Myth Busted! Learning Left Handed Guitar Is Harder?

Neal Beedie March 22, 2014 40

Is it harder to learn guitar left handed? Well, no… There seems to be a lot of false information floating around the internet in regards to learning to play left handed guitar.  This article will hopefully serve to clear up some of these misconceptions which unfortunately seem to be fairly widespread.

Is Left Handed Guitar More Difficult

One situation I find absolutely pathetic is when potential left-handed guitar players give up on learning guitar BEFORE THEY EVEN START!  It’s an issue which crops up all too often around the net on Twitter, Forums, Facebook etc.  It goes something along the lines of…

“I really want to learn to play guitar but I can’t because i’m a lefty :’( “
“I really want to learn to play guitar but it would be too hard to find a left handed guitar teacher “
“I really want to learn to play guitar but I can’t because insert_crap_excuse “

Then you get the left handed players who have already started but just seem to be making things incredibly hard on themselves. Last night I stumbled across a new player who was asking for left handed guitar tabs for Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’.  /facepalm.  To make matters worse one of the answers he got was to print out the tab and HOLD IT UP TO A MIRROR.  The internet is apparently just chock full of idiots.

Every day on Twitter I see several users tweeting about how hard they are finding it to play guitar and the only excuse they have is “because I’m a lefty”.  Listen up halfwits – the reason you are finding guitar hard is because at the beginning, GUITAR IS HARD. Apparently these people expect that they should be mastering sweep picking monster licks after a week.  Learning guitar is not the same as learning to ride a bicycle, it takes time and dedication to become proficient at.

So let’s clear this up. What are the REAL differences when learning guitar as a southpaw player?

Chord Diagrams for Left Handed Guitar Players

Most chord diagrams you find will be arranged for right handed players, which means that to play them on your left handed guitar you must mirror what you see.  This generally requires a tiny portion of intelligence in order to flip the diagrams in your head.  This is the smallest of inconveniences as let’s face it, chord diagrams are something you might use early on in your playing career and then probably never bother with again.  As an alternative you can learn the chord shapes through tab, the only difference being that tabs won’t tell you which fingers to place where.  But this isn’t exactly rocket science either is it?

If you ARE having a little trouble getting started with chord diagrams try out our free left handed chord diagrams to get you started.  There is also plenty of software/apps which will provide a southpaw mode for chord diagrams. It’s not something to lose sleep over however.

Tabs Are the Same for Lefty Guitarists

Nothing to see here folks, move along, move along.  Even though apparently thousands of geniuses on the net think otherwise, there are no differences at all..next question.

Guitar Teachers Are the Same for Left Handed Guitar Players

Again, no differences here.  In fact it should be easier to learn from a right handed teacher as if they sit opposite you it will be really straightforward to copy what they do as they will mirror you.  Any tutor with a modicum of intelligence will be able to teach you – if anyone turns you away then be glad that you’ve dodged a bullet!  Personally I have limited experience with guitar tutors, but both of the two I have used in my younger years laughed at me when I asked them if it was a problem. See our article on The Mirror Effect and Learning Guitar Left Handed.

Left Hand is Right Hand

Another tiny difference is that in instructional material where the writer/speaker refers to his right hand, this will actually be the left hand for us lefties.  Most of the time hands will be simply referred to as ‘picking hand’ and ‘fretting hand’ so this shouldn’t be a problem.  But on the occasions that they are referred to as right and left, you’ll just need to remember to think the opposite.

Lefties Have The Upper Hand

If you have read our post on the Top 9 Left Handed Guitarist Advantages you will have noticed that us lefties actually have a natural advantage over right handed players.  A recent study at the National Institute of Sports and Physical Education in Paris found that left handed people have faster eye-hand coordination with their right hand than even right-handers do.  So quit your whining!

And that is it guys.  The only significant difference is chord diagrams and to be honest if you can’t figure those out maybe you should go back to Guitar Hero.

