Thursday, December 20, 2007

Left Handed People Using Right Handed Products

In my early days of playing a right handed guitar left handed I was a sales rep for a local wholesale co. I drove around all day visiting customers and clients filling orders and selling new products. This was before cell phones. I had to stop several times a day to make business phone calls from a pay phone. Most of these calls required for me to write notes and to go through catalogs as I was talking on the phone. I hold my notebook in my left hand, and I write with my left hand. I also hold the phone up to my left ear. I keep my change in my left pants pocket. So here's the scenario, I need to make a phone call so I pull over to a pay phone. I have to take my books with me so I get out of the car with the books in my left hand. I then need to find a quarter in my pocket to put into the phone so I have to either put the books down or hold them in my right hand to get to my pocket. Okay I have the quarter in my hand. I pick up the receiver and put the money into the phone. I put the phone up to my left ear and get ready to dial. Wait a minute, I find out that I either must dial with my awkward right hand or hold the phone to my ear with my shoulder while I use my left hand to dial so I opt for the shoulder technique. Guess what? the cable between the phone and receiver is now in my face and I can't do anything but move the receiver to my right shoulder. The call is made, now I find out that I need to write something down and look up a price at the same time. By now I have the receiver back up to my left ear while holding it with my right hand crossed over. I have to put the pencil down while I flip through the pages of my book. Total chaos because I don't know how to use a right handed pay phone.
What does this story have to do with being a left handed guitar player? Everything. I can handle a right handed pay phone now because after so much frustration, I developed a system to deal with it. No need to explain it now because pay phones are irrelevant these days and I want to stay on subject. When I first picked up a right handed guitar I had the same problem. Total chaos. I was told that I needed a left handed guitar to learn but I couldn't afford one. They are usually a bit more expensive than a standard right handed guitar because the manufacturer must retool equipment to make them and the hand made ones require different tools and jigs to make the different components. Besides that there is not as much of a demand for left handed instruments so it is probably not economically feasible.
Here is my point. I use right handed tools all of the time from power saws to scissors and have found a way to adapt. Just because they were made in a standard way without the left handed person in mind doesn't mean that they can't be used safely by a left handed person. If you can afford left handed tools by all means buy them but don't complain about right handed products because that isn't exactly a top priority in peoples minds of injustices. They usually just tell you to quit whining. I don't whine because I defy them and use the products however they are made.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Strumming Or Picking Style

We feel relatively comfortable now playing a right handed guitar left handed and holding the guitar left handed. We can make the major chords, A, B, C, D, E, F and G with the right hand. What about the left hand? How do I hold the pick? What type of strumming technique do I use? There is no particular technique and I have never seen any particular instructional guide for what is right and wrong for this unorthodox way of playing the right handed guitar left handed. I can only tell you what I do and how I developed the technique that I use.
"Flat Picking" is a term used to play mostly single notes combined with chords for a lead acoustic guitar part. If you want to hear examples of "Flat Picking" then listen to any song by Doc Watson. As far as picking the lead, there is no difference in the way you hold the pick left handed and the way a right handed player holds the pick. Between the thumb and the index finger. Problems may arise when the palm of your left hand tend to muffle the strings. To avoid this, position your left hand with the wrist pointing away from the strings. In other words you may have to bend your wrist much like you do when you write left handed. You may come up with your own method but that is how I do it. Another problem may be in the method that you learn the lead part. I have learned by three methods. Tabulature, being taught one on one by someone else, and figuring it out on my own. Tabulature is a good tool for learning scales and exercises. You just have to interpolate what you are reading because again it is written with the right handed player in mind. Left handed tabulature is available but not useful because you are not really playing the guitar left handed in the context that it is written. Believe me, it's not as hard as it sounds. The easiest way to learn a lead lick is to have someone teach you one on one sitting across from you.
"Finger Picking" is when you play multiple strings set to a rhythm that gives the melody a fullness much like a piano where you separate melody and bass notes. Classical guitar music would be a good example. I hold the pick between the thumb and index finger and pick out the bass notes simultaneously with my middle finger. This method works well for me since I have tried everything else to no avail. I even tried the three finger "Scruggs" banjo style but it just sounded like a banjo roll.
"Strumming" rhythm may be a challenge at first for the left handed player because you will have to concentrate on picking using an up stroke instead of a down stroke as a right handed player does. Just remember that when you play a strum you will normally start on the low E string and strum up to the high E.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Chords And Finger Positions

