In this article, I will cover my method for making (right-handed) guitar tab more usable and easily readable for left-handed guitar players.
I am often struck by the absence of left-handed guitar tabs available on the internet or even the recognition that left-handed guitarists might struggle to use the vast majority of guitar tabs out there because they are presented in a right-handed friendly format.
In fact, nearly all guitar tabs are written assuming the guitarist is right-handed, and that offended my British sense of fair play!
What’s more, my daughter is left-handed, so I’m particularly sensitive to this fact. So, I got to thinking about that and how a left-handed guitar player might be able to read the guitar tab written for the right-hander (most of them!).
Oh by the way, if you’re not familiar with guitar tab, I have a useful post on How to Read Guitar Tab which you can check out as well.
Step 1 (Normal Tab)
When presented with a typical, right-handed guitar tab, how can you go about making sense of it?
Unless you are able to interpret it (do the transposition to left-handed in your mind) straight away (some can, but many can’t), I recommend the following technique that I developed to help my daughter out.
Start with the tab as it would normally be presented to you:
Take a screen print and paste/drag into a photo/image editor. Most computers, whether Windows or Mac (or your phone) will have a basic image/photo editor, just make sure it has controls to flip and rotate.
Step 2 (Rotate)
Your next task is to flip the image over so that it is upside down:
Now It’s Upside Down
Step 3 (Left-Handed Tab)
Now, rotate half a turn (180 degrees) clockwise or anti-clockwise, doesn’t matter as the result will be the same whichever way you choose.
And Here Is The Left Handed Tab
Maybe that’s enough for some, but all the letters and numbers are upside-down, so a final step might be to print out and then use a different color pen or pencil to write on the letters and numbers the correct way up. I know this is laborious, so see if you can read as they are before embarking on this step.
Tada, there you have it, a neat trick isn’t it?
Remember, a tab is portrayed as if you are holding your guitar and looking down at the fretboard from above – and this is what you now have for the left-handed view. In fact, you have a true left-handed guitar tab here.
I really hope you find this useful, it’s an area I haven’t seen addressed before and I intend this website to be friendly to left-handed guitar players.
Left-handed guitar players
How can anyone ignore left-handed guitar players when arguably the most famous guitar player, or at least the most influential, was left-handed – Jimi Hendrix himself! He played bass and rhythm guitar right-handed but lead guitar left-handed.
In addition to Jimi Hendrix, many other musicians choose to play right-handed guitars upside down. This is true for the likes of Slash from Guns N’ Roses. There are some left-handed guitarists today who prefer to play right-handed guitar such as Noel Gallagher from Oasis.
Of course, Kurt Cobain, Paul Mccartney, and Albert King were also left-handed, but I don’t suppose they spent too much time looking at guitar tabs. Still, I came up with this idea whilst teaching my daughter to play, so thought that others might find it helpful, so I wanted to share it with you here.
Search google for left-handed guitar tabs
But before you use this method it doesn’t hurt to first check Google for the left-handed tab of the song you want to learn.
Type in the name of the song that you want to find, followed by “left-handed tab”, like this: “walking disaster left-handed tablature”. By adding the phrase left-handed tab to your search, you will narrow down your results to only show those tabs that are written for a left-handed guitar. This method works well if you already know the name of the song that you want to find.
A great resource for tabs is Ultimate-Guitar.