Tip: Are you lefthanded?

Are you a lefty?
Are you not sure?
it’s no real problem.

The very-very important thing is to figure out how dominant your hand is in rhythm.

lefthandended guitar players use their left to strum and pick because that is where the rhythm is.
Their left hand is dominant. you can perfectly write right and be a lefthanded guitar player or vice versa.
don’t let anyone fool you with something different about that.

try some simple and more complex rhythms; tap them with your hand on your table.
feel how different it feels to do the same thing with the other hand.
If your right hand is dominant for rhythm; it will be a lot easier and it will feel more natural to do with your right hand. If you consider singing and playing guitar at the same time; I think it’s crucial you’ll follow your dominant hand in choice of guitar.

Drawing chord and scale boxes

mirroring the scale and chord boxes with the dots and the lines on paper is quite a lot harder; I usually draw them out for myself; reversing all the dots in your head is a mindbender
and it doesn’t really help the learning process.
I strongly advize to draw your own scale and chor shapes .

The important thing is to SEE the shapes; and you can only do that by seeing the correct lefty shape. If you draw it yourself; it will stick even better!

except for that “minor” problem; I never had any trouble learning form this site. Sometimes Justin mentions "left " and “right” hand, so you’ll have to swithc that but now that he’s aware of the number of lefthanders around, he usually says “strumming/picking” hand (which is left for you) and “fretting hand” ; being right hand for you.

If in doubt, don’t hesitate to send a private message!

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Thanks, this is very helpful. My 7 year old son wants to learn guitar and is starting lessons at school in March. He is a lefty and from reading this post it sounds like he should definitely learn on a left handed guitar.

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I’m a lefty.
I’m naturally left-handed. I tried learning right handed just over 20 years ago on acoustic, but with a load of scar tissue in my left shoulder, and tendons popping out when I externally rotate the left arm (which was used for fretting) I had to give it up after about 12 months off and on (mostly off, due to needing physio!)

Took up left-handed guitar about 6 months ago. As much as anything it is to help with the nerve damage in my right arm/hand, which means the last 3 fingers don’t do as they are told…well, that’s not true. They sort of do as they are told, they just don’t talk back to me very well, so I could have my ring finger hanging in mid air thinking it is on a string.

Honest guv, that’s the reason I’m not playing like Gary Moore yet! Nothing to do with lack of skill :grinning:
I’m still having a lot of time off playing - that’s the nature of the problems, but as I haven’t booked my headline slot at Glastonbury just yet, I’m not too worried.
I suppose in all, I have been able to practice for 3 months out of the 6, but it does help having Justin’s app and website.

The point about creating our own scale and chord paperwork is spot on - not only can we devise our own way to read the chords etc whilst we learn them, we can figure out how they translate to the more common right-handed images and Tab.

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I have just started learning guitar (2 months in), I am left handed and decided to learn left handed, my main deciding factors were…

  1. My left hand is dominant
  2. I figure strumming needs the accuracy of your dominant hand
  3. When I pick up a guitar, I instinctively picked it up lefty.
  4. Holding the guitar right handed just felt awkward.
    Just a shame the selection of guitars available is a bit limited.

I was wondering when this topic would get it’s own thread
I’d pin it to the top :wink:

@ChrisCowler 4 clear indicators that you are lefty :smiley:

Hi @LievenDV, I am left handed but have been learning right handed for the last 9 months, currently just starting Beginner Grade 2 module 12.
I bought a right handed guitar because when I tried in the shop it felt odd to hold it left handed (perhaps because as a young child I had a few lessons before my teacher stopped turning up on a Saturday morning, delaying my learning by 50 years :wink:). The lack of left handed guitars in general circulation also felt like a reason to try right handed. I also learnt to touch type as a child (and still do regularly in this age of computers) so have reasonable dexterity in my right fingers.
However….my ability to strum accurately and in time for the length of a song is just not there. I just tried your tapping a rhythm exercise and I am clearly better with my left hand. Is this to be expected for any beginner at my stage or is it time to cut my loses, buy a left handed guitar and start again?

This is indeed a crucial moment for you.

the ability to strum, tap, hit, whatever without a guitar is independent of what you are able to do with a guitar. As a beginner it isn’t unnatural to have a bit of timing issues but the fact you address it here and you clearly notice a difference in “feel” is a significant discovery.
To be brutally honest, my personal advice would be to start over because I think it will benefit you most in the long run. I can’t be 100% sure of your case though.

Go for more testing.
Perhaps you should give the left handed strumming a go and keep it up for a while
Grab your guitar and grab an A chord; that’s should be so different or hard to do.
Now practice strumming it.
first just one stroke on each count of 1,2,3,4
Then with downstrokes 1 and 2 and 3 and 4
then with upstrokes on the “and’s”
then try more complex stuff and try various speeds.
Give yourself enough time to adjust; do this for about 10 minutes
Keep doing it and start focussing on how it feels while you allow your body to go strumming in a bit more of an “auto pilot” fashion. Focus on that feeling. What does it tell you?

@LievenDV Thank you for the very fast and detailed reply, much appreciated. I will give your testing suggestions a go.

