Playing a right-handed guitar as a left-handed musician is a unique and often challenging endeavor. Despite being innately left-handed, numerous guitar players have navigated their way towards effectively using a right-handed instrument. Yet, this achievement is generally not without its fair share of difficulties, as learning resources are typically designed with right-handed players in mind. Ranging from physical challenges like mastering hand coordination and fretboard positioning to the scarcity of proper learning materials, the journey can be daunting. However, with the right strategies in place, these obstacles can turn into stepping stones towards musical excellence.
The challenges of left-handed players using right-handed guitars
Left-handed individuals hoping to learn guitar often encounter an initial decision: to choose a left-handed guitar or adapt to the universal standard of right-handed guitars. For left-handed guitarists playing right-handed instruments, it requires counter-intuitive thinking and coordination since their non-dominant hand is put to work on the fretboard. On the guitar, the fretting hand’s role is complex, requiring intricate movements and precise positioning. Moreover, using the weaker hand for picking or strumming can be initially cumbersome. These physical challenges may make learning progress slower and potentially more frustrating than it is for right-handed individuals.
A Lopsided Marketplace
Another significant challenge facing left-handed players opting to use right-handed guitars is the lack of variety when it comes to choosing gear. The guitar and musical instrument market is heavily skewed towards right-handed players, providing an array of model versions, designs, and price ranges. Conversely, left-handed versions are typically limited and may even cost more. Therefore, lefty guitarists might often find themselves adjusting to the widely available right-handed guitars, further complicating the learning process.
The Learning Curve
The issue trickles into learning resources as well. Most instructional materials, whether they’re books, websites, or videos, are designed with right-handed players in mind. Understandably, this can make learning to play the guitar more confusing for left-handed students who are using a right-handed instrument. Everything from chord diagrams to tutorial videos needs to be mentally reversed or adapted, posing additional learning obstacles.
Adoption and Adjustment
Despite these challenges, many left-handed guitarists have successfully learned to play on right-handed instruments. One key factor is the advantage of ambidexterity, which can be cultivated with perseverance and practice. Left-handed individuals could develop their right-hand precision for picking and strumming while simultaneously honing the dexterity of their left hand for fretting duties.
Some left-handed guitarists adopt unique playing styles, like the ‘upside-down’ method. Guitarists using this approach play a right-handed guitar left-handed, but without restringing it. This reversal means the low E string is on the bottom and the high E string at the top. Several famous left-handed guitarists, including Albert King and Dick Dale, have successfully employed this style.
Flipping the Perspective
Another method left-handed guitarists use to overcome the right-handed bias in learning materials is literal flip – they turn the material upside-down, whether it’s a chord chart or a guitar tablature. In terms of tutorial videos, lefty players can use software tools to mirror the video, making it easier to follow along.
Understanding the Challenge
For left-handed individuals, taking on the world of right-handed guitar playing may pose some difficulties. However, these obstacles certainly aren’t unbeatable. With a combination of patience, determination, tailored strategies, and a touch of imagination, left-handed guitar enthusiasts can successfully navigate and flourish in the predominantly right-handed guitar world.
Techniques for adapting right-handed play
Strumming – A Pivotal Adaptation for Left-Handed Guitarists
The ability to play chord progressions smoothly is a vital skill for any guitar player. When transitioning from playing with a left-handed setup to a right-handed one, one may need to relearn how to form the chords. To start, learn how to correctly position your fingers for D, C, and G major chords. These three are the foundational chords you’ll encounter in almost every genre of music. Over time, their shapes will become muscle memory making them easier to play. Also, consider setting a practice routine with a focus on finger placement and transition between the chords.
Picking Technique: Essential for Right-Hand Adaptability
The picking technique is something which might be baffling for left-handed guitarists trying to play a right-handed guitar, but with adaptation and persistence, it can be conquered. Start with a comfortable grip on the pick using your thumb and index finger. Keep the strokes simple in the beginning, practicing on individual strings while plucking them in both directions. Continue incorporating more complex patterns and more strings as you become more comfortable. Be aware that applying too much pressure on the pick is a common mistake, it can lead to discomfort and reduces the quality of the sound.
Barre Chords: Essential for Playing Across the Fretboard
Barre chords are perhaps one of the most difficult parts of playing the guitar, especially for left-handers learning on a right-handed guitar. A simple way to master them is by starting with the E major shape. Slide that shape up and down the fretboard while keeping your index finger across all of the strings. It’s important not to avoid practicing barre chords. Neglecting this technique out of frustration could limit your progress and versatility as a guitarist.
Fingerstyle Technique: Taking it to the Next Level
Fingerstyle technique can be an added challenge for left-handed guitarists who play right-handed. This technique requires you to use your fingers to pluck the strings rather than using a pick. Once again, start slow. A great starting point is learning the thumb, index, middle, and ring (P-I-M-A) pattern. Fingerstyle can truly enhance your playing once mastered, offering a more nuanced and expressive sound. It’s essential to maintain proper nail care for a cleaner sound and more comfortable playing experience.
Embarking on the journey of mastering a right-handed guitar as a left-handed guitarist may seem daunting at first. Remember, it’s natural to stumble and face challenges in the beginning. However, dedication, regular practice, patience and adherence to the correct technique will eventually lead you to master the art.
