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How to Play Left-Handed Guitar
Like scissors and baseball gloves, guitars are largely built for right-handed players. Lefties interested in playing the guitar are often urged to learn how to play right-handed. That can be difficult, however, since certain chords will be extremely hard to play. Not to worry, though: Some of the greatest guitar players in history--including Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney and Iggy Pop--were left-handed. If you want to play guitar left-handed, you basically have two choices: purchase a guitar specifically built for southpaws, or turn a right-handed guitar upside down.
Hold the neck of the guitar with your right hand (your fretting hand), with the fingers lightly curled. Note the position of the frets on the guitar neck. A restrung or specifically left-handed guitar has the strings in the proper location--with the low chord on top and the high one on the bottom. The bridge is altered to make the lower strings longer than the top strings and a the nut is changed to handle the new widths. With electric guitars, the controls are reversed in order for lefties to handle them naturally. Lefty guitars may be harder to find than right handed guitars, but the advantage is that you can play it just as a right-hander would play a normal guitar.
Hold the guitar pick in your left hand between the knuckle of your thumb. Position it over the guitar's sound hole and strike the lowest string with the edge of the pick. Use only the wrist for this motion, not the entire arm, and make sure that only the pick strikes the string. Strike it in a downward motion and then strike it again in an upward motion. Practice it until you become comfortable, trying to minimize the motion in your hand. Then practice the same motion with the second lowest string, the third lowest, and so on up the scale.
Play a simple scale. Place the index finger your right hand firmly on the first fret and then strike the bottom string with the pick. Then remove your index finger and place your middle finger on the second fret, and strike the bottom string. Then remove your middle finger and place your ring finger on the third fret, and strike the bottom string. Then remove your ring finger and place your pinky on the fourth fret, and strike the bottom string. Repeat the process using the second lowest string instead of the lowest, then the third lowest string, and so on up the scale. The only variation takes place on the third string, where you drop the fourth fret and only play three chords. Practice this until you are comfortable playing up and down the scale.
Learn to play chords, which are sequences of two or more notes. The easiest is G major, which is played by placing your middle finger on the third fret of the sixth string, your index finger on the second fret of the fifth string, and your ring finger on the third fret of the first string. Then strike all six strings with the pick in your left hand. The chord should ring out clearly. Practice this until you are adept at it, then move on to other principle chords, such as C major (ring finger on the third fret of the fifth string, middle finger on the second fret of the fourth string, and index finger on the first fret of the second string; do not strike the sixth string with C major, only the first five) and D major (index finger on the second fret of the third string, ring finger on the third fret of the second string, and middle finger on the second fret of the first string; play only the bottom four strings).
Learn and practice simple songs using the three basic chords outline in Step 5. As you practice and become more adept, you can move on to more complicated songs involving more difficult chords.
Right-Handed Guitar Upside Down
Note that playing a right handed guitar upside down is sometimes preferable because you don't need to purchase a specialized instrument. It can be extremely tricky, however, because you need to learn the notes and chords in reverse. A number of noted guitarists such as Dick Dale and Otis Rush play left-handed guitar this way.
Grasp and hold the guitar in the manner described in Steps 2 and 3 of the previous section. Play a scale starting with the first fret of the topmost string, and progressing through the second, third, and forth fret as above. Then repeat the process using the frets on the second highest string, then the third highest, and so on down the scale. The frets themselves don't change position because they are still configured according to their proximity to the end of the guitar neck.
Play the three basic chords--G major, C-major and D-major--as outlined in Step 5 in the previous section. Note that the strings are now reversed, so for G, the middle finger on the third fret of the first string, your index finger on the second fret of the second string, and your ring finger on the third fret of the sixth string. You may need to alter which finger goes on which fret in order to hold the proper positions comfortably.
Practice the chords until your are proficient at them, and move on to simple songs as with Step 6 of the previous section.
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