It’s the battle of hands today in our exploration of left handed vs right handed guitars. We’re crossing over to the other side… of your body.
Fun fact, around 10% of people are left-handed. That means 1 in 10 guitarists are left-handed. Although they seem much rarer. I think many lefties end up learning right-handed, as
left-handed guitars aren’t always easy to find.
Left-handed people may run into a few more hurdles when learning the guitar.
If you’re a beginner looking for a good guitar, check out our best guitar for beginners guide. Many of these guitars come in left-handed versions.
Table of Content
- Left-hand vs Right-hand Guitar – Overview
- What Is The Difference Between a Left and Right Handed Guitar?
- Should You Play Left-Handed or Right-Handed?
- Can a left-handed person play a right-handed guitar?
- Are left-handed guitar players better?
- Is it harder to learn guitar left-handed?
- Can any guitar be strung left-handed?
- Are left-handed guitars better than right-handed guitars?
Left-hand vs Right-hand Guitar – Overview
Generally, you should play with the strongest hand you have. Use whatever side seems most natural and comfortable. Playing the guitar should not feel like a carnival performance. Play some air guitar to see what works best for you. If you hold the pen in your left hand when writing, you should utilize left-handed orientation – fretting is done with the right hand, strumming and picking with the left.
Left Handed vs Right Handed Guitar | The Differences
Some guitar manufacturers release their guitars in both Right and Left-handed models. Many guitars come in left-handed versions though most guitars sadly do not.
If designed correctly, the left-handed guitar should be a mirror image of the Right.
This means it’s designed for the neck to be held in the right hand, and the strumming and picking to be performed with the left.
Essentially all the components of the guitar need to be reversed for left-handed players to find it comfortable.
The two guitars below show the different designs for the left and right-handed players.
The left-handed guitar is worn in a reverse way, so the strings are basically “upside down” for a right-handed player.
All the pickups, electronic controls, tuning pegs, and body carving are reversed on left-handed guitars to accommodate this mirroring. The saddle angle is also placed the opposite way
This keeps the thinnest string closest to the floor, and the thickest string closer to the ceiling.
Left-handed models are designed to be more comfortable for left-handed players. Some are, but most guitar designs aren’t symmetrical. This means that if they are just restrung and swapped over, the balance and design of the guitar will be off. This is why left-handed guitars exist.
Price-wise, usually, left-handed guitars cost a little more than the right-handed model.
The reason for the price difference is because the left-handed version needs specialized parts, which are not produced at such a mass scale. This brings up production costs.
If you’re a fan of bass strings, there are often left-handed bass guitar models.
Ass for maintenance, both types of a guitar need to go through the same regular treatment. Have a look at our posts about guitar maintenance, including how often do guitar strings need to be changed.
Should You Play Left-Handed or Right-Handed?
You should play with whichever hand you are strongest with. Use whichever side feels most comfortable and natural. Guitar playing should not feel like a circus act. Play some air guitar to find out what feels best for you.
Generally, if you write with your right hand, you are right-handed, you should strum with your right, and hold the neck in your left. This is the Right-Handed Guitarist playing position
This is reversed for left-handed players.
If you hold the pen in your left hand while writing, you should use left-handed orientation – use the right for the fretting hand, strumming and picking are done with the left hand.
Although there are players who are rare exceptions to this rule.
Learning a musical instrument well is all about refining your muscle memory and physical motions.
If you are doing something that feels unnatural, it will take longer to learn. This is why you should play guitar with whichever hand is strongest. This way you are not excessively challenging your coordination.
People generally have stronger fingers, wrists, elbows, and shoulders on the dominant side of their body, which makes it more suitable for the rapid, endurance testing motions of the strumming arm.
Hey, if you’re crazy enough, why not play the guitar with both hands?
Can a left-handed person play a right-handed guitar?
Yes, left-handed players can play right-handed guitars, and out of sheer necessity, many players do! It’s not ideal, but it isn’t the end of the world. Although there is more complexity to the issue.
