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South-Pawed

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faun
 faun
(@faun)
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Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 6
Topic starter  

Hello,

I'm new here. I'm left-handed and wonder if there is such a thing as a left-handed guitar. Just like scissors and the iron, I've been trying to adapt the right-handed way for holding the guitar. Is this a bad idea? Would I have a lot of problem following my guitar lesson if I choose to do the lefty way?

Another question is. How long do I have to suffer before my finger tips can get numb and I don't feel the pain from the string cutting into my flesh. :( ? I'm feeling quite discourage from the pain.


   
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Alan Green
(@alangreen)
Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5342
 

Yes, there is most definitely such a thing.

Our lead writer- David Hodge - plays left-handed, as do many others here.

So, what guitar are we talking about? Spill the beans; tell us about your axe.

And yes, your fingers are going to hurt for a while, and exactly how long is different for everybody. Don't give up.

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


   
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faun
 faun
(@faun)
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Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 6
Topic starter  

I'm using a classical guitar with nylon strings.

I'm using this GuitarNoise to supplement my weekly group lesson. Practicing the chords given for the beginner here. Took awhile to hear the diff. between E and Em. Can't say the same for A and Am. Either there is something wrong with my ear, my finger or the guitar. :lol:


   
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notes_norton
(@notes_norton)
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Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1497
 

I know others will disagree, but all "normal" guitars are already left handed.

After all, the left hand does the most work, shaping chords, running up and down the fretboard, bending notes, etc.

So doesn't it make sense that a player's dominant hand do that kind of work?

I had a band-mate who was a lefty and learned on a "left handed" guitar. He later switched to a regular guitar and said that he wished he had started on a normal guitar because he thought the guitar was a left handed instrument. BTW, he could play both ways and could actually flip the guitar and play it up-side-down.

He played best on a "normal" guitar.

I think you may just have beginners struggles. We all have or had them and in time we work through them. If you get a "left" guitar, you will still have the same struggles. Whichever way you choose,

BTW, Jimi Hendrix was right handed. He wrote, held his fork, and did everything else with his right hand. Yet he played what people think is a left handed guitar. Why? I could only guess that Jimi knew that what we call a left-handed guitar is in reality a right-handed one, and the "normal" guitar is really a left-handed instrument.

The advantages of playing a "normal" guitar are:
1) Your dominant left hand will be doing the hardest work
2) You can get just about any guitar on the market and not have to worry about finding a model that builds a "lefty"

I'm not trying to convince you, just giving you some food for thought.

Insights and incites by Notes ;-)

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


   
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faun
 faun
(@faun)
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Topic starter  

Thanks notes-norton!

What you said makes a lot of sense to me. I do feel quite comfortable with the normal guitar as my dominant hand is doing all the difficult work.


   
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Nuno
 Nuno
(@nuno)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 3995
 

I did read many times you really make the difficult work with your dominant hand: the strumming, fingerpicking or playing with a pick needs much more fine control.

On the other hand, you can play the guitar lefty or righty. There are many lefty guitar players than play righty but I usually put the same example: Mark Knopfler.

And you will not feel more pain when you develop your callouses. Keep playing.


   
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almann1979
(@almann1979)
Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 1281
 

Notes, i agree 100%.

i am a left hander and would never consider using a "left handed guitar" - i couldnt imaging my right hand being able to do the same job on the fretboard as my left could (although - that might be a good thing- :lol: ).

However, i suppose if somebody was a keen finger picker, and only really used static chords with the fretting hand that might be a little different.

"I like to play that guitar. I have to stare at it while I'm playing it because I'm not very good at playing it."
Noel Gallagher (who took the words right out of my mouth)


   
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hbriem
(@hbriem)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 646
 

Well, one guitarist who disagreed with Notes_Norton was Joe Strummer of the Clash. He was a lefty who learned on a normal guitar, reasoning that the left hand was doing the complicated work, so it would all work out in the end. After many years he realised that he was being held back by his bad decision and that beyond the beginner level, the tricky bits were being done by the picking hand. He always regretted having decided to learn guitar the wrong way around.

