Going to try and distil this down to one question!


My 9yo daughter is interested in music, and and at the moment rock guitar. We have loads of guitars and ukes around from me and her mum playing so she likes to just pick up and twang. She is very very independent minded and against formal instruction - this is fine by me; I was very put off the violin by the formal lessons and learned guitar on my own, I'm quite happy for her to do that and give her pointers (if she'll let me, however that's a whole other story).


However, despite being right handed for everything else, she always picks up the instruments lefthandedly. I have suggested she just try and get used to the other way round, just for ease of access to instruments, and so it's a bit easier for me to teach her if she wants that, but she insists that it feels weird and she can't do it.

I don't know how much of this is 9yo stubbornness (she is Strong Willed to a fault) and how much is kind of biology? It feels to me that right at the start both hands don't know what to do so it should be just a case of learning one way round? But obviously I just started and continued right handed.


So I suppose the question is, to ideally anyone with experience themselves or teachers, can right-handers just naturally be left-handed for the guitar, and should I just accept this and retune a uke, or should I keep trying to encourage her to try playing right-handed?

  • I found this music.stackexchange.com/questions/93777/… but that's more the other way round; if she was left-handed for everything else I'd happily just get her going on a left-handed tuned instrument Feb 1, 2022 at 10:47
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    By the way—just to check—when you say she plays "lefthandedly," you do mean strums with the left hand and fingers the frets with right hand, right? Feb 1, 2022 at 13:37
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    BTW, despite your goal in the first sentence, this could be effectively split into two questions: "Should lefties flip" and "is it better to let a young student play however they want to as long as they're engaged, and change their patterns later, or is that detrimental?" Of course both can be to some degree opinion-based, but there is probably also actual research on both. Feb 1, 2022 at 19:10
  • @AndyBonner Yes, that is correct, frets with right, strums with left Feb 2, 2022 at 12:28
  • This may be a controversial way to put it, but music is in the brain, not in the hands. She imagines that the way to play a guitar is "left-handed," and both of you are stuck with that. I speak as a natural lefty who can't imagine playing a guitar any other way, and when I get a right-handed guitar, I play it upside down, with mixed results. Some things that I've learned since childhood, such as painting and using scissors or a carpenter's saw, I do right-handed. If she doesn't get a left handed guitar, she might end up like Elizabeth Cotten.
    – Wastrel
    Feb 2, 2022 at 14:16

11 Answers 11


As a parent who's gone through a lot with children and music, positively and negatively, I would suggest that you give her the information she needs, and then step away and let her make her choice.

Nine years old is old enough to have some understanding of things like "in the long run", but not necessarily old enough to correctly weight them. That's okay - this is how they learn!

So let her know why people usually play right handed, and that if she decides to keep up the guitar long term it may be challenging; but just do that once, and let her make her own decision. She'll figure it out eventually, or she won't, but what will happen if you try to force the issue is she'll stop enjoying guitar and move on to something else.

  • Indeed, I'm inclined to suggest borrowing two guitars strung both ways and let her play both and see what she thinks.
    – phoog
    Feb 2, 2022 at 11:27
  • So many great answers here, but this is the one I went with from a parenting point of view that fit best with the way I interact with my daughter in general, thank you. Now I just have to get a 9yo to accept that she doesn't know best, but that's way beyond the scope of Music Stack Exchange :D Feb 22, 2022 at 9:40

Let the child hold the guitar like she wants. You may just have a child that is selectively ambidextrous. It happens. You get cricketers who bat left-handed and bowl right handed. It is not an issue. She may not have as wide an selection of guitars if she keeps playing leftie and may have to make peace with the fact that single cut guitars are not for her, but that is ok.

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    As a left hander who would hold a cricket bat "right handed" and also plays guitar "right handed" I totally agree, and I would argue that the concepts of "left handed" and "right handed" for two-handed tasks are somewhat subjective.
    – Rodney
    Feb 2, 2022 at 1:19
  • @Rodney indeed, while it is less true for finger picking, strumming certainly demands more dexterity from the hand on the fretboard, a fact that I first encountered in a discussion between two left-handed guitarist friends who played on different sides. Neil Meyer: even double-cut bodies are usually not symmetrical, but there are both single- and double-cut guitars made for playing with the right hand on the frets. For example: duckduckgo.com/?q=left+handed+single+cut+guitar
    – phoog
    Feb 2, 2022 at 11:18
  • I knew a guy who was left-handed, but taught himself to play a "right-handed" guitar "left-handed" (he flipped it upside down). That allowed him to hold it the way it felt comfortable to him, but still be able to use almost any instrument (since they are almost all "right-handed"). Feb 2, 2022 at 16:32

Left-handed guitar is certainly a thing. If this is her preference, go with it. It’s far more important that she is enthusiastic about playing. Remove obstacles, don’t create them.

