It’s hard to be a left-handed person, especially when it comes to an instrument like the guitar. Like so many other instruments, a standard guitar is set up for right-handed people. With left-handed guitars hard to find and often more expensive, southpaws may wonder if it’s possible to learn to play on a right-hander.
A left-handed person can play a right-handed guitar with some practice. Left-handed guitars can be hard to come by and are limited in their availability, so many lefties choose this route. Players can flip the guitar upside down, restring it to be left-handed, or simply learn how to play right-handed.
This article will explore different ways that left-handed people can approach playing a right-handed guitar.
Why Play a Right-Hander?
If there are left-handed guitars out there, why bother learning how to play a right-handed guitar at all? The truth is that while there are left-handed guitars out there, they may not be as easy to find as you think. Some reasons lefty guitarists prefer righty guitars are outlined below.
There are fewer left-handed people in the world, so, unfortunately, there are fewer left-handed guitars. If you’ve had your heart set on a particular kind of guitar, you might have a disappointing realization when you look it up and find that it is only available in right-handed models.
Some manufacturers don’t make lefty guitars in batches but instead require customers to buy custom orders for lefty guitars. Gibson is one such manufacturer. However, custom lefties will be significantly more expensive.
Lefty guitars, for the most part, will cost more than their right-handed counterparts. Left-handed guitars are produced in much smaller quantities, requiring additional time and specialized tools.
As a hobby, playing guitar can get expensive between strings, cables, amplifiers, and repairs. Insisting on getting a lefty guitar will only add to the cost. You may simply decide that it’s more economical to get a right-handed guitar and teach yourself to play!
Easier To Play Other’s Guitars
Most of all, learning how to play right-handed guitars will make your life much easier if you ever want to play somebody else’s instrument. The overwhelming majority of players will own right-handed guitars. Playing a left-handed guitar means you will effectively be tied to your own instrument with little opportunity to explore other models.
As a beginner, you may not anticipate being in a situation where you want to play somebody else’s guitar. If you ever advance to a point where you are playing in front of other people, however, you may be handed a guitar and asked to play something. It would be disappointing to have to explain that you don’t play this kind of guitar!
How Left-Handed People Can Play a Right-Handed Guitar
So if left-handed guitars have too many disadvantages for you, you may decide to take the plunge and learn how to play a right-handed guitar. Great—now you need to decide how you’re going to choose to play it.
There are actually three different ways lefty guitarists can approach playing a righty guitar. Each way has its advantages and drawbacks, so you may want to give each of them a try and see what feels the most comfortable for you.
The first way to play a righty guitar is upside-down. Some guitarists simply take a right-handed guitar and point the neck to the right side of their body instead of the left. This puts the pick in their dominant hand, just like righty guitarists. The advantage of this is that right-handed guitars will no longer pose an obstacle when you want to jam on somebody else’s instrument!
This playing method is somewhat tricky since the strings will now be facing the opposite direction, putting the high E string on the top of the fretboard instead of the bottom. This means that you will have to learn the shapes of chords and all tablature backward, which can be very tricky indeed. Once you master this technique, no right-handed guitar will pose an obstacle to you.
If you’re already a seasoned guitarist, however, you will likely have trouble with this method. Playing a right-handed guitar upside-down will probably come easier to beginners, who have less guitar knowledge to relearn.
Restrung As Left-Handed
Another method some guitarists use is restringing their right-handed guitar entirely so that the strings are in the right order. This will put the low E where the high E used to be, the G where the B is, and so on.
The first and most famous guitarist to play this way was Jimi Hendrix, who restrung his Stratocaster to be left-handed. The effect this has on the electric guitar is particularly profound because of their pickups. Pickups are small magnetic transducers underneath each string on an electric guitar.
Pickups on electrics are usually angled in some way. This emphasizes certain strings and tones above others and gives each kind of electric guitar a distinct sound. Restringing the guitar to become a lefty will place different strings over the different pickups, emphasizing different notes than what the manufacturer intended. Your guitar will sound even more unique.
Restringing your guitar this way will also make the guitar impossible to play for right-handed players and can also be counterintuitive if you’re used to restringing the guitar already.
Finally, many players simply decide to play right-handed. Even if you’re not ambidextrous, playing right-handed guitar may not be as difficult as you think.
Your right hand is closer to the bridge on a standard right-handed setup, holding the pick and strumming the strings. The left hand is actually doing the more complicated work of forming chord shapes and fingering along the fretboard. Right-handed guitarists tend to struggle with this but eventually get used to using their non-dominant hand.
Picking up a new instrument is going to feel awkward no matter what. Some players use this to their advantage and force themselves to learn to play right-handed.
Sticking to Lefty Guitars
Maybe you’ve tried to play on a righty guitar and struggled in the past. In that case, you may want to go ahead and purchase a lefty guitar instead. Your playing will be best when you are playing an instrument that you love and are comfortable playing.
If you lack a lefty guitar, there are several relatively cheap options available on Amazon. Lefty acoustic guitars are fairly easy to find online. (Though keep in mind that these will have a lower sound quality than high-end acoustics!)
The Sawtooth Left-Handed Acoustic Dreadnought has nearly 500 five-star reviews on Amazon and costs under $150. Reviews agree that the sound quality is fairly good for a cheap acoustic.
A lefty electric will cost a little more than a lefty electric. This is because electric guitars are usually stylized and have cutaways, while acoustics are mostly symmetrical. The Fender Squier Left-Handed Affinity Telecaster is one of the cheaper models available from a major guitar manufacturer.
Left-handed guitarists can easily play a right-handed guitar if they are willing to think about the instrument a little differently. If you’re struggling to find a lefty guitar, it might be worth thinking about playing a right-handed guitar instead.
There are numerous different ways to adjust a righty guitar to suit a lefty’s needs, but left-handed people can also simply decide to play a right-handed guitar with their right hand. Ultimately, there is no wrong way to set up your guitar, as long as it helps you play to the best of your ability.