The world may not be “right” on a lot of days, but it’s certainly a right-handed world. Left-handers – estimated at 10-15% of all people – get a raw deal. Scissors, golf clubs, special non-smudging pens (think about writing on paper with your left, right-handers!), jar openers, gardening tools and more… All are specialized products you may need if you are left-handed.
And then there are guitars. Many years ago, left-handers simply adapted as best they could. Albert King simply flipped his guitar and played upside-down, bass E-string at the top. Jimi Hendrix used right-handed guitars but re-strung them for left-hand playing. Some left-handers – Gary Moore, Mark Knopfler, Billy Corgan, Paul Simon and others – learned to play “right-handed,” and with stunning results. But some people only play left-handed…
Here are the thoughts of a Gibson-loving left-hander. The talented Luke Morley made his name in BritRock band Thunder and is currently in The Union. Morley plays left-hand Gibson Les Pauls and Flying Vs. Gibson.com asked Luke Morley about his left-hand world….
How did you learn to play?
Luke Morley: “I am naturally left-handed, but my stepmother had an old Spanish nylon-strung guitar and she showed me a couple of chords right-handed. I started that way for a few months until I discovered Jimi Hendrix! From then on I only ever wanted to be left handed, so I changed the strings round.”
Have you always found it hard to find left-hand guitars?
“Definitely. There are less made. And, sometimes, they’re not made as well… And they’re more expensive.”
Did you go to a guitar teacher when first learning?
“I had one guitar lesson. The teacher asked me who was my favourite guitarist was, I said ‘Hendrix,’ and he said ‘I can’t help you!’ He did, however, give me some good advice which was ‘try and work out how guitar players that you like play, watch as many people as possible, practice hard and eventually your own style will develop.’”
According to most scientific studies, “artistic expression” is controlled by the right-hand side of the brain that tends to lead to left-hand dexterity… suggesting that left-handers could be at an advantage. Any thoughts?
“I’m not sure how true that is… although I definitely find anything creative easier than anything practical so maybe that’s my “left-sided” brain. Alternatively, I could just be rubbish at anything vaguely scientific!”
Are you at all ambidextrous?
“As I said earlier, because I started playing right-handed I could play equally well - or badly - on either side for about the first year I was playing. Unfortunately I didn’t keep it up. I do play cricket and golf right-handed so I guess I must be slightly ambidextrous.”
Any good tips for left-handed guitarists?
“Always stand stage right so the neck of your guitar points into the wings!”
Tips for left-handers
Luke Morley’s view is clearly that of one player. We’re all different, whether right or left-handed. But as this diagram shows (from LeftHandersDay.com) naturally left-handed people tend to veer towards the artistic.
In short, the brain’s left hemisphere (right-handed dominance) controls speech, language, writing, logic, mathematics, science – it’s called the Linear Thinking Mode. The brain’s right hemisphere (left-handed dominance) controls music, art, creativity, perception, emotions and, apparently, “genius.” This is known as the Holistic Thinking Mode. Hey, left-handers get the fun stuff!
So, what can you do to maximize your left-hand playing?
1. Get a proper set-up
If you flip a right-handed guitar over and re-string – like Jimi Hendrix – get your “new” guitar set-up properly. Bridge, nut and action will all be affected by re-stringing.
2. Buy left-handed products
Left-handers’ chord and scale books are now widely available, such as this Hal Leonard Tutorial Book for beginners. If you can “get by” with regular right-hander tutorials, fine, but your brain may find it easier to deal with bespoke “leftism” tools.
3. Learn more
Lefties help each other. LeftyFretz has good and free l/h resources for guitarists. Uncommon Sound is a huge book devoted to studying left-handed guitarists.
4. Buy a left-handed guitar
It may be easier, long-term. U.K. guitarists even have their own left-handed guitar showcase on August 9 2013 courtesy of the GuitarGuitar retailer. And August 13 is International Left-Handers’ Day. Haggle at your local store for a well-deserved discount. And always check eBay and the like – there will be many fewer bids for left-handed guitars, and you may get a bargain.
5. Better still, buy a left-handed Gibson
Here’s the list of Gibson electrics for left-handers. And there’s a great selection of left-handed guitars with the incredible new Gibson Min-ETune™.
And remember, not being “right” doesn’t mean you are wrong. You are left.
Left-Handed Guitarists: The Famous and The Facts
Luke Morley and The Union
Photo Credit: Marty Moffatt