Thursday, December 25, 2008

Left handed Guitar Barre Chords

Once you have the concept of making left handed guitar basic chords down and feel farely comfortable with it, you may want to move on and learn how to make these same chords in a different way on other parts of the guitar neck. They are known as barre chords. Don't be intimidated by how you see others using barre chords because they seem to be playing all over the neck while you are used to keeping your right hand at a safe position around the bottom three frets. Some of these higher up the neck chords may even be easier for you because you don't have to stretch and manipulate your fingers as much as you would at the bottom of the fret board. So let's get started.
Scroll down and find the picture and diagram of the barre A chord. The first thing that you should teach yourself and become accustomed to is laying your index finger across the entire width of the fret board so that you can press all six strings clearly and unmuffled. That means that you must use the entire bottom of your index finger. Practice strumming the strings and going up and down the neck using only that one finger. You will notice that it is rather difficult to make all of the strings ring clear. Once you start adding your other fingers to the chord it gets easier and you will notice that your right hand has more strength and versatility. Lets make the chord. Place your index finger across the fret board at the fifth fret we'll call this the base fret. Place your middle finger on the G string at the sixth fret. Place your third finger on the seventh fret of the D string. Place your pinkie on the seventh fret of the A string. OK now what about the low E string? We are out of fingers. You should already be pressing the low E and high E with your index finger laying across the fret board. Practice the barre chord and compare the sound with the basic chord at the bottom of the neck. They should sound the same.
Notice in the picture that the B7 chord is played the exact same way as the A, only that the base fret is the seventh fret. I just noticed that I don't have pictures for the F and G barre chords. I'll have to post those before I go any further but you should have plenty to practice with until then.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Left Handed Guitar E-Mails

Here are some more e-mails that I've recieved about playing left handed guitar upside down. There are plenty of people out there who prefer to play this way. If you are one of them, you are not alone and maybe these Q&A's can help.

From Michael,
Dear Sir--I recently bought my daughter an acoustic guitar for a right-handed person. This is the first time she has touched a guitar and is very excited about learning. Being left-handed what would you suggest in the beginning? Thank you,

My Answer:
The first thing to do is to buy an electronic guitar tuner. They can be as
cheap as $10. Learn how to use it so you can teach her how. If the guitar
isn't properly tuned she will have a hard time learning to play. On the
side bar of my web page, I have left handed guitar chord and barre chord pictures played by a left handed person using a right handed guitar. You can
print them out if you want. These are only basic chords ABCDEFG. The
diagrams show which finger goes on each string of the chord. Look at the
numbers below the diagram. Have her practice the seven basic chords by
strumming up and down on the strings with a light gauge guitar pick.
Practice 30 minutes a day. If she practices too much she will get bored or
frustrated. The tips of her fingers will get sore at first but that will
go away.
When she is comfortable with strumming and changing chords she can learn
her first song. What kind of music does she like? Most girls her age like
Shania Twain, Hanna Montana, Reba McIntyre etc. Find an "easy to play"
songbook with guitar chords at the music store that has a song in it that
she knows really well. It can be by her favorite artist. She has an
advantage because she already knows how the song is supposed to go. She
should already know the basic chords , and if there are any different
chords in the book it will have a diagram to learn by. Have her practice
singing the song and playing the chords at the same time. I guarantee that
once she learns her first song she will want to learn more. Hope this
helps, Ben

From Jaz:
I am a left handed guitar player myself. I play with a right handed guitar. Ive been playing for about 5 years. I just need some advice. Ive never once picked up a left handed guitar. I'm really looking into buying a new one soon. But I don't really know if I should either keep playing the way I do, or to try something new and get a left handed guitar. I DO want to try the left handed guitar. But is it really worth it? I mean, I'm so used to playing the right handed guitar just fine. I just need an opinion.

My Answer:
I tried playing a left handed guitar, but found it hard to make some
chords like F. I don't know if your trading your old guitar in, or buying
an extra guitar. Try changing the strings around on your current guitar
just to see how it feels. I wouldn't leave them that way if it is
acoustic. Or you could try to find an inexpensive leftie guitar. Go to a
music store and try out a leftie guitar and see if it feels comfortablefirst.
If you have been playing left handed upside down all this time, it may be
like learning all over again to play a leftie guitar. Ben

From Caroline:
I just signed up for group guitar lessons through a community college. I have a cheap guitar that I bought at costco and had restrung for left handed. I'm not so sure now that I read your article that it will work but we'll see....