It is rumoured that he coined his self-deprecating stage-name, Strummer, from this disability.

--
Helgi Briem
hbriem AT gmail DOT com


   
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Rahul
(@rahul)
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Joined: 17 years ago
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If you are in the US/Europe, you have lot of options for lefty guitars.

I am a lefty and would advise you to play left handed only if that's how you feel comfortable.

My right hand is on the fretboard and it can move pretty quickly and has a lot of strength to play all kinds of punk rock songs and then some. And, I also learned on a classical guitar with strings reversed.

Go South Paw! It looks way more cool on stage... :wink:


   
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NoteBoat
(@noteboat)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4921
 

The brain is a funny thing, and there are varying degrees of left-handedness.

I don't agree with NotesNorton on this one - the 'normal' guitar setup has the dominant hand doing the tough stuff, picking the strings. There are a couple reasons I think this is the 'harder' part of it...

1. There's more precision involved. Along most of the fretboard your fretting hand can be 'off' by a half inch or so, and you still have a chance at getting the right note - your fingertips are wide enough to adjust by 'leaning' them a bit if your placement is off across the fretboard, and the frets are wide enough to be forgiving if you're off a bit along the length of it. If you're a half inch off with the picking hand, you're guaranteed to hit the wrong string.

2. There's quicker response needed. If you're strumming chords, the fretting hand is staying put for a while, while the strumming hand is in constant motion. If you're playing single notes with a pick, you've got four fretting hand fingers to share the work - but only one pick.

Although there are some techniques, like sweep picking, that put more of the hand motion load on the one that works the frets, there's still lots of precise timing needed in the picking hand - and in music, timing is everything.
Lefties can take one of three routes on the guitar. Each one has its fans, so one size does not fit all:

1. Learn it the standard way.

In the big picture of music, having a dominant hand doesn't matter. Most instruments come in only one version - you won't find a left handed woodwind, because the position of the holes (and the fingers that will logically close them) is fixed by physics. You won't find left handed keyboards. And in classical strings, although it would be possible to adapt them for left-handed bowing, it's never done - because in a typical orchestra the players sit too close together, and bowing in opposite directions could cause collisions (the same reason left-handed eaters are usually found at the corner of a crowded Thanksgiving table!)

So if other musicians can handle the ambidexterity required by their instruments, there's no reason guitarists can't too. And many lefties learn to play the guitar right handed - at the moment, all of my left handed students are playing 'normal' guitars, and some of them are quite good at it. The list of lefties who play this way is pretty long, and includes folks like Steve Cropper, BB King, Mark Knopfler, etc.

2. Get a standard guitar and play it upside down.

This approach lets the dominant hand pick the strings. It also has the advantage of being able to play the most common instrument (left handed guitars are getting harder to find, and most manufacturers have discontinued them as regular production runs - they're now special order only). The big disadvantage is that some 'standard' fingerings will turn your fingers into pretzels. On the other hand, there are some fingerings available that righties will find uncomfortable too - one of the great things about the guitar is that notes are available in lots of places.

Folks who play(ed) this way include Albert King, Doyle Bramhall II, Bob Geldorf, etc

3. Get a lefty guitar, or adapt a standard one. In terms of technique, these approaches are identical - you're the mirror image of a right handed player. In practical terms, there are differences for electric guitars... the controls will be in a different place if it's built lefty vs being adapted. That can make some things easier (on a Strat style, you won't accidentally hit the pickup selector when you don't want to), and some things harder (volume swells are probably going to need a pedal, because your fingers won't reach while you're picking).