In my last article we discussed how as a left handed guitar player I came to play a right handed guitar left handed by flipping over the guitar playing it backwards. This was done not to be different but out of necessity because I had to borrow someone else's guitar at the time so I couldn't restring it. Now I will discuss how to begin teaching yourself how to make chords regardless of conventional learning techniques.
Find a guitarist's chord manual or chord chart with diagrams. Even though you are playing left handed upside down, the chord fingerings have to be correct, the only difference will be which finger you will use for each guitar fret. A typical chord diagram will show an illustration of six strings and numbered round dots representing where and which finger should be pressed to make a certain chord. Remember that these diagrams are for right handed players so that means that they are intended for the left hand. We will read these diagrams and interpret for the right hand. Look at any chord diagram. It will show six strings and about seven frets. You should already know the names of the strings, E A D G B E. There is a low E and a high E string. As you hold the guitar, the high E string will be on top of the sound hole and the low E on the bottom. The high E string is located at the far right of the diagram, and the low E at the far left. The A string is next to the low E and so on. Pay no attention to the numbers on the round dots because they are irrelevant to the left handed player. A chord structure could use anywhere from one finger to four fingers. Start by learning one or two finger chords. Start learning three finger chords as soon as possible because there are actually very few one or two finger chords and you may get bored. Practice an upstroke with your left hand holding a pick. Experiment with the different fingerings to decide which fingers feel best on which strings. Also practice changing from one chord to another to get the feel of it. I have actually taught right handed people to play the guitar and my number one rule is DO NOT over practice. It leads to frustration and boredom and that is what we want to avoid. Thirty minute sessions per day is plenty of time, but if you are eager and want to work longer feel free to, I only want you to avoid getting frustrated or bored. Your fingertips will get sore but that will go away as you wear callouses on them. I hope that this helps you to get started playing right handed guitar left handed. The whole point is that as a left handed guitar player, there is no need to conform to a right handed world to learn to play music.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

How To Play A Right Handed Guitar Left Handed - About The Author

Being a left handed guitar player I have accepted the fact that musical instruments especially the guitar are designed for the right handed player. Everyday tools and conveniences are designed and built with no regard to lefty's such as power saws, water fountains pay phones and even firearms. The list goes on.
When I was around the age of twelve my parents bought me a cheap guitar for Christmas which of course was a right handed guitar. Not wanting to learn to play right handed, I changed the strings around as most left handers do. To no avail I found it hard to make certain chords and thus hindered my learning. I soon gave up the idea and the guitar went into the closet. Years later at around age twenty one I started fooling around with my brothers guitar. Since it didn't belong to me I couldn't change the strings so I started learning to make chords backwards and playing left handed. After I had learned to make a few basic chords and strum them clearly I was determined to go all the way regardless of my so called handicap. I bought my own right handed guitar and was soon learning to play the guitar left handed upside down. I was soon playing my favorite songs. In the early days though I only strummed chords but that was enough to get by. By the time I could play all of the major, minor, sharps and seventh chords I was ready to learn to play some lead. A friend told me that a good place to learn guitar was at a bluegrass festival. I started attending festivals and learning the old songs. I first learned the song "Wild Wood Flower" by the Carter Family. It was a simple three chord song and not too difficult to play the lead melody. Soon after that came old standards like "Home Sweet Home" and "Cripple Creek" also three chord songs and easy to learn a lead melody. I became sort of an oddity as I played around the at festivals and always heard comments like, "Did you know that you're playing that guitar upside down?" Well Duh! It was funny to see people tilt their heads like a puzzled dog as I played. Other musicians would not look at me while they were playing because I would throw them off. They couldn't tell what I was doing. I got a kick out of that. I eventually taught myself to play "Flat pick" and "Finger Pick" style guitar. I also play acoustic slide guitar. In the past few years I began learning how to write songs and started writing my own music. I recorded a CD titled "The Lighter Side Of Poverty". I wrote all of the songs, provide the vocals and play all of the right handed instruments on the CD. This is an on going blog to provide beginning and intermediate leftys and techniques to make your learning experience a little easier in a right handed world. Please email me with questions or comments about playing a right handed guitar left handed at: bwillismusic@gmail.com.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

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Monday, November 5, 2007

Advertise On This Blog

If you would like to advertise your web site, product, or company on this blog, please contact me at bwillismusic@gmail.com and we can negotiate a price.

Ben Willis demonstrating the "left handed upside down guitar method".


A chord

B Chord

C Chord

D Chord

E Chord

F Chord

G Chord

B Barre Chord

D Barre Chord

Contact Info

E-mail Ben Willis at
bwillismusic@gmail.com