How to learn guitar for left-handed?

Learning to play guitar : THE SOUTH PAW EDITION.

 Learning guitar as a left-handed person is a different ball game.

If you are part of the 20% of the world’s population who are left-handed, and you so happen to be looking to play the guitar, you’d have to answer the question of whether you should be learning to play the guitar with your left or right hand. Why? Your dominant hand can seem passive in select activities and the only way to tap down on your active hand is to get a feel of the activity you’re hoping to pick up on. This guide will walk you through how you can go about the learning process, the things you’ll need to kick start your adventure, and the potential crossroads you are most likely to encounter.

A quick confidence boost before we begin. Did you know that some of the greatest guitarists of all time, Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, Kurt Cobain and Tony Iommy were all left-handed guitar players.

How do I get started with learning to play the guitar as left-handed?

A suggestion that most left-handed players will give you is to actually pay a visit to a physical store. Go in and ask the salesperson for assistance, pick up a guitar that you fancy, place it in position and strum a few notes with both your hands. This will help you fixate on your dominant hand, which is the first step in the overall process.

Another tip is to visit a music coaching/training center to do the same thing. The tutors there will have better idea on what you’re looking for and can help guide you in the right direction.

It is always good to remember that playing the guitar is an activity meant for both the hands. When starting out, the fretting hand (non-dominant) requires more strength and co-ordination than the picking hand (active, dominant hand).

With time and practice, you’d be able to alternate between both left and right-handed guitars. Need examples? Paul Simons and Glen Frey are two exceptional left-handed players who could alternate between their fretting and picking hand.

Habits are hard to break

A new habit/ learning something new involves cultivating it into your daily routine with the right mindset. This is one of the most commonly cited challenges of learning.

Set up a fixed time and routine as playing hours and dedicate it to the learning process. Don’t go over 45 minutes every day because the long hours can be draining.

Get a friend to jam along with you. Combined learning is always the best method because you have more references to learn from and more inputs to receive.

Getting the right tools for the job

Now that we have the dominant hand and mindset down, let’s talk positions. If you positioned the guitar like a right-hander, you’ll probably want the typical right-handed guitar. If you positioned it like a lefty, you’ll probably want a left-handed guitar.

If you decide to go with a left-handed guitar, it is usually recommended that you buy a left-handed guitar, and not convert a right-handed guitar. However, if you have a guitar handed down in your family that just happens to be a right-handed one, there is no need to fret. If you do decide to have a right-handed guitar converted, don’t just restring it. Take it to a repair shop and have the nut recut and the bridge altered accordingly.

Finger placements

If you start to feel any unnecessary tension or stress in your arms during your practice hours (fingers, back or neck), do not push yourself to keep going. You should stop to relax. Doing stretches can help you here too. Tension is not only dangerous for your health but can also slow down your playing.

With your left hand on the guitar, proper finger placement is right behind the fret. If while playing you notice your finger is in the middle or heading towards the back of the fret, you should try to move it up until it's close to the fret. This makes it easier to play clearer and cleaner notes.

Keep your ears open: listening carefully can help you to notice when you have incorrect finger placement. If you hear buzzing on a note, check your finger placement. A lot of the time a small adjustment will clear up any buzzing.

Remember as well to keep your left thumb in the middle of the back of the neck; this helps to reduce the amount of tension that can build up when playing.

A simple exercise to do to help with good finger placement can be to practice chord placement by individually placing your finger on each string one-by-one. This slow practice will help you to perfect your finger placement and develop a muscle memory for your chord patterns.

The chords

Here are a few tips to navigate the chords with ease, especially if you’re a southpaw:

  • A Major – Get acquainted to this one first as it utilizes three fingers together.
  • C Major - Concentrate on curling your first finger, so the first string opens up properly.
  • D Major - Curl your third finger on the second string to avoid muffling the first string.
  • E Major - Make sure you curl your first finger properly or the open second string won't ring.
  • G Major - Play the sixth string with your third finger to make a switch to C Major easier.
  • A Minor - Just move over one string from an E Major chord
  • D Minor - Watch your third finger on the second string, it stops the first-string from ringing.
  • E Minor - This chord uses just two fingers so can be one of the easiest to play

If your fingers don’t go to a certain chord, keep practicing, it will get there eventually. The great thing is that once you do this exercise of repeated practicing, you’’ literally force your fingers to go from chord to chord, without any resistance.

The major scale intervals

By understanding the structure of the major scale, you can then begin to harmonize it in various ways to form triads, seventh chords and extended chords, as well as understand the modes that accompany them, so spend some time everyday to memorize the scale intervals.

The major scale has seven intervals: the root, major second, major third, perfect fourth, perfect fifth, major sixth and major seventh. The intervallic distance between each interval forms the pattern W-W-H-W-W-W-H, where W is whole step and H is a half-step.

A quick confidence boost before we begin. Did you know that some of the greatest guitarists of all time, Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, Kurt Cobain and Tony Iommy were all left-handed guitar players.

Learn to play your favorite pieces verbatim

Learning to play something down to the very last chord sounds tedious but doing so is going to heighten your vocabulary of the instrument and improve your style of delivery.

Play David Gilmour’s On an Island and try to replicate every note. You will realize that towards the end of the exercise you will have notes that have a significantly individualistic taste about them. These notes are what define your style and is what will set you apart from other players.

Track your progress

As you develop the discipline to be learning and practicing on a daily basis, it is important to keep a log or diary of the process of your improvement in order to further maximize growth. The easiest way to do this is to keep a log of your routine.

You’ll find that keeping track of your practice will help you focus future practice sessions, maintain and continue awareness of progress and locate particularly fruitful practice phases in your past that can be replicated and upgraded when you feel your growth has stalled.

Remember to take breaks, alternate playing while sitting and standing up and just have fun with your learning process.

What are the things to be aware of?

It has to be mentioned that left-handed guitars come at a slightly higher price though – a factor that certainly is influential on the decision of many people. The difference in price is mainly based on the fact that the demand simply isn’t as great.

Additionally, innovation always comes at a cost. Taking both factors into consideration, the higher price of left-handed guitars is generated. Although, it will ultimately be the brand of the guitar that will be the actual decisive factor of the price as you browse for a new guitar, just like with many other popular products on the market. Before you invest in a guitar, it is highly suggested to try out a few models first to find out whichever works best for you as buying a guitar, especially if it’s your first.

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