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  1. #1

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    I was at a symphony concert this evening, and it suddenly struck me. The are no left-handed violins. No left-handed french horns. Lefty trombones? Nope. So I wondered, is it only the guitar that is offered as a lefty? AND, when was the first left-handed guitar made?

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  3. #2

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  4. #3

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    I'm a lefty. Which of course means I've mastered a lot of ambidextrous abilities.

    What has always amazed me is the guitar, as originally designed, IS a left handed instrument. Really.

    Think about it.

    The right hand stays in one place really either picking or finger plucking. I was trained in college for classical and of course played even more rock/blues.

    The left hand does infinitely variable motions covering quite an area.

    What idiotic right-hander thought this was "right-handed"?

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  5. #4

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    I consider myself left-handed (for finger work) but right-armed (for large motion). Standard guitars always seemed natural to me. Maybe that’s why I had an easier time learning to navigate chord changes than my high school buddies, but have always struggled with accurate picking.

  6. #5

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    rNeil, I know you're left-handed, but do you play the guitar left or right handed?

  7. #6

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    There are a lot of well-known guitarists playing "right handed" instruments. Duane Allman and Phil Lesh spring to mind; also Robert Fripp, Mark Knopfler, Steve Morse, Gary Moore and- I didn't know this until today- Gregg Allman, Johnny Winter, Paul Simon and Joan Jett.

  8. #7

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    Two of the Beatles were left-handed (Paul and Ringo), and Charlie Chaplin played left handed violin.

    But to get back to part of Woody's question, allegedly the oldest lefty Gibson may have been a 1915 L-4 (according to author John Engel in his book "Uncommon Sound: The Left Handed Guitar Players That Changed Music." Meanwhile, Chris Knutsen, one of the most famous names in American Harp Guitar history, was left handed and played a lefty harp guitar. One picture is alleged to be taken as early as 1897 (probably before 1900). See pics below for the 1915 lefty Gibson L-4 and Chris Knutsen in the Knutsen family portrait.

    Lefty instruments an anomaly to the guitar?-left-handed-1915-gibson-l4-guitar-jpg
    Lefty instruments an anomaly to the guitar?-knutsen_family1-detlor-jpg

    Surely there were other people who played guitar (and violin) left handed well before these examples. After all, it's not rocket science. You just flip the instrument over and change the strings around if you want -- or not.

  9. #8

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    A quick thought about symphony orchestras and left handed string players. The structure of the orchestra and layout of the players isn't conducive to entertaining left handed players. It's not just the possible confusion -- it doesn't add any advantages for the orchestra. As a result you don't use lefty players and instead encourage musicians to learn the "correct" way to play their instruments. (In the military you salute with your right hand whether you're right or left handed. It doesn't make the salute any better but it provides visual structure and respect to order and tradition. It's just the way it's done.)

    On the other hand, in baseball left handed players can add to the advantages in the game, so as a result lefties are included into the layout and structure of the game and you see even right-handed players learning certain left-handed skills (like batting).

    In most activities, such as writing, painting, eating or playing the guitar, there are no noticeable advantages of being either left or right handed, so it becomes a case of do as you see or feel is best. Nonetheless, when the desired activity requires hand-specific equipment like guitar playing or golfing, lefties living in a right handed world with predominately right handed equipment will need to make an extra efforts to garner proper equipment to participate in their chosen activities. Either that, or learn to do things right handed or improvise -- a choice that often leads to increased ambidextrous abilities among lefties. This is why out of all the lefties out there, you basically have three types of guitar players: true lefties, lefties who play right handed, and lefties who improvise by playing right handed guitars upside down. You generally don't see this breakdown among righty players.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound
    I was at a symphony concert this evening, and it suddenly struck me. The are no left-handed violins. No left-handed french horns. Lefty trombones? Nope. So I wondered, is it only the guitar that is offered as a lefty? AND, when was the first left-handed guitar made?
    Hand capabilities required by violin are more equal than guitar. Some say it even leads to musical benefits if a left handed musician plays on a right handed instrument in right handed way. Not true for guitar.

    btw as a nonsense there is left handed piano too, yes the higher pitches are left side

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by rNeil
    I'm a lefty. Which of course means I've mastered a lot of ambidextrous abilities.

    What has always amazed me is the guitar, as originally designed, IS a left handed instrument. Really.

    Think about it.

    The right hand stays in one place really either picking or finger plucking. I was trained in college for classical and of course played even more rock/blues.

    The left hand does infinitely variable motions covering quite an area.

    What idiotic right-hander thought this was "right-handed"?
    YUP! I'm lefty also and at first picking up a git it was totally natural as a lefty to play with it and always assumed it was made for a left handed player. Think about it... What hand learns the music? The LEFT! If the right hand were lost for some reason even with a claw you could still strum and play music. Lose the LEFT hand and you have to re-learn everything.

  12. #11

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    As a lefty, I played violin as a child right handed. But when I took up guitar, I restrung it to play left handed.

    To each their own and there are many advantages for some lefties to learn to play right handed. However, I don't buy the argument that a right-handed guitar is advantageous for lefties. If using the dominant hand for fingering is such an advantage, why aren't all guitars built left-handed? I'm sure after a few thousand years of playing string instruments, people would have figured out which works best for picking vs fingering hand. The general consensus speaks for itself.

    In my opinion, the hardest part about playing the guitar is mastering the picking hand. This may not be apparent when at first struggling with the fingering, chord shapes, etc. But even in the beginning people tend to pick up the instrument in what is the most comfortable way to hold it -- meaning picking with their dominant hand. For this reason, righties play it the way they do, and many lefties choose to flip over their guitars rather than use their right hand for plectrum and finger-style work.

