Left Handed Guitar Players On the Increase?

Neal November 9, 2011 19

Are left handed guitar players becoming more commonplace? This evening I happened across a really insightful video where ‘The Cars’ guitar player Elliot Easton talks about growing up as a left handed guitar player in the 1960s. This got me thinking…

In the video (see below) he chats about how he wasn’t even aware that such a thing as a left handed guitar existed when he first decided to start playing.  Whilst listening to him talk it really hits home about how unconnected the world was as little as 50 years ago.  He talks about getting little nuggets of information about guitars from other bands or from friends of friends.

Throughout the comments section for this video on YouTube there are several users who describe how they were in the same situation when they were younger and first getting into guitar.  They either didn’t realise left handed guitars existed or they simply could not find one in stores.  Another frequently mentioned theme in the comments is that all of these people are fiercely proud of being left handed, which is very cool!

I think the point made about the lack of information back in the 60s is very interesting and is almost certainly the reason why so few people from this pre-internet generation play guitar left handed.  The lack of availability literally forced them to buy a right handed guitar and either string it upside down or play it righty.  Would many people have even contemplated restringing the guitar upside down?  They may not have realised that was an option…

So with that in mind let’s fast forward to 2011 where any information you might require is available at the click of a button.  Does it not make sense to assume that the number of people playing left handed guitar should have risen significantly in the last 10 or 20 years?  It is super easy to log on to the internet, find a great left handed guitar and have it delivered direct to your doorstep the next day, a luxury that players like Elliot Easton lacked. Although in some countries it is still hard to source a good guitar, things are definitely looking up.

I think this is a really fascinating idea because if this is taking place and larger numbers of people are playing lefty, then with a bit of luck that upsurge in demand should trigger an increase in left handed guitar models from manufacturers. Speaking from experience, there has certainly been a large boost in the number of left handed guitar options in only the past 10 years.

Or maybe this is just wishful thinking.  What are your thoughts?

19 Comments »

  1. Lefty Bricker October 4, 2010 at 7:17 am - Reply

    Nice interview but look at the guitars on the wall behind him. All righties. Nothing really has changed…

    • LeftyFretz October 4, 2010 at 9:44 am - Reply

      I doubt it was a consideration when filming this interview to be honest, the wall behind him probably isn't even there… Before the flood there were rumors flying around that Gibson were planning on making several lefty runs of guitars that hadn't been available southpaw for years. So I would suggest that things are absolutely changing, it's just a slow process :)

  2. Frustrated Lefty October 19, 2010 at 2:47 pm - Reply

    I am right handed and I play guitar left handed. Nobody plays the guitar today the way they did 100 years ago. Playing guitar back then was totally different from how it is today. Your strumming hand was your "strong hand" because guitar playing was pretty rudimentary and it was all about keeping time. That's outdated and ancient today. Your "strong hand" needs to be the one on the fretboard – doing the work, unless you are a Classic guitarist in which case it really doesnt matter what your orientation is. The guitar is no longer a "strumming instrument." Right handed people should learn to play guitar left handed actually. it's more beneficial as well as practical in today's world.

    • Kevin October 23, 2011 at 10:51 am - Reply

      Which hand is your “strong hand” really doesn’t matter, you’ll learn all the fancy fretboard maneuvers eventually regardless of how you hold the instrument. It should all boil down to what feels right to you, and how you would naturally play the guitar.

    • Frank Quirindongo June 14, 2012 at 6:37 pm - Reply

      that is the very reason why I play it lefty. I find fretting with my right hand more efficient. I do write with my right hand but I can do a lot of things with my left as well. In hockey, Lacrosse and things I use with the stick, that includes baseball as well. Strumming with my left became very easy for me once I mastered the tactics.

  3. unclebryan October 23, 2011 at 7:38 am - Reply

    Steve Morse is left-handed. He plays right-handed. Doesn’t seem to have impacted him negatively.

    • Frank Quirindongo June 14, 2012 at 6:38 pm - Reply

      I totally agree with you on this!! I know a lot of people that are left handed and play the guitar right. Namely my sister!

  4. Dusty November 9, 2011 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    I think it depends on which side of the brain your creative side is on.I’m left-handed,but right footed so who knows.I play left-handed and over the years have modified many right-handed guitars.over my 28+ years of playing,I have also owned various lefty’s,Gibsons,Fenders,Carvins,etc..These guitars were expensive and not alway’s so great.I have resorted to home building my own guitars.The quality of available parts are out there and you can also save a lot of money doing this yourself.Check out Exit 98 guitars.They have a great selection of parts and kit’s or they will build a lefty to suit usually under $300.00

  5. HonestAl November 9, 2011 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    I started playing in the late 60s. There were no left handed guitars on show then that I recall, underpinned by the fact that Hendrix pretty much was always seen playing an inverted Strat. I think McCartney played a symmetric Hofner bass so I couldn’t tell what he had.
    I started playing left handed out of lack of knowledge that I shouldn’t!!! I remember pinching my cousin’s unused 3/4 size spanish guitar and tutor book (thanks Burt Weedon) and being very disappointed by the results, till I noticed that the photo of Burt and his guitar showed the thick strings at the top. Hmmm. Bit of judicious restringing set me off on the path. I built a Flying V (an abomination, but I thought I was cool) in the 6th form then managed to find a leftie Watkins Rapier 33 in the early 70s, but there was very little else to be found – till.. ah well, enough of that. Worth knowing though that I was one of the earlier years of kids at school who wasn’t pushed to use their right hand so it’s not too surprising that most people back then played right handed.

