Should lefty play right handed or left?

If the above is true then, it baffles me how I can pick and strum twice as fast with my left (dominant) hand than 20 years playing right handed.
Despite using the exact same motion I must have been doing it wrong.

At the risk of sounding like an ass, yes you must have been doing it wrong, and I would argue that you were doing the exact same motion, because if that were true, then you would have achieved the same results with either hand.

My assumption is you took some years off and were able to re-approach the instrument from scratch with a fresh perspective that was free from any hangups or frustrations you may have experienced hitting walls or plateaus before you stopped. You probably felt more mentally free and this is a huge help in learning to discover better technique. I often have to tell my students to turn off the part of their brain that thinks something sounds bad in order to find a smooth motion, and that cleaning things up and accuracy comes later on. For sports kids this is an easy analogy; no one starts swinging a baseball bat or hitting a hockey puck out the gate with perfect form and accuracy. You rough out the feel of the movement and adjust the form and accuracy over time. Why musical instruments are taught any differently is a mystery to me, but I’d wager that you felt a similar psychological freedom starting over left handed, and this probably played a role in finding a better technique faster than before.


I’m also not discrediting the notion that having someone’s dominant hand in charge of the pick might make it easier to intuit better movements, but instruments are not single handed. One way or another, you are involving your weaker hand into the activity. In that regard, you’ll need to work harder to develop fret hand finesse, and I’m not talking just things like speed, I’m talking things like vibrato control and bending intonation. Certain subtleties that certainly require more control than just twitching your fingers quickly.

Again, to quote what Joe Stump said to me, “a beginner is going to suck either way.”

Ok, here’s a solution:
when you play tremolo - you pick with your dominant hand, when you need to do legato - you quickly turn your guitar upside down! Checkmate

Indeed, sir

I think the difference is with the physical movement required to play the instrument, and just reducing everything to “you have to use both hands anyway” seems very simplistic to me.

For instance, if we are comparing piano to guitar just for the sake of the discussion, I would focus on the movements that, in my opinion, can be executed quite similarly in both instruments, such as legato playing and playing chords (comping?), which do not seem to be a particular hassle for any of the guitarists apparently affected by the “lefty-playing-righty” dilemma (including me).

Moreover, comparing the guitar playing to violin makes more sense to me (both are instruments that require both hands to work together to produce a single sound), and the 500 years of advantage of violin vs. the electric guitar might have something to do with how the technical development has evolved on each instrument. Particularly, I am no violinist, but there seems to be basically one well-known way to play the instrument and one well-known way to move between strings, a method which considers how the instrument was designed, the different sizes, distance between strings, string radius, etc. which we didn’t have until Troy came up with all this project. The electric guitar history has been full of trial and error, and secrecy/lack of method.

PS: There are left handed drum sets and open-handed technique. Why wouldn’t all drummers just play with the standard (right-handed?) set? I don’t know if there are any drummers around that could share some insight about that.

I would recommend going with whatever feels more natural.

I‘m a lefty who has been playing right-handed for many years, but started teaching myself to play left-handed as an experiment after discovering that my left hand could naturally pick much, much faster and had far better control than my right even though it had zero picking experience.

In terms of raw picking speed, my dominant left hand seems to have a completely different “engine” than my right. I couldn’t help but feel I would be wasting a lot of potential if I didn’t put it to use.

Even so, I still think of the fretting hand as having an at least equally important and more “interesting” job.

But, for me personally, it seems that fret-hand technique may ultimately be just a little bit easier to develop through practice and repetition alone.

By contrast, practicing picking technique only seemed to produce results once I had found a basic fast picking motion that really works for me. When playing right-handed, that never really happened for me, but when I first tried picking left-handed, it felt natural almost right away.

Well said the last comment. It was exactly the same for me.

I’m not discrediting those of you saying flipping the guitar around worked better. If that wound up working better, great!

What I am saying is that there doesn’t seem to be much scientific evidence that somehow the design of the guitar requiring the dominant hand at the strings is necessary for good pick hand technique. Some of you have argued that the muscles involved in picking are more complicated than fretting, but aside from anecdotal experience, I’m not sure I’m convinced this is true physiologically. Once again, here is a list of lefty playing righty guitarists who have impeccable right hand technique:

Robert Fripp
Vinnie Moore
Gary Moore
Greg Howe
Michael Angelo Batio
Joe Stump
Kiko Loureiro
Shawn Lane (!!!)
Steve Morse

It’s possible the list is longer, we just don’t know personally if any other outstanding pickers are actually lefty. It’s of course a small sample, but the percentage of lefties in general are also a small percent of the population. I’d probably argue that the percentages of virtuosic lefty pickers to “normal” righty ones probably mirror the actual general population.

