Some left-handed people are comfortable playing a right-handed guitar, either as it is ordinarily played or upside down and re-strung. Several of history's greatest guitarists, including Jimi Hendrix, played re-strung right-handed guitars. However, many left-handers prefer to play a specially made left-handed guitar with all the components manufactured and positioned to be played left-handed. Although there are not as many left-handed guitars on the market as those manufactured to play right-handed, it is possible to find a good deal online or in local music retailers.
About Left-Handed Guitars
Specially manufactured left-handed guitars are the mirror image of right-handed guitars. Choosing a left-handed guitar is almost the same as choosing a right-handed guitar, just with less choice and often at a premium price. A common complaint of left-handers is that they usually have to choose a black instrument because many manufacturers do not offer a wide range of left-handed guitars. This guide provides a summary of the key considerations to be made when choosing and purchasing a left-handed guitar.
Choosing a Left-Handed Guitar
Choosing a left-handed guitar involves many of the same considerations as buying a right-handed instrument. The first, and most important decision, is whether the guitar will be acoustic or electric, or even electro-acoustic. This decision depends on personal choice, usually related to the style of music to be played. The next choice is on size. The guitar must be playable, and size is particularly important when purchasing a guitar for a child. It is also important to consider the shape and material of the guitar and any built-in accessories.
Acoustic or Electric
Whether to buy an acoustic or electric guitar is a significant decision. This should be made on the style of music to be played and the personal preference of the player. It is important to make this decision correctly as some styles of music cannot be played well on one type of guitar.
Acoustic guitars are hollow and usually have a round hole in the face of the instrument. Strumming the strings creates quite a loud sound without the requirement for an amplifier. Acoustic guitars are most closely related to folk, country, and more mellow styles of music but can be used to play almost all styles. Electro-acoustic guitars are an alternative option for those who wish to perform with their guitar at gigs using an amplifier but prefer the sound of an acoustic to an electric guitar.
Electric guitars usually have more added features than acoustic guitars. They are usually solid without a hole, and so do not produce much of a sound alone when the strings are strummed. Electric guitars need to be plugged into an amplifier in order to project the sound. Electric guitars are most commonly associated with rock and pop music and are usually used by those wishing to play the instrument on stage.
Size of Left-Handed Guitars
Guitars are available in four sizes: full size (100 x 38cm), 3/4 size (92 x 34cm), 1/2 size (86 x 30cm) and 1/4 size (77 x 27 cm). Most adults will find a full size guitar is suitable, but individuals with shorter arms should consider purchasing a smaller instrument. When buying for a child, the recommended sizes are: full size for ages 12 years and above, 3/4 size for 8-12 years old, 1/2 size for 5-8 years old and 1/4 size for 2-5 years old.
Shape of Left-Handed Guitars
Acoustic and electric guitars are available in various shapes. Below, this guide outlines the most common shapes available on the market, but it is important to note that there are many additional shapes in production.
This is the classic acoustic guitar shape. The majority of acoustic guitars are based on this design. Dreadnoughts are a square shape with a wide middle. Although the larger size of the body provides excellent projection of sound, it can be uncomfortable to play for smaller players.
This is a very popular design due to its large body and slim waist. The size of the body provides good projection, but the slim waist makes the instrument easier to play than a Dreadnought. This guitar can be used easily for both strumming and fingering styles. Many guitarists choose a Grand Auditorium as it meets all their playing needs in one guitar.
The smaller body size makes the Grand Concert easier to play but with less projection than larger bodied guitars. Lower-priced Grand Concerts tend not to have the warm tone of larger guitars. Smaller players often prefer the Grand Concert style, as do ragtime players due to its brighter tone.
As the name suggests, the Jumbo is the biggest of the guitar shapes. It produces a loud open sound, often favoured by country musicians. Due to its size, this is not the guitar for smaller players.
Any guitar style can feature a cutaway. This is a small section of the guitar edge that is missing to allow easier access to the highest frets on the guitar. Cutaways are often found on electro-acoustic instruments.
A very popular shape of guitar, the Telecaster has a medium sized body with a single cutaway. It is known for the bright, rich tone it produces.
Often associated with the glam-rock bands of the 1980s, the Flying V is an iconic V shape. This is a versatile shape and works well with distortion accessories.
The Les Paul is a solid body guitar. It has a more classic or traditional look, and the body is much larger than many other electric guitars. This guitar usually produces a warm sound, but this can vary due to the large number of Les Paul variants on the market.
This is a double cutaway guitar with a similar shape to the Telecaster although the tone produced by a Stratocaster is much duller and warmer.
Material of Left-Handed Guitars
The material of a guitar is important to ensure the right tone for the style of music to be played.
Basswood is inexpensive and lightweight. It is low-density and provides a loud and deep sound most suitable for lead guitars. Many Asian guitar manufacturers use basswood for their cheaper instruments.
Similar to basswood but with improved high notes, alder is a more expensive wood. It is an aesthetically pleasing wood, with natural swirls on the surface.
Ash produces a more open sound, perfect for country music. Ash wood isn't as consistent as basswood or alder, and each guitar will sound different.
Mahogany is perfect for heavy metal or rock guitarists due to the thicker tone it produces. It is often used in Les Paul guitars.
Walnut is heavier but more nasal than mahogany. Often described as the perfect guitar wood, walnut exhibits the best qualities of ash and mahogany.
Many left-handed guitars are made with inbuilt accessories. It is important to consider whether these would be preferred or necessary before choosing a guitar.
Inbuilt tuners provide a more accurate tuning solution than separate tuners. Usually built into the top of the guitar, they allow the player to easily check that the instrument is correctly tuned before and during practice or a gig.
Although guitars with inbuilt amplifiers are relatively rare, it is important to consider whether this would be a preferred option. Inbuilt amplifiers are particular useful for beginners who don't want to pay for an expensive amplifier or those who do not wish to be able to play at a high volume.
Finding a Left-Handed Guitar on eBay
There are a variety of left-handed guitars available on eBay, with the selection updated regularly. Firstly, open the eBay homepage and select the All Categories tab. Open the Musical Instruments category and select Guitars. On the left side of the page, select Left-Handed. Further refine the search by size, guitar type, price, location and many other options using the tick boxes on the left side of the page or using free text in the search box at the top of the page.
Choosing a left-handed guitar is a highly personal decision. Be sure to consider all the options and customisations available to choose the most appropriate instrument. It is important to spend time thinking about the tone and style required, often by visiting local music stores to try various models before looking for the best deal online.