Saturday, September 3, 2011

Should I Play A Right Handed Guitar Left Handed?

Should I play a right handed guitar left handed ? I can't answer that question. That is up to you. All I can do is offer my experience with being a left handed guitar playing a right handed guitar. Why would you want to when you are left handed and just beginning to learn guitar? I explained earlier that my reason was economic. When I was learning I had to borrow someone else's guitar because I couldn't afford one of my own. Of course the guitar that I borrowed was a right handed guitar and I couldn't change the strings around because it didn't belong to me. If you want to do it to be different than I see no problem with that. The more of us odd balls out there the better.
Should I change the strings around on a right handed guitar? You can do anything you want to but I wouldn't and here's why. You may start out with a cheap $100 guitar, switch the strings to make it left handed and it's no big deal. What about when you graduate to a more expensive acoustic, say in the $1000 to $5000 range, or one that has a life time warranty? I recently contacted a major guitar manufacturer with the question: Would changing the strings on a guitar harm the instrument. Here is the answer:" We don't recommend anyone to switch strings, since bracing, bridges, and tone bar are set up for right-handed players. It is better to play it upside down. Otherwise, it could be harmful to the structure of the guitar". Not to mention that you just blew your warranty if something warps inside. I can't comment on the effects of an electric guitar with a solid body but I know that the bridge, nut, and saddle might be a problem. As far as the pick guard is concerned, you would either have to avoid "scrubbing" the strings or have one fitted on the other side of the sound hole. I personally leave the pick guard as it is. When the instrument shows scratches on the other side it becomes a left handed guitar and that makes it unique. One modification that I have made was placement of the strap buttons. There is one located on the top of the guitar. That one is ambidextrous and no problem. The other is usually located on the heel where the neck joins the body. If it is in the back facing your body or pointing to the right than there is no problem. If it is on top than we have a problem. Because of its location your strap will most likely slip off. Remove it and put one either in the back, to the right or on the bottom facing down. Most higher end guitars do not come with one and it is up to you to have it installed. It's easy to do and only requires a drill and small bit. I hope this helps you out in making a decision on playing a right handed guitar left handed. If you have any questions or comments please e-mail me at bwillismusic@gmail.com.

17 comments:

  1. Hi there! Thank you for such an informative site! I have just started to learn how to play a guitar. I am left handed, but blonde me didn't know it would matter. To make a long story short, the place I am renting from doesn't rent left handed guitars and I'm not buying one until I know if guitar is for me!

    So thanks again for the insight!

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  2. Hello, just knew here but I always wanted to learn to play.. I would like to know your thoughts on the following statement about learning guitar by this method.
    "One note of caution deals with left-handed guitar players who attempt to play a right handed guitar by flipping it upside down. While this is certainly possible to do, and several guitar players throughout history have made good music using this technique, it is generally unadvisable to go this route since many guitar chords will be virtually impossible to finger, and you will be forever limited in your playing options. If you are left handed and want to learn guitar, save up your money and buy a decent left-handed instrument to learn on. You'll be glad you did over the long haul."

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  3. Hi Alan, I don't know where the quote came from, but the truth is that "many chords will be virtually impossible to finger" for anyone who is just learning the guitar either way. The difference is in the method that you learn from the start. I don't advocate one method from the other. I just tell you how I play.

    I get lots of e-mails from people who play upside down thanking me for providing an outlet and offering tips that they can't find on other guitar sites. The choice is yours. Thanks, Ben

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  4. Hi. My thing is that I learned 5 years ago to play guitar right handed. I am somewhat ambidextrous, using my left for fine motor and my right for strength. I am finding that while I am quite proficient fretting and lead, my rhythm has not kept pace. I am considering learning lefty. Thoughts?

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  5. apart from mark nopfler who are some other guitarist who play right handed even though they are writing left handed I am from zanzibar

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  6. Greetings! I have been playing upside down for the last 25 years. I've managed to do just fine so far. My biggest problem is finding an acoustic with a cutout on the opposite side that retains the action of a standard right-handed guitar. I have never purchased a true lefty guitar and switched the strings because 1)the saddle is usually angled in the wrong direction, 2)The nut has to be replaced due to string thickness, and 3)as mentioned on this very website, the inner bracing usually doesn't allow for it structurally. I have found a lot of luck with electrics however. I currently play an Ibanez GAX70. It has a double cutout which is nice. I added an extra strap button on the opposite side (I left the original one as well for the purpose of sharing my guitar with a righty on stage). I also modified the volume/tone knobs by affixing adhesive back felt discs to the under side of them (I poked a hole in each one so I could put the knobs back in place). This keeps the knobs from turning while I play as my left arm rests on top of them. It works beautifully. It's nice to see there are more of us out there!!!

