Left Handed Guitars

30th May


Left with a right handed guitar?

left-handed-guitarsPlease raise your dominant hand all budding electric guitar players out there! Good, I see we have a few who is left handed. Anything else would have been quite a surprise. Oh yes, feel free to take your hand down now :-)

Through the years I have met quite a few left handed guitar players, many of whom were struggling with either finding a decent lefty guitar, or biting the bullet and adopting to a regular right handed one.

Then you had a number of lefty guitarists, who bought a right handed instrument and converted it into a left handed one. Possible? Absolutely. The best solution? Not very likely.

In the following, we will take a look at the various options and potential obstacles you have as a lefthanded guitar player. And more importantly: Is it really needed to go shopping for dedicated left handed guitars?

A good left handed electric guitar

If you really insist on getting a good lefty, then at least take a look at the Agile left handed guitars. As you probably know by now, I’m a huge fan of these guitars – moderately priced and an almost insane value for your money.

Apart from these instruments, many makers have a wide variety of left handed guitars you may hunt down. That said, there are far less guitars being made of the lefty variety, simply because right handed guitar players are in the overwhelming majority.

The flip side of the (guitar) coin

One option that is tempting to a number of players, is to modify a right handed guitar to play “up side down”. While this has been done by many players, including giants such as Jimmy Hendrix who flipped his Fender Statocaster over and let it rip.

Very few of this category of left handed players used a right handed instrument without altering it. Without any modifications, the strings will be reversed also.

The common thing to do in this case is to reverse the order of the strings, so that you still have the low E-string on top. But before you say “cool!” and merrily hop along off to do some guitar flipping 101, consider this:

- The guitar nut will have to be changed
- The bridge and each bridge saddle has to be changed
- The controls will end up on the top
- The output jack will be in an awkward place
- The cutaways may no longer give you access to the upper frets
- Any vibrato unit will have the arm upside down
- Strap button placement needs to be altered
- The balance of the guitar changes, some times significantly

On some electric guitars, it is quite easy to alter the bridge and the bridge saddles. On others, like the ones which uses the Gibson tune-o-matic bridge, you’ll have to do some hefty modifications to the guitar in order to have the instrument play in tune.

Is this really worth all the hassle? The answer, in my right handed and biased opinion, is plain and simply a resounding no.

Seen many left handed violin players lately?

Consider this: There are quite a number of left handed violin, viola and cello players. Where are they, or how come they don’t use left handed instruments?

Also, don’t you think that the mere fact that a left handed violin player can handle a regular violin without a problem should tell us something of importance here?

When a real complicated instrument like this can be handled the “other way around”, I dare say it is no harder for a left handed guitarist to play a regular right handed guitar. I would even go so far as claiming you’re at an obvious advantage! You lucky duck :-)

Let your stronger hand do the heavy work!

If you start out with a regular, right handed instrument from day one, then you can in fact let your dominant hand (your left, right?) take care of the most difficult task, namely the fretting.

Also, since your left hand will be the strongest, it is an advantage to use that hand for the task which requires the largest amount of force – again it’s the fretting.

I can’t begin to count all the times I have had claims from left handed people who wants to learn electric guitar, saying something to the effect: “I need a left handed guitar, it feels so awkward to play right handed!”

Next thing you know, they go and purchase a lefty guitar … and guess what? They soon realize that it isn’t easier to play a left handed guitar. It is the act of learning guitar in the first place that is hard.

I’ll leave you with this train of though… Late, great Jeff Healey was legally blind, and as we all know he was an awesome and inspirational guitar player. Healey adopted a unique style of playing with the guitar placed in his lap while he played with his fingers. Many say this is simply because no one told him how he was supposed to play the guitar.

In any case, when you hear this sadly missed giant play “While My Guitar Gently Weep” with his guitar placed like this – don’t you think the rest of us can at least adopt to playing our guitar the other way around? You’ll be the judge of that for yourself.

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Guitar Barre Chords

22nd May


A barre chord lesson

guitar-barre-chordsMake no mistake about it – a barre chord, or bar chord as it is also (although incorrectly) called, can be a real challenge to all budding electric guitar players.

It should go without saying that it is definitely not easier to do correctly and efficiently on an acoustic guitar.

In the following, we will examine some of the ways you can alleviate things and make it easier for yourself to pull of a barre chord/bar chord without calling it quits prematurely, wanting to pull your hairs one by one out or being in urgent need of painkillers or physiotherapy :-)

There are quite a few things you can do both to your playing as well as your guitar, in order to make guitar barre chords quite a bit more manageable.

But first…

What is a barre chord?

The correct spelling of this way of playing a chord is barré. Here, you’ll commonly use your index finger (and occasionally more than one finger) to press down multiple strings across the fretboard on your guitar. You may think of the index finger being a guitar capo or a “bar” pressing the strings down, and perhaps this is where the name bar chord came from.

This action of barring the strings across the fingerboard enables you to play chords not restricted by the notes of the open strings on your guitar.

Bar chords are some times also called moveable chords: The logical reason for this, is that you can easily and quickly move the various chord shapes on the guitar neck as you see fit.

Lowering the bar

I have had several people asking me how they should go about managing these “dreaded bar chords”. In fact, I suspect more than one person has given up the idea to learn electric guitar all together simply because they didn’t manage to play barre chords at all.

