For anyone who is left-handed and plays the bass guitar, buying a new instrument can be a slightly more frustrating process than it is for their right-handed counterparts. There is a far smaller number of guitars to select from compared to a right-hander, as not all manufacturers offer their entire range with a left-handed option. Some manufacturers actually charge a premium for the left hand models that they do produce. However, with some careful research, it should be possible for left-handed players, or ‘lefties’ as they are sometimes known, to find an instrument that is suitable for both their playing level and their budget.
Left Handedness and Guitars
Until the 20th century, guitars were played by finger picking and not with a guitar pick. This meant that the guitar was developed mainly to cater for the dominant hand doing the more complex task at the body of the guitar. In the last century, as playing with a pick became more common, the more complex task has arguably become the fretting done by the other hand. It could, therefore, be argued that playing the guitar left-handed may be a more suitable arrangement for players who intend to use a pick.
Around 10 per cent of the population are left-handed. Right-handed people may like to give the impression that being left-handed is in some way inferior but, if anything, the opposite is true. It is a little-known fact that those who are left-handed have superior hand-eye coordination. This can be an important advantage for an aspiring bassist, so left-handed players should not be disheartened by the obstacles their handedness can present to playing the bass.
Considering a Right-Handed Bass
Left-handed players usually find the most natural way to hold a guitar is with the left hand strumming the strings and the right hand on the frets. It is possible for a left-hander to play a right handed guitar by simply turning the instrument over the other way. The big drawback to this approach is that all the strings are then upside down with the lowest notes at the bottom and the highest notes at the top. Some left handed players have made mastered playing this way, indeed some have made a good living as professionals, but it is not an approach that is suitable for all left-handers. However, it is estimated that around half of all left-handed bassists play a right-handed bass guitar.
For the more ambidextrous musician, playing a flipped right-hand guitar can feel completely natural and even offers a few advantages. For example, the player will have access to a far greater range of guitars when buying a new instrument. Also, when the opportunity presents itself to borrow another player’s instrument, such as at a gig or party, they are able to take advantage of it. Right-handed instruments also tend to be cheaper to buy, easier to sell on and retain more of their value when resold. Also, charts in books and other learning materials will be correct and not require any further transcribing.
The flipped right-handed guitar can be restrung with the strings in the correct positions, but all the ancillary equipment will still be in the wrong place. It is less than ideal living with the pickups, controls, protective panels as well as the strap and cable connections all in the wrong places. The guitar can be further modified to move some of these, but at this point it makes little sense not to just trade the guitar in for a left-handed one.
If an individual left-handed player finds playing a right-handed instrument feels natural to them, then it can be to their advantage to pursue this possibility. However, if a beginner finds playing this way feels awkward, they should be encouraged to switch to a left-handed bass. None of the advantages of learning ‘wrong-handed’ are worth the disadvantages of not feeling completely comfortable when playing the instrument. Most students will most likely lose interest in playing the instrument if it somehow does not feel right to them.
Buying a Left-Handed Bass Guitar
Consider the following factors when purchasing a bass guitar.
Choosing a Left-Handed Bass
The process of choosing a left-handed bass is no different to that of choosing any other instrument. A bassist should try to get the best instrument their budget allows, without completely exceeding what is required at their current skill level.
A beginner would be wise to steer clear of buying a used bass unless they know exactly what to look for in a second-hand guitar and can accurately assess its value. A better approach for a novice player seeking value for money is to look at a starter package. In a package, the bass is bundled with all the accessories needed to get a new player started. An amp, stand, gig bag and tuner are often included with the guitar. Owning and using a stand and bag will help preserve the resale value of the guitar when the time comes to upgrade.
More experienced bass players can use the knowledge and experience they have gained to allow them to assess whether a used guitar is right for them. If choosing a guitar which will best hold its value, then the more outrageous shapes and finishes, and more obscure brands, should be eschewed in favour of one of the big brand names’ more popular models.
Left-Handed Resale Value
Whether a novice or professional, the inescapable fact is that when the lefty bass player trades in their instrument, they are going to be expected to accept less than they would for an identical right-handed model. This can seem especially unfair considering the fact that manufacturers often charge a premium for their left handed instruments. However, it is simple market forces at work. The market for a left-handed bass is less than one tenth the size of the market for an identical right-handed guitar.
For the left-handed bassists seeking the best return on their investment, it really is a question of looking after the instrument as well as they can. They must also try to choose from amongst the most popular brands and styles. It stands to reason that the market for a left-handed, fretless, headless flying V bass is going to be vanishingly small and therefore, so will its resale value.
Find Bass Guitars on eBay
To buy a bass guitar, go to the eBay homepage. Begin by opening the All Categories tab and then clicking on the link for Musical Instruments followed by Guitars, and then Bass. To further refine the search to show only left-handed bass guitars, scroll down to the Dexterity criteria and click on this to reveal the Left-Handed option. Clicking this will narrow the search to display only the left-handed bass instruments. The search can be further refined using the other options on the left of the page. It is possible, for example, to view only the bass guitars which fall within your particular budget. Another alternative is to enter specific terms into the search bar at the top of any eBay page to locate a particular instrument or brand of interest. For example, to find an unused left-handed bass guitar, simply type “Left-handed bass guitar new” into the search field.
It is true that buying a good left-handed bass guitar can be a little more difficult, and sometimes a little more expensive, than a right-handed one. However, the left-handed player should not be disheartened. The novice bassist may find that they are able to play a right-handed bass, with a few well-chosen modifications. If not, there are still a number of brands selling many different styles of left-handed basses. The more experienced bassist may well find that they are able to pick up a good, used left-hand bass for significantly less than they would pay for the same model were it right-handed. What is important for the musician to remember, whichever orientation of bass they play, is to look after the instrument properly to best protect their investment.