Long story short, a few years back my dad had a Black Sabbath-style accident with a car door that took off one of the digits on the ring finger of his fretting hand. He occasionally picks up my instruments to tool around a bit, but he quickly becomes frustrated when he can't apply enough pressure with his shortened finger and hands the instrument back to me.

I've suggested using something like an archery finger guard to help make up the difference, but he hasn't been interested in that option.

Recently, however, he conceded that he might try to learn to play left-handed. He's naturally ambidextrous to a degree, and has been known to do some things left-handed (e.g. playing pool), so I'm looking at getting him an inexpensive instrument to test this out and see if it's something that he wants to pursue further.

Just trying it out myself, I've been amazed at how foreign a left-handed guitar feels. I was wondering if anyone happened to have any advice on transitioning to playing with your off hand, and how to become comfortable with it.

  • There have been several questions with good answers, similar to this. Unfortunately, the 'related' part on the right of screen has picked up on the key word switching, which sadly isn't a great deal of help to anyone.
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 9:38

4 Answers 4


Tips I have for people trying to enter ambidexterity with guitar:

  • Play in front of a mirror.
  • Tune to an open tuning and focus on training one hand at a time.
  • Invoke the good vibes of Sir Paul McCartney and Jimi Hendrix before practicing.
  • Practice tightening your fret-board hand on heavy jugs of milk/water (carrying them around).
  • Remember that nobody is born with these skills, and that practice shall make perfect.
  • Be happy / play happy / rejoice in whatever progress you make or don't make.
  • Enjoy discovering muscles you did not know you had.
  • Try and apply effort in sustaining awareness of the arm muscles in your non-dominant arm.

Maybe "Handedness" isn't as hard-wired as you might think!

I am left handed(I write & throw with my left hand).

I took up the guitar 18 months ago (at the tender age of 54) and play it right-handed, which feels perfectly natural.

I also hold a bat & swing a golf club right-handed.


  • Is handed-ness activity specific? perhaps(?)
    – sova
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 6:16

I suspect it would be much easier for him to adapt his technique without switching hands. It is possible to play just as well if not better with less fingers (the obvious example of Django Reinhardt comes to mind) as the added constraint forces you to really think about the technique and the underlying music (as opposed to simply applying finger patterns learned off a chart).

If he is intent on switching hands, then learning each hand separately will be necessary. For the fretting hand, a good way to stimulate muscle memory is to place your fingers in a chord position, press down as if to play it, then release completely, open up your hand, then place your fingers back down again in the same chord position, release, etc. etc. It's a quick way to get your fingers to remember where to go. Overall though, he'll have to have a good dose of patience since it'd really be about trying to rewire the brain, and that takes time.

  • When trying to rewire the brain it often helps doing something irrational as well as the thing you are trying to do. Perhaps counting backwards from 57 while practising chord positions.
    – Bent
    Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 16:28

Right-handed people do all the clever stuff on guitar with their left hands. Does any more need to be said?

  • 1
    So much more needs be said, but I agree with you. Balance.
    – sova
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 6:15

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