My Answer:
Hi Caroline, Yes it should work. I only meant that you shouldn't buy an
expensive right handed guitar to restring because it could damage the
internal bracing and other parts that the warranty would not cover.
If you decide that you want to play left handed all the time , then I
would move up to a more expensive "built for left handed" guitar.
You did the right thing by using a cheaper guitar to experiment with. Ben

From Katyana:
Hi, I am learning the guitar, again, but having to do it left handed, only strung right handed, upside down. I have tried finding lesson books, on how to do the chords, but having a difficult time. Can you help or suggest where I look? Thanks,

My Answer:
I have basic chord diagrams on my site. Look on the side bar. Those are
for left handed strung right handed upside down. The only difference
between those chords and regular right handed chords are the fingers that
you use to press each string. Look at the number under the chord. That
tells you which finger to use.
If you would like audio lessons, make a donation of at least $10 by
clicking the "donation" button and I will record you one basic beginners
lesson to start and send it to you via e-mail.
I haven't really started recording lessons yet until I get enough requests
for it so let me know what you want to hear in an audio lesson and I will
customize it for you. Ben

From Michael:
Just ordered a left-handed electric guitar.
I have absolutely no sense of pitch or anything like that, but the only person I have to entertain is myself. I played trombone in junior high, but I am pretty sure I was really bad.
I always thought the bass strings were on the bottom, but that's probably because the few times I have held a guitars, they were probably right-handed ones that I turned around.
Anyway, I am thinking of stringing it upside down. Basically, it would look like a left handed guitar, but play like a right-handed guitar turned around.

My Answer:
That's fine, but you will have to have the nut and bridge changed around on the guitar so you can reverse the strings. I have even suggested that people do what you're doing with the electric guitar, that way, the knobs are on the bottom, the chord doesn't get in your way and the tuners are in the right direction. Check out mt article, "Left Handed Guitar Players Who Play A Right Handed Guitar" and the video of bluesman Albert King. He did the same thing with his "Flying V" guitar. Ben

From Predrag:
I appreciate you taking time to write all that about playing upside down. However, I have a lot trouble playing some chords that way. I only play for like 3 weeks, of which the first two weeks I tried playing right handed. Last 7 days I'm learning to play left handed since it turns out it is the only natural for me, and everything I learned in previous weeks while I was playing right handed I could apply in reverse for playing left handed upside down except - G major. Even C major was tought at first, but now I'm not having trouble any more and I see it becoming more easier by each day. But I'm having tough time with G major chord - I see very little progress, if any at all. I'm following your instructions and pictures for fretting.
The problem with G major is, it's either the middle finger (2nd) touching B string while trying to press the third fret of high E string, or the other two fingers (1st and 3rd) not pressing low E and A strings enough...it's seems like it requires incredible flexibility!!!
Any advice?

My Answer:
Thanks for writing Predrag. It sounds like you're getting a little frustrated but that's normal. You want to learn as quick as possible. I was like that too. My hardest chord was F. If you conquered the C, the G should smooth out soon enough. Flexibility and dexterity may be the answer. I just noticed myself playing a G and noticed that my fingertips were flatly on the strings. Not the side or bottom but the tip. It will take lots of practice but is not impossible. You may also try trimming your nails as close as possible. You are having the same problem as anyone else has left or right handed. It is very common, so don't give up. Even if you accidently press the third fret of the B string while making a G chord, it won't sound out of tune because it is a G note anyway. Try it purposly and listen to the chord. It sounds fine but isn't a true G chord. Ben

From Alan:
Hi. I'm a lefty and I just bought a right-handed guitar (I'm a newbie). I'm wondering if I should learn right-handed - but I'd prefer to play like you.
So it's very possible to play all the notes of a right handed guitar upside down? Is there a book or something I can get for this method? I want to play Flamenco but I don't know if that's possible with this style either.

My Answer:
Thanks Alan, there is not a published method that I know of other than the few tips that I offer. I'm not saying that you should play upside down, I just offer tips to people who choose to. Try playing right handed first and see how it feels. If you feel like you won't be able to adjust then try playing upside down. It will feel more natural that way because you are left handed. It's not impossible to do. I do have pictures and diagrams that show which fingers I use to make basic chords so that may help. I learned the chords from right handed books by transposing how I would make the chords left handed.
As far as Flamenco, you may have an advantage by playing upside down because of the precision and coordination required in the picking hand and fingers which would be your left hand. I also "finger pick" which is similar. Start with the pictures and diagrams on my site. Notice the numbers at the bottom. Those are the fingers and positions required to make the chords. Practice strumming the chords first. The single notes will come later. Take it one step at a time and don't get in a hurry. Ben

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Chords And Finger Positions For Playing Upside Down

In my last post I started describing how I make basic chords for playing left handed guitar upside down. Actually we're playing a right handed guitar upside down left handed. I ended my last post with the D chord so I will continue with the E chord.
The E is a three finger chord. We press the A,D and G strings and leave the other strings open. On the second fret of the A string, press down with the third finger of your right hand. On the second fret of the D string, press down with the second finger of your right hand. On the first fret of the G string, press down with your index finger.
The F chord may take some practice but I have found out that in the long run, it is easier to make this chord this way for me. It will also help in learning to make Barre chords which I will get into later. Lay your index finger across all six strings on the first fret(It may help to look at the picture and diagram below). With your index finger pressed firmly, press your fourth(pinkie) finger on the third fret of the A string. Press your third finger on the third fret of the D string. Press your second finger on the second fret of the G string.
The G chord is probably the most common chord used and isn't too hard to make. Press the third fret of the low E string with the third finger. Press the second fret of the A string with the index finger. Press the third fret of the high E string with the middle finger.
I've covered most of the basic chords. This should be enough to give you a head start and begin learning on your own.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Left Handed Guitar Chords And Finger Positions II

