Josh Middleton Says: Don’t Learn Guitar Left-Handed. But Is He Right?

Sylosis guitarist Josh Middleton is a very knowledgeable fellow, and lucky for us, he often takes to his YouTube channel to give us some useful advice. He’s covered scales, theory, techniques (both vocal and guitar), practicing, and guitar related injuries.


But today he takes on a slightly more controversial topic – whether or not to learn guitar left-handed.

As a guitar teacher for many years, I often told my students the same thing. Being a lefty guitarist in a righty world kinda sucks. Manufacturers have severely limited selection of left-handed guitars, and they’re usually more expensive, with fewer finish options. You can’t pick up a friend’s guitar and play it, NAMM is probably no fun for you at all, and learning materials will all be backwards for you.

The most important point to consider, as Josh points out, is that if you’re just starting out, it doesn’t matter which hand is your dominant hand. You’ve never played guitar before, ANYTHING you do will feel awkward! The first months or years are gonna feel unnatural anyway, so you might as well take the easier path for the long haul.

But there’s another thing to consider – what if playing lefty gives a player a unique perspective on the instrument, and thus allows an unconventional approach and musical path that may have never been discovered otherwise? It’s not like any famous or talented guitarists have ever been lefties – oh wait, just Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Paul McCartney, Omar Rodríguez-López, Zacky Vengeance, Dick Dale, Albert King…… I’m sure you’ve heard the old “left side of the brain controls the right side of the body” and vice-versa. Well, different sides of your brain process information differently, and it stands to reason that you would play differently as a lefty than a righty, even with the same training on the same person.

Something I’ve considered a bit is this: if you’re right handed, that means your right hand is more dextrous, and will be your picking hand. But your picking hand is a great deal less involved than your fretting hand. I almost never look at my picking hand, 95% of my attention is to my fret hand – my naturally weaker hand, doing the more complex motion. Doesn’t it make more sense to use your dominant hand to do more involved and difficult tasks?

Probably, but I think it’s kind of like the Metric system in America – sure it’s better, but getting everyone to switch would take a generation or more. It’s just so deeply ingrained in the system that it would take making the alternative punishable by death to get everyone to change.

I’m not going to tell you what to do – I just want to make sure you have all the info before you decide for yourself. Don’t be mad at Josh – he’s just looking out for you, and it a lot of ways he’s totally right.

Written by

As Editor-in-Chief of Gear Gods, I've been feeding your sick instrument fetishism and trying unsuccessfully to hide my own since 2013. I studied music on both coasts (Berklee and SSU) and now I'm just trying to put my degree to some use. That's a music degree, not an English one. I'm sure you noticed.

Latest comments
  • I’ve been saying this my whole life. I’m a lefty who plays guitar “righty” and it is the only way it has ever occurred to me to play. It makes more sense that my dominant hand is on the fretboard. When I first started playing guitar I was given the option to learn “lefty” and refused because it felt wrong. This post was so validating!

    • Same here, execept I’m a righty playing left-hand guitar. It came natural and I totally agree with the dominant hand on the fretboard logic.

    • Same for me Seth I’m a lefty and I also learned right handed i felt the same exact way.

    • Me too, and I’m so glad I got this advice when I first picked up a guitar 20 years ago.

  • The idea behind having your dominant hand do the easier part, is that you’re going to focus on the other hand no matter what.
    That’s why drummers count with the right and snare with the left.
    You have to think in order to use your left hand.
    Besides, lefties usually have better right hands then an average righties left.
    Playing lefty is a huge advantage.

  • Get a Kiesel / Carvin, problem solved.

  • You should always focus on bringing the skill level of your weaker hand up to the level of your dominant, what ever the situation. In terms of playing drums, I thought my left hand would forever lag behind my right.
    However after years of playing and dissatisfaction with this, I started
    to choose to focus on techniques and rudiments that emphasized leading
    with my left. Eventually I was able to bring my left up to the point where I have as much if not more dexterity with it than my right. This
    goal is an ideal that will never cease to be a yard stick by which you can accurately measure your own skill level, not to mention the countless new doors that it will open for you in terms of avenues of technical, genre, and dynamic diversity. And it is unbelievable how muchmore fun it is to play when you are not being constantly disappointed
    by one of your hands.

