In most cases a right handed instrument can be easily converted to a left handed instrument. In fact, on a classical guitar, the conversion may be as simple as restringing it. The saddles on classical guitars typically have no compensation angle, and the nylon strings are close enough in diameter that the nut slots are often wide enough to accommodate the strings in whichever order. The difference in this case would be negligible. Though, sometimes this does not work, and the guitar has to be fitted with a lefty nut. On a mandolin, or archtop guitar, the instrument would require a new lefty compensated bridge along with the new nut. On a four string banjo, one would need to replace the nut, while a five string banjo cannot be converted. Any electric guitar with a tune-o-matic type bridge will likely be installed with a compensation angle, and the post holes would have to be plugged and re-drilled. Often times, on an electric guitar, hardware like tailpieces can simply be replaced with their lefty equivalents. Steel string acoustic guitars require some extra attention, and require that the compensated saddle be removed, and replaced with a saddle with the opposite angle. This requires that the slot where the saddle is fitted must be “plugged” with a matching wood to that of the bridge. Then the angle must be re-cut with the opposite compensation. The saddle itself can then have a more precise compensation pattern filed onto the top of it. This means that the crown point (the highest point where the string touches the saddle, and the exact location where the string length ends) of each individual string is located where it should be for proper intonation along the length of the saddle. This is a much more difficult process, and should be done by a skilled repair person. If one is purchasing a new guitar, it is recommended that they order the left handed version, though, unfortunately many companies do not offer left handed guitars. Luckily, converting a guitar to left handed typically presents no structural or tonal difficulties, or damage. There are a few things to consider, though. The side markers along the neck of the guitar would be on the wrong side. They can always, though, be installed on the proper side, if this is an issue for the player. Also, the pick guard will be on the wrong side. In many cases, the pick guard will be difficult to remove, as removing it will expose unfinished wood. A new pick guard, can, however, be installed on the correct side.
Grosse Pointe Music Academy Staff/ Certified Luthier
Thanks Dave. I love knowing that I can make instruments left handed if I find a right handed one that I really like.
You’re welcome, friend. I had you especially in mind when I wrote this! I am glad that you approve.
Can’t left-handed people just play right handed guitars?
sure they can. Plenty of people do it. Some prefer to play though without flipping the guitar around.
Sure, a left handed player could learn that way, and there would be nothing wrong with it from an individual player’s standpoint. A beginner is a beginner and can learn from scratch however they like. However, from the standpoint of a builder of instruments, it doesn’t make much sense for left handed players to even play left handed. Many builders actually argue that the instrument already is left handed as the main dexterity for fretting and fingering all comes from the left hand on the standard instrument. Most musical instruments do not have left handed alternatives, e.g. timpani, piano, organ, brass and woodwinds. It is extremely rare to find a left handed violin as the instrument is built in a standard traditional way. Guitars are newer instruments, so they don’t have the same tradition associated with them. That gives luthiers the freedom to change the design to accommodate players a lot more than they would have if they were working with a violin, without defying the tradition of the instrument too much. Realistically, most left handed players that I know say that they wish that they had learned right handed. This is because the industry does not make a lot of left handed guitars. In fact, MOST guitar companies either do not offer a left handed equivalent, or raise the price considerably on the left handed models. The other reason is that if you learn to play on a left handed instrument it can be extremely frustrating to go to another musicians home or gig and not be able to simply pick up their instrument and play. But, for musicians who have learned left handed and are not at a place where it is practical to relearn the other way, converting a right handed instrument to a left handed one is a good option, and in many cases, their only option.
How long would it take and how much would it cost to convert a right handed guitar completely into a left handed guitar.?And of course still look pretty!
I’m pretty sure that it would vary from guitar to guitar. Hey Mr. Bolla, you have an answer for this?
It does vary from guitar guitar. For acoustic guitars that require that the saddle be plugged and re-cut, and the nut to be replaced, a guitarist would be looking at around $100 dollars. Of course, this is just an average estimate. If hardware needs to be replaced, the cost of the hardware is going to influence the overall cost of the repair more than the labor. The best thing to do is to bring the guitar in to a qualified repair technician for a proper assessment. Hope this helps!
Katelynn Kiesgen says
Very interesting. Although it sounds like it varies in most cases, I did not know it could be as simple as just restringing. I must say, I’m guilty of being happy that I’m a righty!!
haha. You don’t have to be guilty about being a righty. Being a lefty is cool in someways but in a right handed world it kind of isn’t cool in most ways.