In my first post on chords and finger positions I didn't go into any detail and left a few left handed guitar players confused. I will describe how I make some basic chords and you can compare them with the pictures that I have on the side bar. These are not left handed guitar lessons, but only my interpretation of how I play the guitar left handed. If this post can help you get started and learn more on your own, than I've done my job. I do offer personal Audio(not video) lessons for a price. You can e-mail me if you are interested.
Let's start with the A chord. You can make this chord one of two ways by either using your first three fingers or just your index finger. I do it both ways, but mostly using three fingers. Here are the strings EADGBE. The A chord is pressed on the second fret of the DG and B strings. When I make a three finger A chord, I press my index finger on the 2nd fret of the B string. My middle finger goes on the 2nd fret of the G string, and my third(ring) finger goes on the 2nd fret of the D string. The one finger method may be more difficult for a beginner because you risk muffling the other strings. You simply press the DBG strings on the 2nd fret with the upper part of your index finger. You want the chord to sound full, so try not to muffle the other strings. Make the chord and strum up starting from the A string with your left hand.
I don't have a picture or diagram of the B chord up yet but will get into that one later. Let's do a C chord. I like to strum all six strings so the picture that I have of a C chord isn't actually a real C because I added a fourth note to it. The picture shows a "pinkie" on the 3rd fret of the low E string. I do that because it blends in with the rest of the chord and sounds very melodic. You can use it if you want but I'll explain the rest of the chord. We will be pressing the A,D and B strings. Use your third(ring) finger and press the 3rd fret of the A string. Press the 2nd fret of the D string with your middle finger, and press the 1st fret of the B string with your index finger. Strum the guitar with your left hand, try not to muffle the strings. If you can do it well enough, try pressing the 3rd fret of the low E string with your "pinkie" while you are making the chord.
For The D chord we will be pressing the G,B and high E strings. Press the 2nd fret of the G string with your middle finger. Press the 3rd fret of the B string with your third(ring) finger. Press the 2nd fret of the high E string with your index finger. Strum up from the A string with your left hand.
I will get into some other chords later on but this should give you enough to practice with. I will also get more into left handed guitar techniques and coordination of left handed strumming.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Left Handed Guitar Chords vs. Right Handed Upside-Down Chords

I was checking out some sites that link back to Left Handed Guitar Player, and came across a left handed message board. Someone was looking for a web site that features chords and/or tabulator for the left handed guitar player. One of the posters left a link to this site and asked if this helps. Of course some know-it-all responded by saying that this site is pretty much useless. He said something to the effect that the chord diagrams that I have on the side bar are ineffective and wrong. In particular the C chord. He said that it was wrong because it is actually a C/G chord. He said that the photos don't match the diagrams, and that the diagrams are right handed diagrams.
Here's the deal. The pictures and diagrams do match because I am playing a right handed guitar, I also play the right handed Bass guitar and mandolin this way, thus right handed diagrams. The only difference is in knowing which fingers to use to make the chords. They are printed beneath the diagram. This site is not about playing a left handed guitar, but rather playing a right handed guitar left handed-upside down. I may have failed to name the strings on the diagram, but if you know anything about it, the nut of the guitar is always shown at the top of the picture and you can figure out that the far left string is the low E and the far right string is the high E. The diagram matches the picture.
When I first posted these pictures and diagrams I said that this the way that I make these chords. So what if it is a C/G. That's the way that I play a C and it sounds like a C. They are not etched in stone and there is not a published syllabus for learning to play a guitar left-handed upside down that I know of. What I print are only suggestions that you can take or leave. If you choose to play the guitar in this manner, it might be easier to use my suggestions. If you came here looking for left handed guitar lessons then yes this site may be "useless" to you but not everyone. I get lots of e-mail thanking me for this resource and I very much appreciate it.
People want to learn the guitar because they want to be able to make music. How they get there is up to them, not some snob with an opinion about what is right and wrong. Many people have defied the odds when told that they were doing something wrong. I named a few in a previous article so I'm not going to beat a dead horse.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Playing Left Handed With Other Musicians

I used to play left handed guitar quite a bit with other musicians. Though I have always played a right handed guitar that I flipped over, the other musicians never had a problem comprehending what I was doing once they got used to watching me play.
I played a lot of bluegrass music when I was younger so that meant playing several jam sessions with various instruments. I even played rhythm to a penny whistle once.
Musicians notice immediately that I am playing a right handed guitar left handed and are usually amused at watching me play left handed. It is sort of a novelty, but once they catch on, I am told that the chords that I am making actually look similar to right handed chords.
I don't play with other musicians anymore but probably will again in the future. I record my own music and send it out over the Internet. Everything I do now days is overdubbed. I play all of the instruments on my songs. I also play left handed bass guitar and left handed mandolin. They are right handed instruments, and I play them upside down just like I do the guitar.
I didn't need a left handed guitar teacher to learn how to play. What ever I didn't pick up on my own, I learned from right handed players. It's not that hard to interpret what someone else is playing and I never considered it anymore difficult than a right handed guitar player learning to play. People think that it's a handicap and it's not.
Here is the point. If you are considering learning to play a right handed guitar left handed upside down, don't be intimidated because it's not that hard to do. The chords are easier to make for me, but you may have to concentrate on an upstroke with your left hand when playing rhythm guitar with other musicians. Some people will enjoy having you in their band because of the novelty. Audiences notice this and are amazed. If you can play some good lead licks, they are that much more amazed and will tell their friends.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Left Handed Guitar Player Playing Right Handed Guitar

