List of musicians who play left-handed

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This is a list of notable musicians who play their instruments left-handed. (This does not include left-handed people who play right-handed, such as Duane Allman, B. B. King, Barry Gibb, and Paul Simon.)

Guitarists[edit]

Paul McCartney playing a true left-handed guitar (a Gibson Les Paul).

Left-handed people play guitar or electric bass in one of four ways: (1) play a right-handed guitar right-handed, (2) play a true left-handed instrument, (3) play a right-handed instrument that has been altered to play left-handed, i.e. with the bass strings on top), or (4) turn a right-handed guitar upside down, pick with the left hand, but leave the strings as they were – which makes them reversed from the normal order for a left-handed player. (The fingering is the same for methods 2 and 3.) Any style of picking with the left hand (flatpicking or fingerstyle guitar) is considered playing left-handed.

Left-handed with normal stringing[edit]

Guitarists in this category pick with their left hand and have the strings in the conventional order for a left-handed player (i.e. the low string on the top side of the neck). They either have true left-handed guitars or have right-handed guitars altered so the strings are correct for a left-handed player. Some guitarists in this category (e.g. Paul McCartney) play both genuine left-handed instruments and right-handed instruments altered for left-handed playing.

Changing the strings on a right-handed guitar involves several things. The nut of the guitar has to be changed to accommodate the string widths. The bridge needs to be changed to make the lower strings longer than the top strings for correct intonation. On almost all acoustic guitars the bracing is non-symmetrical. On electric guitars altered this way, the controls will be backwards.

Notable players[edit]

Hendrix on stage in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1967
Justin Bieber at Hallenstadion in Zürich, Switzerland
Tony Iommi playing a true left-handed guitar (a Jaydee Custom S.G.).
Jonathan Butler at the Newport Beach Jazz Festival, 2011.
Notes[edit]
  • Jimi Hendrix was naturally left-handed but his father tried to force him to play right-handed because he believed playing left handed was a sign of the devil. Hendrix took right-handed guitars and restrung them for playing left-handed (Cross 2005:55). Hendrix did continue to write right-handed. Jimi did learn to play right-handed as mandated by his father, he had to play right-handed any time his father was around (and left-handed, upside down, when his father was not around) or risked losing the guitar forever. Once he started making modifications that allowed him to play left handed with the strings in the proper order, he still had to play right-handed with the old man nearby, so he also learned to play right-handed with the strings upside down. His brother Leon's testimony confirms this in Sharon Lawrence's biography "Jimi Hendrix: the man, the magic, the truth" and in quotations from guitar players such as Mike Bloomfield in "Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child of the Aquarian Age" by Dave Henderson.

Left-handed with strings backwards[edit]

These are players who play left-handed, but with the strings as on an unaltered right-handed guitar, thus the strings are backwards for a left-handed player (e.g. Bob Geldof). Some players in this category (e.g. Dick Dale and Albert King) had custom instruments that were basically a left-handed guitar with the strings as on a right-handed guitar, since they had learned to play that way.

Notable players[edit]

Dick Dale playing a customized left-handed guitar with the strings backwards.
Bob Geldof playing a right-handed guitar upside down (a Gibson).

Unclassified left-handed players[edit]

Bass guitarists[edit]

Paul McCartney playing a left-handed Rickenbacker 4001 bass

Drummers[edit]

Notes[edit]

  • Ringo Starr is naturally left-handed but was taught to write right-handed. His drums are set up for right-handed playing, but he leads with his left hand.[6]
  • Christopher Guanlao of Silversun Pickups is left-handed but plays a right-handed set primarily in "open style" (opposite to cross handed) and has his ride cymbal to his left.
  • Josh Eppard of Terrible Things and Coheed and Cambria also drums open-handed (left-handed on a right-handed kit) but writes right-handed.

Violinists[edit]

  • Richard Barth
  • Charles Chaplin
  • Rudolf Kolisch
  • Terje Moe Hansen (Norwegian classical virtuoso and pedagogue)
  • Katrina Pearce (champion folk fiddler, plays "over the bass" with strings reversed)
  • Ryan J. Thomson (naturally right-handed, but learned to play left-handed after developing focal dystonia that made right-handed bowing impossible)
  • Ornette Coleman
  • Ashley MacIsaac
  • Martin Weiss (French jazz violinist who plays in the style of Stéphane Grappelli)
  • Jurgen Kussmaul (violist)
  • Rivka Mandelkern
  • Ian Rey Bañez
  • Nic Norman Tugaff (Philippines) Mormon Violinist
  • Paavo Berglund (A well known Finnish left handed conductor who also played violin, often joining orchestra players for chamber music just for fun. Due to the value of his violin collection he did not want to change his instruments and had trained himself to play left handed on violins with a normal set-up)
  • Julie Andrijeski

Ukulele[edit]

Trumpet[edit]

Trombone[edit]

Banjo[edit]

Mandolin[edit]

Bansuri[edit]

  • Hariprasad Chaurasia, right-handed, started his career playing right-handed, switched to left-handed playing

Puppets[edit]

Many Muppets whose arms are controlled by rods play instruments left-handed. This is because most right-handed puppeteers control the puppets' heads with their right hands leaving their left hands for playing.

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]