Picking a Lefty Guitar

Stealthmode Cate
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Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2018 5:51 pm

Picking a Lefty Guitar

Post by Stealthmode Cate » Sun Dec 16, 2018 7:44 pm

Lefties... how in the heck do you pick instruments?

I’m in the market for a new guitar. My current student model, which I’ve had for almost 20 years, is holding me back. I’d like to get up into a nicer model, but as a lefty, I’ve had so few opportunities to play other people’s guitars that I don’t really know what I like. The usual advice of trying things out is hard to follow - I can’t get a sense of what a guitar feels or sounds like if I try to play it upside down, and even if I could play righty a bit, it’s not really a valid test IMO. Listening to other people play makes it hard to separate their technique from the instrument, and in any case I don’t have any CG pals in my new city to take along.

The one nicer guitar I’ve played was an Alvarez Yairi CYM-75 (I think- not 100% sure about the M). Sound-wise, I do remember liking it quite a lot, but that was a long time ago and I’m not sure my present day ears would agree. I recall that it was less prone to fret buzz than my own guitar, but I don’t remember much about the neck shape.

I’ve read through some older threads and it seems that most folks just bit the bullet and ordered something. I’m having a tough time reconciling myself to that; I sort through every detail when I’m trying to pick a loaf of bread, so it’s really hard to just hope for the best with a large purchase like this.

Thank you for any advice! :)

Alan Carruth
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Re: Picking a Lefty Guitar

Post by Alan Carruth » Sun Dec 16, 2018 8:27 pm

Many, if not most, Classical guitars are braced symmetrically on the top, which means that the vibration of the instrument won't be different if it's strung up for left handed play. In many cases all you'll need to do other than replace strings is to reverse the bridge saddle in the slot to get the action right. Some makers build a bit of a twist into the fret board surface to get the action to be higher on the bass strings while maintaining the same string height off he top all the way across. You'd need to get a tapered saddle to make such a guitar play right. In theory this affects the sound: in practice maybe not so much. The only other issue with the saddle would be whether the G string area is notched back to help correct the intonation. In either of those cases the only issue other that swapping strings would be getting a new saddle.

Obviously, ideally you'd get the owner/shop to do whatever modifications to the saddle were needed and replace the strings. At very least you'd have to get their permission to do those things. They may worry about higher tension on the bass strings or other issues. From what I can see most of the strings are at very similar tension, with the B and G strings being significantly lower, and there's not a lot of difference in tension between the low and high Es, with the high e often the higher(!). At any rate, so long as you stay with the same overall tension, and don't raise the action height overall, swapping strings should not put any greater load on the bridge and top.

In the end, you're not going to be able to just walk into a store unannounced and try out all of their guitars. OTOH, if you have a decent local store, and tell them what you're doing, they may well be willing to set up some appropriate instruments for you to try. It's worth a shot.

Stealthmode Cate
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Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2018 5:51 pm

Re: Picking a Lefty Guitar

Post by Stealthmode Cate » Sun Dec 16, 2018 9:55 pm

Thank you! I have to admit, it has never occurred to me that I might be able to ask a dealer to allow me to make changes. I have always assumed that even re-stringing would be disallowed on principle. I’ll try being brave and asking if I might try this with a symmetrically braced guitar.

It is comforting to know that the modifications are so minimal when flipping! And the bit about the high E sometimes having higher tension than the low is fascinating. Guitars are so cool.

Thank you again!

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Re: Picking a Lefty Guitar

Post by souldier » Tue Dec 18, 2018 3:04 pm

This is why they suggest when any left handed player is starting out, to play/hold the guitar as if you're right handed. Both hands have to do complicated tasks so they wouldn't know the difference between a right and left handed guitar. I am quite curious though if it would be possible to change after you've been playing for many years. I guess that would be a grueling task almost like starting from scratch.

Anyway if changing isn't an option which is probably isn't for you since you've been playing for many years, then I'd definitely go the route of finding a guitar with symmetrical bracing and getting the nut/saddle flipped around. I'm curious as to what kind of budget you are aiming for?
"Success grants its rewards to a few, but is the dream of the multitudes.
Excellence is available to all, but is accepted only by a few." - Christopher Parkening

Stealthmode Cate
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Re: Picking a Lefty Guitar

Post by Stealthmode Cate » Tue Dec 18, 2018 11:59 pm

I wish I had started righty. I’m not even left handed. I just started out as a self-taught kid on someone else’s guitar and went 2 years before I started taking lessons and someone alerted me that I’m an idiot. I have tried to flip but ultimately it’s just not worth starting back at zero.

I’m in the market for around $2k or so, could go a bit higher. I’m totally happy with the idea of modifying a righty instrument... just trying to figure out what I should think about trying. Sound quality is very important to me - playing with colors is my favorite aspect of making music, so I’d like something that can handle a range of sounds. Volume is less vital; I’m a sound engineer so amplification is not a sin to me. I have some interest in a shorter scale instrument as a member of the tiny hands club, but I’ve gotten along mostly fine on a 650 mm instrument, so that’s more curiosity than need.

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Re: Picking a Lefty Guitar

Post by sardara » Wed Dec 19, 2018 12:23 am

As a lefty I have come to realise I will never find the perfect guitar, because of the limitations involved. You may have to accept that if you find something that sounds nice you should just buy it, or order a left handed version of a well reviewed guitar without playing it.
I happily owned a guitar for thirty years without realising how mediocre it was because I had nothing to compare it to!

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