So you want to take up the BEST instrument, but you’re unsure if you should play left-handed or right-handed guitar? Take a read through this article to find the answer to this important question!
Deciding whether to play guitar left-handed or right-handed could potentially make or break your guitar playing career, so it’s critical that you think things through before taking the plunge. Ten minutes spent reading this article could save you YEARS of potential heartache further down the line!
Here at LeftyFretz, I am constantly wasting time correcting poor advice given by right-handed players who think they know it all. They mean well, but ultimately the advice is just plain wrong, and could ultimately hamper your progress with the instrument greatly.
If you’d never driven a Ferrari would you give advice to someone wanting to find out what it’s like to drive one? No, you certainly would not! The same principle applies to guitar. The majority of right handed players are in no position to be giving advice about playing guitar left-handed.
So here we go, hopefully, this will clear everything up once and for all.
Should You Play Guitar Right-Handed or Left-Handed?
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just getting a lefty guitar if you’re left-handed, or a right-handed guitar if you’re a righty!
There are lot lot of differences between a lefty and a righty guitar, but which is right for you? Here’s a super quick test to find out…
Stop what you are doing and play an imaginary guitar for a second, don’t think about it, just do it.
Did you strum with your left or right hand?
If you strummed with your left hand you should play left handed, and if you strummed with your right hand you should play right handed.
Another easy test is to watch how you clap your hands. The hand that does all (or most of) the movement is the hand that you should probably strum with. This is probably also the hand positioned on top. Don’t worry if you can’t tell, it’s not an exact science!
Fancy finding out exactly how much of a lefty you are (or aren’t!)? Take our 60-second left-handed test and find out!
If you find that you don’t have a strong preference either way, then it might be a good idea to play guitar right handed. Purely because you will have a much larger selection of instruments available to you.
Can A Left-Handed Person Play A Right-Handed Guitar?
Absolutely! Plenty of famous lefties play guitar right handed – for example, Mark Knopfler, Gary Moore, and Duane Allman. But as we’ll discover in the remainder of this article, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should follow suit, as doing so could potentially hinder your playing.
In many cases, these people are most likely not natural left handed guitar players, have accepted some poor advice, or simply weren’t aware when starting out that left handed guitars were a thing!
In the case of the three guitarists I mentioned above, it would certainly have been much harder for them to find left handed guitars when starting out. So that could certainly have affected their decisions! Luckily, southpaw guitars are fairly widespread these days, so this shouldn’t be a deciding factor for you.
As I mentioned above, different people undertake tasks in different ways depending on how their brain is wired. For example, I write with my left hand and play guitar that way too, but I use scissors with my right hand and shoot a bow that way also. I’ll also kick a ball with my right foot.
My point here is that just because someone writes with their left-hand doesn’t automatically mean they are predisposed to playing guitar left-handed as well.
Is the Picking or Fretting Hand More Important for Guitar?
The strumming hand absolutely has the most difficult job, as it requires more precise coordination and rhythm than the fretting hand. This is why your dominant hand is traditionally the picking hand on guitar.
The one piece of advice that really rubs me up the wrong way is the old “you’ll have an advantage with your dominant hand doing the fretting, cos it’s erm…harder“.
Think about how silly that advice is. If that were true, why are all righties not playing left handed? Why is a left-handed guitar not the norm? It’s just completely nonsensical, right?
To further back up my point – in college, I would quite often mess around on my roommate’s (right-handed) guitar. He even challenged me to learn a full song upside down once, which I truly persevered with!
I found that my fretting hand adapted relatively quickly, while my picking hand lagged behind considerably. It was definitely my experience that the picking hand has the more difficult job.
The Salesperson In Guitar Center Told Me To Learn Righty
Why do you think they’re telling you this? It’s because if you buy a right-handed guitar you are far more likely to go back to his store and buy more of their instruments because that is what probably 90% or more of their stock is.
They may be too small-minded to keep more than a handful of left handed guitars, but they do have the brainpower to deduce that they might lose you as a potential repeat customer if they sell you a lefty. After all, are you likely to go back for a second look at their one black Strat copy in the corner? I think not – you’ll go to a competitor store or shop online.
And another thing – SALES INCENTIVES. Sales staff receive bonuses for selling certain items over others, and unfortunately many will not hesitate to make a quick buck rather than sell you the product you actually want and/or need.
Bottom line – don’t listen to the store salespeople if they tell you this…as explained above, only you can decide to play right handed or left handed.
I was lucky, as when my parents took me to get my first guitar the salesman let me try both a left and right handed guitar. The difference was night and day for me.
Is It Hard To Find A Left Handed Guitar?
