View Full Version : Left-handed ukes?

11-15-2009, 10:25 PM
Right, I may be showing a bit of naivety here but I was on some e-bay shop or something the other day and saw a catagory for lefty ukes. I was curious so I opened it up and they were just your usual soprano ukes that you'd get anywhere, but at a bit more of a cost, as they were lefty. So I thought "What a rip-off", as to my reckoning, a uke is both left and right handed, am I right? I mean the top and bottom string are the same gauge, and the two middle strings are the same? Obviously you can't just flip all ukes, like if you have a cut-away, or control knobs or something but I mean, am I right in thinking that somebody was just enterprising on other people's lack of knowledge when starting out in the uke?

11-15-2009, 10:40 PM
-Looks at Ukes-

...I think my string gauges are different for each string. But I don't know. And maybe the headstock is different for left and right-handed ukes? Maybe.

11-15-2009, 10:49 PM
On some VERY CHEAP ukes the 1st & 4th strings are the same gauge, and the 2nd & 3rd are the same. Anyone using strings like that should change them, immediately!


11-15-2009, 11:14 PM
OK, I'm a lefty so...

for less expensive ukes . if a uke is symmetrical inside, i.e. the binding on the wood internally is the same, it can be converted by changing the nut and the bridge. the nut is tooled to fit the strings. and sometimes a bridge is slightly offset to help intonation. on a cheap uke this makes no difference. so for lets say somethng like a lanikai LT20s, just change the nut and the bridge and voila.

but if the uke is asymmetrical is any way the conversion will dramatically affect the sound quality. e.g., with a cutaway, of course the cutaway is also useless on the other side isn't it. of course for something like a fender or an ovation it also requires cosmetic changes.

for a more expensive uke, buying left handed is the only way as real luthiers work by producing tone for the wood in their hands not from a generic design. quid ergo sum, you get a better uke.

is it a rip off well, for big companies they lose some economy of scale by doing short runs of lefty instruments. so the production costs are higher, should the manufacturers suck it up...well...yes... but what business doesn't pass on increased cost to the consumer?

11-15-2009, 11:57 PM
Left handed people don't HAVE to play the uke the other way round. I know it varies from one person to another, and it might present special problems to a very small minority of people, but many lefties play standard "right-handed" ukes. Both your hands have something intricate to do. There is no rule that says left-handed folk have to fret with the right, and strum with the left.

Look at any orchestra playing classical music. Do you see any left handed violinists clashing bows with the person to their right? Have you ever seen a left-handed piano?

John Colter.

Pukulele Pete
11-16-2009, 12:06 AM
I'm left handed and play righty. Do youself a favor and learn to play righty.
You limit yourself by playing lefty. You can only play left handed instruments.
I think it would be a little more complicated learning lefty.

11-16-2009, 01:18 AM
I'm left-handed, play with my ukuleles strung right-handed, but holding them flipped/upside-down.
The only place I wind up caring about something being left-handed or right handed is in amplification. The jacks and knobs on many instruments are placed inconveniently for playing this way.

11-16-2009, 01:56 AM
Hey Sambient I have a friend who is left handed and plays right handed strung ukes upside down. I thought he was unique! Obviously not the case.
His theory is that he can still play other peoples ukes without having to restring.
I must admit I struggle somewhat with trying to work out his upside down chords.

Pukulele Pete
11-16-2009, 02:12 AM
I've asked this question before with no results, here it goes again. Why are there left handed guitars and ukes. I dont think any other instruments are played lefty and righty. I've never seen a lefty violin, cello, or upright bass.
No left handed trumpets, clarinets, oboes. Does anyone know the answer?
Why do leftys think they have to play left handed? I'm a lefty and play righty and it is hard enough without turning chord formations upside down.
I've tried playing lefty and it is very confusing. IMHO

11-16-2009, 02:21 AM
I'd say it basically boils down to shape and electrics. Voilins, Cellos, Double Bass are all genrally symetrical, where as guitars (other than a standard acoustic) are generally not. i.e. cutaways would be on the wrong side, electric controls, tremelo arm etc would be in the way if played upside down

Pukulele Pete
11-16-2009, 02:32 AM
Why would anyone want to play left handed??

