Left Handed Guitarist
Beginner chords for Lefties
There are some left handers that are quite comfortable playing a normal or 'right handed guitar'. They may have had to do this due to the lack of available guitars, or they just prefer to play right-handed. Whatever the reason, there are certain hurdles to overcome for left-handers wanting to play a left handed guitar.
The left handed guitarist can pay up to 20% more for a left handed guitar, and the availability of these guitars are limited across a broad price range. On a brighter note, more and more stores ⭳ are beginning to stock these guitars due to the growing demand.
It's interesting to note that many left handed guitarists who have learned on a 'normal' guitar and eventually change to a left handed guitar, find that their playing improves dramatically... it just feels more natural to them.
Some lefties take a normal guitar, turn it the opposite way, and change the order of the strings. This does work to a certain degree... you can play the guitar the way you prefer, however there are differences in the structure of left and right handed guitars.
The internal bracing of the guitars can differ, and the bridge and nut of the guitar are aligned differently which affects the tone and volume.
Also, if you're concerned about 'looks', the fingerplate will be above the sound hole instead of below it, and if you play electric guitar, the knobs and guitar jack will be placed awkwardly.
One of the most noted guitarists to play using this method was Jimi Hendrix. This is his Gibson Les Paul Custom with the guitar turned upside down and strings reversed.
All the general information you need concerning parts of the guitar can be found on the basic guitar chords page. This includes various parts of the guitar body including the frets, nut, saddle, bridge, soundboard, etc. You will also find a featured song to practice along with.
Hand and Fretboard Review
Each finger on the left hand has a number
which shows you what finger to use on each string.
- T = Thumb
- 1 = Index
- 2 = Middle
- 3 = Ring
- 4 = Pinkie
Fret Markers are found along the entire length of the fretboard. They are usually in the shape of a dot, and can include many other shapes depending on the manufacturer. They are usually found on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th 12th, 15th, 17th, 19th, 21st and 24th frets, depending on the length of your fretboard. They make great location points for navigating the fretboard quickly and precisely. This will become very clear to you when you start playing barre chords or you start playing lead guitar.
Which Chords First?
We begin with the easiest open chords played around the first position which generally means chords played within the bounds of the first 4 frets corresponding with the span of the 4 fingers available to play each chord.
An 'X' next to a string, means you don't play that string. If you do play that string, the chord will sound 'out of tune' or 'discordant', which is not very pleasing to the ear. Be patient, as this will happen quite often. The more you practice, the more you will become familiar with different chords and how they should sound.
Chord Chart View:
Chords are displayed in a horizontal or natural playing position, so that you view them as if you are playing them as shown in the photo. I call this the chord chart view, as the chord charts are displayed in exactly the same way as the photo.
The chord in this picture is an E chord. This chord is one of the easiest and most important guitar chord you will learn, as it becomes the basis of many barre chords. Also, by lifting one finger, you can play either an E minor (Em) or E7 chord. Try to remember the shapes of the chords, as they become a lot easier to play once you have a mental picture of them.
Left Handed Guitarist - Basic Guitar Chords Chart
- R: Root Note or Tonic - when you strum a chord , you generally lead with the root note or tonic, i.e., when you play E Major you strum all 6 strings with the leading tone on the 6th (fattest) string which is the note E. The same applies with A Major - you omit the 6th string and lead with the 5th string which is A.
- X: Don't play string string
- Numbered Circles: Number in circle indicates which finger to use
- The C chord and B7 chord require more precision to make the notes sound clearly, but with practice you'll find them a lot easier to play.
- The F major chord requires a small or simple barre as you will use your first finger to play 2 strings at once. To begin with this will seem a little awkward, but it does get easier with practice. Just make sure you apply enough pressure with your supporting thumb on the back of the guitar neck to support the extra pressure needed to play the chord.
- Remember to practice your chords daily, and make sure the chords sound smooth and clear... clean sounding with no muffled sounds. As soon as you achieve this, you are ready to move on - barre chords, power chords, jazz chords, or any chords for that matter... enjoy
Additions to C Major and F Major
These additional notes are optional and come in handy especially if you like playing alternating bass notes in your strumming or picking style... you will often see them referred to as C/G (C Major leading with a G bass note), and F/C (F Major leading with a C bass note). Note the changed positions of fingers 3 & 4 - required to accommodate the extra string. You probably won't use them very often, but they are handy to know. Remember, if you don't play the additional note, don't play the string.
Something I came across you may like...
