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 Setup

2nd January


Guitar Set-Up: Get Into The Action

Having your electric or acoustic guitar properly set up and adjusted is way too often overlooked when you want to learn electric guitar skills.

One of the best places I have found to dig into this vital aspect of having a guitar that will bring out the best in you for years to come is this: Learn and Master Guitar Set-Up. Do check it out when you have the time.

Disclosure: We are compensated when you purchase products reviewed here through our links. We do our best to test each product thoroughly and recommend only the best. The opinions expressed here are our own.

Here’s the thing: You would more than likely think I was making it all up if I told you how many times people came to me asking about problems they had with playing their beginner guitar – and it just boiled down to an inferior or non-existent guitar setup.

“I can’t do a barre-chord for my life”. “It hurts playing the guitar”, or “This guitar is killing me”, people would say. Then, after a few simple tweaks, it was time and time again like a burden was almost magically lifted from their shoulders!

Having a guitar that is well adjusted will many times relieve you of so much extra strain and discomfort that it is almost unreal. The opposite, having a badly adjusted guitar, is a real confidence and motivation killer. Yes, it is many times that bad…

A more expensive guitar will come better adjusted from the factory and/or the dealer. Some times you can even have the guitar tailored and adjusted for your specific playing style and comfort.

Here are the most common factors in order to set up a guitar so that you will stay motivated and continue playing on a regular an on-going basis.

Set up your guitar – the basics

guitar set-up

Before doing anything else, you should have your neck checked. First, you will need to have the guitar frets checked. Any loose or uneven frets may give you a host of problems further down the road.

Usually, this is not a problem. You will now put on a fresh set of guitar strings (after you have cleaned the fretboard of course :). The string gauge – how heavy or light your set of strings are – will determine the set up. Most beginners will in general use fairly light strings as these are easier to play.

The next step is to check that the neck is straight with the strings tuned to concert pitch. Almost straight, that is – you will need just a tiny neck relief in the neck (think of the guitar neck as being like a very wide and extremely shallow “valley”). If you press down one of the outer strings on the first and 12th fret, there should be just a tiny fraction of a gap between the string and the fret somewhere in the middle – around the 6th fret.

When you get hold the info at the page I mentioned, you should have no problem with doing this yourself. I would however ask you to be careful unless you know what you’re doing. The neck truss rod found in electric and acoustic steel string guitars will need to have just a quarter of a turn at the time most of the times. Go gently and use the proper guitar setup tool!

When the neck is set up properly, you may adjust the height of the bridge. On an electric guitar this is very easy. An acoustic guitar will need to have the bridge saddle manually adjusted. Again, this is not hard … when you have the right tools and know how.

The final step – if needed – is to adjust the depth of the nut (found between the guitar tuners and at the first fret). Here you will definitely need proper tools and knowledge. You do not want to file away on a guitar nut or cut the slots too deep!

What a relief!

This may seem like a lot of work and perhaps even something you will never manage yourself. Yes, often times you will need to have your guitar checked by a qualified repairer.

However, you can save quite a bit of time, hassle and money by knowing what to look for and what you can manage yourself. The guitar setup guide I mentioned is perfect for that, as well as teaching you proper guitar maintenance.

And rest assured – a properly adjusted electric guitar may well be worth a small investment in time or money.

I’d love to hear your comments and experiences about it!

Spotlight Series Guitar Set-Up with Greg Voros

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