Playing Bass: To Right a Left or Leave It Right

Lefty righty bass playing

Q: I have been playing right-handed ever since I started playing bass, even though I am a left-handed person. Recently though, I have noticed (by messing around) that when I switch the bass around, I can pull off previously difficult techniques a lot better with my left hand, right off the bat. I am considering trying to switch to left-handed playing, but that means all the work I have put in the past six years will go to waste. Any advice on the matter?

A: That’s kind of a tough one and, ultimately, I’m afraid only you will be able to work this one out. But I do have some thoughts on how to approach this, much like any other challenge.

My first thought is to simply do what feels more natural for you, even if that means playing right-handed as a left-handed person. But if yo

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  1. I’m a lefty who plays right handed. It’s just always been comfortable so I just kept on. Then again I play most sports right handed as well as left handed.

  2. I play genuine lefty: a left-handed bass set up correctly. I gotta say, in photos I look ‘out of sync’ with the right-handed guitarists in the band, but in the mirror it looks ‘right’! Even though being a true lefty means I can’t just grab an axe and sit in at jams, it also means that nobody else can just grab my bass and play it. If it were me, I wouldn’t look at time spent relearning to play ‘lefty’ as a chore…think of it as an experiment that could lead to becoming a more proficient player.

  3. I started playing in 1978. Left handed beginner basses were hard to find. I play right and do everything else lefty.I have never tried playing lefty though it is interesting but after 35 years it might be a task.

  4. Stay righty, coz it is way too hard to find decent left handed bass guitar I am lefty and it s always a drag to get in a music store and u cant try anything coz its 99% right handed basses, I know we are not too many in this world but still guitar builders should make some effort..
    – fender marcus miller signature – Yamaha Billy Sheehan – Yamaha TRB6 Patitucci – jazz bass Jaco model – no lefty fodera, F, etc…….. STAY RIGHTY!

  5. I’m a righty and play lefty (yes, I’m weird). but that’s how I first picked up a guitar when I was a wee lad. I own a lefty ibanez soundgear and a lefty squier strat. I tried righty, but just couldn’t do it. it’s not how I’m wired. but, I simply cannot just turn a righty upside down and play it. for me, it has to be a lefty with the strings going the right way (low e on top, high g on bottom). so if I’m sitting in front of another bass player it’s like looking in a mirror. it’s all about what’s comfortable for you or how you’re wired. I was in a local music shop a few years ago and I asked the worker if they ever get in any leftys. he said no then proceeded to explain how playing lefty was a waste of time and that everybody should just learn the regular way. well, if I had any money in pocket for a new bass, he just lost my business right there! matter of fact, I haven’t been in that shop since. poor salesmanship and a great deal of insensitivity toward lefty players! as far as upside down? I honestly don’t know how jimmy haslip does it, but the dude is a beast! my main wish is that manufacturers would make more color/wood options for leftys like they do for rightys, without charging $$$$. most affordable lefty basses are just black. like my ibanez. I hate that. but I’m about to have the black paint on the body stripped and stained. anybody think it’s worth it or should I just leave it alone?

  6. Add the left-hand bass playing in, but keep up with the right-hand, too. That way, one day, when you’re having a bass duel…

    You: I admit it, you are better than I am.

    Other Bass Player: Then why are you smiling?

    You: Because I know something you don’t know.

    Other Bass Player: And what is that?

    You: I… am not right-handed.

  7. I’m a lefty who plays righty. I decided at a young age that anything which requires the purchase of special equipment to do left handed I would just suck it up and learn to do it right handed (my mouse is on my right side, etc.) because one pair of lame green-handled scissors in school would never cut anything!

    Sometimes I think I may be limiting my playing potential but then I think that maybe I should just practice more :)

  8. If you think you are only going to play electric bass then do what ever is comfortable for you. However if you think you might want to play an acoustic bass, you may want to stay with right handed instruments. Yes there are acoustic players who play lefty but you’ll have a hard time finding an instrument or you will have to pay to have a right handed acoustic converted to a left handed one. If you ever wanted to do orchestral playing… well I don’t know of any left handed players in any of the major orchestras.

  9. Lefty instruments are harder to get, but most decent companies will make them on request. I’ve seen Lefties playing Right, Rightys playing Left… Lefties playing a Right upside down…and even the odd Righty playing a Lefty upside down (can’t get my brain around the reason for that), Not to mention Lefties on a Left…and Righties playing Right. I knew a guy who instead of just giving up learned to play Lefty with a pick when he lost some fingers in an accident and he’s still out there gigging. I say, try it out and find what is comfortable… practice makes perfect. This coming from a Lefty who plays right, dues to years of rulers across the knuckles for doing anything left handed.

  10. I don’t know about the lefty righty thing but playing the bass upside down was how the late Wayman Tisdale played his. And he sounded pretty darn good.

  11. I’m left-handed also. When I took up guitar at the ripe old age of 5 1/2, no one asked me anything about being left-handed and so I just started like everyone else – left hand on the fingerboard. I don’t know if it was more difficult because it all seemed difficult then. Outside of guitar and bass, you don’t hear this argument. Even seen a left-handed playing violinist in an orchestra? Probably not, although I did see one when I was in college. She had switched to lefty because of a left hand injury that left her able to bow with the left hand but able to finger the instrument with it. Having said all that, I don’t switch students either way if they’ve already been playing. I don’t agree with one concept though – the fingering hand is doing more fine motor control work than the right, even in classical guitar. It all boils down to what works the best for you. I’m with Damian in that I can’t imagine playing with the strings ‘upside down’ – the brain just won’t let me do that but I know at least one person who does.

    • Dwight,I’ve always played up side down.When I started playing left-handed guitars were hard to find so I flipped the right hand Silvertone over and learned to play that way.The banjo and mandolin presented some problems.The hardest part about the banjo is getting the Earl Scruggs style roll down.My thumb is on the wrong side of my left hand.The mandolin requires the downward “chop” motion.For me it’s making myself play the “chop” up instead of down.

    • You were the person I was referring to.

  12. I’m actually left-handed (well, writing and doing one or two other things), but I started playing Bass 23-years ago RIGHT handed; because it felt good and the Bass looked the right way up! Oops! probably just offended all the lefties out there..

  13. When I was 7 and received my first real guitar (an acoustic) I first sat it on my lap left handed as I write left handed. My father told me that he’d have to send the guitar back to the store and have it restrung if I was going to play it left handed. We lived in a small town in the early 70’s and left handed guitars weren’t readily available. Well, the thought of being without my now precious guitar for a few days freaked me out so I learned to play right handed. I play every sport right handed as well due to lack of left handed equipment when I was a kid. I do, however, hold righty scissors in my left hand to cut and it feels natural to me. I wish I could switch playing sides at will on bass. It would just freak people out. :)

  14. I played right handed for over 20 years but wound up with carpal tunnel, two surgeries and tendonitis in my wrist/forearm. About 5 years ago I had to switch to playing left handed. It was a rough road but I’m finally almost as good lefty as I was playing right handed. I have to use a pick now but I’m just happy that I can still play :) My playing is probably more thought out and better presented now. I used to think that all my years of playing right handed where wasted but I still had the knowledge, the timing, and the ear for the music. It was just getting the muscle memory and dexterity down. I kind of like having my more dominant hand on the fretboard now too. It’s starting to actually feel natural :)

  15. I actually sent that question in. Thanks for everyone’s view on the matter. It’s been bugging me for some time now. I think I’ll keep up the righty for gigs and sessions and practice lefty on the side.

    • What I found was cool is playing half a set one way then switch and play the rest of the songs the other way. I always have other musicians come up after the show all amazed :)