To Play Left Handed Or Not To Play Left Handed

Should a left-hander learn to play with the standard string set-up or should the strings be switched? My son is 10 and just getting started.

The best thing to do with your lefty is hand him a guitar and see which way he holds it without any coaching. If he holds it like a lefty, a lefty guitar is probably what he needs. If he holds it like a righty, a right-handed guitar is probably what he needs.
If it turns out that a lefty is what he needs, it's better to actually get a guitar that's designed to be a lefty. Re-stringing a right-handed guitar backwards can cause a host of problems with action and intonation.

I'm left-handed on most things, but when I picked up my first guitar, for some reason I held it right-handed. My left-handed friend would always pick it up the other way. Some guitarists like Paul Simon and others like myself who are left handed, play the guitar right handed.

Also, see my Tip 43 & Tip 101 on buying guitars.

Bob, Gman ( o )==#

Now For The Pros and Cons:

I am a new player (one week)! Also, I am a lefty player. Your site is the best and I used it to help decide whether I should try to learn to play like a righty before I bought my guitar and also for tips on what to buy. I trusted your advice about holding it the way that feels natural and it is always, for me, to hold it as a lefty, which I am. I bought a lefty Yamaha FG-412L and I love it - you were right on, I can play easily and naturally by playing in the way that feels right to me, even if it is "backwards" to everyone else!

Thank you so much!  Diane

I'm a lefty and started playing guitar right handed a couple years ago.  At first it seemed like the right thing to do because it was natural, and chord formation was the hardest thing to do at that point. However, now that I've gotten decent at chords with my left hand, I realize that I'll never be able to pick with my right the way I could have with my left. Chord formation is easy, in the long run.  Strumming patterns and picking are best left for your dominant hand. I think for lefties a lot of right handed things seem "natural" just because we live in a right 
handed world.


I do everything left handed, write, use scissors, I even prefer kicking a ball with my left foot...but it was suggested that I try playing guitar right handed so trusting the three people that suggested this, I bought a right handed guitar (my first) and it took only one week before I took on playing right handed naturally instead of left handed. Now if for the fun of it i try and play the guitar left handed it feels extremely wrong, and weird. Now this worked out great for me, but you could easily say it was just good luck, but I was just interested in your comments on this.

Thanks, Jenna

A very important advantage to playing right handed. Wherever you go you can pick up somebody else's guitar and play.

Excellent site, Jim (different Jim)

To add my opinion on the debate...
I’m a lefty who has been playing the acoustic guitar as if ‘right handed’ for some years now. As your contributors have shown there are pros and cons to both approaches.  Looking back now I do sometimes wish I had chosen the lefty method.  Once you’ve gotten through the earlier mechanics of playing, (chords patterns do seem easy for us lefties), you then reach the point where you realize the heart & soul of what you express comes from the playing hand… the right hand, and that may have been better for me the other way around.  That said, Paul Simon & other ‘wrong way’ lefties are no slouches when it comes down to playing well.

Another significant point, I play lots of instruments now, bass, bouzuki, mandolin…bit of a junkie really! Unfortunately every one of those that I buy, now HAS to be right handed, due to having to keep the long nails on the right hand and the shortened ones on the left to play the classical guitar properly.  Its something worth considering if you like to be eclectic : )

Congratulations on a very good site, good luck in the future

Steve UK


When I added this tip, I knew I was going out on a limb a little.

I'm a left-hander too & I play the guitar right handed because it came more naturally to me.   Other lefties insist on playing left handed and wouldn't do it any other way.

The only thing I can add is, I wonder if Jimi Hendrix would have been as great if someone would have forced him to play right handed.  Sure, maybe he would have been able to play as a righty but?

The one advantage you will have now as a righty is most music & tablature is written for right handed players so you won't have to change that over.

To Jenna:  If for fun you're picking up a guitar to try it left handed, try an actual left handed guitar, not your right handed guitar.

Gman ( o )==#

I play lefty, mostly because I'm a McCartney fan.  I knew a guitar teacher with a doctorate in guitar performance. He was a lefty who played righty. He told us mere mortals of a simple test for determining if a student can play right-handed.  Have the student applaud for 10 or 15 seconds.  If he holds the right hand still and claps the left 
into it, he's probably too left-handed to play righty. If he moves both hands equally, or if he claps right into left, he can play right-handed pretty easily.

Most left-handers are at least a little ambidextrous. Considering the trouble and expense of getting a good lefty guitar, I advise every southpaw to give right-handed playing a fair trial before giving up on it. Steve Morse did.

Tom Simms


Hey Gman--great site:

I am a lefty that had to get into the lefty vs righty debate.  I am a strong natural lefty, but do some things righty (as I guess all of us do).  If you had asked me which way to go when I bought my first guitar, I would have said go righty based on the fact that it took me 18 months to get a lefty Fender Mustang, but that was back in the 70's, and since then,
left handed guitars seem to be much more readily available.

Now that I have matured some, I would say left handed is the way to go.  I have found that my left hand takes very little attention when it comes to getting creative with strumming, flat picking, and finger picking (I play mostly acoustics now).

Another plus, which is not mentioned anywhere in the debate, is that you can now find some incredible deals on lefty guitars.  In the last year alone, I have picked up 2 new guitars which had been sitting around in stores for some 3 years each, at 1/3 to 1/4 of MSRP.  I guess it's payback time for the 18 months I spent waiting around as a kid--I've found these deals on ebay and just roaming around music stores.




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