Yes, of course she could play right handed. The whole concept of left-handed guitar player doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny in any case. There are no left-handed pianos, an instrument which arguably requires more dexterity than guitar. (And what deserves the dominant hand more, the complexity of chord shapes and strength for a barre, or the relatively simple job of strumming/picking?) There are very few left-handed violin players, consider the chaos in an orchestra when half the players are poking out the other half's eyes! But it doesn’t matter.


At the risk of being shot down in flames due to the fact that literally everyone is going to have their own opinion on this & no two will ever really agree…

I'd play the percentages game. I'm aware that is not going to be an easy call, especially when it's your own offspring we're talking about.

You need to weigh up the comparative values of…
the amount of argument, falling out, general dissatisfaction & possibly even rage-quit caused by your insistence
how long this hobby is likely to last & the chances of her ever becoming truly great at it.

Basically, you're damned if you do & you're damned if you don't - but those are the potential outcomes of intervention or non-intervention.

I hear there's a great deal at the moment on crystal balls on eBay ;))

I'd always claim that left-handers seem to be intrinsically better at anything ambidextrous - but again that's from a sample set of 'the musicians I've worked with in my life' & cannot include those who gave up before they left school.

BTW, when I wanted my first bass amp at the age of 13, my dad said he'd buy me a pair of running shoes instead, as it would be far cheaper for a hobby that would interest me for 6 weeks. 50 years on, I'm still playing.

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    Good points; I will say it's not about being truly great, hell 30 years of playing and I'm at the giddy heights of truly okay :D so yes maybe as my goal is really to give her a love of and an option to play music for herself, the key thing is letting her play however she feels comfortable Feb 1, 2022 at 11:55
  • I'm quite possibly being somewhat hyperbolic ;)) But yes, you have to weigh up how much fun it is vs 'doing it properly'.
    – Tetsujin
    Feb 1, 2022 at 11:58
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    "I'd always claim that left-handers seem to be intrinsically better at anything ambidextrous - but again that's from a sample set of 'the musicians I've worked with in my life'" - Actually, I think you'll find this is backed up by science. While right handed people are typically very right handed, left handed people tend to be closer to ambidextrous than highly specialised in their left. Whether or not this is because people force right handedness upon people for sport, music, and so on I'm not sure.
    – mike1878
    Feb 1, 2022 at 12:21
  • @mike1878 I was shocked a few years ago when a colleague claimed to be rather more unable to do anything with his left hand than I could imagine (we are both right-handed), and I came to wonder whether this is related to my playing the piano (which I have never done terribly well, but still). I wonder whether any of these studies have compared degree of ambidexterity of people with the same handedness but different degrees of training on different instruments or in other two-handed manual tasks.
    – phoog
    Feb 2, 2022 at 11:24

Anecdotally, my gut instinct is to pick up a guitar and attempt to play it as if it's on lefty flip (using the Guitar Hero games' definition of "lefty flip") despite being right-handed. (At this point, I've played self-taught ukulele enough times that my new default with it is to play it with the fretboard sticking straight up, neither standard nor lefty flip. This is almost certainly not how to play ukulele, but it helps me perform fret calculations on the fly better right now.)

I'd still try gently encouraging your daughter to try both handednesses and have her figure out for herself whether she prefers playing guitar right- or left-handed. It's quite possible she's already decided what she prefers based on what you've said in your question, but I have a feeling she hasn't even tried out playing right-handed for 30 seconds, let alone 3-5 minutes. Once she's tried out both handednesses, then go with the one she still prefers (or attempt to teach her both if she does change her mind and want to try both). (I might be biased here by my personal willingness to flip between lefty flip and right-handed air guitar.)

Giving up the ghost, so to speak, regarding which way she holds the guitar is likely an even better option if she also does a few other things left-handed while still almost always being right-handed (examples on my end for right-handed me: I shoot right and unscrew jars with my left hand despite right-handers generally shooting left).

As you may have figured out by my mentions of lefty flip, I'd treat retuning the guitar as a separate issue from your daughter's guitar handedness. Assuming she still plays guitar left-handed, I'd try both right-handed and left-handed tunings and find out which ones she prefers. (...All right, if she plays right-handed, we stick to right-handed tunings.)


