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Should You Play Left-Handed or Right-Handed?

It’s not common to see a natural right-hander playing a left-handed guitar. However, it is much more common the other way round. But it is a relevant question. Should you play left-handed or right-handed? 

It might seem frivolous to even discuss it. However, it could have a serious effect on just how good a guitar player you will be. If you are thinking about becoming a professional guitarist, that makes it a very important decision.

Why One Way And Not The Other?

Should You Play Left-Handed or Right-Handed

So, why do left-handed people play guitar right-handed, but we rarely see a right-hander playing left-handed? It isn’t a difficult question to answer. The main reason is that many moons ago, you hardly ever saw a left-handed guitar.

There were plenty of right-handed instruments, but very few, if any, left-handed ones. You went into your local music shop, and you would probably leave with a right-handed guitar.  

Seattle Played Its Part

There is a strong case for saying that Jimi Hendrix had something to do with a change of attitude. As we all know, he played a right-handed guitar the “wrong way round,” it highlighted the need for left-handed instruments, especially in the growing market of younger players.   

Nowadays, you can get the “lefty” of your choice, or at least be able to order it. However, there are, and have been, quite a few great left-handed guitar players who played right-handed. Mark Knopfler, Gary Moore, and Duane Allman come to mind. Also Elvis Costello, Noel Gallagher, and David Bowie.

Choosing What Is Best For You

If you are naturally “lefty,” then there is a decision to be made on what type of guitar is best for left-handed people. One of the problems with this is that new players usually don’t know what’s going on. 

They walk into the shop and buy a guitar. It will usually be right-handed because there are a massive amount more of them, even today. No thought about the “dominant” hand.

Why should they?

It’s only when they have been playing for a while that they begin to appreciate the role and importance of the “dominant” hand.

It might not seem important on the day of purchase. But, you won’t be able to change your mind in a few years when you realize it might be easier for you the other way round.

What is the Dominant Hand?

Playing the guitar makes demands on both hands. But, they both do different jobs. The dominant hand has a different job to do. So, it demands accuracy and discipline. It needs to be the hand you feel you have the most control over. Let’s look at the role of both hands briefly.

Neck Hand

  • Makes the shapes for the cords.
  • Holds down the strings at the correct pressure.
  • Switches between playing chords and notes when required.
  • Might have to make long stretches to reach certain notes in some chord shapes.

Picking And Strumming Hand

  • Needs to be able to hit between the strings quickly and consistently.
  • Pluck notes with speed and accuracy.
  • Be able to play complex up and down strumming patterns.
  • Be able to keep perfect time when strumming.
  • Play without looking at this hand.



Are you right-handed? You write with your right hand and feel most comfortable performing tasks with that hand. If so, then you need to buy a right-handed guitar.


If you write with your left hand, etc., then you will probably need to buy a left-handed guitar.


There are plenty of people who feel comfortable on both sides. However, you will need to make a decision. So, how do you choose?

Should You Play Left-Handed or Right-Handed?

If you can’t decide, play a bit of air guitar. Pick up a broom, turn the stereo up, and imagine you are in front of an audience. Hold the broom like you would a guitar. 

Try holding the neck of the broom with your left hand, swap it over, and then try it with your right hand. Don’t forget to strum or simulate picking notes with the other hand. Does it feel better one way or the other? 

Sounds silly, but it might help you to decide if you should play guitar right-handed or left-handed.

Another Option

If you can already play some very basic things, there is another way that you can test this out. But, you will need access to a guitar shop with helpful staff; not all of them are. And a shop that has similar left and right-hand guitars.

Take the right-handed guitar and play a scale. Then, play a few simple chords. Cover and dampen the strings with your neck hand so they won’t sound. Then play a few simple strumming rhythms with the other hand.

Do the same with the left-handed guitar; just reverse the functions of your hands. Change back and forth a few times. One will likely feel more natural than the other.

The Neck Hand is Important

Of course, it is. But, it is the dominant hand that will create most of what you do. The neck hand is its “assistant” if you like. And, as you progress with neck hand techniques, like hammering and note-bending, it becomes an important assistant. 

What If You Can’t Decide?

After standing in front of your bedroom mirror for an hour and then driving the local music tech nuts, you still can’t decide. What do you do?

If that were me, and you could feel no difference at all, then I would go with a right-handed guitar. I say this for two reasons.

Availability of Instruments

The first thing will be the availability of instruments. As I said earlier, there are lefties around in shops these days. But, nowhere near as much choice as there is for right-handed guitars. 

That is natural as there are more right-handed people. Right-handed people make up nearly 90% of the population. As you might expect, the same ratio between left and right guitars might be applied in shops. However, did you know that, on average, 1 in 3 musicians is left-handed? Strange that the guitar manufacturers haven’t reacted to this, but since so many play right-handed instruments, they don’t really need to.


There may be a need to find a tutor. Now, I’m not saying that right-handed players can’t teach a lefty. But, it will be far easier for a lefty to watch a lefty and not have to transpose the shape from right to left. 

Left and Right Hand Guitar Resources

Guitar Resources

So, let’s take a look at some high quality right-handed and left-handed guitars currently available.

For a decent budget range acoustic/electric guitar with an amp: 

An upmarket brand with some real quality: 

Here are some great right-handed acoustic guitars:

For those looking for an awesome left-handed electric guitar, how about a:

One thing we haven’t discussed is if you are going to play bass guitar. The same things apply when choosing and deciding as they do for their six-string cousins. There are some good options around for the beginner, such as this Squier by Fender Classic Vibe 60’s Left-Handed Precision Bass.

Looking to Get Started Playing The Guitar?

We can help with that. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Acoustic Guitars For Beginners, the Best Left Handed Guitars For Beginners, the Best Left-Handed Acoustic Guitars, the Best Electric Guitar For Beginners, and the Beginner Electric Guitar Packages that you can buy in 2023.

Also, take a look at our detailed reviews of the Best Parlor Acoustic Guitars, the Best Low Action Acoustic Guitar, the Best Guitars For Small Hands, the Best Hollow And Semi-Hollow Guitars, and the Best Left-Handed Bass Guitar currently on the market.

And don’t miss our comprehensive articles on How to Learn Guitar for BeginnersFamous & Easy Guitar Songs With 3 Chords For Beginners, and Easy Songs to Learn on the Electric Guitar for Beginners for more useful guitar information.

Should You Play Left-Handed or Right-Handed – Conclusion

The aim of this article has been to provide you with some information to ensure you go down the right road. But, I would like to close with a couple more pointers:

  • Don’t let anyone intimidate you or try to persuade you to go one way or the other.
  • Make sure you are comfortable with your decision; it is YOU we are talking about.

And finally… 

A little word on a pet subject of mine. Practice does NOT make perfect. You will have heard the expression, but it is wrong and gives a false impression. 

“Good” practice makes perfect is how it should be said. Bad practice will not improve you, and it might even make you worse. So, make sure your practice is productive, planned well, and geared to helping you take one step at a time and the wonderful road to playing music.

Until next time, let your music play.

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About Joseph L. Hollen

Joseph is a session musician, writer, and filmmaker from south Florida. He has recorded a number of albums and made numerous short films, as well as contributing music to shorts and commercials. 

He doesn't get as much time to practice and play as he used to, but still manages (just about!) to fulfill all his session requests. According to Joseph, it just gets harder as you get older; you rely on what you learned decades ago and can play without thinking. Thankfully that's what most producers still want from him.

He is a devout gear heat and has been collecting musical instruments all his life. As his wife, Jill, keeps on saying, "You're very good at buying nice instruments, but terrible at selling them!".

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