11-16-2009, 02:59 AM
I can't answer that, I'm right handed!

lefty dan
11-16-2009, 03:24 AM
"Why would anyone want to play lefty"
Im a lefty. Sure I wish I would have forced myself to play righty. I started years ago and put a guitar in my hands. It fit naturally lefty so I went with it. Years later my lefty HD 28 Martin works fine for me.
For me playing lefty is a very little inconvenience.

dave g
11-16-2009, 04:15 AM
Voilins, Cellos, Double Bass are all genrally symetrical...

They may look symmetrical, but internally they are not.

11-16-2009, 04:28 AM
"Why would anyone want to play lefty"
Im a lefty. Sure I wish I would have forced myself to play righty. I started years ago and put a guitar in my hands. It fit naturally lefty so I went with it. Years later my lefty HD 28 Martin works fine for me.
For me playing lefty is a very little inconvenience.

My Dad and Son are both Leftys, my Dad plays right handed, my Son plays lefty, also don't be so sure there aren't left handed other instruments... Google it, there are :) I think it all has to do with how the guitar or any instrument feels in your hands...

11-16-2009, 05:30 AM
you can get left handed violin, cello, and double bass, for sure , search ebay. and you do get pro violin players who are lefty.

people who play guitar, elec bass, uke etc, right handed who are lefties often have trouble with their rhythm somewhere down the line but tend to be better at fingering. personally i am happy to be a lefty these days but if i could start again i would go right handed, just so i can play other peoples instruments easily.

11-16-2009, 07:55 AM
the string height is higher on the bass strings, so you would have to flip your saddle.

Pukulele Pete
11-16-2009, 09:22 AM
I am suprised to read that there are left handed violin players.I don't think I've ever seen one. I've always wondered because I'm left handed and play guitar and uke right handed. I've always wondered if I would have been a better player if I played lefty. Then again ,thinking back, I always loved getting to play different guitars.Each time I bought a new guitar I played alot more than usual. It would have been very limiting not being able to try different guitars if I had been a lefty. I know that the number of guitars i've owned had alot to do with how much I practiced.

11-16-2009, 09:37 AM
Why would anyone want to play left handed??

That sounds like a very narrow minded question. I play lefty because I am left handed and playing left handed is what feels right to me. I have tried to play righty and I just can't do it-just doesn't feel natural. When I was in grade school, I played the violin for a short time. I played that like I play my uke. I made the chords with my right hand and held the bow with my left hand.

My first uke was ordered off of ebay and was billed as a teacher friendly left handed soprano. It was a piece of junk but nothing was different about it other than the strings were flipped. I have significantly upgraded since those days. I have a custom left handed Moore Bettah which has a left handed cutaway and is strung up for a lefty. When I play with other people and we are talking about chords, I play the same chord formations as they do, I just play them in a mirror image as a right handed player. My teacher is a right handed player, and there is never any miscommunication about what I am supposed to do.
True, learning to play right handed opens things up to be able to play others peoples ukes, but I have never been in a situation where I felt bad about that-namely cuz I always have a uke with me. So I say, to each his own. Play how it is the most comfortable for you. Learning lefty is not complicated in the least. It is only as hard as you make it for yourself. Just my opinion.

Pukulele Pete
11-16-2009, 10:33 AM
I don't think that was a narrow minded question. That question was posed to get some feedback.

11-16-2009, 10:44 AM
I'll jump in on this one because all of my sons are left handed, and play right.

But first - cost of the instrument being more - the setup is different, as in completely opposite, obviously. For manufacturers that have CNC items such as bridges, saddles and nuts, the cost to do a one-off or a short run is not worth the setup costs, so its passed onto the consumer.