Examples of successful left-handed guitarists who play right-handed and their styles
Mark Knopfler: A Testament to Fingerpicking Excellence
A shining example of a left-handed player excelling at right-handed guitar is none other than Mark Knopfler, the frontman and lead guitarist of Dire Straits. Though left-handed, Knopfler has honed his skills playing the guitar right-handed. Rather uniquely, he leans more towards a fingerpicking technique, setting aside the traditional pick to pluck the guitar strings with his fingers. This personal style has become synonymous with his musical identity and largely defines the sound of Dire Straits. His seamless integration of blues, rock, and country genres further exhibits the range and versatility of this left-handed maestro who mastered right-handed play.
Gary Moore: Combining Blues with Hard Rock
Another excellent example is Gary Moore, the Irish guitarist known for his emotive playing style. Moore plays the guitar right-handed, despite being naturally left-handed. His style is a fusion of blues with hard rock which has inspired countless guitarists worldwide. Moore has been praised for the intensity and passion he injects into his performances, evidenced by his frequent dramatic live solos.
Michael Angelo Batio: Shred Guitar Pioneer
The world of shred guitar also has a representation from the lefties who play right-handed: Michael Angelo Batio. Hailed as a pioneer of shred guitar playing, Batio is a left-handed player who chose to master the right-handed playing style. The performer’s dazzlingly fast picking and precise fretting techniques have defined his unique style. Batio is also known for his two-necked, left-and right-hand guitars, indicating his ambidexterity.
Billy Corgan: Grunge Rock Innovator
Billy Corgan, the creative force behind The Smashing Pumpkins, is another left-handed guitarist who plays right-handed. His minimalist yet effective playing style helped define the grunge rock era of the ’90s. Corgan’s alternative tuning methods and use of feedback and distortion in his music present another approach left-handers can adopt when playing right-handed.
Doye O’Dell: Country Music’s Right-handed Lefty
Within country music, Doye O’Dell stands out. O’Dell, a stylish left-hander who played right-handed, was notable for his unique fingerpicking style. Additionally, his use of chord inversions and arpeggio-based lines enriched his country music performances, making them memorable and influential.
The Journey of Transcending Handedness
Renowned left-handed artists who mastered the art of playing right-handed guitars exemplify that hindrances, such as handedness, can be transcended with firm determination and innovation. Their unique styles provide robust motivation for left-handed starters aiming to excel in right-handed guitar playing, illustrating that any challenge can be surmounted, irrespective of initial stumbling blocks or perceived hindrances.
Choosing the right guitar and equipment for left-handed players
The Crucial First Step: Selecting the Right Guitar
An essential stage that any left-handed individual aiming to play right-handed guitar must cross is selecting an apt guitar. Guitars with versatile designs that can be comfortably played by left-handers are available in the market. Classic designs like the Fender Stratocaster or Gibson Les Paul are typically chosen as they grant easy access to the neck and fretboard for both left-handed and right-handed musicians.
Keep in mind that the string arrangement will be the reverse, with the high E string at the place where the low E string usually is. A guitar with a symmetrical neck profile might be a good choice for such a situation, so the shape does not favor any particular handedness and ensures comfort while playing.
Picking the Strings and Hardware
The strings on a right-hand guitar are arranged in the opposite manner to what left-handers are accustomed to. Thus, strings’ restringing is an essential step for left-handed players who play right-handed. Reverse the stringing arrangement on your guitar so that the low E string is nearest to your face. Bear in mind to readjust your string gauge and possibly the guitar’s intonation.
While guitars with hardware (tuning pegs, volume and tone knobs, pickup selectors, etc.) designed for right-hand players could cause small accessibility issues for a left-handed player going ‘righty’, they can usually be managed with practice and experience. These ‘roadblocks’ may even lead to a unique playing style.
Best Brands and Models
There are several brands of guitars renowned for their “lefty-friendly” features. Fender’s American Professional Stratocaster Left-Hand is a versatile and classic choice with a sleek “Deep C” neck profile and narrow-tall frets for convenient playing. Ibanez is another brand that has been consistent with left-handed models, offering options like the GRX70QAL, a great budget-friendly choice for beginners. The Gibson Les Paul Standard ’50s Left-handed models showcase the classic Les Paul design with hand-wired controls and Orange Drop capacitors, offering superb tonal versatility.
G&L Tribute Legacy Left-Handed Electric Guitar offers excellent craftsmanship, satisfying all the requirements of left-handers who play right-handed. Finally, the Schecter Hellraiser C-1 is particularly suitable for left-handed players seeking a heavier, metal-oriented sound. All these left-handed guitars can be restrung and played right-handed.
Consider Amplifiers and Pedals
Amplifiers and pedals are universal; they can be used by both right-handed and left-handed players without any changes. Amplifiers like the popular Fender Frontman 10G Electric Guitar Amplifier, Boss Katana 50, and Orange Crush 20 are favorites among guitarists.
For pedals, while placement will largely depend on the individual’s comfort, popular choices include Ibanez Tube Screamer, Boss DS-1 Distortion pedal, and the MXR Phase 90 for those looking to experiment with their sound.
While the physical adjustment from left-handed guitars to right-handed guitars can be difficult during the early stages, the wide range of available models and brands eases this learning curve. The key is to find what feels most comfortable and suits your playing style the best.
Ultimately, it’s important for left-handed players choosing to play right-handed guitars to equip themselves with a deep understanding of playing styles, techniques, and the right equipment choices. Examining the journeys of successful left-handed guitarists who play right-handed can offer invaluable insights and practical examples to emulate. Furthermore, selecting the right guitar and gear that suit left-handed needs, even when playing a right-handed guitar, can help enhance comfort and performance, contributing to an overall satisfying and fulfilling guitar-playing experience.