Left-handed guitarists are quite rare, aren’t they?

Dave Wakeling

Ian and I (Mike) are off to see Dave Wakeling’s English Beat next month in Islington. He has not toured the UK for about 7 years, and should be a great night.

But when I was in the shower this morning, a picture of Dave with his left-handed guitar in hand came into my mind. “That’s quite unusual, isn’t it?”, I thought. I’m not suggesting that there are no other left-handed guitarists out there. An obvious one that springs to mind is Paul McCartney and, of course, Jimi Hendrix.

But when you look at left-handers in other activities like writing, cricket, tennis, etc, there is a much higher percentage than there are left-handed guitarists. ¬†So, that got me thinking …

I guess that when a naturally left-handed person picks up a guitar for the first time, it will nearly always be a right-handed guitar. You just don’t get left-handed guitars lying around in houses. So, they start strumming, trying out a few chords, picking out the notes of Smoke on the Water …

Once you have been playing long enough to think about buying your own guitar, you have already been playing right-handed for some time, and got used to it. Do you commit to a left-handed one and start to learn all over again, or do you just stick with playing right-handed? I’m guessing that many people simply opt for the latter.

And following that thought process, that probably explains why there are more left-handed cricketers, writers and tennis players. Their implements are ambidextrous and so you don’t have to start playing right-handed.

Oh, by the way … the third option for a left-hander is to take a right-handed guitar and simply turn it round and play it left-handed. That is exactly what Jimi Hendrix did.

“Well, that’s obvious!”, I can hear you say. ¬†Actually, it isn’t as simple as that. When you turn a guitar round, the strings are then in a different order on the fret board. Instead of having the bass strings at the top, they are now at the bottom. This is a bit like reversing all the piano keys so that the bass notes are at the top and played with the right hand, and the higher notes at the bottom and played with the left hand. That would be impossible to play, surely?

And doing this on a guitar means that all standard chord shapes will not work and, therefore, no form of normal tuition will work. You have to plough your own farrow and learn it your own way. But Jimi Hendrix didn’t do so bad like that, did he?

If you are a guitar player and you are naturally left-handed, what decision did you come to?

Mike (keyboard player!)


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