Relearned Left-Handed / Thank You

Hey Troy,

Thank you so much for your work with picking technique. I am a 28 year-old metal guitarist from Toronto that was diagnosed with Focal Dystonia 3 years ago (my symptoms are very similar to Terry Syrek’s - he’s actually an old teacher and friend of mine). My condition progressed to the point where I completely lost the ability to use what was once my fretting (left) hand in a right-handed playing context. I tried training with a Dystonia specialist but felt like I wasn’t able to gain any real traction with my playing, going that route.

Just under two years ago I decided to relearn guitar as a left-handed player, which was terrifying, because I’d been playing for 14-15 years at this point and had a career teaching and playing with a band. But I dedicated myself to it, and now I’m proud to say that 23 months into this journey, I am at about 95% of my previous ability level, now as a lefty.

I have made rapid progress, I think in large part to the breakthroughs you have made with picking technique — developing awareness around pickslanting and swiping. I’ve been following your work very closely and am very grateful to the contributions you have made to the guitar technique world.

Here’s a video of me playing the solo from Ravenous by Arch Enemy:

This is a pretty good representation of where my picking abilities are currently at.

Thank you again,

Christian Andersen

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Thanks for sharing Christian! FYI I edited so the video shows embedded directly here (just have to paste the YouTube link on its own line and it’ll do that automatically).

Very interesting and glad to hear you’ve made this awesome progress relearning to play with the opposite hand. Congrats.

I imagine it was a challenging process, and something most of us don’t often experience — having to learn something that’s in one sense intuitive / deeply “known”, and in another sense totally foreign and strange for a while.

Reminds me a bit of this video of what it’s like to learn to ride a bike where the handlebars / turning mechanics are “backwards”. I think he described it taking ~ 8 months of practicing a few minutes a day.

What did that process feel like for you? Has it seemed kind of slow and steady getting to this point, or more like a series of plateaus + periodic breakthroughs?

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Thanks. When describing this process, I often ask people to imagine being a kid again, but with your adult brain. On one hand, it could be viewed as frustrating, but on the other hand, liberating — because you get to avoid all the pitfalls and unlearning of bad habits that invariably happen as a result of learning the first time around. With the left handed journey, I feel like I’ve had an opportunity to “program in” the exact technique I want from the very start, knowing exactly what it should look and feel like. This has provided a degree of stability in my technique that I actually hadn’t experienced before, until now.

Progress has definitely been a series of plateaus and breakthroughs. Lots of “block” practicing to burn in the techniques, as well as lots of “random” practicing to sharpen accurate recall. Practice time is anywhere from 30 min to 4 hours per day. Nothing too strict, and I take plenty of days off here and there which I think are important to allow consolidation of the practiced skills to take place.

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Wow, what a journey dude - MAXIMUM respect for what you have done, where most would probably have given up. I can’t imagine re-learning as a lefty - I can’t even brush my teeth with my left hand!!! Or wipe my… (okay that’s too much info!).

It sounds like you have a good recipe here. I should really take a few more days off here and there - I practice too much when I’m tired and run down.

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Thanks very much. At first it was enough of a struggle to actually hold the thing, let alone play it. Haha.