Most of us musicians can name one or more famous left-handed guitar players. When asked, there are a few people who are at the top of everyone’s lists, namely, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain from Nirvana, Paul McCartney from the Beatles, and Orville Gibson, the creator of Gibson guitars! Because of these rockstars, many people know that there are guitars made especially for left-handed people. But, what about that other popular string instrument: the ukulele. Are you able to play a right-handed ukulele if you are left-handed? Is there such a thing as a left-handed ukulele?
If you are a left-handed musician in a right-handed world, never fear! Read on to find out all about left-handed ukuleles and some tips and tricks for playing the left-handed ukulele.
Playing a Right-Handed Instrument
The first thing I would recommend is to try and play a right-handed ukulele the standard way. Some left-handers find they have the dexterity and control needed to fret the strings with their left hand and strum with their right hand.
There are a few benefits for you if you are able to manage this. First of all, since they are so common, you will easily find right-handed ukuleles as well as instructional materials designed for a right-handed ukulele. Therefore, if you find you can play using your left hand for fretting and your right hand for strumming as a right-handed player does, this is probably the simplest solution. Okay, but what if you have tried this and it just doesn’t work very well for you? That’s okay, there are other options!
Playing a Right-Handed Instrument Upside Down
The next thing you could do to play the ukulele as a left-handed player is simply to play it upside down. This may take some getting used to, but it is very possible given the many simple chord shapes involved. Some chords may even be somewhat easier to play upside down. The downside to this would be needing to flip everything in your mind before you play it, especially when reading ukulele tabs.
String Your Ukulele Backwards
Not sure you want to play upside down? That’s okay because there are a few other options. A good choice is to string the ukulele backward, for a left-handed ukulele player. What this means is that instead of the strings going “G, C, E, A” you would string them with the A on top, like this: “A, E, C, G.” Then when you hold it to fret with your left hand, the chord shapes will be the same as on a ukulele that is strung the “standard,” right-handed, way.
Reaching Chards & Tabs if You String Your Uke Backwards
But, you ask, won’t reading chord charts/tabs be different if I am playing this way? Well, yes, they will be, but there is a simple trick for this. When reading the chord charts, treat them as mirrored images. If you can imagine standing in front of a mirror with the tab on the other side, you will know how to read the tabs with the left-hand uke. For a really simple explanation of how to read tabs like this, check out this YouTube video:
Purchasing a Left-Handed Ukulele
A third option you have, and this is probably the best option for serious ukulele players, is to purchase a left-handed ukulele. This is a ukulele made specifically for left-handed people.
Because the tuners, frets, and strings are made for standard tuning, they are likely to hold their tuning better than a right-handed ukulele that is strung upside down. While they will be harder to come by in a music store, there are a few companies that make them.
You can also request them from your local music store and they should be able to order one or more for you. Because they are rarer than right-handed ukuleles, they can be more expensive than a typical ukulele. This is why they might be something you only want to consider if you are serious about the instrument.
Bonus: I Taught my Left-handed Husband!
My husband is left-handed and has no musical experience or background, so for this blog I decided it would be fun to have him try these different ways of playing the ukulele (Thank you for being a good sport, dear!).
I decided not to string it upside now, but instead had him try to play the right-handed way, and then had him try playing backwards, using his right hand to fret and his left hand to strum. Making the chord shapes was at first challenging for him no matter how he held the instrument, the same as it can be for any beginner. However, after a few minutes of trying both ways, he decided it was definitely more comfortable for him to play the ukulele upside down. So, there you have the perspective of one left-handed beginner. Take it for what it’s worth, and give it a try yourself!
Are you left-handed? How do you play the ukulele? Have you tried playing in the different ways mentioned in this blog? Leave your thoughts below!