I’d Give My Right Arm to be Ambidextrous

Lefties lament…Gear Abby has some advice, of course.

Note: Last week someone commented that I was hypocritical to say in one letter not to play free gigs, but in another how valuable live experience is. Those two ideas are not contradictory, but I can see their point. I have nothing against sitting-in with a band, doing open jams or battle of the band competitions for free. But don’t do jobs that typically “pay” – for free. Not only do you ruin your own band’s value, you steal a paying job from someone else.

LitUpLefty I am a left handed guitar player and I am so sick of the discrimination toward left handed guitar players. These days we all know that factories can make smaller runs of guitars and could now accommodate us much better, but they don’t! I am also sick of people telling me to learn to play right handed. They have no idea what we go through. When is it going to change?

gear.abby @LitUpLefty I don’t even have to have an opinion on the matter to answer your question. It’s never going to change. With only 10% of the population being left handed, and only 1 top 2% of the population playing guitar, you are simply too small of a group for which companies will ever provide many models. So unless that percentage of lefties grows or you lobby the government to add “left-handedness” to the Americans With Disabilities Act, you are stuck.

You may get upset with others for telling you to play right handed, and although I don’t need an opinion on the matter to answer your question, I do have one.

My Dad used to quiop “I’d Give My Right Arm to be Ambidextrous” and while its a clever little joke, it’s true that those who exercise ambidextrousness have a massive hand to eye coordination advantage in every activity, and you have a GREAT reason to explore that advantage. Instead of complaining and blaming others for what you view as a shortcoming, why not use it to propel you to a new level of physical superiority?

If you don’t like that answer then I have to digress to the more common view.

You are not being discriminated.

Being left handed is not a disability, it an aberration, and where playing an instrument is concerned, guitar/bass is about the only instrument that people regularly complain about gear availability. They more often learn to play just like right handed people do.

No one asks piano manufacturers to put the bass keys on the right*. That’s because it would be an incredibly expensive and inefficient move by any piano manufacturer. So, in a way, because some guitar companies manufacture left handed guitars, the problem gets confounded. If no one made left handed guitars, would you have never taken up playing?

I think I’m ready for the backlash…

I know I’m going to get flamed on this one, but please…I am not trying to put anyone down, but the fact is that you have the ability to switch your orientation and you are choosing not to. Yes, it an inconvenience, but it’s also an inconvenience for a guitar manufacturer to switch over everything in their plant to make a left handed guitar. By making the change you benefit greatly!

Lefties who accept this – and the lack of availability of gear – will not be upset. Good on them. To those of you who are really offended, let me pose one more solution. If you believe that we need more left handed guitars, and you believe there is enough demand for them, why don’t you start an entirely left handed guitar company with hundreds of model for sale?

I am happy to hear where I am wrong…please comment below!

Got a rant you want Gear Abby to respond to? Want her opinion on a matter? Click here to send your contribution.

* I am well aware that left handed pianos have been manufactured, in an experimental capacity but it has never become a mainstream idea:)

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3 thoughts on “I’d Give My Right Arm to be Ambidextrous

  • January 26, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    I am left handed. I play right handed guitars. I can also play left handed but, the reality is the guitar is actually a left handed instrument. Which hand does the intricate work? The left. if you are a righty your dominate and more dexterous hand for the most part holds the pick.

    For lefties the alphabet is backwards, we read in the wrong direction, hot and cold water are on the wrong side, clockwise is the wrong way and on and on.

    As a lefty you either adapt of die. It’s a right handed world.

  • January 26, 2020 at 11:06 am

    I trained myself to play right handed guitars left-handedly. This means the strings are upside down. I often refer to this as playing “upside down and backwards.” I mostly play acoustic guitar. When playing electrics the knobs get in the way but it is still do-able. I bought a couple of left handed guitars and had a luthier reverse the nut and I can comfortably play the strings the way I have gotten used to (upside down) with the comfort of a guitar body that fits me. I’m no virtuoso but it works for me.

  • January 26, 2020 at 11:05 am

    Being ambidextrous isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Apparently we rely upon being ‘handed’ to tell us left from right. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been told to turn left or right and gone right or left without so much as an inkling that I’ve done wrong until I get shouted at.


    Having been in the room when Jimi Hendrix demonstrated his ability to play right or left handed guitars either way around I determined to do the same. It took waaaay longer than I thought it would and I was never much good at playing the ‘wrong’ way around anyway. And here’s the ‘but’ bit. It may have been all in my head, but I’d swear it was easier to transfer what was in my head to my fingers playing left handed.

    Certainly if I knew then what I feel now I would have started out playing the wrong way and let my left hand brain feed my right hand fingers. My advice to left handers is stick with it. There are still thousands of great instruments available to you, and these days even cheapo guitars can hold their own so you can afford to take a punt on a few of them if you have to. You were born outside the mainstream, stick with it.