Its a given for all instruments that the nut WILL be cut differently, and for some the bridge slots (if that's what's there) WILL be cut differently, and for some the saddle (IF its compensated) WILL be cut differently. From a production standpoint, those costs can rack up to be huge, not only in the cost of changing specs, but stopping production on the other instruments to do so. For some builders, the bracing patterns will also shift, both under the bridge and the lower cross brace.

From a one-person custom shop, I think it'll still cost more, simply because more attention has to paid for a left handed setup than a right (because its not done all the time). I made ONE left handed instrument, that eventually got converted to right - it took me forever to set it up. I've heard others having the same problem. Don't ask me why, but if you ask a left handed guitarist, they'll be able to tell you (sometimes) if their instrument was setup by a right handed or left handed person (generally).

Either way, creating a left-handed instrument correctly takes more than just swapping around strings and flipping the saddle.

And, Chris Kamaka plays standup Bass, left handed.

11-16-2009, 11:29 AM
I think it is worth pointing out that i have never had any 'extra' trouble learning because i am left handed, the chords are the same the patterns are the same, the strumming is the same. the guitar/uke/bass /mandolin - all of which i play left handed are exactly the same as right handed instruments in every way except left handed. The ONLY difference is the availability of other instruments to play. none of my teachers ever found it a problem either, as someone said you just mirror what you see.

I went left because that was what was natural to me, i did try right it felt all wrong. i can now play right handed a bit and also play right handed guitars upside down pretty well, in fact i played bass upside down for about 15 years, it gives a really different feel to the style and tones you play.

11-16-2009, 01:40 PM
Yeah, I genuinely tried right handed a few times here and there with electric bass. It's just not what feels natural to me.
And these days I can still feel the effects of a cat-bite hand injury surgery on my left hand from a few years ago.

Meanwhile, I can sit down right next to my husband while he plays an instrument righty, A lovely symmetry of necks and headstocks.

11-16-2009, 03:34 PM
I always find it humorous when folks pose this "well, why don't you just play right handed?" No problem...writing is much easier than playing ukulele or guitar so why don't YOU write with your left hand? Right, easier said than done. When I first picked up an ukulele at 7 years of age (45 years ago), it felt natural to play left handed. I got a Mel Bay book, had no problem looking at the chord forms (right handed) and here I am, four and a half decades later with a bunch of lefty ukuleles and guitars. Ordering and buying lefty instruments is more trouble (especially guitars), but that's life.

As far as making an ukulele left handed, that's easy. Ukuleles are, for the most part, braced symetrically, so there are no structural issues, only intonation issues with the nut and saddle. Any good luthier can flip around a right handed ukulele to left handed with a minimum of work. Mike at Mainland set up my Mahogany Tenor lefty before he sent it to me, and did a fine job. Obviously, guitars are a bigger deal and IMO, should be BUILT left handed (all of my guitars are true LEFT handed instruments).


11-16-2009, 03:38 PM
Why would anyone want to play left handed??

Why would anyone want to play right handed??

Falls into the "Meaning of life" question, huh?


11-16-2009, 10:28 PM
Hmmm, some very interesting points made here I think. Let me just say though that I wasn't setting up this thread for lefty-bashing, I genuinely didn't see the need for left-handed ukes in the cheap, symetrical shape, lower end of the scale.

I don't think it's right or wrong to play left-handed, it comes down to whatever feels comfortable. I had a friend in college who I knew played guitar, and I knew he was a lefty. Then I saw a picture of him playing right handed and I was amazed. It was the first time I'd ever seen that! He said it just didn't feel right playing lefty, and he didn't want to limit his choice of instruments. It is quite harsh for leftys, what with the extra costs and low availability of instruments. There are some however who play up to fact. My brother is left handed, and always wanted to play bass. He has probably about two grand worth of basses that he doesn't play because "It's too hard to learn lefty, everythings in right handed." I've tried helping him, I've tried explaining and showing him how to convert it but he doesn't, so his Hofner violin bass remains a very expensive orniment in his dining room. I wouldn't even say lefty bass is that hard, you're not exactly converting chord shapes. It's just learning the fret board and knowing what to play and when. Even myself and my dad (both rightys) can play his lefty bass better than he can. My brother was always one of those attention seeking kids, who always had to have everything left-handed. From scissors, to screw-drivers and even pencils... I kid you not!

