If like me you’re left handed, you’ll know what a challenge it can be operating equipment or using things as simple as tin openers and cheque books which are designed for the majority of the population who are right handed. If you’ve ever tried to learn to knit or play an instrument it becomes even tougher, as your two options are to do things with the “wrong” hand, or try to work back to front or upside down. Despite these drawbacks, lefties can and do make a successful career playing the guitar and some of the most famous guitarists in the world play left-handed.
When Paul started off playing guitar in his teens, he tried to play in a standard right handed manner. He found it almost impossible to pluck the strings with his right hand and use his left on the fret, and it wasn’t until he saw television footage of an American guitarist that the penny dropped and he realised that he could play in a way which felt more natural to him by turning the guitar over and reversing the order of the strings. McCartney played this way for many years, until his growing wealth allowed him to have guitars built for him which were specifically designed for lefties.
It seems ridiculous now, but in the past children who were naturally left handed were beaten and forced to do things with their right hands as it was believed that being left handed was a sign of the devil. This was true in Hendrix’s case, and when the young Jimi picked up his first guitar and tried to play it left handed, his father forced him to play with the right. Later in life, he modified his guitar to allow him to play left handed, although he still had to quickly swap his way of playing when his father was around.
The Nirvana frontman was also a leftie, and was a self taught guitar player. Initially he played in a right handed manner, but as with other lefties he soon realised that it was easier to move the order of the strings on his guitar and made things a lot easier for him. His distinctive way of playing spawned a whole host of similar sounding groups, and the fact that he was let handed did not put him at any disadvantage.
If you are a left hander trying to learn guitar, or a parent of a left handed child then the important thing is to let them find their own way to learn. Not all left handers are the same, so allow them to experiment with different ways of playing and see what works best for them. A retailer like my local guitar shop will be able to give advice on appropriate guitars to start off with, and many outlets have left handed guitars in stock. If you have been given a guitar which was made for right handed playing, a good classical guitar retailer will be able to give advice on having it adjusted and
Article By Morag Peers