I've read some articles recently on the Internet that explain how to convert a right handed guitar into a left handed guitar. They explain the problems that you would have with the nut, bridge, and saddle. This is all fine and dandy if you are converting an electric solid body guitar, but it is a gamble with a hollow body electric and/or acoustic. I covered this in my article Should I Play A Right Handed Guitar Left Handed? You can try it if you want, but I would use a very cheap guitar to try it on.
Like I said in the article, I asked a Luthier from a very well established guitar manufacturer who explained that when converting to a left handed guitar, "The bracing, bridges, and tone bar are set up for right handed players". The bracing and tone bar are inside of the guitar. When a string is tuned, it adds tension to the guitar. Each string adds a different degree of tension and the bracing and tone bar are in a position to compensate for the different degrees of tension. When the strings are reversed, the degrees and position of tension are changed, hence his quote, "The bracing, bridges and tone bar are set up for right handed players". It could cause cracking or warping of the internal parts. The bracing and tone bar add structural reinforcement to the guitar.
I had a cheap $20 guitar when I was a kid and I switched the strings around to play left handed and didn't notice any adverse affects, but I could barely tune it at that time much less know if I broke something.
The point is that if you are left handed playing a right handed guitar, it is better to be safe than sorry. Either learn how to play it right handed or learn how to flip it over and play upside down, especially if it is an expensive acoustic.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

That Guitar Wasn't Made To Be Played Left Handed

No one has ever told me that. Most people think that it is amazing to see someone play a right handed guitar left handed upside down. Don't let the title of this article fool you. I wrote an earlier article about being left handed and having to use right handed products. I am not a left handed complainer because I have used these things all of my life and adapted accordingly. As a child, I didn't even know the difference so it is a moot point to complain and demand equal treatment.
When I was younger, I worked as a carpenters helper which meant toting wood and using a power saw. It was a right handed power saw of course. That was my first experience with using a dangerous power tool in an awkward manner. If I tried to cut a piece of wood with the power saw holding it in my right hand that would be fine, as far as safety goes. But my right arm and hand are not so coordinated so I end up cutting crooked lines. The saw is also quite heavy and hard to position correctly with my weaker arm. I switched hands and began sawing left handed which the carpenters didn't like, so fire me Mr. Carpenter. At least the wood is being cut straight now. That is a very dangerous way to hold a power saw and I was well aware of that. Almost all power saws have a safety button positioned on the left side of the trigger guard, so if you are holding the saw with your right hand all you have to do to engage the trigger is to mash the safety button with your right finger tips or thumb. No problem. When you hold the saw with your left hand, you have to either reach over and push the button with your right hand leaving no free hand to hold the piece of wood or do as I did and learn to position the palm of your left hand to the side of the trigger guard and mash the button with the palm of your hand. I got to be pretty good at this. Again, adapting to a right handed world. I didn't even mention the sliding saw blade guard that automatically retracts when you are sawing right handed, but a leftie has to "get it started" with their right hand while sawing with their left.
My point is this. As with the power saw, the right handed guitar wasn't made to be played by a left handed guitar player. Either by switching the strings around (which could damage the guitar) or flipping it over and playing it upside down. Just as I had learned to operate a right handed power saw I learned to play a right handed guitar left handed. So left handed people can learn to adapt in a right handed world.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Questions And Comments

These are e-mails that I have received that weren't in the comments section concerning left handed guitar players.

Ashleigh wrote, Hi my name is Ashleigh I was looking online and I thought I was the only person playing lefty on a right handed guitar...it was really surprising that there are other people..but I'm 15. I've been playing for 5 years and about 3 hours a day for the last 2 years and wow I'm kind of excited
there's other people. I was wondering maybe if you have any tips on solos
for someone like myself, the guitar teachers in this area suck, and
others refuse to teach me unless I flip my guitar back around.

My reply, Hi Ashleigh, If you've been playing like that for 5 years I see no reason to flip the guitar over. It's how you play in the long run that matters,
so if your comfortable playing upside down I would continue playing that
way. Off hand I can think of a few famous people who play that way.
Elizabeth Cotton played upside down, you can look her up on YouTube,
country singer Dan Seals and I think (not sure) Billy Ray Cyrus (Hannah
Montana's dad) plays upside down. R&B legend Albert King played upside
down, so you're in good company. Solos aren't too hard to learn. I was
lucky and had people teach me a little but if you don't have a teacher,
the best way is to find a song on CD or tape that you want to learn and if
you have a way that you can play it at a slow speed so you can figure out
the notes, that would be a good way. A good way to learn to improvise is to
learn how to "Barre" major chords so that you can pick out the notes
within the chord to make a solo. I will write an article on Barre chords
soon to show you what I mean. Don't let stuffy teachers get you down,
because the way that you play makes you special and you will get a lot of
attention from an audience. People will admire you for going against the
grain. Hope this helped a little.

Ben A. wrote, Hey, I found your website and found it very useful in deciding which way I (a 100% lefty) should learn to play a guitar. I didn't see much mentioned about stroke direction. I suppose that needs to be reversed for a lefty on a righty acoustic guitar? Any difficulties or advise?