Anyone who tells you this is in possession of an incredibly outdated point of view. This is 2022, not 1979, and this wondrous invention called the internet makes it absurdly easy to obtain almost any left handed guitar you could wish for. Look at this – it would take you all day to trawl through those! And that’s just one site…
Sure, there are fewer options in general when it comes to choosing your guitars (only 12% of people are left-handed, after all!), but this is a terrible reason to possibly hinder your learning over. There are plenty of excellent left handed guitars available, and as the internet is making the world increasingly smaller the choice is only getting healthier. Besides, how many guitars do you really need?
If you really get into guitar and can justify the expense, most guitarists will end up ordering custom instruments anyway. In this scenario the choice of lefties is more or less the same as righties – so the better you become at guitar, the less of an issue availability potentially becomes.
Lefties Cost More!
You’ll also see some players complaining that lefties are more expensive. Many brands do charge a little extra for southpaw models (usually around 10-15% more), but at the end of the day, these guitars are also worth more if you decide to sell them later on. It all evens out!
Plus, a ton of brands sell their lefty models for the exact same price as the righties. So if it bothers you that much, feel free to support these companies with your money over others!
If you’d like to learn exactly why some brands charge more, check out my article – Why are left-handed guitars more expensive?
At the end of the day, a tiny additional expense is not a reason to potentially hinder your playing over.
Is It Harder To Learn Guitar Left Handed?
Absolutely not! It is in NO WAY harder to learn guitar left handed. This is another myth I see crop up on a daily basis. The idea is floating around purely because of misinformed right handed players who think they are qualified to give advice on playing guitar left-handed.
The only real difference is that chord diagrams are mirrored, but it’s not too taxing to read something as simple as this backward.
If you want to ensure you are reading them correctly, check out our left handed chord diagrams. Or, if you’re super awesome and would like to support the site, check out our massive new lefty chord book.
Tabs are not backward, learning materials are not backward, and it makes no difference to a guitar teacher if you are left handed – in fact, many say that it is easier to teach a southpaw due to the Mirror Effect!
If you’d like to read learn more and truly set your mind at ease, check out my article Is It Harder To Learn Guitar Left Handed?
Will Playing Right Handed Hurt My Playing?
If you are a natural left handed guitar player then, of course, it will (eventually). If you desire to advance beyond the basics and become the best player that you can be, then I strongly suggest you play the way in which your body feels the most comfortable.
Alternatively, if you’re only interested in learning a few campfire songs then sure, you can get away with playing the wrong way around. Most of us, who actually have some ambition would be unsatisfied with just settling for being an average player, however.
It’s crazy to think that it wasn’t too long ago that lefty children were forced to write with their right hands in school. A well-known fact is that these children grew up to have horrible handwriting (as well as other issues!). Well, the same idea applies to guitar!
Here is a great quote from Bruce Dickinson, head of the prestigious Brighton Institute of Modern Music:
I’ve seen many lefties who play right-handed and have difficulties later on because their picking/strumming hand is the less sensitive and controlled of the two. Typically, if they are fully left handed, their sense of rhythm in the right hand will be less developed or just unmanageable. This problem, which does not build up until later along the learning curve, can be an insurmountable obstacle. This is why I don’t recommend that left handers learn to play right handed unless they feel very comfortable with it.
So you might get away with playing the wrong way around for a while, but this decision could very well come back to bite you in the ass later on in your playing career!
To further back up my point – world-renowned shred maestro Andy James gave an interview where he answered questions from fans. One of the questions was from a lefty who had chosen to play right handed guitar. After six years of practicing for six hours a day, he could still only play his favorite band’s songs at half speed. See the article here … Andy James on Left Handed Guitar.
Over the years I have received countless emails and comments from people who have struggled (sometimes for years!) playing right handed, only to try out southpaw mode and suddenly have a complete epiphany. As if by magic everything falls into place, and they start progressing at a pace that they could only have dreamed about beforehand.
Left Or Right Handed Guitar?
Left or right handed, play the correct way around and reap the rewards!
It is a simple question that you can only answer yourself. Do not let anyone try and persuade you that one way is better than another, because they are in no way qualified to tell you this.
Every single person in this world is unique, and will perform various tasks in the easiest and most efficient manner for themselves.
Please don’t feel that I am trying to push anyone to play guitar left handed. I am merely posting the facts because I am sick to death of reading the chicken scratch advice given to lefties on a daily basis.
The bottom line is to play the way that feels natural to you, do not listen to anyone but YOUR OWN BODY. If you decide that you are a left handed guitar player then go for it! A good place to start is our left-handed guitar database!
Also make sure to check out 9 Amazing Advantages Of Playing Guitar Left-Handed.
Now that you (hopefully) know which way you are going to play, check out our 8-part Beginner Guitar Guide where you’ll learn everything that you need to know to get started with your new hobby! This series of guides is relevant to both left and right handed players and includes gear recommendations for beginners.
Good luck, and feel free to email me if you require any extra advice. You’ll find a link to our contact form in the footer below.