Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Left handed E-Mails

Well folks, I screwed up. I was going to publish several e-mails that I have received from left handed musicians asking different questions about playing a right handed guitar left handed upside down. I think that you can learn a lot from these Q and A's but I deleted most of them. I don't know how or when but they're gone. I did manage to save a few so I hope they help.

Kurt Say's

I have now read all your blogs and I am even more inspired to play upside down than ever. I have tried to play when I was younger, but was told that wasn't how a guitar was played. So, I never picked it up again. Now I have the chance to meet some extremely good guitarists in my genre of music and I really want to be able to play to some level that they are. Of course, I am 45 and learning how to play, but I read and have written music so I have the concepts of music down. Now I want to make it practical.
Having had to adjust my entire life to the "right" way of doing things. As a natural lefty, I have learned to play golf right-handed and in the game of baseball I throw left and I switch hit at bat. Because I grew up with pencils in grade school, I have taught myself how to write backwards and upside down so as not to get the lead all over my hand. I even tie my shoes right-handed. I am the only one in my family that is left-handed, so tackling and perfecting and upside-down, right-handed guitar is my new goal in life. Thanks for the pics of the basic chords, I will definitely be referring to them over and over again.

My Answer

I know what you mean by adapting to a right handed world. I recently
injured my right wrist. I am used to opening doors with my right hand to
turn the door knob. With an injured wrist I now have to use my left hand
to turn the knob. Being left handed I naturally turn the knob to the left
which causes my knuckles to rub against the door jamb which makes it
difficult to turn the door knob completely. Only one example.

Again Kurt says

I have been looking into ways to make my guitar learning experience a bit
more enjoyable. I ran upon this website where the guitar has small LEDs
in the fretboard to assist with the fingering of the basic chords and some
of the advanced chords as well.I consider you an authority on the left-hander playing the right-hander upside-down. Do you think that this would be a useful learning tool? It sure does make it look possible.
Also, I read somewhere that a pick guard on the top of the body may be a
useful addition to playing upside-down. What are your thoughts?

My Answer

The price looks right, but it is a gadget. I wouldn't expect a great sound
out of it. $400 is a decent price for a starter guitar but like I said
it's a gadget so more emphasis was taken into the electronics instead of
sound quality. And it could break. I would spend $200 on a used Takamine
As far as the pick guard, yes because left handed upside down players tend
to use a broad upstroke and less of a down stroke so leave it on. Plus
people can tell that you are playing upside down with the pick guard on

Lynnette says

Mr. Willis, do you have any pictures of chords played left handed and upside down on the mandolin? I play a left handed guitar and have been fooling around with a mandolin but I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know whether to get it restrung or what.

My Answer

Hi Lynnette, I fool around with the mandolin a little too and also play it
upside down. I don't have any pictures and don't consider myself a
mandolin expert but find it fairly easy to make basic cords.
I just look at a standard chord chart for mandolin as a basis and use
whatever fingers that I can on my right hand to make the chords. Most of
the basic mandolin chords only require two or three fingers.
Try playing it upside down before you restring it. Learn the basic G, C,
and D chords. If you can chop those three chords for 4 or 8 beats each
before changing, you can probably teach yourself to play.

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