My reply, Hey Ben, It depends on the style of music your playing and if you will be playing lead guitar or rhythm. Also the type if pick you use (light
gauge, med or stiff). When I play rhythm I use a hard pick and use
upstrokes as well as hitting bass notes. A soft pick would sound too
scrubby unless that's the sound you prefer. Yes you will have to learn to
upstroke somewhat but I wouldn't dwell on mastering it because people
usually can't tell the difference anyway. If you play lead it doesn't
matter because you are mostly playing single notes so there is no handicap
there (see video of Albert King). The most difficulty you might have will
be "finger picking" if that's what you want to learn because the bass
strings are on the bottom. A right handed player simply uses their thumb
for the bass strings but you can't. It took me years to finally settle on
a "finger picking" method which works well with a lot of practice, and
that is to hold a pick with my thumb and index finger to play the high
strings and pick the bass strings with my middle finger. I keep the nail
on my middle finger a little long to hit the strings with. Hope this
helps.

Arman wrote, I'm a southpaw and very interested to play the guitar. If I learn to play the guitar your style (upside down), do I need to strum the strings
from bottom to top as well, which also means that I need to restring a
left handed electric guitar? I'm sure that playing a right handed
electric guitar would be less comfortable since that the knob will get
on the way. Thanks for your time.

My reply, Yes the knob and cord will be in the way with an electric guitar but you can learn to ignore it. The upstroke will depend on what kind of music you
play and whether you will play lead guitar or not. You can start out with
back and fourth strokes until you are comfortable. The style of picking
you use will develop as you learn and gain experience. Hope this helps.

Matt wrote, I'm 20 and have been listening to music for as long as I can remember. I've decided enough dreaming I'm going to learn to play the guitar. However like you I am left handed and am using my brothers right handed guitar to learn. I really want to learn to play upside down. I'm just looking for tips, suggestions, what I should practice. Any info you have would be greatly appreciated.

My reply, Hi Matt, I learned before the Internet but here's what I did. I bought a songbook of songs that I was very familiar with. I was a Neil Young fan so I got a Neil young book with the lyrics and chords of his music. Find a
song that you want to learn and practice making the chords. Once you can
make chord changes relatively easy start singing along. After you learn
your first song you will be inspired to learn more. Nowadays you can find
any song you want on the Internet for free. There is a website called
chordie.com that has diagrams to almost any song you want.
The most important thing before learning is to learn how to tune the
guitar properly. An out of tune guitar does not help and could lead to
frustration. You can find a cheap electronic tuner at Guitar Center for 10
bucks. Remember that when looking at chord diagrams you have to
interpolate it backwards because they are made for right handed people. I
cover this in my blog so find it if you haven't read it yet. Hope this
helps.

Joe wrote, I came across your website and have a question; I am a lefty player who also uses an upside down right handed guitar. I am in the market for a new guitar, and am looking for an acoustic electric that has a cutaway for lefty, but is strung for a righty and has the electronic controls where I can get at them. Considering bridge configurations, I am completely at a loss short of having someone build me a custom. Is there anything out there that would work for me that also has some quality?

My reply, Hey Joe, You got me on that one. I've always played acoustic so I'm not familiar with the electrics out there. The only thing that I can think of
is to get a left handed guitar and change the nut and bridge around so you
can string it right handed. Like what Hendrix did with a right handed
guitar only you're doing it with a left handed guitar. If it's a solid
body than there will be no problem with internal bracing.

Brittany wrote, I wanted to leave a comment on your blog so bad, but I'm to lame and lazy to make a Google acct, so I was stoked when I found your email address on the last entry on the page! I'm a lefty and I just bought a RIGHT-HANDED guitar yesterday (kinda late since "learning guitar" was one of my new years resolutions, but whatevs) after I saw some pics of a lefty just playing away, upside down on a righty guitar.....then I found a comment about it on one of the lefty sites I visit and I was so excited I decided to just get a righty guitar......mainly for the major reason you stated on your blog, what if you don't have your lefty guitar handy but you wanna play....? I'm so inspired and excited to start teaching myself to play....I'm fairly musically-inclined and taught myself to play piano by ear..... Anyways, any tips, tricks or general would be greatly appreciated!

My reply, Thanks for taking the time to send an e-mail Brittany. I just fixed the comment form so anyone can leave a comment now.
I can tell that you are eager to learn now that you know that you don't
have to "follow the rules" of convention. It still awe's people to watch
me play a right handed guitar upside down even if they know I'm left
handed. I just can't play a left handed guitar very well, but how many
times will someone ask you to play, and then hand you a left handed
guitar? It's never happened to me.
Take your learning slow and don't try to overdo it. That can lead to
frustration. If you finger tips get sore, set it down for a couple of days
and let them heal. They will only get tougher and things will get easier.
If practicing becomes a chore then limit it to 30 minutes per day. If it
seems that you are in a rut and not learning or progressing, stay with it
because you really are getting better, you just can't tell.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Left Handed Guitar Lessons

