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I Play Guitar "Both Handed"

Why Play Lefty or Righty?
Guitar Shorty

I play righty, but sometimes people who have seen me write or use a fork with my left hand will ask, "Why don't you play guitar left handed?", to which I reply, "I play guitar with both hands."

Regardless of which way YOU play, you're using both hands. And whether it happens to be lefty, righty or even lefty upside-down-- is all fine, as long as it's fine & natural with you, and you are progressing.


One day, a 15 year old girl walks into a friend's guitar shop looking for a left handed guitar. As it turns out, the young lady hasn't even started playing guitar. But upon expressing an interest in learning the instrument, someone who happened to know she was left handed, "wisely" advised her she must therefor obtain a lefty guitar.

Even though my friend had lefty models in stock, being a good teacher as well, he had enough perspective to help disabuse her of the idea she "has" to play left handed.

Just like piano and sax players, guitarists use both hands. And good luck finding a left handed piano or sax-- or a left handed computer keyboard for that matter! Having just Googled "left handed saxophone", I actually see results displaying frantic parents trying to find one for their lefty kid who wants to be in the school band. Good grief... And BTW, there are no lefty smart phones either.

So, today I'm gonna tell ya a story based upon my own theory about the subject of left handedness. This doesn't necessarily align or agree with experts in psychology, left brain/right brain theory, neurology, anatomy, genetics or the human brain. My theory draws from anthropology, history, linguistics and empirical observations. I consider it a "theory" because much of its evolution actually precedes recorded history; meaning I have to suppose some things before including certain factors later in the time line which tend to support my prehistoric suppositions. Not being a certified diploma'd expert myself, I merely present my observations here for the purposes of curiosity.

A Lefty can do more with their right hand than a righty can do with their left hand. This is because of all the right hand design, orientation of objects, tools, etc., around us. But perhaps earlier in our evolution, left and right-handedness were more even-- in other words, lefty's weren't such a minority, or maybe not even a minority at all. It may have been in equilibrium. Maybe even earlier, humans were totally ambidextrous, until we developed more tools, and had to make decisions about handling tools. Then there may have been popularity issues between the best tool for this or that, and which designs were better-- although sometimes for arbitrary reasons only. Coulda come down to a personality contest between two hammer inventors. "That's a right-handed hammer because I say so, and I'll clobber you for using it left handed!" Then enter the early church and their preoccupation with ritual, control and dichotomies, i.e. black/white, good/evil, God/Devil, right/wrong, right/left, up/down, heaven/hell, dark/light, democrat/republican, coke/pepsi, Leno/Letterman, etc. 

The earliest dictionary derivations (Latin) for the word "Left" connect with "sinister" and "sin". Look it up! "Right" is correct, so left must be... wrong. And so at some point in the historical/cultural timeline, we have Authority showing up to define, dictate and assign some sort of moral significances and rules about which hand one should or shouldn't use for this or that task. Then the training factor gets established for the next umpteen centuries & generations, through the industrial revolution and on up to the present.

If N. Korean ruler Kim Jong Un happened to be left handed, and wanted all N. Korean children trained/switched to lefty, they'd do it. Would this then make N. Korea the most creative country? Possibly. But only for reasons I'm explaining, and not popular reasons.

The enhanced creativity factor currently granted lefties can logically be explained by the fact that they must overcome and resolve certain factors of predominately right handed design in the environment from the day they decide to pick up a spoon or a crayon with their left, and are allowed this choice without being "corrected". But even now, wherever right-handedness is not consciously enforced, parents still tend to orient kids to the right without thinking about it, simply because they themselves are usually right-handed, and live in this right-handed world. But a child who orients left and sticks with it, will encounter reversed mechanical challenges, the overcoming of which will sometimes put them ahead in the "creativity" department simply because they sometimes have to apply more creativity than naturally inclined right handers.

Lefty-upside-down guitar players are often, probably individuals who overcame another challenge-- the scarcity of lefty guitars available to try out vs an abundance of righty instruments available. These players have adapted the abundance to their needs, and might therefor be considered extra-creative-- or those who just like doing things the hard way. Eric Gales is right handed though he plays guitar lefty upside-down because his 2 older brothers played that way. Some have claimed that Hendrix could play a guitar either left or right equally well. I believe this to a point, but not the "equally well" part, as photos of Jimi usually show the same orientation, meaning that he at least had a preference. If Jimi was sometimes photographed playing righty, but the negative were reversed to "correct" the photo, then Noel Redding or Billy Cox would have become lefties, if they were in the shot. But I personally haven't seen any such photos. So again, Jimi preferred lefty, and probably because he played better that way.

But I do not believe that lefties are genetically or structurally "wired" any differently, or mystically gifted in the arts. Rather that left or right theory stems from cultural aberrations and rules going back to the first primitive tool designs, and arbitrary applications decisions further enforced by ritual, religion, traditions and language. Was someone's earliest choice of left over right a choice, an intuition or a polarity? I believe more in random actions leading to familiarity and then preference. But to be sure, one path ultimately offers more creative challenges by default. As for Hendrix, let's just say he really dug challenges.

I eat and write with my left, swing bats and golf clubs right handed, play tennis both left and right. And I do more with my right than righties usually do with their left-- but why would they? Not much "left" in their environment to challenge them. Right? Especially if they merely aspire to being normal.

According to a book about left-handedness (sorry don't recall the title), the jobs with the highest percentile of left-handers is astronauts & fighter pilots. Not artist related professions. Therefore I don't believe lefties are inherently more creative, but that they develop more creativity by overcoming a world of predominate righty design. The cockpit of a fighter jet is so extensive as to demand ambidexterity, and lefties are more inclined adaptively by experience.

I play guitar right handed since that's how I saw it being played, and since no well-intentioned Authority sought to correct me. Being a lefty and playing righty is fine for me. Playing with both hands seems most obvious of all. If a lefty player claims to feel most comfortable with a lefty guitar, I attribute this to conditioning and not to their immediate sense the first time picking up a guitar.

I'm typing this with both hands, and believe we'd be at the top of our creativity if we were all ambidextrous in all things. Perhaps we'll evolve onward to this level if the necessity toward greater multitasking requires it. Otherwise, pick the hand or side which works best for doing whatever, to you. Either way, greater and greater creativity will be required as one progresses from nose picking to violin building in the course of a lifetime.

Also remember that many super creative people ARE right handed. So the left/right-handedness factor is only one aspect of several others in the broader subject of human creativity. The cart doesn't pull the horse. Sadly, there are also certainly left-handed people who have ended up stunted creatively, as surely as also there are ultra dull & boring righties. And as for left-right brain cognitive differentiations-- although there may be something to it, I think it's overblown and overrated. I don't feel, think or create any differently facing south than north, east, west, heaven, hell, mecca or Mississippi.

Although I've yet to research this, I have a hunch that right to left-handedness ratios vary differently in indigenous cultures than industrialized ones, and that Eastern cultures may differ from Western in this regard as well. If this is so, it would also debunk some of the wiring and neuro-structure explanations by the experts. And what if ambidexterity is more prevalent in autistic people? I have NO data on this, just a funny "what if".

Form follows function. Being left-handed is just fine. Being right-handed is convenient. Being creative is being creative and interested in creating, regardless of how or why.

On a planet that's dumb all over/a little ugly on the side, taking crap for being left handed is to be expected. But certainly not the worst of human concerns.

Stratoblogster Labs  - More ridiculous ideas...

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