Can A Left Handed Person Play A Right Handed Guitar? (the real answer)
There have been a number of left handed guitarists that have played right handed guitars with no apparent issues, Jimi Hendrix for example. Although there is conflicting evidence to suggest that Hendrix was ambidextrous as he apparently used his left hand to throw, hold a cigarette and comb his hair but held the telephone with his right hand, and played a right handed guitar strung upside down.
What Determines Whether A Guitar Is Left Or Right Handed?
There are two obvious things that indicate a guitar is right handed. They are the scratch plate and the arrangement of the strings. On a right handed guitar, the strings are arranged with the low E, thickest string at the top of the guitar as you hold it running down to the high E, thinnest string at the bottom of the guitar as you hold it.
The scratch plate is positioned so that you scratch it rather than the guitar’s wooden surface which would damage over time. It is positioned so when you strum if you happen to hit the guitar at all it will only be on the plastic scratch plate and not the wood.
Why Do Most People Play A Right Handed Guitar?
The main reason most people play a right handed guitar is because the majority of guitars made are made for right handed players. This means it’s far easier to buy a right handed guitar than a left handed model. Most guitarists appear to be right handed and the guitar manufacturers produce more guitars for that market.
According to Fender, only 10% of guitarists play left handed. So why would they make lots of left handed guitars when 90% of guitarists play right handed. So even some left handed players play right handed due to the availability of right handed guitars. Added to which, left handed guitar tutors are in short supply too.
Why Is A Guitar Classified By The Plucking Hand?
If you look at the way a guitar is played, especially when you’re first learning, it’s the left hand (on a right handed guitar) that does most of the work and has most to learn. Scales, chord shapes, finger positions, hammer-ons, pull-offs, note sequences, etc. However, long term it’s the techniques employed by the right hand that determine it as the dominant hand.
Right Handed Techniques
The right hand is used for plucking individual strings, strumming, keeping the rhythm, timing etc, playing by instinct while the eyes are watching the left hand for chord changes etc, finger picking and so on.
So to start with, the left hand dominates your conscious mind, but once you have the basics nailed, it’s your right hand that has more work to do. With all the picking, strumming etc.
Can A Left Handed Person Play A Right Handed Guitar?
There are many left handed guitarists playing right handed guitars, some restring the guitar to make the strings run in the correct order, and others just learn to play everything upside down. Others still play a right handed guitar even though they are left handed in everything else. The choice is yours, just do whatever feels the most comfortable to you.
In all honesty, your life will be easier if you can play a right handed guitar using your right hand for strumming. This will feel difficult at first but only as difficult as right handed players find fretting chords etc. The emphasis there is at first, over time muscle memory takes over and whether you’re left or right handed it will all become second nature.
The key to learning to play the guitar is practice. There’s no quick fix, just long hours of practice, but as the old saying says, “Practice makes perfect”.
Why Choose To Play Right Handed Guitar?
There are a number of reasons why choosing a right handed guitar makes perfect sense. Let’s look at some of those reasons;
- Most Guitars Are Right Handed
We said earlier that only 10% of guitars made are left handed but the actual figure is closer to 7% because many left handed players use right handed guitars. This means you’ll have far less choice.
- Pretty Much All Of The Music Tutorials Are Aimed At Right Handed Guitarists
Books, DVDs, online courses and even tuning apps etc are all aimed at right handed guitarists. Which will make learning from a left handed perspective far more of a challenge.
- If You’ve Started On A Right Handed Guitar Keep With It
Depending on how long you’ve been playing, if you have already begun to learn to play the guitar right handed, you should keep going to avoid any unnecessary confusion.
- Left Handed Guitars Cost More
In general, a left handed guitar will cost more than the equivalent right handed guitar. Plus many companies don’t even make a left handed version of their guitars.
- You Won’t Be Able To Pick Up Any Guitar And Play
If you’re out with friends and one of them has a guitar and asks you to play them something, and you only play left handed, you won’t be able to use their guitar to play on.
Are There Any Famous Left Handed Guitarists?
Being left handed never stopped the following from reaching their goals in life. Some pretty famous musicians are left handed, they include;
- Tony Iommi
- Kurt Cobain
- Dick Dale
- Jimi Hendrix
- Tim Armstrong
- Paul McCartney
- Albert King
- David Bowie
- Elizabeth Cotten
- Duane Allman
- Mark Knopfler
- And many more
Do You Need A Left Handed Guitar?
Depending on the type of guitar you intend to play, it might be wise to choose a left handed guitar. Electric guitars for instance, have the switches and tremolo arm situated for right handed players, if it’s an acoustic you’re wanting to learn, just flip the strings or turn the guitar the wrong way up. It takes some getting used to but it soon becomes easy to play.
The scratch plate is another matter, it will be in the wrong place if you just turn your guitar over. But if you learn to play properly, there’s no reason to assume you’ll damage the guitar’s body anyway.
If you have never picked up a guitar before, it will be difficult to learn whether you go for a left or right handed model. However, learning to play a right handed guitar will be easier in the long run as nearly all guitars, tuition, tuning devices are aimed at right handed players.
So can a left handed person play a right handed guitar? Yes of course they can and many are every day and some are quite successful too.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, Jimi Hendrix did play a right handed guitar by strumming with his left hand.
Yes, David Bowie was left handed but played a right handed guitar.
It is no harder for a left handed person to learn to play guitar than for a right handed person to learn to play guitar.