventing injuries and playing efficiently. Keep your shoulders relaxed and avoid hunching over the guitar. Your arms and wrists should be loose and relaxed, allowing for smooth and fluid movements.
Feel your body, feel a guitar, and follow the steps above. Over time, with regular practice, you will come to a comfortable and natural position. Don’t adhere to strict rules, be flexible. Some guitarists play in completely strange poses, and that doesn’t stop them from being amazing musicians. Enjoy the way!
Learning Left-Handed Guitar Techniques
Now that your guitar is set up and you’re ready to play, it’s time to start learning the proper techniques for left-handed guitar playing.
Left-Handed Guitar Chords
Chords are the foundation of music theory, the blocks that make up a song. The more you know them, the better. Knowing the chords brings more variety to your playing, when performing covers and when writing your own music.
Here’s an example of a basic E-minor left-hand chord:
There’s tons of information on the internet where you can learn chords in any form.
Left-Handed Guitar Scales
In simple words, scale is a set of notes with a main key pitch that builds a melody. Also, scales are essential for building technique and dexterity on the guitar.
Scales as well as chords are numerous. You just have to study them long and hard:) It’s a tedious process at first, but when you get the hang of it and your playing technique improves, new horizons open up. It’s worth it!
Example of E Minor pentatonic scale for left-handed:
Apps, Videos, and Books for Left-Handed
There are a lot of great resources out there to help you learn guitar left-handed. Here are some examples (fast research) to start:
- Online Tutorials: YouTube channel GCH Guitar Academy.
- Apps: Smartphone apps like Yousician.
- Books: “How To Play Left-Handed Guitar: The Ultimate Beginner Acoustic Guitar” by Pauric Mather.
No matter which resource you choose, you should practice regularly. That’s a secret key to success:)
How to Practice Left-Handed
Like any new skill, learning to play guitar left-handed takes time and practice. It’s important to set aside time each day to practice, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Here are some tips for making the most out of your practice sessions:
- Start Slow: Don’t try to learn everything at once. Start with basic chords and scales, and gradually work your way up to more advanced techniques.
- Use a Metronome: A metronome can help you keep a steady rhythm and improve your timing. You can find free metronome apps online or purchase a physical metronome.
- Focus on Accuracy: It’s better to play slowly and accurately than to play fast and sloppy. Make sure each note is clear and in tune before moving on.
- Experiment with Different Styles: Once you feel comfortable with the basics, try experimenting with different styles of music. This will help you develop your own unique sound and playing style.
- Have Fun: music is a beautiful creature of humanity and playing an instrument is a great way to have fun at the moment. The best way is to set small goals and achieve them. You get to play the first chord – super, you learn a piece of your favorite song – great, the first solo – I’m a rock star!
Learning to play guitar left-handed may seem like a daunting task at first, but anyone can do it. You need a guitar (cheap, used, broken, anyway), free time, and a big desire.
Remember to take it slow, stay dedicated, and have fun with the process. Don’t be afraid to experiment and make mistakes – that’s all part of the learning experience. So pick up that left-handed guitar and start strumming. We never know where your musical journey might take you. See ya!
Upside Down Guitar Video for Fun
Here is a very expressive Dick Dale’s play on an upside-down right-handed guitar. I like this legendary track from “Pulp Fiction” movie Misirlou. Such energy!
Is it necessary to buy a left-handed guitar to play left-handed?
While it is highly recommended, it is not necessary to buy a left-handed guitar. You can also restring a right-handed guitar or flip it upside down to make it playable for lefties.
Is it hard to learn guitar left-handed?
Learning guitar left-handed can be challenging, especially if you play right hand before. It requires a significant adjustment in technique and muscle memory. However, with consistent practice, anyone can learn to play guitar left-handed. Most often for lefties it will be more natural and comfortable. It’s essential to start with the basics and focus on building a strong foundation before moving on to more advanced techniques. Remember, learning any new skill takes time and patience, so don’t get discouraged if it feels difficult at first. Keep practicing, and eventually, it will become second nature.
Can I learn to play guitar left-handed if I am already right-handed?
Yes, you can. However, it may take some time to get used to playing left-handed. It is recommended to start with a left-handed guitar and practice regularly to build muscle memory.
Can I still use right-handed guitar resources and tutorials to learn left-handed guitar?
Yes, you can. However, keep in mind that the fingerings and chords may need to be reversed for left-handed playing. It is recommended to use resources specifically designed for left-handed guitarists for optimal learning.
How long does it take to learn guitar left-handed?
Learning guitar left-handed can take varying amounts of time depending on individual skill level, practice frequency, and learning method. It is important to practice regularly and be patient with the learning process.
Do left-handers need a left-handed guitar?
Left-handers do not necessarily need a left-handed guitar, but it can make playing more comfortable and natural. Some left-handed guitarists choose to play on right-handed guitars, either by restringing them or playing upside down. For beginners, it is generally recommended to start with a left-handed guitar to avoid developing bad habits or techniques that can be difficult to correct later on. For a seasoned guitarist who is already comfortable playing on a right-handed guitar, there is no need to switch to a left-handed model unless you feel it would improve your playing experience.
Should I play left-handed or right-handed?
The best way to find out is to try it. Even if you’re a beginner and don’t know how to play yet, just by holding right and left-hand guitars, you’ll understand which position is more natural for you.