This is the approach used by Curt Cobain, Tommy Iommi, Paul McCartney, David Hodge, Jimi Hendrix (although Hendrix didn't do all the adjustments - he switched the strings around and swapped out the nut, but used a right handed bridge; as a result, his intonation was off. The slightly-out-of-tune results along the fretboard became part of his style, and prompted his comment "only cowboys play in tune")

As I said, the brain is a funny thing, and there are degrees of left-handedness. Years ago I had a student whose brain was so left-wired that he couldn't comprehend what he saw me demonstrating - our solution was to use a mirror (he could 'get it' when he watched my reflection). As with many things in life, the more one-sided you are, the harder it is to master some tasks - all instruments require some degree of ambidexterity.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
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Bigfoot21075
(@bigfoot21075)
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Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 16
 

I am a lefty that learned standard (right handed) guitar. I am glad I did it that way as it is easy to find a right handed guitar to play. Yes one of the greatest players ever played left handed (SRV), but for me this was the way to go.


   
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notes_norton
(@notes_norton)
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Joined: 14 years ago
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<...> Most instruments come in only one version - you won't find a left handed woodwind, because the position of the holes (and the fingers that will logically close them) is fixed by physics. <...>

Saxophone is my primary instrument, and I contend that the sax is a left-handed instrument.

  • Every note on the saxophone involves the use of the left hand (except for the middle C# which uses no fingers at all).
  • Two octaves of G, G#, A, B, C, high C#, high D, and high Eb are played with the left hand only (right hand can go to sleep playing these notes).
  • Two octaves of Bb can also be played with the left hand only, but a two handed Bb has better intonation and is easier to get to.
  • The left thumb has a key to press (octave key), right thumb does not.
  • But right-handed people like myself get along just fine with the left handed sax.

    And as NoteBoat mentioned, there are no "lefty" violins, violas, cellos, double basses, pianos, synthesizers, French horns, trombones, tubas, flutes, clarinets, etc., and whether these instruments are adapted for a right handed person like piano or a left handed person like saxophone, there are many great lefty and righty musicians playing the same 'handed' instrument.

    I think the left-handed guitar appeals to left-handed people simply because not many things are made for a lefty. Therefore, when a lefty sees one, he/she is naturally appreciative of it and is inclined to think it is better. With guitars I disagree. I think learning on a left handed guitar puts you at a disadvantage.

    Like learning the DVORAK keyboard instead of the QUERTY. The DVORAK keyboard layout has been proven superior to the QWERTY, allowing the typist to type much faster, and the stress on the hands is much less. However, it's difficult to find DVORAK keyboards and even when Windows allowed the option to remap your keyboard, very few people did. Why? In this industrial, mass-produced society. It is easier to get along by using what the majority of the population uses.

    So if you learn on the standard guitar:

  • you will have more choices of guitars. Go into any guitar store and see what I mean. How many lefties are hanging on the wall?
  • Many guitar models are not even available as a "lefty" variation.
  • You will be able to learn from other guitarists easier by watching what they do without converting it to the opposite direction. This includes all the wonderful lessons found on the 'net.
  • You will be able to pick up virtually every guitar you find in a music store, at a jam session, on a gig, or at a fellow musician's house and play it. If you choose to learn lefty, these will all be unavailable to you.
  • NoteBoat brings up some good points disagreeing with my evaluation of the regular guitar being a left-handed instrument, and as he teaches, I take his point of view seriously. But even so, both hands are working, just like they do on piano, sax, and just about every other two-handed instrument, so why not go with the majority?

    Scissors are another thing. I can definitely see the advantage of a left handed pair of scissors. I can also see an advantage to languages that write from right to left. But guitars, I think are better off in one "flavor" for both of us. Of course, many people will disagree, their opinion is as valid as mine, and YMMV too.

    Insights and incites by Notes

    Bob "Notes" Norton

    Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

    The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


       
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    faun
     faun
    (@faun)
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    Joined: 12 years ago
    Posts: 6
    Topic starter  

    WOW! Thank you People for the interesting intellectual discourse on lefty guitar playing. I am embarrass to say that I'm very much overwhelmed as I am just as a beginner and can't understand most of the terms you mentioned. However, I'll definitely come back to this thread to re-read as I understand the guitar better.

