It is a common phenomenon that right-handed guitars are sold to left-handed players even in music stores. Very popular is the recommendation to simply apply the strings the other way round. And why not? The guitar is a symmetric instrument – isn’t it?
Left-hand guitar by re-stringing upside down?
Well, try to conduct the low E string through the slot in the nut for the high E string (the nut is the piece of bone through which the strings are leaded to the machine heads). You will notice that this is not possible, because the slots are different. So there you have discovered the first asymmetry!
You will find the second asymmetry when you check out the bridge thoroughly. You see, that the bridge is tilted? This is of importance because it ensures the intonation.
Another asymmetry that you cannot see from the outside, is the bracing. By positioning and shaping the braces the sound is optimized. This only works if the strings are where they belong.
With upmarket instruments you often find a slightly asymmetrically shaped neck for better playability, even the fingerboard is often levelled asymmetrical, as the low strings vibrate more than the high ones do.
Consequences of turning round the strings
So what would be the consequences of a simple “turning round” the strings?
The low strings would easily slip out of the nut slots, while the high strings would be adjusted too low and could possibly buzz. If the fingerboard is asymmetrical too, they will buzz definitely.
Once tuned, the guitar would sound out of tune everytime you play a chord on an such an instrument. Intonation cannot work because the low strings are too short and the high strings are too long.
The sound quality would diminish because now the bracing would no longer match the strings.
The neck would feel uncomfortable.
Left-handed guitar the proper way
What can you do in retrospect?
With a cheap beginner guitar, it is usually sufficient to file a new nut and replace the bridge by an inverted one. Finally, you don’t want the later works to be in unreasonable proportion to the price of the guitar.
Once an advanced playing level is acquired and a higher quality guitar is envisaged, you should get a proper left-handed guitar. It is built from scratch to meet the needs of the left-handed player. Nut, bridge, bracing, neck and fretboard get the correct form and ensure that the left-hander has an adequate sound experience and joyful playing.
… are available in our workshop at a minimal surcharge with no restrictions.
Here’s a small selection of left-handed guitars we have build: