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'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

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