Are Left-Handed Guitarists Rare?

 Man playing guitar during concert

We know that left-handed people are about 10% of the population. But not everyone plays guitar. So, I wondered, are left-handed guitarists rare?

Here is what I found from my research:

1-2 guitarists out of 70 will be left-handed. 1 in 7 people play guitar, and 10% to 20% of those guitarists will be left-handed. But not all of them will learn to play left-handed, making left-handed guitarists rare.

Of course, there are lots of well-known left-handed guitarists, from Tony Iommi, Kurt Cobain, Paul McCartney, Elliot Easton, and, of course, Jimi Hendrix.

But those are the big names, and we often forget the contribution of other left-hand guitarists such as Courtney Barnett, Elizabeth Cotton, Omar Rodriguez Lopez, Otis Rush, Barbara Lynn, Tim Armstrong, and Malina Moye.

Unfortunately, contributions of such left-hand guitar legends have remained untold and unaccounted for.

What percentage of guitar players are left-handed?

Between 10% and 20% of the world’s guitarists are left-handed. While left-handed people make up approximately 10% of the world’s population, a higher percentage of them are often drawn to the guitar due to left-handed icons such as Jimi Hendrix.

“When it comes to playing guitar, only 10 percent of guitarists play left-handed. Much like everything else in the world, the guitar is typically overwhelmingly dominated by right-handed people.” (source)

Statistically speaking, various studies and opinions suggest that the data represented above by Fender.com and other authoritative sites like Worldatlas.com has remained the same over the years, raising questions in the minds of the users over its credibility.

On music forums, I did find this quote:

“this historical 10% estimate is so ingrained in our culture that writers, even those who consider themselves serious investigators, tend to ignore statistics that contradict the idea of only 10% of the population being left-handed”.

The user went on to claim an estimate based on personal anecdotal evidence and quoted “that the percentage of left-handed guitar players is around 20%”.

But the reality is we really don’t know for sure.

Is playing a guitar left-handed harder?

Playing a left-handed guitar is not harder for a left-handed guitarist than playing a right-handed guitar is for a right-handed guitarist. However, many left-handed players initially learn on a right-handed guitar, which is harder.

“It’s a matter of experimentation”, says one user.

“A recent study at the National Institute of Sports and Physical Education in Paris found that left-handed people have faster eye-hand coordination with their right hand than even right-handers do.” (source)

“If you buy a guitar made to be played with the left, then it is in no way harder than learning to play with your right.” (source)

In decades past, almost all lefties played right-handed. Additionally, between 1950-1970 guitar teachers were compelled to force their youngsters to pick right-handed guitars predominantly.

Being left-handed had a specific disgrace about it in the good ‘ole days.

For instance: Albert King was a blues guitar legend. He played a right-handed Gibson Flying V upside down and later turned to left-handed guitar custom-made for him.

He made it look so easy.

The majority of guitar players worldwide played the guitar the other way round because resources like guitar tabs and access to instruments were typically right-handed guitars.

But today, YouTube is filled with left-hand guitar playing lessons guiding young learners on playing left-hand guitar with ease.

So, every left-handed must have at one point wondered how easy it is to play a right-handed guitar. Luckily, I cover everything you need to know in a recent article, including the 1 thing that can shave years off your learning curve.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Bloggers like Leftyfretz put up lessons for left-hand guitar learners with chord diagrams pictures for convenience to help you ace your left-hand guitar.

Are there any famous left-handed guitar players who play righty?

Robert Fripp, Duane Allman, Gary Moore, Shawn Lane, Mark Knopfler, Kiki Loureiro, Steve Morse, Johnny Winter, Herman Li, Billy Corgan, and Joe Perry are some of the most famous left-handed guitar players who play right-handed.

Guitarists say it all has to do with dominance with your hands. However, the picking hand does more than you would think. It deals with grip strength and rhythm.

Most people look at their fretboard and not their picking hand. 

These famous artists preferred their dominant hand for intricate tasks such as fretting, which helped them master guitar strings better.

Learning right or left depends on your instincts. For example, in the early days, Jimi Hendrix’s father forced him to play right-handed guitar because playing left-handed was considered evil.

But Hendrix’s natural instinct was left-hand picking.

As a result, Hendrix also learned to play left-handed guitar righty. And that had a huge impact on his sound, style, and tone. But those aren’t the only reasons Hendrix was so good at guitar. Check out my recent article to see ALL the reasons.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Should a left-handed person play left-handed guitar?

As a general rule, with many brands selling left-handed guitars for the same price, a left-handed person can learn how to play more easily by using a left-handed guitar. Learning how to play right-handed or even using a right-handed guitar will be harder.

For quite a while, finding left-handed guitars was troublesome because the demand was so much lower, most guitar companies just didn’t make many.

And stores, before the dawn of buying everything online, didn’t want to tie up inventory with something unlikely to sell.

As a result, left-handed guitarists often had to convert their guitars for their better use or hold guitars upside down.

“Technically, there is no difference between the ability of both the groups. However, right-handers playing left-handed is rarer due to the practical disadvantages of playing left, but they do exist.” (source)

Additionally, the guitarists may have naturally inclined to the left or right, depending on their degree of mixed-handedness.

“What’s best for every individual is to have an open mind and try both ways. For example, a left-hander should try both ways of playing before making a decision and not assume either playing left or right is better.”

(source)

If you’re left-handed, is it better to start on a left-handed guitar or a right-handed guitar?

A left-handed guitarist will find playing a left-handed guitar easier, and it will not require any conversion the way a right-handed guitar will. But depending on the preferred style of music, some prefer to use their dominant hand for fretting, which can be more intricate.

Handedness is a strange phenomenon when it comes to guitar playing.

While some artists picked right-handed guitars due to not being able to find left-handed guitars, some didn’t choose to go against their instincts and stuck to left-hand guitar playing.

A user recently shared his experience through social media where a left-handed beginner arrived at his shop to buy a guitar.

He would begin by asking:

Which hand is their most dominant and articulate? 80% of them would agree to his suggestion to buy right-handed guitars to allow their dominant hand for intricate fretting.

“Of the 20% that purchased lefty guitars, about 10% exchanged them for a righty guitar later on.”

The user suggests going with whatever the learner is comfortable with. The saying- it takes two hands to play the guitar fits pretty well here.

Top 7 Left Handed Guitar Players | Marty Schwartz

Conclusion

Speaking statistically, the percentage of the population that indicates the number of left-handed guitarists in the world is somewhere around 10%.

However, this historical figure has remained constant for a long time. Therefore, music experts think that the percentage is higher than what is reflected by popular studies.

Additionally, users believe that left-handed guitarists are rare because the unavailability of left-hand guitars forced lefties to pick right-hand guitars.

Moreover, using right-handed guitars allows left-handers to use their dominant hand for many intricate tasks in guitar playing, such as fretting.

Jeff Campbell

Hi, I'm Jeff Campbell, a former DJ, music journalist, musician, and music lover. I'm old enough to have seen all the cool bands and young enough to still remember them.

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