Doing things attentively is easier with your active hand. Forming chord and note shapes requires lots of attention for a beginner. Ultimately however it is the right hand that is determining the precise time of note onset and thus is the one that needs to be in sync with your activity while the left works ahead with muscle memory.

The subdivision is similar for smithing: the "passive" hand has all of the dexterous job of preparing the workpiece properly ahead of the active hand hitting with the right rhythm.

So your daughter may be right that its easier to start playing left handed as a right hander. Apart from possibly things coming to bite her later depending on how strong her active/passive hand relation is established, it's also easier to find instructors and instructions that can work effectively with right-handed players.

Whether that's worth meddling and to what degree is your call, however. There is nothing worse for becoming good with an endeavor than not enjoying it.


Perhaps an incomplete answer follows, but this from the perspective of someone who displayed similar behaviour while younger and eventually switched simply because I had to share my instrument with others.

Personally, I believe simple songs on guitar ("C and strum") are much more difficult for the left hand than for the right. We can only form chords well with our non-dominant hands because of thousands of hours of practice. When we start learning the dominant hand actually has very little to do while the left has to precisely place 2 - 4 fingers in several strange orientations. On some guitars the non-dominant also needs more strength. For me, these reasons were why I picked up the guitar the "wrong" way around.

As playing carries on of course right hand dexterity becomes important, but for many (most?) styles the left still is responsible for the brunt of the work. Guitarists soloing watch the guitar neck, not their right hand. Is it great for your brain development to train your non-dominant hand? I'm sure it is. Is it a superior way of playing, or is there a big problem on the horizon if she continues to play left handed? Perhaps not.

I would encourage her to play the standard way simply because it will make life easier if she continues - playing others guitars in gigs, at school, or in stores will be possible, and it will be easier to find comfortable gear. However, if you're hitting real resistance question whether playing "right" is worth the risk of putting her off. In the early years there's still the opportunity to switch over.

  • I would argue that basic rock guitar techniques like string bending, hammer-ons and pull-offs, fingertip muting etc demand more from fretting than picking hand too.
    – ojs
    Feb 1, 2022 at 14:13
  • Conversely though, having the "dominant" hand doing the picking means you can rely on it to do what you need it to do. And if you're playing a bowed instrument, most of your early teaching is about fine motor control with the bow, and the left hand is the "easy" one.
    – Graham
    Feb 2, 2022 at 8:43

Let's face it - it's a 50:50 choice!

If she's happy playing lefty, leave the strings as they are, and see how she gets on. It's somewhat easier to play guitar with the fat string uppermost, but maybe she'll rise to that challenge too.

Sounds like she's completely self-minded, but explaining that in future she'll look non-too-bright if she's offered someone else's guitar - which will 99% be r.h. Also choice for an upgrade will be more limited l.h. later.

I've always been of the opinion that for most guitarists, the handedness comes in two parts - fingeredness for fretting and armness for strumming. O.k. picking uses fingerdness, but nowhere near as much as fretting.

As is often pointed out in situations like this, Jimi managed either way very well, so neither can be knocked, so give her her head, and let her carry on regardless.

This question will most likely be closed as a dupe, so consider reading the plethora of answers already here for similar questions - and good luck. Note in a diary that it's her decision - and look back after a fair time - it might be a lesson (for whom?) that we can't all be right all of the time...


Be aware that there are not just anatomical but cultural issues at play. What I mean is, "left-handed guitar players" are certainly rare, but common enough that there's a setting on Guitar Hero. At the same time, I've played violin for 34 years and in that time seen only one child who played with a reversed setup, and that was because an episode of polio had left with too little left-hand dexterity to finger the strings, but enough to hold the bow. Aside from her, I've never seen or heard of a "lefty" bowed string player (unless perhaps in various folk fiddling contexts, especially of longer ago). It just isn't done. And we explain to everyone who inquires about it that you just self-accommodate. The truth is that it's a two-handed operation, and both hands are quite capable of learning their distinct roles. So guitarists like Willie Nelson and Jimi Hendrix flip if they're so inclined, violinists never do, and they all manage to play fluently in the setup they become familiar with.

Now, a separate conversation is "is it better to stick with one way from the beginning, or is there harm in switching later." Here again, I'm culturally biased. Reared in the classical music community, I'm very familiar with "There's a right way and a wrong way, and the right way is probably morally right at that, and you wouldn't want to learn things wrong would you? Then you'd have to unlearn them." While I might not enjoy the tone, I'm still inclined to agree with the principle: If you're going to use one setup, you might as well start that way from the beginning (and I would be disinclined to say that lefties ought to flip).

