Lefties Anonymous – The Life of a Left-handed Guitarist

“Why are you playing that thing upside-down?”

Ah, the life of the left-handed guitarist. Chances are that if you’ve picked up a guitar, this question has been posed to you – and the answer is, inevitably, that you’re left-handed. It’s not YOUR fault. It’s not YOUR fault that your brain just happens to work that way. It’s not YOUR fault that you are, statistically, 27% better at the creative arts than right-handed people. It’s not YOUR fault that you’re trying your hardest in a field that is generally dominated by the right-handed.

And many people don’t see it that way, which is tragic. A lot of lefties just look at the problems and quit before they’ve even had the chance to wrap their right hands around the neck of a guitar. This article is here to provide support and encouragement to those who are left handed. But, a few things before we start:

A lot of the tips here at Guitar Noise apply for us too (David Hodge is left-handed), so don’t disregard information that’s primarily aimed at right-handed people because you think it won’t apply to you. Chances are it does. And if there’s anything about placing your left hand on the frets or whatever, REVERSE IT.

If you’ve picked up a guitar and you’ve found you can comfortably play right-handed (left hand working the frets, right hand plucking/strumming the strings), then for God’s sake, CARRY ON DOING THAT. It will prove to work to your advantage. If it’s uncomfortable, then unlucky, you’re in the same boat as me, and about 1/9th of the world.

OK, so we’ve covered the requirements. Now, onto the advice:

I know how you’re feeling. “So what if I’m a leftie? Why should I have to pay extra for guitars because my brain just happens to be better at this sort of thing?” Well, the world isn’t always fair, but you’d be surprised as to the options left-handed people have in front of them. Any decent music shop usually offers a very good variety of left-handed instruments. Obviously, unless you’re in a specialist shop, there will be more right-handed guitars than left, because the majority is right-handed and to stock equal amounts of both would be bad for business. Don’t hate the store. They’ve got a mortgage to pay and a family to support. They’re just trying to make a living. Take a look over their selection, and for God’s sake, do NOT pick up a right-handed guitar, at least not in front of a salesperson. If a salesperson sees you plucking a right-handed guitar with your left-handed ways, the “SUCKER” alarm goes off in that salesman’s head, because you will look inexperienced. YOU DON’T WANT HIM TO KNOW/THINK THIS. If you’re new to this, then the way to spot a left-handed guitar is this: if the thickest string is on top when you’re playing it, then that’s the right guitar for you. If the thickest string is on the bottom, it is right-handed. PUT IT DOWN. Don’t drop it on the floor though. That’s asking for trouble.

MYTH: Some songs sound worse when played by a southpaw.
TRUTH: Here is the list of songs that sound different when played on a left-handed guitar by a left-handed person:

There are none.

OK, so you’ve got your guitar now. Well, the good news is that if it’s left-handed, you can now have lessons from a tutor/a friend/a relative/whoever. Even BETTER news is that since the Internet has become the best source for information available to man, you can get a lot of help online. If you’re worried you won’t read TAB the same way right-handed people do, you can. But often it’s simply a matter of finding a way that YOU can decipher it. You will find a system that works for you, honest. If all else fails, take the chord in question over to ChordFind.com – they have a left-handed option.

And you’re on your way! That’s pretty much all you need to know about left-handed playing. Here are some all-purpose does and don’ts to help you –

1. Don’t, don’t, DON’T take a right-handed acoustic and re-string it. It will constantly be falling out of tune.

2. Don’t try and learn to play on a right-handed guitar, as some chords will be impossible (G springs to mind). Also, if you ever decide to jump to a left-handed guitar later on, you’ll be forced to start from scratch.

3. Don’t feel bad about playing in front of right-handed people – you’ve got just as much potential as them.

And most importantly, have fun playing. That’s what it’s about. And before I go, here are some little snippets and statistics that you can tell any nay Sayers –

A band with a left-handed guitarist in it is 3% more likely to attract attention, because looks are almost everything these days, and left-handed guitarists look unique.

Kurt Cobain, Paul McCartney and Jimi Hendrix made a combined total of over $200million in their respective careers… all three were left-handed. Leonardo da Vinci and Napoleon were also left-handed, as well as – that’s right – Ned Flanders from the Simpsons.

The numbers of left-handed people in the UK has increased fourfold over the last 100 years.

About 11% of women and 13% of men are left-handed.

The Latin word for left-handed is “sinister”. The reason “sinister” means what it does today is because hundreds of years ago left-handed people were considered evil.

I hope this has been helpful to one in every nine of you… keep playing that baby upside-down, southpaws.