In a world that predominantly caters to the right-handed, lefty guitarists can sometimes feel like outsiders. Thankfully, music is full of outsiders – often turning their supposed disadvantages into a signature style. 

  • This article is a homage to those extraordinary left-handers who have quite literally flipped the guitar world upside down. 
  • From the psychedelic whirls of Jimi Hendrix's solos to the melodic bass lines of Paul McCartney, we celebrate the creativity and enduring legacy of left-handed players. 

Their stories are not just about music – they're about innovating, and inspiring

So, for any lefties who feel a bit out of place, let these legends remind you that some of the most remarkable paths are carved from going against the grain.

The challenges of being a left-handed guitarist

Imagine walking into a guitar shop, your eyes sparkling with the dream of strumming your first chord, only to find that most guitars seem to be made for someone else. This is the cruel world that left-handed guitarists are thrown into. 

  • From the scarcity of left-handed models to the awkwardness of restringing a right-hander, the hurdles are as tough as the calluses on our fingertips. 
  • But from that struggle comes eventual triumph – and a unique perspective.

Icons like Jimi Hendrix proved that sometimes, seeing the world from a different angle can lead to extraordinary creativity!

Navigating a right-handed world

The lefty journey begins with the quest for a suitable instrument – easier said than done!

Left-handed guitarists often had to either adapt/modify guitars or seek out specialized models, adding an extra layer of challenge right from the start – this necessity to adapt may help foster innovation…

Jimi Hendrix - The legendary Innovator

Image credit: David Redfern/Getty Images

Jimi Hendrix is undoubtedly the most influential guitarist of all time, and he fully embraced his lefty-ness.

The flipped Stratocaster stemmed from necessity but eventually became a trademark, with right-handed guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughan emulating the upside-down trem as homage.


Early life: Born on November 27, 1942, in Seattle, Washington, Hendrix Developed an early interest in music, influenced by blues, rock, and R&B.

Musical Beginnings: He began playing guitar as a teenager, initially performing in local bands on the chitlin' circuit.

Influences: Inspired by legends like Muddy Waters, B.B. King, and Chuck Berry, Hendrix blended these influences into his sound.

Move to London: Hendrix relocated to London in 1966, where his innovative guitar playing quickly captivated the thriving music scene.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Formed with Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell, releasing groundbreaking music that combined rock, blues, and psychedelia.

Breakout Success: He gained international fame with performances at the Monterey Pop Festival (1967) and Woodstock (1969), showcasing his virtuosic guitar skills and dynamic stage presence.

A new guitar language

Jimi Hendrix revolutionized guitar playing by introducing out-of-this-world techniques and sounds. This topic could be an article in its own right – today we’ll examine just a few key Hendrixian innovations.

  • Utilized feedback, distortion, and wah-wah pedals to create a rich, immersive sound landscape.
  • Pioneered the use of the guitar as an expressive voice, not just a rhythm instrument.
  • Mixed blues roots with experimental rock, forging a new musical language.
  • Extended solos and improvisation pushed the boundaries of guitar music.
  • Complex chord variations and inversions, expanding the harmonic possibilities of the guitar.

Legacy and influence

Hendrix left an indelible mark on music, not just through guitar techniques but also through legendary live performances.

  • At Woodstock in 1969, he delivered an iconic rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner, which remains one of the most emblematic moments in rock history. 
  • Through albums like Are You Experienced, Hendrix explored the depths of psychedelic rock, leaving a lasting impact on the genre.

He inspired a generation to see the guitar in a new light – as a tool for pure expression without boundaries

This legacy is a testament to the power of viewing the world from a different perspective, making him a beacon for free thinkers, and fellow left-handed guitarists.

Want a better idea of how Hendrix approached rhythm guitar? We made a video for you!

Paul McCartney - A Beatle’s left-handed legacy

Image credit: BBC Radio 2

Sir Paul McCartney didn't just play the bass – he redefined its role in popular music. 

As a member of The Beatles, McCartney's left-handed bass playing was not just an iconic look – it was a foundational element of the band's sound. 

Much like Hendrix, McCartney's musical journey began on a right-handed guitar, which he flipped over and restrung.


Early Life: Born on June 18, 1942, in Liverpool, England, he developed an early love for music, influenced by rock and roll and skiffle.

The Beatles: McCartney co-founded The Beatles in the late 1950s with John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, becoming the most influential band in music history.

Songwriting Mastery: His partnership with Lennon produced some of the most iconic songs of the 20th century, showcasing his versatile songwriting and musical talent.

Innovative Music: He played a pivotal role in the evolution of pop music, contributing to groundbreaking albums like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Solo Career and Wings: After The Beatles disbanded in 1970, McCartney embarked on a successful solo career and formed the band Wings, continuing to influence music across genres.

Legacy: Known for his activism in animal rights, environmental causes, and music education, McCartney's enduring legacy spans beyond music to global cultural influence.

