Talk­back

Guitar Techniques - - Contents -

Tell us you rviews... how are we do­ing?

Af­ter nearly 30 years of play­ing, my tech­nique was all but de­stroyed by Fo­cal Hand Dys­to­nia, or Mu­si­cians’ Cramp. Af­ter go­ing through the oblig­a­tory five stages of grief, which re­sulted in my pack­ing in live play­ing and sell­ing a large pro­por­tion of my gear, I fi­nally de­cided to man-up and try to learn left-handed.

This was partly in­spired by a visit to the grave of Gary Moore, who fa­mously played right-handed, de­spite be­ing a lefty (along with Mark Knopfler et al). De­spite the chal­lenge and frus­tra­tion - ex­pect­ing to be able to play 30 years of knowl­edge and tech­nique within a week, and hav­ing to hold and vi­su­alise ev­ery­thing the ‘wrong’ way - it is ac­tu­ally prov­ing to be a re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

De­spite the odd foray into coun­try or jazz, and re­li­giously try­ing new things from your mag, my play­ing had reached a bit of a rut. But now I’m get­ting to ex­pe­ri­ence that won­der­ful feel­ing all over again, of show­ing progress on a daily ba­sis; learn­ing power chords again, open chords, play­ing notes... mas­ter­ing Smoke On The Wa­ter!

The most awk­ward thing so far has proven to be sim­ple things that feel alien; like hold­ing the pick, the feel of the gui­tar be­ing on the other shoul­der etc. In terms of my right hand, it has proven far more ca­pa­ble of do­ing things like hold­ing down chords and even lead tech­niques like ham­mer-ons and pull-offs, than my left hand did in the early stages. Af­ter a month I’m al­ready at a stage I was first time round af­ter six (of course, al­ready hav­ing all the knowl­edge helps). So, are many of us miss­ing a trick when we au­to­mat­i­cally plump for a righty? And should the gui­tar mar­ket pro­duce more left-handed gui­tars?

Ev­ery­thing feels awk­ward in the first few months any­how, but as the right hand is nat­u­rally the stronger, and will be do­ing most of the work, doesn’t it make more sense to make this your fret­ting hand? I know many left­ies go righty sim­ply be­cause it’s eas­ier to get hold of that de­sir­able gui­tar, but I’d haz­ard that many right­ies should give lefty a go.

An­other thing it has made me ap­pre­ci­ate is how dif­fi­cult ev­ery­thing is at the start. This has helped me as a gui­tar teacher as well as player, to un­der­stand the process stu­dents go through. It’s easy to for­get when you get frus­trated at why one of them can’t fin­ger a sim­ple power chord. Maybe all teach­ers should flip their gui­tars over dur­ing those early lessons with new­bies, so they can em­pathise with what they are go­ing through? I’d be in­ter­ested in your com­ments on the is­sue. Damian Pieroni Sad to hear of your con­di­tion, Damian, but it’s also great that you are tack­ling it head on. On the lefty-righty de­bate it’s hard to know where to stand. The com­plaint of ‘not enough left-handed gui­tars’ has been go­ing on for years; the mak­ers state, quite rea­son­ably, that since left­ies make up only 10 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion it’s not vi­able to of­fer them the same breadth of mod­els.

I’d be wary of ad­vis­ing a lefty be­gin­ner to go righty though as, even though it would make life eas­ier in the long run, the fear is he or she might have been a ge­nius that way round. That said, the num­ber of top left­ies play­ing righty is high – in­clud­ing our own Phil and Ja­son too (above).

The other thing, of course, is to use a right-handed gui­tar upside down (Otis Rush, Al­bert King); and yet our John Wheatcroft stayed lefty and is phenom­e­nal. And of course we have Michael An­gelo Ba­tio, whose ‘left and right’ dou­ble-neck play­ing is a thing to be­hold!

As for teach­ers flip­ping over for their be­gin­ner stu­dents, I’m not sure about that one. What do our il­lus­tri­ous read­ers have to say on the lefty-righty topic?

Ja­son and Phil, both left­ies who play righty!

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