  • I, as a lefty guitar teacher, always tell this to new lefty students. It does make sense if you’ve never played before to at least try a right handed guitar. I’ve got several left handed students who play righty, and none of my students have ever played a lefty guitar.
    Advantage also for them is that they can mirror what I do; it really does work.
    I just never had anyone to show me the right handed way; I picked up a righty guitar upside down and originally taught myself on that.

    • By a righty guitar upside down, do you mean you have the thickest string at the bottom? Or did you just restring it so the strings are in the ‘normal’ order?

  • Lefty here, i actually tried learning right handed for a while when i was a kid and i could just not pick it up at all, everything took so long to learn and i just could not play properly if wasn’t play left handed, im just weird i guess.

    BUT i do totally agree with him, if you can learn right handed do it, not being able to buy guitars that aren’t symmetrical is the worst.

    • You aren’t weird…I am the exact same way. It just felt inhibiting when I tried to learn right.

      And I also agree…when it comes to equipment it is a nightmarish curse.

      If you can pick it up right handed do it.

  • What about left-brain vs right-brain functions? If the theory is close to reality then the left hand would be controlled by the right hemisphere of the brain, which is supposedly the more creative and emotive side. If that is the case then playing guitar using left-handed fretting would make more sense. If the theory is bull, then it probably doesn’t make a difference which side you prefer.

    I think it would make sense to have your dominant hand be the hand that moves the most. In most guitar playing, the picking hand moves more than the fretting hand.

  • I remember about 13 years ago when I started playing there was a guy who worked at Willis music who told me this same thing. Said I’d never be any good if I played left handed. Said it was unnatural. Said ‘they don’t make left handed drums, or cars’. I say now What I wanted to say then. Fuck all that nonsensical bullshit. I’m a lefty playing lefty and I’m damn good. I’m better than 95% of anyone I’ve ever played with, young or old, and I never took a single lesson. Not one. I truly believe playing left handed puts a unique perspective on the guitar, and how many people can say they can play upside down? That was how I learned until my uncle flipped the strings and bridge on my right handed squire strat. All hail the lefty

    • Would you like a cookie? Or would that get in the way of stroking your e-penis?

    • Hows your own dick taste?

  • When I first started playing guitar I chose to play right handed since, the idea that it is called playing righty when your left hand is leading or doing the most work has never made sense. I began playing that way since it is harder to acquire things for a lefty and I am ambidextrous so playing a guitar either way felt comfortable when I began. Sometimes, I will play lefty to build up strength and dexterity in my picking hand which is important.

  • well I have the hability to be dextrous with both hands, but I do more things with my right hand and I learn to play the guitar with a left handed one, because it is more natural to me than a right handed guitar, and it feels so right and confortable to play in that way: concentrate your attention in your fretting hand than in your picking hand, plus I learn in less time how to dominate dificult stuff, and last I want to give a very good example of this: Jim root (slipknot) is Left handed and he plays with a right handed guitar, and you can see the quality of musician and how he mastered his technique with his fretting hand

  • Was there even a point here? You listed an opinion, and then rattled off a bit of nonsense and just kind of stopped.

  • I’m a lefty and I play righty because I couldn’t find or afford a lefty guitar when I started
    Funny thing is, I’ve always learned and have come to believe myself, that the strumming hand is by far the most important. Because no matter what notes you’re fretting, it’s the rhythm that makes it interesting. Look at Django and Tony Iommi for instance.
    On a side note, I play drums lefty.

    • I’m a lefty and play lefty and I’ve been told I play guitar like a drummer.

  • When I see someone playing “lefty” I pity them, since they have essentially branded themselves with a scarlet letter which forever indicates they were morons when they started. “But Hendrix did it…” Well, you sure as shit aren’t Hendrix, you’re a moron playing a rare expensive guitar that ultimately provides you NO advantage since both hands suck doing everything for everyone when they start, idiot.

    • You’re absolutely off base. You don’t know what it’s like to be right brain dominant. You can never pretend to know what’s right for a lefty.

    • So do you also feel that way towards left handed folk in general? I play lefty and I can tell ya, the issue is a lack of easy variety and not so much the price-tag.

      Maybe if your closed minded and needlessly insulting ‘perspective’ had’ve been shared with a young Jimi Hendrix then he wouldn’t have becone the amazing guitar god we all know and love!

      People gravitate towards what feel good, what feels natural… I can absolutely imagine someone having talent playing one way but significantly less so the other way. Your opinion is stupid.

leave a comment