Bass as a lead instrument

McCartney's work with The Beatles showcased the bass guitar in a new light, turning it from a rhythm section staple into a lead instrument that carried melodies and added depth to the music.

Songwriting and innovation

Renowned for his melodic genius, McCartney's contributions to The Beatles and his solo career showcase a remarkable range and depth, blending classical, rock, and experimental elements. 

His ability to craft songs that are somehow universal and yet deeply personal is unparalleled. 

Impact on music and culture

  • For all the naysayers – it’s not just Beatlemania: World-famous producer Rick Ruben calls McCartney The best bass player of all time.
  • McCartney's melodic bass lines on songs like Come Together and Day Tripper showcased his innovative approach, blending rhythm and melody in ways that continue to influence musicians across genres. 
  • The tone, feel, and musicality of his bass playing is second to none.

If you’re a guitarist looking to try your hand at bass – check out our Bass for Guitarists Pathway

Kurt Cobain - Grunge's left-handed icon

Image credit: Jeff Kravitz/Filmmagic

Kurt Cobain, the frontman of Nirvana, brought the raw energy and emotion of grunge music to the forefront of the early 90s cultural landscape. 

He opted for left-handed Fender Jaguars and Mustangs which weren’t considered desirable at the time. These ‘pawn shop’ guitars contributed to the distinctive sound that defined many of Nirvana's hits.


Early Life: Born on February 20, 1967, in Aberdeen, Washington. Exhibited a deep interest in art and music from a young age.

Musical Beginnings: Started playing guitar as a teenager, influenced by punk rock, indie, and alternative music scenes.

Formation of Nirvana: Founded Nirvana in 1987 with bassist Krist Novoselic, blending punk, metal, and melody into a unique sound.

Grunge Movement: Became a leading figure in the grunge movement, a genre that emerged in Seattle during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Breakthrough Album: Nevermind (1991) catapulted Nirvana to global fame, highlighted by the iconic single Smells Like Teen Spirit.

The grunge pioneer

Kurt Cobain, frontman of Nirvana, was instrumental in catapulting grunge from Seattle's underground clubs to the global stage. 

  • His raw, emotive performance and distinctive blend of punk ethos with melodic elements challenged the rock mainstream. 
  • Cobain's ability to channel the angst and disillusionment of a generation into his music set the tone for grunge, emphasizing authenticity and emotional depth over the polished production of 80s rock. 
  • His unapologetic honesty and complex personality made him an emblematic figure of the movement, reshaping the musical landscape of the early 90s.

Songs that defined a generation

Cobain's songwriting, characterized by introspective lyrics and dynamic compositions, spoke directly to the struggles and uncertainties of young people. 

These songs, with their mix of raw aggression and catchy melodies, defined the sound of grunge and provided some much-needed authenticity.

A lasting influence

Cobain's impact on music and culture goes beyond Nirvana's discography, his influence as an artist still reverberates among musicians and fans across the globe. 

  • Pure songwriting, raw guitar tones, and the ethos of "music first" continue to inspire young musicians seeking genuine expression. 
  • Cobain's candid discussions on mental health, identity, and societal issues paved the way for a more open conversation in alternative music, reflecting his deep impact on culture
  • Even decades after his tragic death, Cobain's legacy lives on – reminding us of music’s ability to connect, comfort, and convey emotion.

Other noteworthy left-handed guitarists

While Hendrix, McCartney, and Cobain stand out as giants, the world of left-handed guitarists is overflowing with talent that has left an indelible mark on music. 

From blues legends to metal pioneers, we celebrate the diversity and impact of left-handed players. Here are a few lefties who deserve a mention:

Albert King

A towering figure in the blues genre, King's upside-down, left-handed playing on his Flying V guitar contributed to his expressive, vibrato-heavy style. 

His influence on blues and rock guitarists is immeasurable.

Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath

Often considered the godfather of heavy metal guitar, Iommi's riffs have defined the genre's sound. 

Despite losing the tips of two fingers in an accident, Iommi adapted his playing style and went on to create some of the most iconic riffs in rock history.

Elliot Easton of The Cars

Known for his precise and melodic guitar solos, Easton brought a new wave sensibility to rock guitar playing in the late 70s and 80s.

Dick Dale

The king of the surf guitar, Dale's fast-paced, reverb-laden playing helped define the surf rock genre. His use of non-standard tunings and rapid alternate picking was groundbreaking.

What’s left to say?

These musicians, each with their own unique styles and contributions, have not only overcome the challenges posed by a right-handed world but have also enriched the tapestry of music with their distinctive voices. 

Lefties have paved the way for guitarists everywhere – being a little different isn’t a bad thing!

If you want to get better at guitar, you’re in the right place. Sign up now for your free 14-day trial to Pickup Music – you won’t regret it.

Author: Richard Spooner