Left Hand Guitar

Starting Out as a Left Hand Guitarist

Is being left handed a disadvantage when learning to play the guitar?

Left handed guitars, both electric and acoustic, are readily available online. credit

This is a question often asked, and one to which there is no simple answer - there is clearly no difference in technique, but there are other factors. To start with you do need to find the right guitar; most people have a friend or relative who can lend them an old acoustic; great! Will it be left handed though? But beyond the immediate issue of finding a guitar, there are actually some advantages to being a left handed guitarist!

The 'Right' Guitar

Having decided to take the plunge and learn the guitar, where can the left hand guitar player turn? As previously stated, my overall feeling if you are a left handed is that you should try and learn with a left hand guitar and not try to learn right handed - see Teaching A Left-Handed Child. You should go with what feels natural, but left handed guitars are no more expensive than right handed ones, and with the wealth of left hand guitars available, lack of a left hand guitar should be no excuse.

But what if you've already started playing right hand guitar? There is some evidence to suggest that those left hand guitar players who learned right handed first, then reverted to left hand playing soon caught up and then surpassed their original right hand status. In today's world of internet buying there really is no need to struggle with an instrument made for right handers.

Ultimately if you are just beginning, whatever your dexterity, it is about building up the strength of the relevant hand, and that just comes with practice and repetition. When you pick up a guitar for the first time it does hurt your fingers somewhat.. get through the first month or so and you'll be fine.

Guitar Lessons for Lefties

So once you have your left hand guitar, it's time to get learning. The first question is whether to have lessons. Most teachers of guitar are going to be right handed, naturally, and you might think finding a left handed tutor is important. Apparently some right handed tutors even prefer not too teach left handers. However, this may not be such a big issue as we first think. After all, a right handed guitar player is the mirror image of a left hand guitar player. A left hand guitar player merely needs to sit directly opposite the right handed teacher. If anything, this makes teaching and learning easier, as you are sitting opposite, as if looking in a mirror. I would argue that this is more comfortable than sitting along side the teacher and trying to learn. Here you have a clear view sitting directly opposite and you just have to mirror what they do.

Learning at Home

But lessons are not for everybody. If you want to learn at home, then there are some great resources available. There are instructional books aimed specifically at left hand guitar beginner: two great titles I recommend to my students are Hal Leonard Guitar Method, Book 1 - Left-Handed Edition and Left-Handed Children's Guitar Method - both outstanding titles for the learner. Furthermore a left handed chord book is very useful indeed - I recommend the Hal Leonard Picture Chord Encyclopedia for Left-Handed Guitarists: Photos & Diagrams for Over 2,600 Chords! or it's guitar-case sized edition.

Left Handed Childrens Guitar Method
Hal Leonard Guitar Method - Left Handed Version
Picture Chord Encyclopedia for Left-Handed Guitarists

Furthermore, learning to play on-line is actually easier for the left handed guitar student. As described in the case of the right handed tutor, above, learning from videos simply means following a mirror image. As you look at the screen, you just have to copy the fingers of the right handed guitarist in the video, that is your tutor. And being able to pause the clip is a godsend. There are numerous paid online courses - but also thousands of free videos on youtube and vimeo (admittedly of varying standard) teaching all different styles and techniques to all levels of player.

But whatever your dexterity, and however you chose to learn, there is no substitute for practice.