There are ads all over the Internet offering left handed guitar lessons. I have never checked them out personally because I am not a left handed guitar player per se, I am a right handed guitar player who happens to play left handed. I hope that isn't too confusing but if you read this blog on a regular basis then you know what I'm talking about.I took guitar lessons once. They didn't last very long. I was in my mid-twenties and was already playing on a regular basis and wanted to take advanced lessons to improve myself. I got this guy's name from the local music store and called him up. After asking him if he wouldn't mind teaching a left handed upside down guitar picker, he became excited about the challenge and agreed. The guy was really good and found it not so difficult to teach a leftie like myself.
To make a long story short, in the few lessons that I took I learned the basics of finger picking and began teaching myself from there. Like I said at the beginning, there are plenty of ads on the Internet for left handed guitar lessons, but it hasn't always been that way. I'm talking about straight up left handed guitar and not like the way that I play. It seems like most guitar teachers will not or cannot teach a leftie how to play. I was a guitar teacher at one time and taught guitar for right handed people with no problem whatsoever. Most of my students were children. Can a right handed person teach a left handed person how to eat with a fork? To tie their shoes? It is all relative. It boils down to the teacher being so used to the status quo that they are convinced that their way is the only way. The teacher is not the one paying for the lessons and you shouldn't conform to make his or her job easier. You wouldn't let a waiter tell you what you're going to eat. The bottom line is that if you think that you need to take lessons to play a left handed guitar or in an extreme case like mine, pay someone to teach you how to play a right handed guitar upside down then it may be an up hill battle to find a teacher who is willing to try. Never let them charge you more because you are left handed because I know for a fact that it is no more difficult to teach a left handed person than a right handed person.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Chord Diagrams For The Left Handed Guitar Player Playing A Right Handed Guitar

In case you haven't noticed I put some left handed chord diagrams underneath the guitar chord pictures on the side bar. Keep in mind that these are only some of the basic chords if you are a beginning guitar player. They are guitar chords for left handed guitar players playing a right handed guitar and not your usual guitar chords for left handed players. They look like right handed chords because we are using a right handed guitar but the big difference is in which fingers I use to make these chords.
Remember also that this is the way that I make the chords so you can experiment with them to find a comfortable way to do it yourself , and if my method works for you then I'm that much more pleased. Notice that at the bottom of each chord it shows which finger I use for each fret with the thumb being the fifth finger.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Left Handed Upside Down Isn't Right For Some Lefties

In the past month or so. I've been doing searches of other left handed web sites to exchange links, get to know people and maybe find other articles and opinions about playing a right handed guitar left handed. I would eventually like to get perspectives of other musical instruments besides the guitar, but the guitar will remain the basis of this site.
When I tell other web site owners about the method that I use to play the guitar, most are enthusiastic and supportive about it but a few have been downright puritanical and almost outraged that I have the nerve to support and encourage playing a musical instrument in such an unorthodox manner. I usually get a line like, "although I admire how you personally beat the odds I cannot condone the encouragement of playing the guitar in such an orthodox manner when there are guitars made for the left handed musician". These are left handed musicians saying this.
I don't have a problem with this. It is only their opinion. Neither do I have a problem with a lefty choosing to play a left handed guitar. I played the violin right handed when I was a kid and still do. I do have a problem with fellow lefties who seem so supportive but refuse to acknowledge that there are other alternatives than simply buying a more expensive made for lefty instrument. Here's a scenario, you show up at a party where someone is playing the guitar (right handed of course) and they ask you to play a tune. You don't have your left handed guitar with you so the only guitar that you can use is the right handed guitar. Unless you restring it on the spot or play it upside down you can't play. I wouldn't have this problem because I can play it upside down.
I think that the few lefties who feel the way that I described are musical purists who can't fathom someone learning how to play an instrument that doesn't use a prescribed method of learning. In other words, no one has ever written a curriculum, music book, or instructional method for the way that I play. There are no acknowledged experts in this style. People have done some amazing out of the main stream things with instruments like the guy (his name slips my mind) who sets the guitar on his lap and plays it like a hammered dulcimer using his fingers as hammers. I saw a guy with one arm playing an electric guitar strumming the frets with his pinkie as he made chords with his other fingers. I wouldn't discourage someone with two arms from playing this way if they wanted. Most people learn how to play by some prescribed method because it has proven to work and that's good. Then again there are some of us who would prefer to do things our own way and we can also have successful results in the end. Just watch the videos of Albert King and "Libba" Cotton on my Notable People Who Play Right Handed Guitar Left Handed post and see.
Please post your comments and visit my web site at http://benwillismusic.com

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Left Handed Or Just Lazy?

