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


  1. Hi Ben / Readers,
    I stumbled across this website by accident, and i was shocked that i'd found not just one, but many 'upside-down' guitar players like me.
    It is also reassuring to know that you've had moderate success in producing an album.
    I started out as a roadie for my Uncles Country band back in the 70's (mostly covers of Eagles, Kris Kristofferson, Don Williams etc.). When i had to replace a string i slowly learned how to form a chord upside down. And so it progressed from there - i bought a 6 string acoustic, then a 12 string, started playing in Pubs with a few friends, then my first electric, an early Mexican Strat. Everyone used to comment how weird i looked with the head and knobs upside down.
    Now i'm in a band with a few work colleagues. We've had a few gigs and it's going well. I've bought a Left handed Gibson SG, with the strings 'upside - down', so people don't really notice my chord structures are the wrong way round.As you mentioned, it is fun watching right handers try to work out what chords i'm playing!!
    So my message is - keep the faith and don't give in. Upside downers rule!!!!!

  2. Thanks for the comment Simon, we also hve an advantage over "regular" left handed players in that we can play any right handed guitar if we don't have own own handy. Ben

  3. Hi Ben,

    I cannot believe I have finally found a player like myself. I had years of people telling me I will never learn to play correctly being left handed and unorthodox like yourself! I have shown them wrong as I can smoke all comers now! I have been playing for about 8 years and can rip out any Metallica riff you can think of plus a couple of solos. I would now like to learn how to solo correctly as the ones I know are by ear or tabs and I am unable to create some for my own songs. I can sweep pick (very poorly though) but my finger work is great as I can move all over the fret board. My fingers have a maximum span of about 6 frets from the very bottom to about 8 or 9 at the top of the neck. I would like some tips on how to get started learning such as scales etc and exercises to gain control of my fingers. I am truly excited about discovering you!!!! I am not alone in the world and all my patience has paid off.

    Your humble & unworthy fan,

    Wayne Warner

  4. Thanks for the kind words Wayne. A span of 6 frets is pretty amazing. The only obstacle that you may have is a cut-away style guitar but if you can spread your fingers like that, you can overcome that too.
    If you read Tab then you're already used to reading right handed tab I assume. I learned my first lead licks before the Internet from a book. Remember books? It is called "Lead For The Guitar" first published in 1973 by Karamar Pub. Co. LTD., 112 Hudson St. Copiague L.I., N.Y. 11726 and written by Arthur Bayas and Don Comanda. I don't know if it is still in print or not, but if you can read right handed tab, you can read this. It is a book of "runs" and "chromatic scales".
    I don't mean to leave you out in the cold, but like me, you are relegated to teaching yourself using right handed notation and tabs for now until it is written for the left handed upside down guitar player. Ben

  5. Welcome to our world Wayne. I am still learning how to play all these fancy licks, but to be honest i prefer being a damn good rhythm guitarist. i have another gig tomorrow night, and the whole set is quite heavy, with many solos. i find that the simple stuff done well sounds as good as aa complicated 'slash' style, finger lickin'solo.
    Any way, good luck. Prhaps we should all make an online album!!

  6. Thanks for the comments guys. Hey Simon, how about an all left handed band?


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