The Beginner's Guide to Playing the Left-Handed Guitar

learn to play left-handed guitar

Playing a musical instrument is one of Americas favorite past times. With around 27 million Americans playing an instrument, it's no wonder so many people turn to instruments like the guitar to learn. But what happens if you want to play a left-handed guitar?

Being a lefty has lots of benefits considering we make up just 10% of the population; you get special scissors, left-handed potato peelers, and the left-handed guitar. The problem is there just isn't that much information on how to play the guitar left-handed!

The last thing you want to do is just start trying to learn by yourself and make a fool of yourself in front of your friends. With that in mind, this article will give you all the information you need on how to play the guitar left-handed.

After reading this article, you'll be riffing your way to a new hobby in no time, lefty style.

Why Would You Want to Learn to Play the Left-Handed Guitar Anyway?

There has been some discussion about the benefits of being a left-handed guitarist. Many point out the fact that the left-hand side of your brain is widely regarded as the creative side.

Whether this transfers over into being a left-handed guitarist is debatable, but for many using a left-handed guitar will just feel more natural. Learning guitar left-handed has some challenges, such as if you pick up your friend's guitar, chances are it'll be a right-handed guitar.

Many will ask, why not just learn right-handed? However, some of the greatest guitarists of all time, Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, Kurt Cobain and Tony Iommy were all left-handed guitar players.

Getting in the Right Mindset

When you start to learn an instrument, getting into successful habits and the right mindset can be one of the biggest challenges. These challenges can be much harder when you play the left-handed guitar.

Why? Because the majority of guitar players around the world play the guitar the other way round, you'll often find resources like guitar tabs, and access to instruments wherever you go will typically be right-handed guitars.

If you ever have a friend ask you to jam on stage with them, they will probably have a right-handed guitar. Understanding this and setting yourself up with the right mindset is key to success so that you don't stop playing.

With around 90% of new guitarists quitting in their first year, getting the right mindset is key to success.

Getting the Right Tools for the Job

After getting the right mindset, you need the tools. You can do it the Jimi Hendrix way and restring a regular right-handed guitar.

Jimi Hendrix seemed to have a deep mistrust of left-handed guitars, but in 2018 there is a wide range of left-handed guitars available. Deciding which type of guitar to buy can be a tricky business. However, there are many buying guides on left-handed guitars to look through.

You can go the route of flipping the guitar over; it suited musicians like Albert King who just took a regular right-handed Gibson and flipped it over. For many of us regular guitar players though, we need something a little easier.

You can go the route of restringing a regular right-handed guitar, this way you can use the guitar left-handed and the strings will be the right way around to play. Although flipping strings might seem like an easier option than buying a dedicated lefty guitar, you can start to notice issues.

Once you've flipped a right-handed guitar things like the switches, input socket, scratch guards and tremolo arm are all in the wrong place. You might be better off just to start the right way and buy yourself a dedicated left-handed guitar.

Proper Finger Placement

There is a lot of things about your left hand you should be aware of when playing. It's really important for you to relax when playing and to be aware of this.

If while you are practicing you start to feel any unnecessary tension or stress in your arms, fingers, back or neck, you should stop to relax. Doing stretches can help you here too.

Tension is not only dangerous for your health but can also slow down your playing. With your left hand on the guitar, proper finger placement is right behind the fret.

If while playing you notice your finger is in the middle or heading towards the back fo the fret, you should try to move it up until it's close to the fret. This makes it easier to play clearer and cleaner notes.

Listening can help you to notice when you have incorrect finger placement, if you hear buzzing on a note, check your finger placement. A lot of the time a small adjustment will clear up any buzzing.

Remember as well to keep your left thumb in the middle of the back of the neck; this helps to reduce the amount of tension that can build up when playing.

A simple exercise to do to help with good finger placement can be to practice chord placement by individually placing your finger on each string one-by-one. This slow practice will help you to perfect your finger placement and develop a muscle memory for your chord patterns.

Guitar Chord Basics

If you are using a left-handed guitar, the great thing is all of the chords and tabs you can see online will be the correct way around for you. Learning how to play these eight basic guitar chords can set you up for success as a beginner guitarist.

With practice, using these eight chords, you can be making music in no time:

  • A Major - Can be tricky as you use three fingers together
  • C Major - Concentrate on curling your first finger, so the first string opens up properly.
  • D Major - Curl your third finger on the second string to avoid muffling the first string.
  • E Major - Make sure you curl your first finger properly or the open second string won't ring.
  • G Major - Play the sixth string with your third finger to make a switch to C Major easier.
  • A Minor - Just move over one string from an E Major chord
  • D Minor - Watch your third finger on the second string, it stops the first string ringing.
  • E Minor - E Minor uses just two fingers so can be one of the easiest to play

Take Your Left-Handed Guitar Skills to the Next Level

Armed with this knowledge you'll be on the right path to being a left-handed musical genius in no time. For more awesome tips on the way of the lefty, check our latest blog posts.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Also in Adirondack Guitar News and Blog

Blog Post Image - Lefty guitarists who learned to play right handed
Left Handed Guitarists Who Learned to Play Right Handed

July 13, 2021 8 min read

Read More
Blog Post Image of Martin Guitar - History and Importance of the Martin 28 Style
The History and Importance of the Martin 28 Style

July 13, 2021 5 min read

Read More
Blog Post Image of St Vincent Guitar - Adirondack Guitar Profiles: St. Vincent
Adirondack Guitar Profiles: St. Vincent

July 13, 2021 5 min read

Read More