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Left handed guitar style

Postby BJG145 » Thu Jun 18, 2020 4:07 pm

I just realised that Blues phenomenon Eric Gales plays a right-handed guitar left-handed, even though he's right-handed...

Image

...very Hendrix. Though I can't remember which way he strung it.

Image

And here's Beck getting in on the act.

Image

I think it's just the, "Look at me, my tuners are pointing down, man!" thing. I don't know, I can't keep up. But anyway, what I'm wondering about is guitars that are advertised as left-handed on eBay, but look pretty symmetrical. Like this one.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/left-hand-tr ... SwzO5e6pvB

I don't want that particular one. But is there a catch here...? Can't you just string it the other way? You don't get "left-handed" electro-acoustic pickups...?
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Re: Left handed guitar style

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Jun 18, 2020 4:20 pm

You'd need a new nut but otherwise yes it'd be a simple matter to restring it. More expensive guitars may have differences in the bracing and thicknessing of the top but most don't.

I believe Hendrix strung his guitars left handed (which EG has not in that pic).

Some think the longer string behind the nut or bridge makes the strings feel different, I did some experiments a few years ago which proved pretty conclusively that it is purely psychological. The tension of a guitar string is purely a function of it's pitch, mass and the scale length and neither the distance it needs to be displaced nor the effort needed to bend it up in pitch changes irrespective the length of the non-speaking parts.
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Re: Left handed guitar style

Postby zenguitar » Thu Jun 18, 2020 4:28 pm

Can you just string it the other way?

The definitive answer is...

It depends.

Cheaper guitars especially are braced symmetrically, but the better the guitar gets, the more likely that the bracing varies on the bass and treble sides. So it all depends on the maker's decisions.

Hendrix was actually dually ambidextrous. He could play both right and left handed guitars right or left handed. Ernie Isley dreamed of meeting Hendrix and swapping guitars, and when he woke he set out to teach himself to be dually ambidextrous as well.

The right handed strung Strat with a lefty neck is interesting for a reason. String tension is exerted across the entire length of the string, so when fretting/bending the increase in string tension is distributed along the entire string length. With a right handed Strat neck the bass side is stiffer than the treble side, but swap for a lefty neck and the treble side is stiffer than the bass side.

Also, the length of string between the nut and tuner does resonate and contribute a tiny amount to the tone of the played note. These are also changed by swapping to a lefty neck on a right hander.

EDIT - I see Sam has posted whilst I've been writing this mini essay. I'm happy to agree to disagree with him over the changes to feel, it is really is a minor difference compared to differences in gauge, construction, and material.

Andy :beamup:
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Re: Left handed guitar style

Postby BJG145 » Thu Jun 18, 2020 4:28 pm

OK! Thanks for the info...
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Re: Left handed guitar style

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Jun 18, 2020 4:33 pm

zenguitar wrote:Can you just string it the other way?

The definitive answer is...

It depends.

Cheaper guitars especially are braced symmetrically, but the better the guitar gets, the more likely that the bracing varies on the bass and treble sides. So it all depends on the maker's decisions.

Hendrix was actually dually ambidextrous. He could play both right and left handed guitars right or left handed. Ernie Isley dreamed of meeting Hendrix and swapping guitars, and when he woke he set out to teach himself to be dually ambidextrous as well.

The right handed strung Strat with a lefty neck is interesting for a reason. String tension is exerted across the entire length of the string, so when fretting/bending the increase in string tension is distributed along the entire string length. With a right handed Strat neck the bass side is stiffer than the treble side, but swap for a lefty neck and the treble side is stiffer than the bass side.

Also, the length of string between the nut and tuner does resonate and contribute a tiny amount to the tone of the played note. These are also changed by swapping to a lefty neck on a right hander.

EDIT - I see Sam has posted whilst I've been writing this mini essay. I'm happy to agree to disagree with him over the changes to feel, it is really is a minor difference compared to differences in gauge, construction, and material.

Andy :beamup:

I get the resonance of the non speaking part of the string, on my Rob Aylward Selmer style it's like having reverb..

It's a while since I did my experiments but before I did I would have agreed completely with you. If I can find the results and pics of the methodology I'll post them up here.

edit, In case anybody's interested the pics are long gone but the threads both on here and on AGF are still available.

https://www.acousticguitarforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=401542

https://www.soundonsound.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=45975#p428104
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Re: Left handed guitar style

Postby zenguitar » Thu Jun 18, 2020 4:45 pm

It's one of those things where there are some additional factors as well. The friction in the nut slot, both from the angle(s) it's cut and the degree of polishing the slot will have a bearing on how much of a very small change in tension is transferred to the string behind the nut.

I wouldn't choose or specify a neck based on the feel/tension theory. But would consider it for the harmonic subtleties.

