Left-handed guitars are harder to find. So for natural lefties who want to learn guitar, picking a side can be troublesome. So, they often wonder: Can a lefty play a right-handed guitar?
Here is what I have found from talking to left-hand guitarists:
Left-handed guitarists can play a right-handed guitar either by holding their guitars upside down like David Bowie or re-stringing it upside down like Jimi Hendrix. But the main way for lefties to learn to play a right-handed guitar is to hold it upside down.
It begins with controlling the guitar to have the thickest string nearest to your feet and the thinnest nearest to your head.
The second method is restringing the guitar.
This implies changing the string arrangement the opposite way. For this, seeking professional help is best since in most cases, you’ll have to re-do the nut and maybe the bridge of the guitar to accommodate the thicker strings in different slots.
Let’s dive in!
— Paoletti Guitars s.r.l (@paolettiguitars) May 18, 2021
Are left-handed guitars more expensive?
Left-handed guitars are the same price as right-handed guitars for all of the biggest manufacturers of both acoustic and electric guitars.
Don’t believe me? Check out this price comparison I did on all the top guitars:
|Brand||Model||Price – Left- handed||Price right- handed||Cost Increase for Left-handed|
|Gibson||Les Paul Tribute||$1,199.00||$1,199.00||0|
These findings are ironic given that lefties only make up 10% of the population.
And left-handed guitars require extra time and money to create since the shops have to reconfigure their equipment. And there is often a low demand for these, making them pretty challenging to find in local stores.
So while they don’t cost more, they are hard to find.
Moreover, even the world’s leading guitar manufacturer: Fender, gives left-handers only nine options to choose from against huge collections built for right-handed guitarists.
Tragically, this implies that left-handed guitars can cost more to deliver per unit, and this extra cost is regularly reflected in the retail price.
Here is what Fender said when asked by Leftyfretz.com about left-handed guitars:
“There are many factors that go into the construction of left-handed models. Bridges, nuts, pickguards, pickups are all required to be reconfigured for LH orientation. The number of guitars proposed to be built as well as the additional cost must be distributed among the number of units. The fewer units produced, the more cost absorbed into each guitar.”
That’s ironic, given the retail prices I saw were the same. But it did make me wonder if the wholesale price to the stores was higher.
Another instrumental guitar manufacturer, Paul Reed Smith, mentions retooling is the culprit:
“Lefty models tend to sell at about 1/10 of the rate of right-handed instruments; the amortized cost of the tooling on a lefty is considerably higher than that of a right-handed model.”
But again, checking the retail prices on PRS guitars, the left-handed models were actually cheaper than the right-handed ones on Sweetwater.
But some manufacturers DO charge more for left-handed models. Luckily, there are many, including the ones I’ve mentioned, that do not.
Here are some of the best-known manufacturers that don’t charge more:
- ESP Ltd
— Framus & Warwick (@WarwickFramus) May 19, 2021
What’s the difference between right-handed and left-handed guitar?
A left-handed guitar is essentially a complete backward from a right-handed guitar. The body shape will be cut opposite, and the knobs will be positioned on the opposite side.
Let’s explore some of the key differences:
- String orientation: Place a guitar facing you with the neck pointed up. Notice the strings from thick to thin. If your guitar’s thicker strings are on your left and the thinner treble strings on your right, then it’s a right-handed guitar. On the contrary, If your guitar’s thicker strings are on the right and the thinner treble strings left, then you are a proud owner of a left-handed guitar.
- Strap peg: The easiest way to identify the difference is to look at the strap peg. On left-handed guitars, strap pegs are built on the right, and on right-handed guitars, strap pegs are made on the left.
- Pickguards: Although not all guitars have pickguards, in case they do, it will help you confirm which hand it supports. Left-handed guitars have pickguards on the right, closest to where you would strum.
Hopefully, the above points clear the difference, and now you know whether you have a right-handed guitar or left-handed guitar.
— muerdekeroyo (@muerdekeroyo) March 23, 2021
Can you make a right-handed guitar left-handed?
