Published Apr 24, 2011I started learning how to play guitar as a kid, took lessons on and off and continued to play around with it well into my 20s. My issue is that I learned how to play right handed, and I am left handed. I feel now that I am 31 years old, no matter how much I practice, I have reached a learning plateau. My right hand doesn't feel as agile as I'd like it to be when finger picking and I have trouble keeping the rhythm. After 20 years of playing right handed, is it foolish to think that maybe I should just start over and learn left handed? Can you ever be great at guitar as a lefty playing right handed?
I've turned this one over to a right-handed lefty, and hey, he's made an award-winning career out of it. Take it away, Matthew Barber!
"I think the most important question to ask yourself is whether you feel like you are naturally a left- or right-handed guitar player. This is not necessarily dictated by whether you are a right- or left-handed person, because it takes both hands to play guitar and it's not obvious which hand has the more demanding job ― picking or fretting. Myself and my sister Jill are both right-handed people but naturally play guitar left-handed. That means our less dominant hands (our left hands) are doing the picking and keeping the rhythm. It may be hard to remember, but do you know if you would "air guitar" left-handed or right-handed before you ever started to learn to play guitar? This is probably the best indication of whether you are naturally left- or right-handed as a guitar player. I think it's possible to be a very good right-handed guitar player even if your natural inclination is to play left. I believe there are lots of right-handed guitar players out there who may have had a natural inclination to play left-handed, but learned on right-handed guitars because that was all that was available. At a certain point practice trumps natural inclination, I believe. Right-handed guitars outnumber lefties approximately 20 to 1, so it's often a case of there only being right-handed guitars available when one is starting to learn.
As for whether or not you should switch at this point in your life, it's a tough call. My instincts tell me you probably shouldn't because you've put in this much time getting the muscle memory down as a right-handed guitar player. But if the air-guitar test convincingly shows that you should really be playing left-handed than there would be nothing to lose by picking up a left-handed guitar (if you can find one!) and seeing how it feels. I guarantee it will feel weird at first. Only you can know if it's the more natural way for you to play. I hope that helps a bit. Keep on pickin',"
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