The sad thing really is this: The same folks have been chocked at how much easier it could be once their guitar was properly set-up. You see, a badly adjusted guitar makes playing these chords very hard even for experienced players.

To learn more about the importance of proper guitar set-up and our recommended guitar set-up guide, you can read more at this post: Guitar setup. I can guarantee you this: You will likely be amazed at how much easier a properly adjusted guitar is to handle. It can almost be a make or brake issue as far as playing barre chords goes…

How to play barre chords

There are quite a number of small but significant things you can do to you playing technique to make these moveable bar chords easier to do. This includes how to anchor your thumb on the backside of the guitar neck, opposite of the barring finger/s; where to place and how to tilt your bar finger to get cleaner notes and more.

It is always easier to see this in a video, rather than reading a lengthy, written explanation. I reckon the below video should be very helpful to you.

(Don’t) lean into it!

Another thing you should be aware of is that many beginners tend to slump or lean over their guitar in order to see where they place their fingers.  This is a bad habit in general, and really bad for being able to play guitar barre chords properly.

What happens is that it becomes much harder to hold your anchor thumb in the proper position on the guitar neck. It is also much harder to maintain enough pressure with the fretting hand and thumb if you don’t sit straight and hold your fretting hand at a proper angle.

Take it easy!

As with everything else, it is tempting to force yourself and being impatient. Just remember that mastering bar chords takes time. No matter how good your technique is and no matter how good your guitar set-up is, it still takes time to build up sufficient strength in your hand as well as “muscle memory” and coordination.

Remember to go easy on yourself and take brakes. Do some simple barre chord exercises for half an hour maximum to begin with, then play something else (or take a brake all together)!

Follow the above guidelines and you will soon have these chords down :-)

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How To Sound Like…

10th January


How To Play Like Your Favorite Guitarist

how-to-sound-likeOne of the most frequent guitar related questions we get goes something like this: “How do I sound like (insert name here)?”; or “how do I get my equipment to sound like (again insert name here)”?

Although it is very understandable wanting to learn how to play blues guitar like B.B King or Eric Clapton, rock out like Jimmy Page or Eddie Van Halen, or how to sound like the amazing Steve Vai or Brian May – just to mention a few of the many great electric guitar players ot there – this is a very hard thing to do. Subsequently these are questions which are really hard to give a satisfactory answer to.

When you start out wanting to learn electric guitar – emulating and mimicking other players and artists in your field is a great idea. I would go as far as saying that studying other great guitar players in detail is one of the best ways there is to learn.

In our quest to follow the path of other master guitarists, it is only natural that we also attempts to get a sound that is at least somewhat similar to what he or she has.

Let’s face it, if you want to learn how to play guitar like (country guitar great) Brent Mason or the late great “the Humbler” Danny Gatton, then you probably don’t want to play with a death metal set-up, or use anything else than a Fender Telecaster as your starting point.

However, this urge to get the exact tone as your role model, is another thing all together.

Observing guitar greats up front

Through the years I have had the chance to watch quite a number of amazing guitar players performing live – not only on their usual equipment, but others as well.

And you know what? They always sound like themselves no matter what they plug in to or play on. This should really be some food for thought…

I can vividly remember seeing greats like Slash or David Lindley playing on run-of-the-mill borrowed equipment in smaller venues. They sounded just like they were supposed to – 100% themselves.

Here’s a quote from guitar great Steve Morse (during an interview with musicradar.com:

“I’ve seen this time and time again, and I’m sure you have, too: You get two guitar players, give them the same guitar, same amp, same setup, you can even give ‘em the same pick [laughs]…and they’ll sound totally different. Equipment has very little to do with it; it’s all about the player and his feel and approach to music. It’s just like acting: two actors can read the same words from the same script, and you’ll get two completely different performances.”

There’s also a great comment – I think it is on the Gibson guitar site – from this guy who once had the chance to watch LA Guns with Tracii Guns (real name Tracy Ulrich) on lead guitar. He was playing a Les Paul through a regular combo amp. Also, Brian May of Queen fame and another great player from the Alice Cooper band at the time did stints on the exact same rig and guitar used by Tracii.

The other players reportedly sounded nothing at all like Tracii. Brian May sounded like he always does (no surprise there)!

Does all this tell you something? At least it was an eye opener for me when I realized how much of the sound is in the heart, soul, mind and hands of the player.

Getting in the same ball park – sound wise

Like I said previously, there’s absolutely nothing wrong about attempting to get a sound similar to what other players are getting.

In order to get a guitar tone closer to what you’re aiming fore, you will probably need to play a guitar kind of similar to what that other person does. Then you’d want kind of a similar guitar amp type with the majority of guitar effects that this other player uses.

By doing a search online, you will probably manage to dig up information about most of the equipment used by a particular artist. You should eventually be able to find more information on how to sound like that guy from your favorite band.

Just don’t forget that you still probably will have only one small piece of the puzzle.

Another thing to spend some time reflecting upon is this: Why try to become someone else? Why being a lesser copy of Carlos Santana, Jimmy Hendrix or Duke Robbilard? After all it is so more rewarding (and a heck of a lot easier) to be yourself, would you not agree?

If you intend to get anywhere with you playing (aside from being a cover artist or perhaps a session player) – having a unique style, just being you and becoming as good as you can get, will likely get you the furthest.

So what do you think? As always, I’d love to get your opinion and feedback on this issue. Do feel free to contact me or post your comment below!

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