Andy :beamup:
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Re: Left handed guitar style

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Jun 18, 2020 5:08 pm

Having re-read the AGF thread I was misremembering my results, in fact I did demonstrate a difference in the bend distance required to change the pitch by a given amount (a whole tone in my case) and concluded that longer non-speaking parts do mean you have to bend the string further to achieve the same pitch change which will make bending the string feel different. Apologies Andy, it's me age and me failing memory :blush:

Oh, and several pics of Hendrix confirm he did string his guitars in the left-handed manner.
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Re: Left handed guitar style

Postby ef37a » Thu Jun 18, 2020 5:16 pm

One of the few things my son and I used to fall out about.

I maintain that the left handed guitar is an abomination and an unnecessary restriction for a player.
I do understand that guys like Hendrix and Macca years ago just picked one up and did what came naturally but the industry soon latched on and cashed in!

I remember many, many years ago, there was a short series on learning the guitar on TV and the guy said (might have been Bert Weedon!) "if you are left handed DON'T look for a left handed instrument. You do a lot of work with your strongest and most dexterous hand."

Dave (I shall now bugger off and get me tea!)
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Re: Left handed guitar style

Postby shufflebeat » Thu Jun 18, 2020 5:32 pm

Just in case you thought you could play the guitar:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3pUdUX5Gagc

Elizabeth Cotton

One of the reasons why you can't just restring a right handed guitar is because the saddle is offset so the lowest and highest strings are, effectively, different lengths to compensate for, er... mass of the perpendicular of the number you first thought of, or something. If you simply restring then you will exacerbate the difference rather than compensate for it, unless you have an adjustable bridge of course.

Also, on a Strat the bridge pickup is offset to make the most of different signals produced by various parts of the string according to distance away from the bridge. Hendrix swapped his strings but didn't reposition the pickups which resulted in a distinctive mellow top - light bottom thang compared to normal folk.

I played upside down for years but swapped over to conventional left handed in a vain effort to fit into daytime society.

I failed.
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Re: Left handed guitar style

Postby zenguitar » Thu Jun 18, 2020 5:52 pm

Sam Spoons wrote: Apologies Andy, it's me age and me failing memory :blush:

No apology needed Sam. Always good to chat in a little more detail than usual. :thumbup:

Andy :beamup:
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Re: Left handed guitar style

Postby Stratman57 » Thu Jun 18, 2020 6:18 pm

The bridge problem only really applies to acoustic guitars. There's plenty of adjustment on the saddles on electric guitars.

I'm a lefty, and it just never felt right trying to play right handed. At school, I took cello lessons, but because the instruments were used by multiple pupils, I had to learn right handed, and I could never articulate my left hand as well as my right hand.

Maybe it's a brain thing, as, if I play cricket or golf, I play right handed, but for racquet sports, I play left handed. I also hold cutlery right handed, but for food prep, I hold the knife in my left hand.

I have played a right handed Strat strung left handed, and it never felt any different to playing any of my left handed guitars.

Regards, Simon.
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Re: Left handed guitar style

Postby BJG145 » Thu Jun 18, 2020 6:32 pm

Stratman57 wrote:I also hold cutlery right handed, but for food prep, I hold the knife in my left hand.

I'm right-handed but held the fork in my right hand all my life; the other way round feels weird. I guess I started when I was born and my parents never noticed, or cared or something. Eric Gales was taught guitar by his left-handed brother when he was 4 and didn't know better. If I'd spent more time practising with a guitar and less time practising with a fork from infancy I daresay I'd be a faster and lighter player than I am today.
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Re: Left handed guitar style

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Jun 18, 2020 6:52 pm

Bowed instruments are a slightly different issue, at least as far as orchestral playing is concerned. Left handed fiddlers do exist but they are vanishingly rare, and never in the classical field. Partly it is a simple logistical thing, in a crowded orchestra pit all the string players must bow the same way to avoid poking your neighbour's eye out. OTOH there are a few exceptional fiddlers who play left handed in the folk and bluegrass scene.

#1 son writes right handed but plays guitar left handed. Not sure if it's to do with a childhood injury where he damaged the tendon in his right hand index finger (long before he took an interest in guitar) though I would have expected that to have the opposite effect. Must ask him some time.
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Re: Left handed guitar style

Postby shufflebeat » Thu Jun 18, 2020 8:27 pm

Stratman57 wrote:The bridge problem only really applies to acoustic guitars.

And many archtops, of course.

There's plenty of adjustment on the saddles on electric guitars.

So long as the user knows to actually do it, but point agreed.
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Re: Left handed guitar style

Postby blinddrew » Thu Jun 18, 2020 10:16 pm

ef37a wrote:I remember many, many years ago, there was a short series on learning the guitar on TV and the guy said (might have been Bert Weedon!) "if you are left handed DON'T look for a left handed instrument. You do a lot of work with your strongest and most dexterous hand."
I wondered about this when i first started playing. Why, i thought, would you give your less dexterous hand the job of navigating 60 to 120 positions and yet your good hand only has to handle 6 positions?
It took me a depressingly long time to get to the point where i realised that whilst the notes may come from the left hand, the feel comes from the right.

Or vice versa for lefties obviously. :)
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