How To String & Tune a Left Handed Guitar

How To String & Tune a Lefty Guitar

Unsure how to tune a left handed guitar? Many new players seem to become stuck at the first hurdle of guitar – how to string and tune it correctly.

I personally can’t remember what it was like when I picked up my first lefty electric guitar, so I shan’t jest! Not to your faces anyway…

In this article you’ll learn the correct string order, the note that each string should be tuned to, and the best ways to accurately tune to standard guitar tuning.

How To String a Left Handed Guitar

If you have a bona fide lefty guitar then you will find that the nut will only accept the strings if you place them in the correct order. 

By this, I mean that the slots in the nut are different widths, and are designed to snugly fit each string. So if you tried to place the thickest string in the slot designed for the thinnest string it wouldn’t fit inside and would probably sit above the nut.

Guitar Nut Left Handed

For both left and right handed guitars, the thinnest string will be nearest to the floor (when in a playing position) and from there they will increase in thickness towards you. 

Some beginner southpaw players will take a regular right handed guitar and simply hold it left handed, without adjusting the string order. Although this is a perfectly viable way to play (see Eric Gales), it isn’t recommended as there is next to no instructional material out there for this style of play. You’ll pretty much be on your own when it comes to learning.

If you aspire to possibly become a guitar teacher you’re also going to really struggle to find students if you don’t learn to play in standard tuning! Do yourself a favor and string your guitar in the fashion that I’ve set out below.

How To Tune a Left Handed Guitar

On any standard tuned 6-string guitar the order of strings from thick to thin is EADGBE. Why not come up with a quick mnemonic to help you memorize the order? For example, Eddie Ate Dynamite, Good Bye Eddie.

Ever wondered why standard tuning is EADGBE? Check out my article to find out more – it’s pretty interesting stuff!

See below to have this information displayed in pretty colors…

How To Tune a Left Handed Guitar

Tune the strings one at a time, working your way from the Low E to the High E. Always tune up to the note as this locks in more tension than if you were to tune down. It’s calling tuning up for a reason!

If you don’t yet own a tuner, see the section below for my recommendations.

Once you’ve tuned all six strings, do it again! The changes in tension may have slightly altered the pitch of some of the strings you tuned first.

After the second pass your guitar should hopefully be in perfect pitch. Get into the habit of doing this every time you play.

If you have just installed a fresh set of strings you may find that you need to retune more often. This is because the new strings will take a little time to stretch out and settle in.

You can somewhat speed up the settling process by giving new strings a quick stretch yourself. Grab the string around the middle of the neck and give it a gentle tug upwards. Be careful not to pull too hard or you may accidentally snap one of the thinner strings!

How To Tune a Left Handed Bass

And what about those of you who prefer the thunderous power of a juicy bass guitar?

Exactly the same as a regular guitar my friend, minus the two high strings.  So on a 4-string bass (which is what you’ve purchased, right?), you’ve got EADG from thickest to thinnest. Easy!

How to Tune a Left Handed Bass Guitar

Try coming up with a memorable mnemonic to help ingrain the order of the notes in your head. For example, Eventally Adults Don’t Grow.

As far as tuning is concerned, the process is identical to how I described it in the guitar section above.

Hope that clears things up! By the way, how badly do you want a multi-colored set of strings now!?

How To Tune Accurately

Now you just need to get yourself a good tuner to make sure you’re pitch-perfect. I highly recommend a simple headstock tuner such as a Snark X.

These handy little guys clip onto your guitar’s headstock and tune (extremely accurately!) via vibration. Best of all, they cost next to nothing!

You’ll spot an older model of the Snark tuner in the photo of my guitar at the top of this page.

Although you can be cheap and use a free online tuner option, your ear likely isn’t quite good enough yet. Grab one $15 tuner and it’ll serve you for life.

You can learn even more about all of the different types of tuners in my huge guitar tuner guide.

If you have tuned up but still find that the guitar sounds off, you may have an issue with intonation, or perhaps even a warped neck. To solve these problems you may need what is known as a professional guitar setup.

Newbie Guide

If you are new to guitar or bass, you need to check out my Newbie Guide! This 8-part series will explain everything that you will need to know to get started!

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Neal Author Bio
Neal has been playing guitar (left-handed!) for over 20 years, and has also worked in various roles within the guitar retail industry since 2012. He started LeftyFretz in 2010. More Info