Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bill Staines - Upside Down Guitar Player

Not only is Bill Staines a great singer/songwriter, but he is a superb left handed guitar player. He plays a right handed guitar, left handed upside down. The same way that I play and that's what this blog is all about.

I first heard of Bill Staines in the mid-eighties after I had already been playing this style of guitar myself. I fell in love with his music and even taught myself how to play a couple of his tunes. He has a unique way of "finger picking" the guitar that he developed himself. I couldn't finger pick at the time and there was no YouTube videos to watch him play and maybe pick up on his technique, so a few years later I developed my own way of finger picking.

Different Left Handed Guitar Styles

From what I can see from videos, Bill uses a metal thumb pick to pick the high strings and maybe the bare index and middle fingers for bass and other notes. This looks like standard finger picking only upside down. Normally the thumb pick would play the bass notes. I remember myself trying to pick like this, only with metal picks on my index and middle fingers along with the metal thumb pick. It sounded too much like a banjo roll so I gave it up. I came up with a two finger method of playing left handed guitar with a right handed guitar. You could call it a two finger method but I actually use three fingers. I hold a regular flat pick between my thumb and index finger that I use to play high and middle strings. I use my bare middle finger to play bass notes. It's worked out pretty well for me.

Right Hand Thumb

While the right handed guitar player and the standard left handed guitar player use four fingers to make chords (leaving the thumb to rest) it looks like Bill uses his thumb to chord the high E string. Why didn't I think of that?

Below is a video of Bill Staines performing "Child Of Mine". Notice that he has pick guards on both sides of the sound hole.

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