TLDR: Guitar is easy to pick up but tricky to master, please do not dump your frustrations on the fact that you are a southpaw.  Man-up and get the job done…lefty style.

40 Comments »

  1. Rhitosparsh April 13, 2014 at 3:04 am - Reply

    It is just TIMES easier if you have a righty teacher, ’cause all you have to do is just watch where is he/she placing the fingers! No need to see the fret nos.

    And with uniqueness, symmetry and all other benefits (mentioned on this site, thanks Neal!!), it’s really worth being a lefty!!

    why is it showing this comment duplicate??

  2. Charlesyniguez April 16, 2014 at 5:52 am - Reply

    its kool your right just wish i had someone to learn with and not let it go im in my 40s and it just seems like im hurting for time its lazyness but i would and have impressed my self i need more in it

  3. Doris April 26, 2014 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    I am a left handed person playing right handed guitar. Because of a Ulnar nerve problem in the elbow of my left arm, I can no longer play right handed. But I won’t give up because I am naturally left handed and will have my guitar re stringed so that it becomes left handed. One issue though, I find that when I flip the guitar it is harder to see the fret board. I know it sounds silly, but are guitars constructed differently?

    • Don August 27, 2014 at 6:00 pm - Reply

      A right-handed guitar that is simply flipped over and restrung (which is the way I learned–on a nylon string) does still have differences. Almost all steel string guitars have fret marks (dots) only on the one side of the neck. Many/most also on the front, as well. Nylon strings vary, but they too will often only have fret marks only on one side. If you flip a righty, you can’t see those fret marks.

      Of course, other differences are the bridge setup and the nut. Reversing the strings will likely cause problems with the wrong string diameters going through the wrong size slots. And on the bridge, if it’s slanted, it will be the wrong way. Tuning will be a nightmare.

  4. JBFairthorne April 30, 2014 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    Right and left handed guitars, be they electric or acoustic, are constructed differently (check out the related article on this site). Unless $ is a serious issue, I would recommend buying a lefty. There’s more to setting up a right handed guitar to left than just re-stringing. Put that set-up $ towards something that was intended to be left handed from the start.

  5. T Tony May 26, 2014 at 11:11 am - Reply

    you were correct about Ebay…. found a nice lefty Fender Strat Standard which was autographed by Dick Dale… mint condition… In the process of learning, and finding your site very useful… Thanks

    • Neal Beedie May 26, 2014 at 6:21 pm - Reply

      Very nice! Share a photo of it in our forum, i’m sure the guys would love to see that! http://leftyfretz.com/forum/

  6. Hanz S June 5, 2014 at 9:23 am - Reply

    What if your air guitar is right handed but clapping hand left?

  7. HalfBlindLefty August 10, 2014 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    The italics part at the start of this article reminded me of the text I have on my soundclick page :
    ============================
    At the age of ~12 me and my parents were told in a local music store that since I’m left handed, I couldn’t play the guitar (Yes they believed it). The result was I didn’t get a guitar. In stead I got an accordion. I actually had lessons for2 or 3 years.
    Afterwards I sold the accordion and bought me a right handed guitar. At first I tried to play right handed but that didn’t work for me. I changed the string order to lefty and there it started.

    When I was in my 30′s I finally bought me my first real left handed guitar, A used ‘ 83 Tokai goldstar Strat. That was the time I started making real progression.

    I still have and love the Tokai Goldstar.
    ==============================

    The guitarshop story was waaay back close to 1970

    Just saying, don’t let anyone out you down, don’t give up and learn to play :)

  8. Charles September 1, 2014 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    I’ll never understand when right handed players honestly ask “why don’t you just play righty? Isn’t it easier to fret with your dominate hand?”

    If they would just step back and think about that in regards to themselves the answer is quite obvious.

    They are righty and they fret with their “weaker” hand…so why don’t they play lefty?

    There is a reason why lefties immediately pick up the guitar lefty…it’s the same exact reason why righties immediately pick up the guitar righty. It is physically and mentally natural.

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