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

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

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.

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