So you want to take up learning guitar but you’re unsure if you should be playing right or left handed? Take a read through this article to hopefully find the answer to this tricky question!
I’m constantly wasting time correcting poor advice given by right handed players who think they know it all. It really is unbelievable the levels of sheer naivety I see spouted by misinformed players. If you’d never driven a Porsche 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 I Play Guitar Left Handed or Right Handed?
This is a simple question that you can only answer yourself. Do not let anyone try and tell 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 most easy and efficient manner for themselves.
How Do I Discover What Is Best For Me?
Stop what you are doing and play some air 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 in the same way if you strummed with your right hand you should play right handed. Simple, right?
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 strum with. People often assume that your dominant hand should be performing the “more complex” fretting job – however I generally have found that this is not the case. In my experience, the picking hand demands more precise coordination than the fretting hand.
The one piece of advice that really irks me 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.
To 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.
But Another Left Handed Person Told Me He Plays Right Handed
This person is most likely not a natural left handed guitar player, has accepted some poor advice, or simply wasn’t aware when starting out that left handed guitars were a thing! As I mentioned above, different people do things 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. Just because someone writes with their left hand doesn’t automatically mean they are predisposed to playing guitar left handed as well.
Fancy finding out how much of a lefty you are? Take our 60-second left handed test and find out!
The Guy In Guitar Center Told Me Just To Learn Righty
Why do you think he’s telling you this? If you buy a right handed guitar you are far more likely to go back to his store and buy more of his products, because that is what probably 90%+ of his stock is. He may be too small minded to keep more than a handful of left handed guitars, but he does have the brainpower to deduce that he’ll lose you as a potential repeat customer if he sells you a lefty. After all, are you likely to go back for a second look at his one black Strat copy in the corner? I think not. Bottom line – don’t listen to the store clerks if they tell you this…as explained above, only you can decide to play right handed or left handed.
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.
They Also Told Me It’s Impossible To Find A Left Handed Guitar!
Anyone who tells you this is in possession of an incredibly outdated point of view. This is 2019, 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 that! And that’s just one site…
Sure, there are less options in general when it comes to choosing your guitars, 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?
Photo: Jerry’s Lefty Guitars, Florida USA
If you really get into guitar and can justify the expense, most guitarists will end up ordering custom instruments. 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.
Isn’t Learning Left Handed Harder?
This is another myth I see crop up on a daily basis. This idea is floating around purely because of misinformed right handed payers who think they are qualified to give advice on playing guitar left handed. It is in NO WAY harder to learn guitar left handed. See this article on the Myths Surrounding Playing Left Handed Guitar.
The only real difference is that chord diagrams are mirrored, but it’s not too taxing to read something as simple as this backwards. 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 backwards, learning materials are not backwards, 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!
Will Playing Right Handed Hurt My Playing?
If you are a natural left handed guitar player then of course it will (eventually). If you want 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 with. Alternatively, if you only want to learn a few camp fire 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 that long ago that lefty children were forced to write with their right hands in school. In fact, it still happens to this day in certain countries where left handed people are thought to be in league with the devil! If you are acquainted with anyone who has lived through this you’ll probably also be aware of how terrible their hand-writing is after being forced to write the wrong way around. 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!
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, play the correct way around and reap the rewards!
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! Here’s a good place to start.
Now that you (hopefully) know which way you are going to play, check out our 8-part Newbie 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 leave a comment if you require any extra advice.