Left-handed guitarists will be able to learn to play a right-handed guitar. This will be easier if they are brand new beginners and haven’t already learned to play guitar right-handed.
If they’ve started playing left-handed guitars, they may struggle to use right-handed models without reversing the strings. Try writing with the opposite hand you normally use, look at how terrible the results are. This is the same situation.
A lefty will still be able to play a right-handed guitar in a right-hand position, but that will also be difficult. There may be confusion over fret positions.
If a left-handed guitar player only has a right-handed guitar, their best option is to reverse it and restring it. This may be more suitable for many acoustic guitars, but doesn’t always work with electric guitars.
Kurt Cobain is an example of a lefty who flipped a right-handed guitar.
Are left-handed guitar players better?
There isn’t solid evidence to suggest one way or the other. There are many fantastic guitarists on both sides of the hand.
A subjective argument could be made that left-handed players undergo greater challenges to learn, making them require more determination, resilience, and effort.
This shows that a lefty must work harder than a right-handed guitar player. But whether that makes them a “better guitarist” is down to your opinion.
When you look at the list of famous Left-handed guitar players, there are a lot of extremely talented musicians. Some classic lefty players include Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, Mark Knopfler, and Dick Dale.
Is it harder to learn guitar left-handed?
Theoretically, it isn’t any harder to learn to play left-handed guitar than a right-handed guitar. In reality, learning guitar is slightly harder for lefties.
The issue is culturally most players are right-handed. This means all the resources, books, videos, and teachers always come from a right-handed perspective. This can be confusing for left-handed players.
For instance, chord diagrams will look back to front for them, and it will be harder for them to copy what people are playing from videos. Playing guitar won’t be harder, it’s finding the right learning materials that might be.
This can be addressed though, it just might take a little extra time to read through books and understand lessons. A left-handed guitarist may run into more roadblocks when they are learning to play the guitar.
These issues are not faced by people who play right-handed.
A good way to understand this is by thinking about writing with an ink pen. Physically, the muscle movements shouldn’t be any harder for a left-hand or right-hand writer. In reality, though, left-handed writers face the issue of smudging the ink as they write.
Most languages are written left to right, which is better for people with a right dominant hand. It shows how culture is favored against lefty guitar players!
Also read our guide on How long does it take to learn to play guitar?
Can any guitar be strung left-handed?
In short, any guitar can be strung left-handed, however, the weighting and shape of the body may be uncomfortable or impractical when reversed.
It still works, it looks cool, but it can create issues, as parts of the guitar get in the way. It won’t work for all guitar models, so using a right-handed guitar restrung for a left-hander isn’t always the best idea.
Reversing the strings on right-handed guitars creates issues. These issues are often bigger with an electric guitar.
The placement of components like tuners, switches, knobs, and tremolo arms do not work well when swapped.
In this situation, the left-hand player may accidentally hit knobs and switches with their strumming hand, which can ruin a performance.
The treble strings and lower strings are swapped, which can cause issues with the bridge and intonation too.
This isn’t so much of an issue with an acoustic guitar. The normal classical guitar design will be fine, because of its symmetrical design. An acoustic guitar with a cutaway won’t work so well, and the higher frets will be hard to access.
If it has one, the guitar’s pick-guard will be on the opposite side of the sound-hole, which won’t protect the wood from scratches
Re-stringing is a short-term solution, but ideally, a lefty should play a left-handed guitar. Left-handed guitars are designed to work properly for a left-hand guitarist.
Are left-handed guitars better than right-handed guitars?
Overall, there is little difference between them. The most important thing is choosing a guitar that is comfortable for you and your hands. The best guitar is the one you feel most comfortable playing.
There’s a huge number of different guitar styles out there. Each one has its own unique quirks and sonic palette.
If you want to learn how to play a 12 stringed guitar, check out our other tutorial.
Noah is an accomplished audio engineer with several years of experience producing music for major companies and independent artists. He enjoys sharing his vast knowledge of audio engineering topics to help musicians and music producers create great music.