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I think the decision to play righty, for a lefty, is very individual. I have seen teachers advise both ways, for example the entire “GuitarTricks” program starts by encouraging lefties to play righty. Aggressive yes.

I am lefty playing righty and there are plenty of excellent players who do just that. My reasons fit me, and not really anyone else.

I do agree that my right hand has, and still needs, remedial training in coordination, strength and rhythm. Especially since I am moving to classical and finger style. Certainly a challenge.

However, my fretting hand is strong and better coordinated for what it needs to do.

Guitar is really a two handed task. Righties have to work harder to train their left, lefties to train their right. Both lefties and righties have to learn to coordinate both hands together to do different things at the same time to produce a musical result.

It is all hard work, and I don’t believe that there is a right way or a wrong way, a better way or a worse way.

Identifying you personal needs and struggles and addressing them wherever they pop up is required for all of us.

Lefties get to choose some of where they may struggle. Once the choice is made, accept it and move forward, because if you work at it, you will succeed.

And it is ok to change if that is what feel is right (or left)…

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everybody is on a different place on that spectrum indeed,
that’s why exploring and testing is so important!

one thing I still challenge is this statement:

sure, that gives you an advantage but not on a long term.

your fretting hand doesn’t need to be very strong. doing good fretting is about technique, muscle memory and repetition, not strength.
In the other extent, pressing down strings too hard will make your notes go sharp, especially when switching to a guitar with slightly higher frets.
Your fingers don’t need to be long, your hands don’t need to be big and your hands don’t need to be "strong"

I’m not a strong man but I can grab open and barre chords for 3h because of pressing them down softly instead of applying force.

When playing music, rhythm always beats melody.
if you’re not truly ambidextrous, you will always have a dominant hand and this hand will be better for doing the rhythm part.

You can learn to play the other way around but I’m convinced for most people giving your rhythm to your dominant side will benefit in the long term, especially when combining guitar with singing, harmonica or other things. In those cases you need to push the guitar playing down to a layer deeper of your concious mind, to give room (and processor power) to that other task. Sure, I can keep a steady pace with my non-dominant hand but my right hand would become a liability when going beyond less symmetric patterns while doing something else.

This also applies to choosing to play lefty. It gives an advantage, but not on the long term. Both hands need to learn to do things and become, as you say, more ambidextrous. That is the goal, so wether the fretting hand is the non-dominant or the strumming, you still need to bring them both to speed together.

I generally agree with you and I do think I have additional challenges because I chose to play righty. I definitely need to continue to spend additional time with right hand technique and rhythm, so that probably slows me down a bit. It is also pretty cool to be training my right hand to actually be useful for once!

But, understanding this, I don’t see it as a problem. I will be able to learn this and many lefties have learned righty. I accept the additional challenges and they will only make me stronger (not muscle strength…).

Each lefty has to decide for themselves, I have second guessed myself a few times, but remain committed.

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I’ve never understood this left/right thing. Surely you go with what feels most comfortable, end of story. There can be no correct answer. (I avoided saying right answer!:smiley:)

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A different take on this topic: I’m right handed and have been trying to learn for a number of years. Took formal lessons for a while, bought a couple of Justin’s books and tried following the online lessons. My problem is with my left (fretting) hand. My index finger doesn’t bend at the first joint, so it’s hard to fret a string without hitting the string below it (think fretting the B at the first fret for a C chord). My finger ends up forming a bit of a triangle instead of a box by bending at two joints. The same finger is also much thinner from the tip to the first joint due to a major burn injury. This leads to a lot of frustration because I can’t fret cleanly with this finger and bar chords are out of the question. I toy with the idea of picking up a cheap acoustic and trying to learn left handed. I’d love to hear any input other than “Django doesn’t have all his fingers” (I’m not that talented) and “learn to play with a slide”. That doesn’t seem to work for me. Thanks everyone.

Play left handed. There are many accomplished lefties who have learned to play righty. There will be challenges, but it isn’t going to be different than them or unheard of.

I admire your bravery!
But sure, why not.
You’ll have to be persistent and you’ll get in some slow and rough patches but if you have physical limits, It might be worth it.

An advice I often give in that case is to create your own chord shapes.
Learn what the major scale is and how chords are formed.
why? You’ll learn a simple major or minor chord only needs 3 different notes to exist. We call them “triads” → hence the “tri”.

If you grab a piece of paper with a neck …
or even better: this JustinGuitar ‘chord find method’ paper

Draw the notes for a certain chords on the neck. You might as well use 3 different colors (one for every note in the chord.)
Now try to find shapes that has at least one of every of the notes.

example C major has the notes C, E and G
Draw all the C’s, E’s and G’s on the fretboard and use the other boxes to note down possible shapes you dirived from the complete neck. Test which ones could be feasable for you. Of course, playing more strings will sound fuller and require less muting but as soon as you have 1C, 1 E and 1 G, you have a C major that is comfortable for YOU

Thank you for your quick, encouraging, and detailed response. I think I’ll give it a go.

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Another lefty here. The good thing is, when watching Justin on the lessons the mirror image is easy to follow. Diagrams of the fretboard are more difficult when trying to learn where the notes are.
Are there any for lefties?

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Some of the basic chords in the Chord Library have a “lefthanded” button