As I said before, I agree the dominant hand can most likely intuit motions better, and thus it’s technically easier to feel out the proper movements. I don’t believe this means that it’s impossible to teach the non dominant hand to do those motions just fine, and the list above (and the study I posted) proves that to me.

Btw, no one has mentioned yet that there’s plenty of right handers that can’t intuit those motions either, and trust me, as a guitar teacher who has seen tons of kids on a weekly basis for the last fifteen years or so I can assure that even amongst righty players, it’s a damn small percentage of students who get their right hand to even an intermediate level of proficiency (despite my best efforts! :laughing:)

On a similar notion, we don’t know if a righty player might somehow have a similar “aha” moment of renewed comfort if they tried a lefty guitar. I know it seems silly, but it’s interesting to wonder about.

Again, those of you who found more comfort playing lefty, awesome! We are then lucky to have an instrument that offers that option. I just personally don’t see ample evidence of “left handers can only achieve proficient right hands playing lefty.”

I’m left handed, and play left handed, I wish I had learned right handed but luckily didn’t because had I done so I would own far more guitars

I’m also very skeptical about blanket statements like “everybody should play righty” or “lefties should always play lefty.”

Everybody is wired a bit differently, so playing a certain way may work great for some but not so much for others, regardless of handedness.

Almost anybody (?) can type on a keyboard with either or both hands with no hassle, like typing real fast using several (or all) fingers without even looking at the 100 keys available, but people usually has only one writing hand. The nature of the movements plays a certain part when it comes to comparing the same action on both hands.

Also, taking the topic a bit further, there’s this movie, “The King’s Speech”, in which they suggested that King George VI could have developed stuttering because he was forced to “become” right handed. :dizzy_face: I don’t know if my memory of the movie is accurate but my grampa actually experienced situations like that because being lefty was considered a defect not so many years ago. Grampa states that after 70 years, writing with his right hand still feels as awkward as in day 1. Just another anecdote for a “lefty support group” or something :smile::smile::smile:

I’m left-handed but play right-handed guitar. I feel my left hand is more accurate than my right hand indeed - playing very fast arpeggio’s (I’m classically trained originally) on my classical guitar, or fast picking and string skipping movements playing on my electric is not ‘my thing’ and something I had to work for seriously - but after some 37 years playing I’m not at all inclined to ‘change hands’, I guess. But I fancy not to play shredding at light speed at all. To play reasonable fast is not a problem for both hands anyway.

I think regardless which choice you make, you have always ‘to work on something’ more harder than other technical stuff, and you can become a very skillful player (hance the forementioned guitarists).

But nonetheless, some people are more explicite ‘left’- or ‘right’-handed than others. For instance, I choose to play drums right-handed also and I’m able to use both my hands in daily life tasks while other people can use only one specific hand…


I can only speak for my own experience. Played a right handed guitar for a year when I was a kid, plateaued, bought a left handed guitar, and my skills took off.

Maybe they would have anyway.

It can be a pain. Even a pot replacement recently became a long journey. Turns out no one sells left handed push/pull tone pots. I finally managed to get one direct from suhr that I believe they make by hand.

Didn’t have a chance to read the entire thread, but I’ll add my 2 cents.

Background: I’ve taught guitar for 20 years.

Think of a pick as being a utensil, similar to a pencil or a fork. Whichever hand you’d use to hold a pencil and write is the hand you should use to hold the pick.

I’ve taught lefties from scratch/beginner and like many I thought “probably doesn’t matter”, but quickly found that not to be the case. I had one lefty student, maybe 16 or so, and he’d paid for his own righty guitar and didn’t want to have to pay more to return or get a new guitar. So he insisted on learning “righty” because he thought it wouldn’t matter.

That lasted couple of months, and then for an experiment we tried playing lefty. The improvement was immediate.

I’m sure some lefties can force themselves to learn right handed, but in general if you use a pencil, a fork, throw a ball, etc with your left hand, you probably should hold a pick in left hand.

I think it also matters on the ambi dexterous person as well as they tend to do better on either hand at certain things. I am a total left person. My left hand is dominant, Left eye is dominant, and left leg is dominant. When I first picked up the guitar it was a friends and I immediately flipped it over and used a fork which is all I had at the time to pluck the strings. I think using a piano is kind of not the right instrument IMHO. The right instrument would be one which is perhaps bowed in one hand and the fingers on the fret board or neck on the other such as string instruments such as violin, cello, etc

Michael Angelo Batio is left handed.