  6. John Struemph November 9, 2011 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    It does seem that there are more lefty’s and guitars to buy these days. However when starting out you still won’t find much in stores. Guitars are everywhere these days but 99% are righty’s. Regrettably there is a limited market for us wrong brained folks. As a child I was forced to write right handed so that’s what I do. But I never could get the hand of guitar that way. Once older I managed to get a lefty and am now having some fun. I think every store SHOULD keep at least 2 decent cheap electrics and 1 cheap acoustic for kids to get when they are young. Just good business. When they play for a while and get into it (hopefully) they will have that store maybe order a great guitar for them and therefore have some store loyalty. You pretty much still have to order a lefty, I had to in order to get the Squire Affinity Tele I am much in love with. They are listed by Squier but not at ANY of the major stores online!

  7. Riff November 10, 2011 at 8:17 am - Reply

    You would not think things are getting better if you live in Australia the lack of lefty guitars here is a joke, I went into a major guitar chain shop the other day & they have hundreds of guitars lining the walls but guess what? Yep not a single lefty to be seen, I asked the manager what the story was & he replied “I keep asking the boss to get some lefties in stock but it is like talking to a brick wall”
    Yeh that about say’s it all.
    Rock on Brother & Sister Lefties we will will get our revenge one day Ha-Ha
    Riff.
    P.S. Lick of the week awesome keep them coming.

    • Neal November 10, 2011 at 8:28 am - Reply

      I spent a year in Australia, so I know things aren’t great over there. I went to Allan’s to buy a cheap acoustic to take on the road and ended up buying a righty and flipping it.

      Still, you’ve got Gaskell now, and PK’s over in Perth :)

      • Scott November 29, 2011 at 4:53 am - Reply

        Hahaha, I played a Lefty Schecter C-8 in Allans (which was their only lefty lol). And I don’t know if you’ve seen PK’s site lately (I dunno about actual instore) but its kinda limited in terms of range.

  8. Stuart Snyder November 29, 2011 at 10:08 am - Reply

    I’m a proud left-handed player of 29 years. All of my my guitars have been left-handed except for my very first guitar which was a cheap nylon string that was originally my fathers. I have always had to pay a little bit extra. I bought my first electric guitar in the early ’80s at Manny’s on W.48 St. in New York: a brand new 1978 Fender Stratocaster in black with a maple neck and hard-shell case, for somewhere over $600.00; pretty expensive then. (Little did we know!) I borrowed money from a family member and got a part-time job to pay him back. There was never any doubt in my mind that I couldn’t get a left-handed guitar or bass because I always saw Paul McCartney with his left-handed Hofner, and later, Rickenbacker basses. As a matter of fact, when I first discovered Jimi Hendrix (before I started playing), I couldn’t understand why he didn’t have left-handed guitar! LOL! What I didn’t know was that my left-handed options were quite limited.

    I have found that because I’m a left-handed player, I was not as subject to the compulsiveness, impulsiveness, and shear lunacy of the vintage guitar craze that started just a few years later. I also became quite discriminatory and critical of the retail, vintage and custom guitar markets.
    That didn’t mean that I never said that I must have THAT guitar; that happened a few times.

    Over the years I acquired great knowledge of guitars. I learned quite a bit about what makes a guitar what it is and why one guitar could be considering an instrument of quality (and at times even great craftsmanship) versus something that’s not even good enough to be considered for firewood!

    One of the most important things I’ve learned about about left-handed electric guitars is that in most cases the wiring is incorrect! WHAT!? Yes, you read correctly. The only companies that ever wired a left-handed guitar properly straight from the factory was Gibson and CBS in the ’70s. (Why Fender or CBS/Fender couldn’t get it right before or after this brief time span is beyond me!) If anybody wishes to discuss this topic with me further, please send me an e-mail and I will be more than willing to take the time to explain it guide you through the correction process.

    Keep on pickin’ everyone!

  9. Roger March 3, 2013 at 2:18 am - Reply

    I think it’s less a problem of makers providing guitars, Fender and Gibson and others can usually provide enough to have a decent choice.

    It’s retailers. They simply don’t stock any that are available, or if they do, only the ones that offer best margins. Then complain they don’t sell and reinforce their own biases for not stocking any.

  10. charles March 31, 2013 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    What I don’t understand is with all the milling and CNC machine shop technology why are good/standard quality lefties so hard to come across.
    Most (if not all) companies today don’t hand make their guitars. It’s all computer milled, mass produced assembly (which isn’t a bad thing) so what is the big deal about reversing the design in the program whenever needed. What is really insulting is the fact that some companies will go out of their way to make the occasional lefty model, but it is so piss poor why even bother making it in the first place. I don’t mind custom ordering a lefty, or even paying $100-200 upcharge for the inconvenience of stocking lefty parts. But the fact that getting a lefty is either unavailable, or only available through their American custom shop for triple the price is ridiculous, it’s 2013.

    There should be no reason not to be able to call up any decent sized guitar manufacturer and place an order for a lefty and not get one with the exact specs of any decent righty you find in the store. I would be willing to pay a fair $100 upcharge and shipping, but that’s it. Who is willing to pay for a $1899 custom, when all you were looking for is a decent $600-700 guitar. I’d have my own guitar design built for that price.

  11. LINDSAY BIRKLUND February 17, 2014 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    I just bought a Fender American Deluxe Strat. lefty, for the same price as the right hand one’s approx. $1700.00.

    I know my GIbson Les Paul I bought in 2008 was about $200.00 more then the right handed ones.
    It seems to me things are getting much better.

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