This is a 'New Age' acoustic guitarist by the name of Billy McLaughlin. He was a very accomplished right handed guitarist until he found he was suffering from Focal Dystonia which drastically limited his ability to play right-handed. Subsequently, he taught himself to play left-handed and developed a style which is uniquely his... a very talented guy that overcame a disability through love of his instrument and music. For anyone that is interested, Billy directs you to his website which enables you to learn his style of playing... good luck.
If you are a left handed player and want to play a left-handed guitar, make sure you do just that. The more comfortable you are with your instrument, the quicker you will reach your true potential. Although the choices and availability are somewhat limited, more and more stores are stocking left-handed guitars along with instructional media... things are definitely looking up!
Practice Songs for the left-handed guitarist
Here are a list of songs which are suitable for left-handed beginners. They include comprehensive chord charts along with a video to play along with.
✓ means the song is suitable for beginners
|Song / Artist||Chords||Capo|
|All Of Me - John Legend||G, Em, D, C, Cmaj7, Csus2, C/D, Am||✓|
|Beneath Your Beautiful - Labrinth||D, Esus4, Gmaj7, A, Em, G, B|
|Bonfire Heart - James Blunt||C, Em F, G, Am|
|Count On Me - Bruno Mars||C, Em, Am, Am7/G, Dm, F, G|
|Counting Stars - One Republic||Am, C, G, F||✓|
|Demons - Imagine Dragons||C, G, Am, F||✓|
|I Won't Let You Go - James Morrison||C, Am, F, G|
|Just Give Me A Reason - Pink||G, D, D7, D/F#, Dsus4, Em, C, A, Am, Bm|
|Let Her Go - Passenger||C, D, Em, G, Bm, Dsus4||✓|
|Some Nights - Fun||C, F, G, Am, F6|
|Somebody That I Used To Know - Gotye||Am, G, F||✓|
|Something I Need - OneRepublic||G, C, Em, Dsus4, D|
|Summertime Sadness - Lana Del Rey||F, Am, G, Dm, Em||✓|
|We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together - Taylor Swift||Csus2, G, G5, D, Dsus4, Em||x|
|Wide Awake - Katy Perry||Em, G, D, A||✓|
If you want more practice songs, we have a wide range available including popular, classic rock, country etc.
Once you feel comfortable with the beginner chords, you can go to the Guitar Chords page where you will find all the popular chords - each page includes charts for left-handers with some pages devoted entirely to lefties... enjoy.
A list of places you can try...
- Please note that all off-page links open in a new tab.
- Lichty Guitars: Specializes in quality custom made guitars. These guitars are fairly expensive but if you are looking for a quality acoustic guitar or ukulele which is tailored specifically to suit your every need, then this is definitely a consideration... excellent presentation and certainly worth a peek.
- Southpaw Guitars: Specialize in left-handed stringed instruments including guitars, bass guitars, and banjos. Situated in Houston, Texas, they have a huge selection, and pride themselves on serving lefties... worth a look at.
- Jerry's Lefty Guitars: Specializing in left handed guitars, including electric guitars, bass guitars, mandolin, ukulele and lap-top steel guitars. They are situated in Sarasota, Florida, and have a huge range to choose from.
- Thomann Cyberstore: If you live in Germany you may want to try this store. It is a general music store called Musikhaus Thomann, located in Treppendorf near Bamberg (Bavaria, Germany). It has a good selection of left handed guitars, including, acoustic, classical and electric guitars. You may want to give them a try... you can pick a shape, color, type, frets, width of nut, pick-up system, design, etc. The rest of the site is very well laid out and very informative, and they ship world-wide.
- Amazon: For the budget-conscious - a variety of acoustic and electric left-handed guitars with a large range of cheaper guitars to choose from - ideal for beginners or part-time players... bass guitars also available.
- Dean Zelinsky Guitars: I received an email from a leftie who has had a great experience with Dean Zelinsky - a guitar designer/builder. Here is what he had to say...
Your website asks for recommendations on other sites that may offer quality left-handed products. May I please recommend Dean Zelinsky Guitars.
In addition to offering many custom electric and acoustic guitars, he offers a complete product line of left-hand models. They are built in Indonesia and sent to the US for final setup and packaging. Cases are from China.
My recent (refurbished) Strettavita model is just a work of art, very, very high quality, and sounds fantastic. I received it within 5 days of ordering, and free shipping. Dean himself is available via chat, email or phone for any questions. Check out their site. I recommend it... Bill
This is well worth a look at especially if you are looking for something a little extra in the quality of the guitar - and his pricing is very competitive.
If you come across any stores or web sites that provide a good range of products for the left handed guitarist, as well as a good shopping experience, please let us know. If we find that our visitors will benefit from this information, we will most certainly add it to our list.