It's probably another area of cultural bias, but: I'd be inclined to get her a teacher. As a classical musician, I probably rush to "She should learn 'the right way'" rather than the kind of individual exploration common to guitar-driven genres. And I too have a couple of strong-willed daughters, and they don't take kindly to their musician dad trying to teach them (or even hint that they might have a wrong note). And I see myself teaching them differently then I would any other child—being more demanding and less patient. Even though it seems like a "waste of money," we've been happier all around getting lessons from outside the family.

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    There's a specific reason why in particular bowed string players should generally not play left-handed – it creates a total mess in the orchestra. I play cello left-handed, and when sharing a desk with another player I constantly need to watch out so the bows don't collide. (I personally don't play in the orchestra that much, being more into folk and rock where it doesn't matter.) As far as the instrument itself is concerned, I do think there's a slight playing-advantage for lefties to go lefty, and in case of guitar there really isn't much of a reason not to. Feb 1, 2022 at 19:02
  • @leftaroundabout there's also the fact that the bow hand requires less digital dexterity than the fingerboard hand, so left-handed players are at less of a disadvantage on a bowed instrument than they are doing something like writing or sewing. But with guitar you have finger picking as well as strumming, so the degree of disadvantage may be greater with guitar than violin (depending on the style of music).
    – phoog
    Feb 2, 2022 at 11:32
  • @phoog Actually, although I'm avoiding making any strong statements because I'm too lazy to do find research to back myself up, if I were to it would be that I doubt that any ability/hindrance between dominant and non-dominant hands is very innate, and is more learned. In other words, I doubt that a right-dominant person who learns guitar from the start in a lefty orientation faces any inherent disadvantage. The dominant hand isn't "more dextrous" (etymology aside); it's just the one we're used to using for a certain task. I'll bet handedness is primarily in the brain. Feb 2, 2022 at 13:31
  • @leftaroundabout Although "hitting others in orchestra" is a good reason that string players don't switch, I'm not sure it explains it as an "origin story." Images of violins—and for that matter flutes, lutes, etc.—through history show one orientation in the overwhelming majority. Going back even to the medieval fiddle, most of the iconography shows left-hand-stopping-the-strings (even when the instrument is so big it's supported on the right shoulder). ... Feb 2, 2022 at 13:39
  • @leftaroundabout There are of course exception images, but they're few enough to stir controversy, like this boy playing the flute in flipped orientation. Some have suggested that it was the result of the artist using an optical device to project an image onto the canvas (mirror-image flipped), as some Dutch realists were known to have done. Given the boy's posture, ill-suited to wind projection, though, maybe it's just showing a kid who picked up an instrument and did it his way. Feb 2, 2022 at 13:42

I am left handed and my little experience with learning guitar is that it feels to me like both hands have to perform different, but equally challenging tasks. i have held both left and righthanded guitars and (because of my severe lack of experience) both ways feel challenging based on what i focus on. when i focus on depressing the strings on the neck, then i feel like my left hand is best suited for this job. when i focus on plucking the correct strings, then i feel like my left hand is best suited for that job. i guess whatever feels comfortable for the person playing, is the best way to play.

another example is when i use the computer. one might say that left handed people should use their left hand for the mouse, but my parents deliberately chose not to teach me this. and now i am used to mouse with my right hand. this saves me a lot of trouble when using public computers.

so as long as the person playing does not need a specially left handed guitar, and they just stick to the way they choose. i see no problem.

with scissors it is a different story however..


When I first picked up a guitar, I flipped it. I knew Jimi existed and flipped a guitar, and thought I'd try it, and it felt wrong. My wrists wanted to go the opposite way from the angle you need to do the first things. I knew I had to play righty.

In guitar, it mostly doesn't matter. A lefty violinist in an orchestra would look out of place and might have problems butting bows as described here. Guitarists do music in different circumstances with different expectations.

I say mostly because more right-handed guitars are made, so they're cheaper with more options. If there are options a left-handed player wants, it may become necessary to get a custom-made instrument, which is more expensive. This is important for players who are learning, because your can't learn an instrument you can't find or afford.

The good thing about electric guitars is that you can still get them to intonate when flipped. There are other ergonomic issues, like volume knob placement and access to higher frets, but you can make it sound good without too intense a conversion.

You mention a uke, and nylon-string instruments don't have enough tension for an angled bridge to matter. Plus, the cheap ones you can give to kids might not have the bridge in the right place anyway.

My suggestion is that the player is gonna play how she feels comfortable, and if that's playing lefty, so be it.

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