    I think I'd be better off just staying with the normal guitar, for the simple reason that I'm already struggling as a beginner so there is not much point making learning harder for myself. I do find that I'm not too dextrous with strumming with my right and tend to miss a string sometime. I guess that could be solved with practice.


       
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    David Hodge
    (@davidhodge)
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    Joined: 15 years ago
    Posts: 4472
     

    As silly as this may sound, one of the best ways to figure out whether or not to play left handed is to just totally at the spur of the moment (and not thinking about it before hand) is to pick up a broom or a tennis racket or any convenient object and pretend to play a guitar. Or just start playing "air guitar." Without thinking about it, which hand goes automatically for the strumming and which one for the fretting? Your first instinct is a good measure of which way to play.

    As Tom ("Noteboat") says, and as any guitarist will tell you, the guitar is first and foremost a rhythm instrument, so having confidence and control of your rhythm has to be your first priority. Whichever hand makes you feel that way, go with it.

    Many left handed people (probably right handed people, too) are a bit ambidextrous and that's part of the reason why many left handed people play right handed guitar (Mark Knoplfer, Paul Simon, David Byrne) but a lot of them also took it up that way because it's only been relatively recently (the past twenty-five years really) that left handed guitars have become easier to get hold of for beginners. And they've also become a lot more reasonably priced.

    Like Tom, I'm a teacher and I know that instruments don't care what handed you are. The object is to find what's going to work out best for you in the long run. It's not about which hand is "best," but rather which hand will adapt best to its appointed tasks and continue to evolve and grow throughout your lifetime of playing. Your right hand, even if you're left handed, will learn how to handle moving about on the fingerboard. Likewise, should you learn to play right handed, your right hand will get better at picking and strumming. But if you automatically feel more comfortable one way over the other, then you've one less thing to worry about and can concentrate on learning.

    There are left handed people who start out right handed, then find themselves not able to strum or pick the way they'd like to and then give it up instead of starting again. There are alsoleft handed people who start out right handed and do great. But I have to tell you that I'm at a loss to mention any right handed people who play left handed. Doesn't mean that they are not out there, but it does lend a lot more validity to the "rhythm comes first" argument. After all, the guitar's been around for hundreds of years and people are certainly smart enough to have figured this out long ago.

    If you can (and I don't know how possible this is), you might want to go to a music store that has at least one left handed guitar just to give it a try. That may make you stick with playing right handed and put your doubts to rest.

    Good luck with this. And don't forget that while it really is probably better to decide this question early on, you can always change your mind at some point. And whatever way you go, we'll be here for you whenever you've questions.

    Welcome to Guitar Noise, too, by the way. Looking forward to seeing you around on the boards.

    Peace


       
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    NoteBoat
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    Joined: 19 years ago
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    there are no "lefty" violins, violas, cellos, double basses, pianos, synthesizers, French horns...

    Actually, the French horn is the only brass instrument with valves worked by the left hand :)

    For a bunch of technical reasons, the notes on a French horn are 'closer together' in the harmonic series than those on other brass instruments. As you get notes closer together, there are also more notes that aren't quite in tune - at least in our current 12TET system. So the French horn player puts his/her right hand in the bell, and uses it to effectively shorten the tube length, adjusting the intonation on the fly - that's called "hand stopping". Horn players started doing this a good 50 years before horns grew valves, so it made sense to put the valves under the hand that previously had nothing to do.

    That turned out to be a decision that leaves French horns looking like guitars - to the casual observer it seems like the left hand is doing all the work. Moving your fist back and forth in the bell sounds like it's a lot 'easier' than manipulating the valves - but it's the hand where precision is really important.

    Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


       
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