Left-handed musician? Good luck…

We know that being left-handed in a world where nearly 90% of humans are right-handed can be – shall we say – challenging, but is your lot any better, or worse, if you are a musician?

On these pages I don’t intend to deal with left-handedness in general terms. I’m a lefty bassist and I’m on a journey to discover how other musicians – particularly bassists – who are in my situation feel, cope with the challenges we face, and react to our specific problems and the criticism, prejudice or hostility we sometimes experience.

My starting point will be a certain amount of online research on a number of chosen themes linked to left-handedness in music; I’m planning to present my best finds here, comment on them on the basis of my own experience, then ask readers to add their own two cents (or full-fledged written contributions if they prefer), and help make this a really valuable shared resource for all of us.

Jump on board if you like what you’ve read so far! 🙂


So who’s in the club?

While it’s reassuring to read about the many left-handed musicians – even among the ones aged over 50 or over 60 – who made it big, I can’t help feeling depressed at the thought of how many lefties (famous and unknown) have, for a variety of reasons, had to learn to play righty. There may well be as many ‘closet’ lefties as there are ‘out’ lefties, so to speak, or even more.

Wikipedia is once again very helpful and, by the look of it, reasonably thorough in its research:
Essentially, if we ignore ‘closet’ lefties who play full righty, there are three kinds of lefty players: those who play full lefty, those who play upside-down righty, and those who play upside-down righty instruments but restring them as lefties.
The three separate lists are highly intriguing, and contain a few surprises.

This article on Gibson’s website offers more info on the most famous lefties in music, and the many comments added at the bottom are worth reading too:


Phil Brodie’s page shows another good list, with handy photos and mini-blurbs, of lefties in music, including drummers.


Jazzamatazz has a blog entry with interviews to or about many great lefty musicians, and it’s a brilliant find on the topic – check it out:


On the basis of all of the above, I can say I understand (as well as pity, TBH) those lefties who learned to play a righty instrument, upside-down or normally, because they had no access to a proper lefty instrument and/or wanted to be able to choose among a higher number of often cheaper models. But taking a righty guitar, turning it upside-down and then going through the trouble of restringing it as a lefty seems a bit weird to me. The hassle of having to replace or modify the nut and possibly the bridge is added to the bother of an instrument’s body that’s shaped all wrong. Is this sort of hybrid setup really that much cheaper and/or more convenient than getting a real lefty? Can anyone enlighten me on why it’s a relatively common option?

The photos below show me playing one of my proper lefties and me attempting to avoid messing up the tone knob on an identical, righty model. And that’s before I mention the lower horn sticking wooden bits in my ribs, and the ‘wrongly’ moulded backs of some other righty bass guitars I’ve tried. No contest, I’d say.

Lefty bass

Full lefty bass

Righty upside-down bass

Righty upside-down bass

My future blog entries will deal with lefty groups, my findings on the variety of opinions about and feelings towards being left-handed, and the choices we are faced with if we want to be musicians. I’m planning to continue with some psychology-related insights and mentions of useful material (books, videos etc.) .

Please feel free to comment on any of the above, or let me know if I’ve missed a good link, or indeed if any of you have written something about being a left-handed musician that you would like me to post about. (The Leave A Comment link is just under the tags and categories list at the top of this blog entry.)


Birds of a feather

As in the case of most other minority groups, lefties in general – and lefty musicians among them – have their own online places where they can choose to hang together to talk about all things lefty: discussion forums.

In my experience – admittedly limited to English-speaking forums – we have the option to join a dedicated lefty musicians forum or post in a section or a subforum dedicated to lefties within a more generic music forum. Of course, we can also do both at the same time, and righties who are interested in the topic can obviously join in.

While dedicated lefty forums can feel cosy, comfortable and protective, the number of their members tends to be far smaller than any equivalent non-handed forum, resulting in limited activity, which may at times allow things to go a bit stale.

Being part of a niche group of musicians in the context of a less specialised musicians forum sometimes works out better, as it allows us to visit our corner while still belonging in the bigger picture and taking part in any other discussion without leaving the website. On the other hand, ‘our corner’ may become a bit cliquey and isolated.