A right-handed guitar can easily be made left-handed by replacing the nut. Moving the pickguard, knobs, strap pegs, and audio jack are additional but less essential options.
Let’s look at that in a little greater detail:
“Varying from guitar to guitar, the requirements to convert a right-handed guitar to left-handed include plugging saddles, retooling, and nut replacements bringing you close to $100”.
Source – Dave Bolla (Grosse Pointe Music Academy).
In many cases, acoustic guitars are flippable just by restringing them.
In traditional guitars, saddles have no compensation angles, and “the nylon strings are close enough in diameter to let nut slots be accommodated in whichever order.” However, the case is different in steel-string guitars.
Steel-string guitars require removing the compensated saddle with an opposite angle saddle. This requires the slot to be “plugged” with a matching wood to that of the bridge.
The next step is to re-cut the angle with the opposite compensation. The saddle itself then gets a more precise compensation pattern filed onto the top of it.
That’s the way you can make a right-handed guitar left-handed.
The world can be unfair to #lefties, even when they’re rock gods. Jimi Hendrix had a hard time finding left-handed #guitars, so he flipped over and restrung standard right-handed #Fender Stratocasters.#AdirondackGuitar #Guitar pic.twitter.com/eYOg5oskzw
— Adirondack Guitar (@adkguitar) July 16, 2018
Was Jimi Hendrix left-handed?
Hendrix was naturally left-handed, but his father, Al, forced the young James Marshall (Jimi) to play right-handed. Al believed playing left-handed was a sign of the devil, and at that time, being left-handed was generally frowned upon.
When Jimi’s father bought him his first-ever right-handed electric guitar, Hendrix simply strung it backwards so he could play it more easily.
While he still lived at home, Jimi re-strung the guitar for his left-hand use when his father was not with him.
“The ‘innovation’ that made Jimi Hendrix most famous was restringing and flipping a right-handed Fender Stratocaster so he could play it with his left” (source)
He played for hours and practiced every day, which eventually helped him play with both hands and mark his superiority in a shorter period than Paul McCartney.
Hendrix was the most famous lefty ever to pick a guitar.
Take a look at the other factors that played a crucial part in shaping Hendrix’s musical talent in my recent article. What really surprised me was how he could easily switch between a right-handed or left-handed guitar.
Just click that link to read it on my site.
DID YOU KNOW?
Left-handed Gaga plays a mean right-handed guitar🎸
Left-handed Bowie also played right-handed guitar🎸
Left-handed Hendrix played right-handed guitar left-handed with strings tuned right-handed, ie upside-down🙃🎸#LadyGaga #DavidBowie #JimiHendrix #Chromatica🏆✔️ pic.twitter.com/yXbllwuclR
— LORD GAGA OF YOUTUBE ♪ (@NlHILIST) December 5, 2020
Who are the best left-handed guitarists who play right-handed?
Several prominent left-handed guitarists play right-handed. The list includes David Bowie, Billy Corgan, Mark Knopfler, Elvis Costello, Duane Allman, Joe Perry, and Al Anderson, along with Jimi Hendrix.
And Paul McCartney can reportedly switch to either.
Lefties were frequently disliked in the past for the left-hand use’s resemblance associated with the devil. Not just limited to authors and painters, even guitar wielders were approached to pick a side from a young age.
Going against their natural mechanics, left-hand guitarists like David Bowie, Billy Corgan, Joe Perry, Elvis Costello were either forced to make changes or had to transit from left to right to explore the advantages of right-hand playing.
For a long time, leftism was considered a sign of evil.
However, famous innovators like Jimi Hendrix, Elizabeth Cotton, Paul McCartney, Albert King, and Dick Dale did the more difficult job of fretting with left hands in terms of music.
They either played their guitar, holding it upside down, getting it re-stringed, or ordering custom-made guitars. Thus, showing the lefties how to play a right-handed guitar.
Going back and forth, one can feel that left-oriented guitars are lesser than right-oriented guitars. And even if they do find them, they are occasionally a bit pricier than right-handed guitars. However, that’s not true for the top manufacturers.
So, as a result, most left-handed people have no choice but to play guitar right-handed.