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.

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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.