The largest bass forum in the English-speaking world, Talkbass, doesn’t seem to have any section or subforum dedicated to left-handed players. I have only been able to find a number of individual threads created by lefties within regular subforums, for instance the following:
http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f8/left-handed-bass-guitars-1035389/ under Bass Guitars, and
http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f1/left-handed-upright-bass-1026165/ under Double Bass.

Talkbass’s counterpart in Europe, Basschat, has recently created a special subsection for all thing lefty as part of its Bass Guitars forum: http://basschat.co.uk/forum/103-lefties/
Basschat’s Marketplace also has a special Lefty For Sale section: http://basschat.co.uk/forum/86-left-handed-basses-for-sale/

There is, of course, also an online forum dedicated completely to lefty bassists. It has a rather (to me at least) disconcerting home page photo of a lefty bass strung righty…! But otherwise it really feels like home. I am a member, but I wish I had lots of extra time to spend there…
http://www.leftybassist.com/ has a Marketplace as well as many sections purely dedicated to discussion of all things lefty.

Another specialised lefty forum is Leftyfrets.net, which has a section for electric instruments other than guitars: http://www.leftyfrets.net/forumdisplay.php?s=04903a64bb93745248f57ba34d9c3fb6&f=3

I have also found several Facebook groups dedicated to left-handed musicians, but only one of my English-language finds is exclusively for bassists: http://www.facebook.com/groups/128368870695910/. I have joined it and keep an eye on new posts while I’m doing work on FB.
There is also an Italian equivalent, which is more buy-and-sell oriented than the UK group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/160977303964852/

I am following several left-handed-related accounts on Twitter, but I haven’t been able to find one specifically for lefty bassists or even simply lefty musicians. Perhaps I should start one…

To end this section, I think I really need to mention two German sites – also available in English – dedicated to all things lefty basses.
http://www.leftybass.com/e_start.htm and http://www.die-linke-bass-saite.de/english/
Although neither appears to be very lively, I would join the communities if there were – erm – at least 48 hours in the day. Heh. 🙂


Pride or Self-Pity?

So you are left-handed, you want to learn a stringed instrument, and have ascertained through trial and error that you simply don’t get along with righty models. You therefore embark on The Great Lefty Adventure.

Are you proud, defiant, and ready to defend your right to buy guitars that are “the wrong way round” (ha, ha, bloody ha), or are you resigned to being the odd one out through an accident of genetics and no fault of your own, only thankful that you haven’t picked up a non-reversible instrument?

Nowadays we lefties may not – in the main – be thought of as Satan’s spawn any more, and we may manage to reproduce and pass on our lefty genes unchallenged, but we still hit the brick wall of discrimination at every step, usually in the name of Market Forces as opposed to that of God.

While there is unfortunately no shortage of idiots, among teachers and mentors, who will find any excuse to discourage you from learning the instrument the correct way round for you, and ultimately make you a mediocre musician (because you’re using the wrong tools of the trade), there are luckily also many enlightened voices we can listen to.

As a general commercial and resource website for lefty stringed instruments and their owners, leftyfretz.com is hard to beat. It also has a small forum section, but what is most relevant in this instance is their only-half-jokey list of the advantages of being a left-handed (bass) guitarist:

Lefty Guitar Pie Chart, leftyftetz.com

Leftyfretz.com sums it up nicely… Been there soo many times!

More encouragement towards choosing what feels natural to us appears on another music gear reseller site, left-handed-guitars-and-basses.com:

Making Music Magazine also mentions the lefty musician’s struggle and sees things improve with the help of the internet:

Guitarnoise.com comes to our rescue too – and all that’s written for guitar on there also applies to bass, of course:
http://www.guitarnoise.com/lessons/lefties-anonymous/ and

bellandcomusic.com goes even further by offering an entire section on left-handed chords for guitar (no bass, unfortunately). For once we don’t need to mentally reverse the diagrams while studying the fingering!

This lefty bass player offers us a sadly familiar tale – but do check out the comments added at the bottom and perhaps add yours to the list.

Meanwhile, this young, left-handed doctor named Shan offers us some insights into the brain of the left-handed musician:

Despite all the additional obstacles a left-handed musician, especially a beginner, will encounter, we should never accept to be bullied into learning to play on unsuitable instruments just because The Market makes it far easier to find right-handed models (and corresponding gigbags and cases, but more of that another time). The more of us refuse to accept such feeble reasoning, the more likely it will be for The Market to take notice and, given some time, meet our demand.