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  7. I build left handed guitars, and the BS about switching strings will damage a guitar is just that.
    As a matter of fact, L'Arrivee guitars have symmetrical braces, which means that switching strings doesn't make a difference.
    The only thing that needs to be changed on a steel string acoustic guitar is the nut and the saddle slot on the bridge to make a right- handed guitar play in tune.

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  8. Hello there ~ So great to finally land on a southpaw, who like myself, learned how to play on a northpaw model, upside down! Thinking outside the box is a must in a right-handed world, no? If interested, try googling MISTER LAURENCE to find the music I'm involved with today, playing in just this fashion!

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  9. Hi, I just found your site because someone gave me a guitar and I'm thinking about learning to play the standard RH tuning upside down. I've been playing an upside down for about 30 years but with a Cm7 tuning (C, G, C, G, B Flat, E Flat), I've changed the two lower strings for thicker ones (otherwise tuning them down would make them too slack). My guitar (a Bellini) has a bridge that is held in place by the strings alone so it is easy to adjust. It's easy to get all major, minor & 7th chords although I cannot play all the inversions with all six strings. I wonder if this has been done before?
    ('name is Gerry, I'm only posting as anon because I don't have an account with any of the options).

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  10. "Freight train, freight train, goin' so fast .." we've all heard it; but did you know it's from a left handed player, Elizabeth Cotton? Check out this (about 4.20 in) :
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tm5-WdB_aVE
    or just see what else she does:
    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=elizabeth+cotton&aq=f

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  11. hi! i'm ralph.i've been playing guitar for quite awhile whith my left hand and using the the right hand guitar.i was laughing inside,when i read the story of wanting to play and don't have your own guitar.back home,we were 9 kids and everybody was playing with their guitar on the righthand side.and i was on the left.yeah!!!! big problem everytime i turn the strings upsidedown.so,i was forced to learn it the upsidedown way.oh" that was is the late 70's. ralph p.s. its so nice to find out that i was not alone

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  12. found my moms old guitar tried learning like a righty but that did not agree with my fingers
    so i turned it upside down and viola things are magically easier. and posh with the "Impossible to play chords" i can always flip the guitar plus by then maybe there will be a way...

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  13. im trying to play guitar upside down .. im also a lefty .. any tips for a newbie like me ?

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  14. hi, i'm from MALAYSIA.. u give me little strength to play guitar upside down... i used my right hand for a normal thing in my life such as writing... Last month i played guitar with right handed and it's not work for me at all.. i just practice for 2 or 3 times..

    2 days ago i bought a guitar for right handed.. The seller told me to used right handed rather than left hand.. Because he ask me, i write with right hand.. Yes i am.. And the price will be double for lefty.. So, with doubtful i buy a right hand guitar..

    And know i will playing upside down guitar.. thanks a lot, u inspire me...

    i found out u blog, and its quite interesting.. thanks a lot...

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  15. The trouble with the upside down method is the guitar wasn't designed to be played upside down and you are fighting against the design of the instrument and your own hand. If you have a right hand guitar it would be easier to learn to play it right handed but my recommendation: Buy a lefty and play left handed... there are lots of good LH guitars on the market now this isnt the 1950's .. I know of no major guitar maker that does not make left hand guitars.... from the entry level things like a Seagull S6 or a Taylor 114 on up,finding a left hand guitar isnt that hard.

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  16. My son is almost 4yo and really wants to play guitar like me. I want to get him a guitar for his birthday but I am not sure if he will stay a lefty for life. Some people say wait until 5 or 6 but my son is very into playing mine. Someone said to teach him right handed but I am afraid that will make him weaker with his left hand.

    He holds the guitar lefty (he has only seen me hold and picked his method on his own), he uses lefty scissors, eats lefty, draws lefty, and he is lefty at kicking and catching. He will try to use his right hand but only for a second before going back to lefty.

    Is it ok to get a lefty guitar? or should I get a righty one and see how it goes?

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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