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Do left-handed players see the same scale formations, chords, patterns as right-handed, or is it just as simple as seeing the mirror-opposite? What about the ones that play left-handed and string the instrument with the high E on top - it's always fascinated me , but I've never really seen any interviews that described how they view the neck.

Examples:Toni Iommi;Dick Dale; Al Mckay;Otis Rush;Freddie King;Hendrix

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3 Answers 3

Yes, they do.

The main reason for that is that nobody will rebuild tons of literature just to mirror the shapes. Actually, it's not a big problem, it's just a matter of getting used to.

When I, right handed guitarist, just learned how to read tablature, it seemed very confusing, that thickest (upper) string is at the bottom. But it took not more then 30 minutes of adjusting and now I do not notice that at all - it just seems natural.

Also, I have read about the experiments, where people wore special glasses that made everything look upside down. After a while their brain have adjusted to it and they just do not notice the difference.

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In general, yes: the patterns for scales and chords are the same for left-handed guitarists as they are for right-handed guitarists because they re-string the guitar so that the low-E string is on top and the high-E string is on the bottom, as it is for right-handed players. Hendrix, for example, took right-handed guitars and flipped them upside-down to play left-handed, but he also re-strung the guitar so that the order of the strings from top to bottom was the same.

The most famous exception is Albert King, who played right-handed guitars upside-down without re-stringing them, so that the low-E was on the bottom and the high-E on top. This inverts all of the patterns, which isn't so much a problem for the brain as it is for the fingers. The standard chord patterns work well for certain fingerings, but when you invert them, they don't work as well, since our fingers are not all the same length.

As an example, consider the B7 chord in first position. Here it is on a normally-strung guitar:

$A.2.$D.1.$G.2.$B.0.$e.2

Now here it is, if the strings are reversed (like if you took a left-handed guitar and flipped it upside-down without re-stringing it):

$E.2.$A.0.$D.2.$G.1.$B.2

Try fingering that. I found it very difficult to do.

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Dick Dale does the same thing. –  yossarian Jan 26 '11 at 16:43

I have played that way (right-handed stringing, played upside down) since I was given a guitar at the age of 10. Being left-handed, I just picked it up and played it, not realising that the stringing was "wrong" for me.

When my best friend (right-handed) got a guitar a few months later, I could play his and he could play mine, which was very useful. The chord diagrams look exactly right for the way I play.

I played in bands using a electrified acoustic guitar. When I bought my first solid electric (an Antoria Gibson SG copy) it was left-handed, so I thought I'd try to learn to play "properly" left-handed. This meant throwing away over 10 years of playing experience so I abandoned the idea and converted the SG copy to right-handed stringing. This meant fitting a new nut and reversing the angle of the bridge. I used that guitar for many years.

Nowadays, I have a left-handed Strat which was easy for a local dealer to convert because the bridge has enough adjustment in it. It just needed a new nut and a new set of strings. I also recently bought a genuine SG Standard, again left-handed. I ordered a new scratch plate for it with the post holes for the bridge reversed - I drew round the existing one then turned it upside down to get the new position for the bridge posts then send it to a company that makes specialised scratch plates. It was fairly cheap and a quick turnaround. I then gave the guitar and the scratchplate to the same dealer who converted it.

I have not removed the scratchplate to see how it looks underneath but the dealer said that he's fill the old bridge post holes with mahogany dowling or similar, then re-drill them. Anyway, it plays beautifully.

Any questions, feel free to contact me on MRexEH7UK@aol.com.

Mike Rex Edinburgh Scotland

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