Just thought that I would talk about an experience that I had last week as a left handed guitar player playing a right handed guitar and maybe some of you other lefties can identify with it. I'm not whining, I'm just curious. The whole point of this site is to adapt to a so-called handicap and not whine about it.
I recorded a new song that I had written two years ago and learned a valuable lesson from it. The first thing I did was to lay down the rhythm guitar, bass and drum tracks which I had very little problem doing. The problem came when I was ready to record the lead guitar part. This is an acoustic guitar lead by the way. I previously worked out the lead and thought that I wouldn't need much practice before recording. After about thirty takes I decided that I wasn't ready to record this lead. I kept rehearsing until the tips of my fingers were so sore that I couldn't firmly hold the chords which added another problem of excess string noise and muffling. I had to stop playing altogether for a couple of days while my fingers healed but eventually got the lead lick on "tape" to the point that it was acceptable.
After thinking about this I started wondering if the fact that I play a right handed guitar left handed and upside down contributed to the problem or if it was just poor planning. The song that I recorded is in the key of B minor. I had a capo on the second fret and played the lead out of an A minor position. Most of the lead part is played around the A minor and D minor chord positions, which for the way that I play would mean that heavy emphasis is put on the D, G, B and high E strings. That would mean that I will do most of the "picking" toward the top of the sound hole of the guitar instead of the bottom like a right handed player would do. With my picking hand in that position it would be very easy to accidentally muffle the strings with the palm or side of your hand. Couple that with sore fingers on my right hand and you have a recipe for disaster.
Like I said I eventually got it down after letting my fingers heal and re-practicing the lick until I was confident that it wouldn't take so much time to record. If anyone has had a similar problem please leave a comment. I'd like to hear about it.

I've been busy trying to find sponsors for this site so we can expand and offer services to the left handed musician. I will publish updates whenever possible. If you would like to contribute information or articles that would benefit the left handed musician of any instrument let me know.
How to play a right handed guitar left handed is still my top priority but I want to offer resources for other instruments too.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Famous Left Handed Guitar Players

What do Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, Albert King, Dan Seals, Bill Staines and Elizabeth Cotton all have in common? They are all famous left handed guitar players. What sets Albert King, Dan Seals, Bill Staines and Elizabeth cotton apart from the others? They play or played a right handed guitar left handed without switching the strings around.
While McCartney and Hendrix are more famous lefty handed guitar players as well as guitar legends, McCartney either plays a left handed guitar or switches the strings around on a right handed guitar. Jimi Hendrix always played right handed guitars with the strings strung for a lefty. Albert King played a left handed Flying V and strung it for a right handed player thus playing with the high E string on top making it a backwards left handed guitar. Confusing.
Dan Seals used to be England Dan of England Dan and John Ford Coley and later became a solo country artist. Bill Staines is a folk Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist and Elizabeth Cotton wrote the song "Freight Train" and lived to be a ripe old age.
Below are two videos. One of Albert King and one of Elizabeth Cotton playing left handed.



Monday, February 11, 2008

Left Handed Guitar Chord And Barre Chord Pictures

Like I said in an earlier post, I read an article about playing the guitar left handed where the author said that you shouldn't try to play a right handed guitar upside down because certain chords are impossible to make. I stated that that was a bunch of bull and now I am ready to back up my claim.
I have provided pictures of myself making "impossible" chords with my right hand.
Some of these chords are actually easier to make than when playing a left handed guitar. The basic G chord (see photo) is very simple and looks like an obscene gesture. I get funny looks with that one. With the Barre G the strings are completely pressed down on the third fret with the index finger and an E type chord is pressed with the remaining three fingers. I use the first three fingers for a basic A chord but you can also press these three strings with only the index finger if it is more comfortable. I have tried to make a basic F chord on a left handed guitar and found it difficult but when I make the chord upside down on a right handed guitar it is much easier.
I have only provided pictures of the basic chords and a few Barre chords that are used quite often, so if you are learning to play a right handed guitar left handed I hope they will help.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Questions And Comments About How To Play A Right Handed Guitar Left Handed

Just wanted to post some questions and comments that I have received about playing a right handed guitar left handed and would like to share them with you.

Rebecca wrote:
I was happy to find you on the web. My 6 year old nephew wants nothing more than an electric guitar for X-mas. Specifically a red guitar with a black strap. The kid is talented in many ways, and as his aunt who only sees him once a year, I like to spoil him. As I shop, I have found lots of kids guitars that I think would be good for his age. However, they are all for right-handed players. Do you know where I can find a lefty-children's guitar?

My reply:
Hi Rebecca and thanks for writing. If you read my articles than you will know that as I am left handed I play a right handed guitar in an unorthodox way. The whole point is that a left-handed person does not have to conform to a right-handed world. It sounds like you are looking for a guitar that was made specifically for a left-handed child. That is only one problem. The other will be finding a teacher who will teach someone left-handed. Like I say in my article I taught myself, but I can't see a 6 year old doing that. I have taught 6 year olds, and find it a difficult task. I don't see a problem with getting him a guitar at that young of an age but he must be taught that it is not a toy. You can take a chance and get him a right-handed guitar and maybe he will learn to play it upside down like I do. If you are looking for a left handed guitar, then Google the term "left handed guitars". They are out there. One other piece of advice is to buy him an electronic tuner with the guitar. They can be as cheap as $10. If he learns how to tune the guitar correctly than he is on his way. You wouldn't believe how many people lose interest only because the guitar is never tuned right. Hope this helps.

Miranda wrote:
Thanks Ben! I am primarily a lefty drummer. I have made several previous attempts to play guitar (right handed) without much success, became easily frustrated, and quit.... Early last year, I was looking around the guitar shop while waiting for my son to finish his bass lesson, and I spied a nice lefty acoustic, and decided I would give it another try. Once again, I found myself giving up in frustration. This time, I took it back to the guitar shop and traded it in for a nice classical righty guitar, and I began playing it upside down. I was interrupted for a few months due to moving, but I'm now back at it, and finding it enjoyable this time. It's nice to find your info on the web - very helpful and inspiring. I have this and your website bookmarked now and will be checking back frequently looking for updates :-)

My reply:
Thanks Miranda, Good move on the classical. The wide fret board will allow you to make chords without muffling the strings and the nylon strings will be easy on the fingers. I would suggest that you find a book with chords to a song that you already know well in your head. Practice making chords and singing at the same time. Once you have that song down you will be inspired to learn more. Also make sure that the guitar is properly tuned to standard tuning. An electronic tuner can cost as little as $10. Best of luck.