But I don't think I've ever met another lefty like him? No, I don't think it's wrong to play lefty. Imagine being handed a left-handed guitar (as a righty) and being told to play it. You'd be lost! I just feel sorry for them being ripped-off with regard to instrument prices and the lack of choice really. Interesting point made though about the lack of other left handed instruments. I've never seen a left handed violin, but they have to exist. I can't see it going further than that though? Lefty tubas, recorders, triangles?...

11-16-2009, 10:43 PM
finding the "why would you play lefty" questions rather odd. Whilst I am a righty, my son is lefty - he plays lefty - speaking to a doctor friend of mine, it is not a good thing for a left handed person to force themselves to do something right handed (and vice versa) - their brain has developed a certain way, and you are just adding extra stresses going against the flow.

Whilst you get ambidextrous footballers (soccer for you in the US), they are more of a rarity, and a manager tends to put right footed players on the right wing, and left on the left - for a reason!

Ditto cricket (left and right handed batsmen and bowlers, and I presume the same with baseball)

So if you are lefty, I think you should play lefty. Sadly it will cost you more money, but there you go.

For anyone doubting whether it should be so - go speak to Paul McCartney or , if it were possible, Jimi Hendrix - they stuck lefty - in an age when it was even harder to get LH instruments!! Didnt do them much harm eh?

As for Ukes - certainly on lower end Ukes, I would just restring and flip it - my son has played my Lanikai LU21 and I just flipped strings - no change to the nut. The strings sit on the nut just fine (Aquilas), and the saddle isnt compensated, so no real issue.

Actually, looking at my Mainland, that also has straight saddle, and I'm sure that would flip easily too!

11-17-2009, 10:42 AM
There are ukes that have a compensated saddle such as Kiwayas, but as others have mentioned the standard reentrant uke is almost completely symmetrical with a straight saddle and thin, thick, thick, thin nut slots so flipping the strings works fine. As a lefty it was one of the things that originally attracted me to the instrument. That said it is probably easier for a lefty to learn right handed, simply because left handed people are generally more ambidextrous than righties. We live in a right handed world and many things are not reversible. We're also smarter and much better looking, but you all knew that.

11-17-2009, 12:37 PM
I jam on stage with a lefty at least once a week. The only issues he's ever had are buying what he wants (lefties are few and far between for most things), set-up (costs a bit to swap an axe to lefty) and he can't play righties instuments.

Since he plays mando and guitar this is only a problem on those rare occations when he forgets his stuff, or if some righty has something special (he covets my octave mando to try it - but it's upside-down for him).

So other than borrowing and buying- it's the same.

I also know a few lefties who "hendrix". That is, they play a standard strung right hander, upside-down. Best of both worlds (for borrowing and buying), but chord inversions are - well, inverted :D.

Nothing "wrong" either way - seems like a mild PITA at its worst. And anything with a movable bridge (archtop, mando, violin, etc...) means all you need to do is swap the saddle and nut.

I may try to play his mando upsidedown this week just to see how hard it would be to hendrix.

11-17-2009, 02:56 PM
Hendrix restrung his guitar lefty. Dick Dale plays a left handed strat strung right handed. Albert King played a right handed guitar upside down. As did Elizabeth Cotton.

Tiny Tim played uke left handed and guitar right handed. That's possibly the strangest thing about him.

11-17-2009, 10:06 PM
I also know a few lefties who "hendrix". That is, they play a standard strung right hander, upside-down. Best of both worlds (for borrowing and buying), but chord inversions are - well, inverted :D.

Hendrix played right handed guitars upside down, and restrung them left handed. It was easier that way as right handers were easier and cheaper to get hold of as he would end up trashing most of them.

Ah... Ambrose just said that! Sorry!...