left-handed-guitarists-common

Left Handed Guitar Players On the Increase?

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 replies
    • LeftyFretz
      LeftyFretz says:

      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 :)

      Reply
  1. Frustrated Lefty
    Frustrated Lefty says:

    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.

    Reply
    • Kevin
      Kevin says:

      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.

      Reply
    • Frank Quirindongo
      Frank Quirindongo says:

      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.

      Reply
    • Frank Quirindongo
      Frank Quirindongo says:

      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!

      Reply
  2. Dusty
    Dusty says:

    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

    Reply
  3. HonestAl
    HonestAl says:

    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.

    Reply
  4. John Struemph
    John Struemph says:

    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!

    Reply
  5. Riff
    Riff says:

    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.

    Reply
    • Neal
      Neal says:

      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 :)

      Reply
      • Scott
        Scott says:

        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.

        Reply
  6. Stuart Snyder
    Stuart Snyder says:

    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!

    Reply
  7. Roger
    Roger says:

    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.

    Reply
  8. charles
    charles says:

    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.

    Reply
  9. LINDSAY BIRKLUND
    LINDSAY BIRKLUND says:

    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.

    Reply
  10. ant1
    ant1 says:

    Manufacturers, distributors and resellers are stuck in a a old self fulfilling prophecy: lefty guitars don’t sell, so they don’t make many of it and hence don’t sell many. Lefties only buy black guitars ( we know why.. ), so they keep offering only blacks. And so on…i think you see the point.
    In France we have some big guitar shop with huge walls with tens of guitars in display and not a single one lefthanded. The rare , if any, ones are in a corner on a floor stand with the other low end items.
    In my small town there is a smaller shop, a one man operation. I bought there a (vintage) Guild and more recently a Squier Stratocaster (sunburst the other ‘lefty color’!) wich was one of the only two lefties they had (the other a low-end black ibanez), and sold my Seagull acoustic. Sometimes i take one of my other axes in for some setting job, or simply to show and talk about.
    The owner/keeper must see i’m quite active at buying guitar, and may imagine i’m not the only one in town. I befriended with him and tell him regulary that if he don’t show some in his shop he wil not sell lefthanded guitar, to me or to other lefty.
    But alas he don’t get new ones for us to dream about and eventually to buy….
    Perhaps the other self fulfilling prophecy is “lefties only buy gear on the Net”
    Sorry for the weird english.

    Reply
  11. Robert Nadjiwan
    Robert Nadjiwan says:

    I’ve visited this site a few times and appreciate the comments that are shared by the lefties who play guitar (left handed) or want to play guitar (left handed). it seems like there is ample discussion by a lot of lefties who tend to re-enforce the excuses that the right handed shops continuously say. “Not enough leftie players to make it worth my while to stock left hand instruments”. Let’s look at it this way. If the leftie world is about 10% of the population – then it stands to reason that 10% of the guitars out there ought to be leftie. In the real world that doesn’t happen… So we need some kind of benchmark to justify how many potential guitar players are out there that either play leftie or want to play leftie. One of the starting points is related to understanding the percentage of people comprising the 90 % whom are right handed, that play guitar. If we can some how come up with that statistical fact – Then we can do a projection on the 10% that are left handed. When I see internet photos of overseas guitar shops – they appear to be making a lot of guitars… At this point nobody has shown any stats on how many left handed guitars are made per year in any guitar manufacturing sites. If we can research and generate some stats then that information could be shared with guitar shops who may bring more left handed guitars into their inventory. I know two guitar shops in Ontario that have left handed guitar technicians who work on those left handed instruments (and the right hand one s as well). I played right handed guitar for most of my life and now play left handed. I would like to see some more options out there at a price that is reasonable and decent quality. The lefties have to ask for the guitars and state their case clearly and concisely. Win the shop owners over with meaningful information and eliminate the demonizing effects of prejudices against lefties and don’t use emotional rhetoric. Good stats and committing to buying a left handed guitar will win the day.

    Reply

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