Mike wrote:
I am left handed and find that playing guitar as right handers do is quite normal. The left more coordinated hand handles fretting and the right hand drives the (picks and strums). I think that right handed people should play left handed style guitar. There probably wouldn't be so many mediocre right handed guitar players then either!!!

My reply:
Yes Mike that may be true for you, but consider what style you are playing. In my case I would rather use the more coordinated left hand to finger pick the guitar.

Lucas wrote:
I am left-handed and play guitar right handed. When I started playing at 15, I actually thought that I was playing left-handed because I was using my dominant hand to make chords. I think this helped me out considerably when starting out. I couldn't imagine playing guitar "left-handed."

My reply:
Hi Lucas, Like I said, if your left handed and have no problem playing right handed go ahead and do it. It's just that in my case I find it easier to hold the pick with my left hand. Since I have better coordination in my left hand and arm, I can manipulate my fingers and wrist while all my right hand is doing is working the fingerboard. Thanks for the comment.

Jonathan wrote:
I read your article and found it interesting as I am looking for an additional Bass guitar. I am a Keyboard player for many years. 18 years ago I took a bass guitar and as I am left handed just started playing with the strings upside down. Well after practicing for a long time, I can't understand how those right handed are playing guitar (well the right way), which for me is strange how they struggle to have moves I do naturally and they have to make it the wrong way. These days I am looking for an additional bass and said, OK for the first time lets try a left handed Guitar, meaning that the Plug and the tuning are not going to be in my way as I play and will be on the other side of the strings. But I came to the 22 catch meaning, I cannot buy any of the Fenders as I will have to switch the strings to a right player, that means that the Lower E string will have to be the longest string and I guess it will not sound good. That leaves me with the basses that the strings run on both sides. As I would like to have the Fender Deluxe Jazz Bass, No one will let me try and switch the strings and see if it sounds normal. Any Ideas Outputs, As I would have to go for an Ibanez or Warwick, which are not the favorite Basses I would like to have.

My reply:
I know what you mean. I also play a right handed bass, but only while recording so I am sitting down and barely moving. You didn't say what kind of music you play but you did say that you move around a lot, so I guess an upright bass is out of the question. To change the strings around, you would also have to file the grooves in the nut to fit the thicker strings. You would also have to turn the bridge around. As far as the cord, maybe you could loop it around the back of the guitar and duct tape it to the back to keep it out of your way. I've never tried this so it is only an idea. I think that you will have to deal with the knobs as they are. Look for a picture or video of Paul McCartney playing a bass and see what he does.

Thanks for the e-mails and the posted comments on playing a right handed guitar left handed. Please visit my web site at http://benwillismusic.com


Friday, January 11, 2008

Why Playing A Right Handed Guitar Left Handed Is More Comfortable

Why is playing a right handed guitar left handed more comfortable for me? As a left handed guitar player, I have been asked "Wouldn't it be more comfortable if you used your dominant hand to make chords and finger positions"? You would think so but that is not the case for me. I can't speak for other left handed people but I feel more natural using my dominant or left hand and arm to pick the strings because of coordination. I play a combination of "finger pick" and "flat pick" styles which requires more precision from my left hand than from my right hand. The main drawback is that I had to create my own style of finger picking because of the position of the strings. I happen to have more strength in my right arm and so it is perfect for me to make chords and fingerings with my right hand. I know that this is an odd way to play the guitar, It is the same as if a right handed person picked up a left handed guitar and played it backwards and upside down.
Getting back to comfort, the guitar must also feel right in your arms. That was a large factor in my decision to play left handed. If I hold a guitar in the right handed position it feels foreign and unnatural. This sensation can't help you in getting the "feel" of the instrument when first learning to play. I know that most left handed people who play right handed will tell you that they got over that feeling but I just didn't have the patience so I am now where I am at playing upside down. Remember that I am not the only person who is playing a right handed guitar left handed as there have been some very famous left handed guitar players who have, and are playing in this style but I'll discuss that in another article.
I recently read an article about playing the left handed guitar. The author said that when buying a guitar to forget about using a right handed guitar and trying to play it upside down because it is impossible to make certain chords. BULL! I have been playing this way for twenty nine years and I can make any chord that you throw at me. I e-mailed the web site that featured that article and challenged them to print my blog and so far I haven't heard from them. The worst thing that you can do is to tell a left handed person that they can't do something. If something isn't built for you because you're not average than make it work for you yourself. If some "expert" tells you that something is impossible then tell them to take a hike.
I hope anyone that is reading this who is left handed and is contemplating learning to play the guitar but doesn't know weather to buy a left handed guitar or do as I do and play a right handed guitar left handed takes this under advisement, if so please leave a comment or question and I will respond.

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