Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Learning How To Play The Guitar

I've been through this subject of left handed guitar playing before but never went into much detail. The question is this. I'm left handed, I don't want to force myself to play right handed and I don't want to play a left handed guitar, so how can I learn how to play my own way? Or the question could be this. I want to play left handed but I only have access to a right handed guitar, how do I learn? All I can do is offer my own experience.

I was about eight years old when I first saw a real guitar as far as I remember. My older cousin owned one and was taking lessons. I loved the sound. A couple of years later, my father brought home an old F hole guitar that he borrowed from a friend. He intended for my older brother to learn how to play, but he showed no interest. Though the guitar only had five strings I picked it up when no one was around. This was in the mid 60's. I began playing melodies on a single string. I knew a lot of songs because my family owned lots of 45RPM and 33RPM records. I didn't have a clue about tuning or what chords were. I just played familiar melodies left handed on a single string. My father eventually had to return the worn out guitar.

My parents knew that I always wanted a guitar but with six kids they weren't rich and couldn't play favorites, but they did what they could. When I was in 7th grade they bought me a cheap single pickup electric guitar for Christmas. No amp. At about this time I was buying songbooks with chord diagrams. I never tried to play right handed. I was learning about Jimi Hendrix around this time and adopted his method of switching the strings around on a right handed guitar. I learned a few basic chords but found others more difficult or impossible to play. I lost interest and quit playing mostly because I had no amp to actually listen to the guitar.

The next Christmas my parents bought me an acoustic guitar, another cheap department store model but I didn't care. Instead of switching the strings like a left handed guitar, I decided to try to learn how to play upside down. I had plenty of music books with chord diagrams and directions for how to properly tune the guitar. I finally learned how to tune. I was learning songs from Peter, Paul, an Mary and David Gates And Bread to name a couple that I remember. I could now play all of the basic chords, but that cheap guitar was hard to play with the high action on the fingerboard. I quit playing again and concentrated on high school band. I was also playing Alto Sax at this time. Another reason that I gave up the guitar was because I was embarrassed that I didn't have a brand name instrument.

I started playing again at around age 20 when My brother bought a Sigma guitar and let me play it. Everything that I had taught myself earlier came back to me, so I got my own guitar and haven't quit since then. After a couple of years, I decided to find someone to give me "Fingerpicking" lessons. I found a teacher who was willing to teach a left handed upside down guitar player and took several lessons, enough to learn basic fingerpicking, then I went back out on my own.

If you want to learn how to play a right handed guitar left handed, you may have to do it on your own like I did. It can be taught by a teacher, but most aren't willing to do it. I was lucky to find one who took it as a challenge. He can put me on his resume', though I only took a few lessons, he did help me. I've offered to give lessons in past articles but I don't see it as feasible anymore due to lack of interest. I've only had a few replies and have actually only recorded a few lessons. Must be in my delivery. I don't know.

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