Differences Between A Left And Right Handed Guitar

Recently I was talking to a friend who is left handed and bought a guitar in a garage sale. He asked me if I knew whether the guitar was left or right handed.

I explained to him that it was a right handed guitar (it was a bargain though) and so thought I would take the time to answer this question for anyone else wondering the same thing.

Is My Guitar Left or Right Handed? Lean the guitar vertically against the wall, flat so you can see the strings. If the thickest string is on the left as you look at it then it is right handed. If the thickest string is on the right then it is left handed.

More beginners ask this question than you may think but there is actually a lot more differences than just the string sequence.

If you are looking to find out how if you are even capable of learning the guitar then firstly, yes you are capable! If I can, a man with no discernible musical talent, then you can. I track all my progress from being a beginner and on wards in my Midlife Guitar YouTube Channel, you can see my latest videos here. Midlife Guitar Journey

Secondly we have an article resource designed to squash common fear, uncertainty and doubt about getting started learning guitar here Beginner Resources. Check it out if you have any inkling to learn more.

It can get a little confusing however as some left-handed guitarists have learned to play on a right-handed guitar by restringing it for left-hand use. So we need to look for other telltale signs if we are to determine whether the guitar is for left or right-hand use.

Below we talk about what to look for and the differences between a left and right handed guitar.

Left or Right Handed Guitar

First we need to know which way a right hand guitarist holds their guitar and which way a left hand guitarist holds their guitar.

If you want to know more about holding a guitar with the correct body and hand position read our article here Guitar Posture & Hand Position For Beginners [A Helpful Illustrated Guide]

A right-handed guitarist plays guitar with their left hand on the fingerboard / fretboard, otherwise known as fretting, while they use the right hand to pick / strum / play the strings above the sound hole.

In contrast left handed guitarists play with their right hand on the fingerboard / fretboard while they use their left hand to pick / strum / play the strings above the sound hole.

However, guitars are not made entirely for ambidextrous use so we need at areas of the guitar to help us determine whether it is right-handed or left handed.

String Sequence

As we mentioned earlier, one quick way of determining whether or not a guitar is  strung is for a right or left handed guitar player is by looking at the string sequence.

The main point to remember when looking at the strings is this:

The thickest guitar string should be closest to your head and the thinnest closest to your feet.


Right Handed Guitar

This is a right handed guitar.

The three thickest strings (gold colored brass ones) are on the left. These three strings are known as the bass strings.

The three thinnest strings (more silver in color) are on the right. These three strings are known as the treble strings.


Left Handed Guitar

This is a left handed guitar.

The three thickest strings (gold coloured brass ones) are on the right.These three strings are known as the bass strings.

The three thinnest strings (more silver in color) are on the left. These three strings are known as the treble strings.


Guitar Anatomy

It is not just the strings that indicate whether a guitar is for left or right handed players, many guitars give you other indications if you look a little closer.

If we start to learn a little of the anatomy of a guitar and what is the difference between a right-handed guitar and a left handed guitar, it will quickly become clear.

These two guitars are excellent beginner steel string acoustic guitars and they have been made purposely for left handed and right handed players.

Let’s take a closer look to understand the visual nuances that make the difference between them.

Nut

This small highlighted line is where the strings cross before getting wound by the pegs. If your guitar came with no strings this would be a good place to look to see what handed the guitar is.

As the strings are thicker at the top they create a larger ‘groove’ on the nut so this will be evident just by taking a close inspection. If the thicker grooves are at the bottom then you will have the guitar the wrong way round.

Strap Button

As you can see with the Fender CD-60S, and the Fender FA-115, the strap button is nearest the top string, the thickest string. This helps indicates that this is the top side of the guitar.

Pickguards

Not all guitars have pickguards but again when they do they help confirm what handed the guitar is. The pick guard should catch your fingers after a downward stroke and are always oriented in this way.

Saddle Angle

This small highlighted line is called the ‘Saddle’ as you can see they angle down toward the pickguard. If you are holding the guitar and the saddle is pointing away from the pickguard you could be holding it the wrong way.

Can A Left Hander Play A Right Handed Guitar?

Yes it is possible to play a right handed guitar left handed. There are two ways that this can be done.

The first way is to learn to play the chords ‘upside down’. Upside down because you will have the thickest string at the bottom of the guitar closest to your feet and the thinnest string closest to your head.

From the research I have done though this can not only be an unnecessarily difficult way of learning but also can affect the way you strum and pick. That said it can be done.

The second way and the one that is most popular is to restring a right handed guitar for left handed use. This means changing the string sequence to the opposite way.

However this isn’t only what will need to be done, so if you are serious about doing this then take the guitar your local guitar shop or a luthier if a wooden guitar. They will be able to advise you on what they will do and also make the adjustments so that it personally suits you and your playing style.

Should I Just Learn To Play Right Handed Even Though I Am Naturally Left Handed?

Try playing air guitar without thinking about it, just throw your hands up.

What hand did you use on the invisible air guitar fretboard? You may be left-handed with other things in your life but you may just find that you naturally want to play guitar right-handed.

Either way, learning to play the guitar will naturally increase the dexterity in each of your hands. Your fingers will stretch out into unnatural feeling shapes, your wrists will ache and your fingertips will likely start to hurt.

This isn’t an unusual feeling, all guitarists go through it when they are learning. So if you are left-handed but are learning to play on a right-handed guitar restrung for left hand play that is cool and a fine way to learn. Equally so is learning on a specifically made left hand guitar.

What is does also mean though is that if you are normally left handed but want to learn to play right-handed on a right-handed guitar then this is completely possible.

All these hand and guitar orientation ways of learning guitar will be equally difficult when you begin. So make the change you want or are most comfortable with at the start.

Do Left Handed Guitars Cost More To Buy?

It is estimated that as a total population only 10% are left handed. Guitar manufacture is a business and if there isn’t the demand then they are less inclined to make them.

Which also means there is no economy of scale either and so the manufacture costs are higher and so are retail prices.

When you come to sell your left handed guitar the market is very limited and can mean you have problems selling the guitar and other times you can get a very good price for them.

Generally speaking if you want to buy a new, good quality left handed guitar you will need to spend more money than you would buying a right-handed guitar.

Related Questions:

Is There The Same Selection For Right Handed And Left Handed Guitars?

Unfortunately not. Many manufacturers do not make a left hand guitar, or they are special order or you do not have the same choices as those available to right handed players. It can be particularly hard if you are looking for a vintage guitar as left handed versions are few and far between.

Are There Any Beginner Resources For The Left Handed Player?

Absolutely. One of the best is the Lefty Fretz newbie guide here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top