    Since lefties live in a right handed world, they are by nature confronted with the need for adaption. Add to this the well-intentioned advice and insistence by others that they should learn the guitar the correct way, many learn to play right handed. For quite a few this works well. But for others the added challenges of using a non-dominant picking hand causes frustration and in some cases, even after years of trying, they actually changing over to a left handed instrument.

    To paraphrase, a blues player I once heard. He said, "Your fingering hand is what you've learned; your picking and is who you are."

  13. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by rNeil
    I'm a lefty. Which of course means I've mastered a lot of ambidextrous abilities.

    What has always amazed me is the guitar, as originally designed, IS a left handed instrument. Really.

    Think about it.

    The right hand stays in one place really either picking or finger plucking. I was trained in college for classical and of course played even more rock/blues.
    Yes! There have been articles written that emphasize how the left hand is more important.

  14. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Gabor
    Hand capabilities required by violin are more equal than guitar.
    I completely (but respectfully) disagree. On both instruments you place the fingers of one hand on specific spots on the fingerboard, and with the other hand you activate (pick, pluck, bow) the string that the fingers of the other hand are touching.

  15. #14

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    Interesting thread.

    For a starter, I searched and the answer was 10-15% of the world's population is left-handed. ( True / false? - - don't know. ) That could very well imply that lefty guitars are therefore even less due to the percentage of lefties playing right handed.
    Every person attempting to learn the guitar - or any instrument - will have one hand dominant.
    So, put another way, everyone starts with one hand ' ahead' of the other hand.
    So early on, why not tell the lefty that for economic reasons, it's better to learn right-handed, because equipment availability ( and cost) will ultimately be dictated by manufacturers building for that '85% of the market' ?

    Yes / no ? MHO

  16. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound
    I was at a symphony concert this evening, and it suddenly struck me. The are no left-handed violins. No left-handed french horns.
    Actually now that I think about this a bit more, the horn IS a natural lefty instrument!

    Lefty instruments an anomaly to the guitar?-french_horn-jpg

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis D
    Interesting thread.

    For a starter, I searched and the answer was 10-15% of the world's population is left-handed. ( True / false? - - don't know. ) That could very well imply that lefty guitars are therefore even less due to the percentage of lefties playing right handed.
    Every person attempting to learn the guitar - or any instrument - will have one hand dominant.
    So, put another way, everyone starts with one hand ' ahead' of the other hand.
    So early on, why not tell the lefty that for economic reasons, it's better to learn right-handed, because equipment availability ( and cost) will ultimately be dictated by manufacturers building for that '85% of the market' ?

    Yes / no ? MHO
    Hi Dennis. Thanks for jumping in! I agree with you that since many lefties play right handed, the number of actual lefty guitar players is lower than the world population average. And while it may make good sense for lefties to consider playing right handed, it's just not a viable solution for some. I say leave it to the individual lefty to decide: If they write left handed, throw a ball left handed, use their eating utensils left handed, etc., then they may be best suited using a lefty guitar. The problem I've seen in the past is when lefties are encouraged to play right handed by well meaning instructors, etc., or more nefariously by store owners who don't have a lefty guitar in stock and want to sell what they have and not be bothered with ordering a lefty guitar.

    Having played left-handed for more than 50 years, I can tell you now is the "Golden Age" for lefty players in that there are more choices of left handed guitars than ever before. Fortunately, availability of left-handed gear is not a major issue. On eBay there are a 1,000 lefty guitars, another 1,000 on Amazon, and 6,000+ on Reverb. Many of these overlap of course, but there are plenty of lefty instruments to to go around.

    Now finding a lefty foot pedal is a different issue! ha ha!

  18. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by archtopeddy
    But to get back to part of Woody's question, allegedly the oldest lefty Gibson may have been a 1915 L-4 (according to author John Engel in his book "Uncommon Sound: The Left Handed Guitar Players That Changed Music." Meanwhile, Chris Knutsen, one of the most famous names in American Harp Guitar history, was left handed and played a lefty harp guitar. One picture is alleged to be taken as early as 1897 (probably before 1900). See pics below for the 1915 lefty Gibson L-4 and Chris Knutsen in the Knutsen family portrait.

    Lefty instruments an anomaly to the guitar?-left-handed-1915-gibson-l4-guitar-jpg
    Lefty instruments an anomaly to the guitar?-knutsen_family1-detlor-jpg

    Surely there were other people who played guitar (and violin) left handed well before these examples. After all, it's not rocket science. You just flip the instrument over and change the strings around if you want -- or not.
    Awesome stuff, thanks!

  19. #18

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    For me, and every lefty I've known who also plays guitar ... "right handed" guitars are simply vastly easier as right hand plucking patterns were vastly easier to learn than mastering the neck.

    As to right-handers always knowing what they're doing well ... rubbish. I cooked in a restaurant set up by a man with 40+ years running his own places. VERY right-handed guy, and on hiring me said I was gonna struggle but damn well better do it HIS way.

    No problem boss ... the grill was on the left, the counter for assembling plates to the right. As far as I could see, a perfect Lefty Heaven.

    He wanted the spatula in the right hand ... so you worked either the grill or the setup, never both.

    I told him it was stupid and just watch me.

    That spatula hardly ever left my hand. I was working the grill and setting plates without ever setting the spatula down.

    Completely dumbfounded him.

    And I was most welcome to continue as I wished. As fast or faster than any other cook.

    I've seen that in so many different situations.

    But we all are unique and so if it makes more sense to play the guitar upside down behind your knee, have at it ... lol.

    Nobody is a copy of another.

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  20. #19

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    I failed to learn to finger with my left hand . Flip the guitar over and go.My right hand training on piano worked quickly on the neck , upside down . I do not recommend this. However if you want to play enough it can be done. mickmac