Left-handed musicians have always received the short-end of the stick in the music world. We can’t control our hand preference, and are often forced to face different challenges when choosing a suitable musical instrument. You don’t have to look very far to find left-handed musicians who play right-handed instruments upside down out of necessity. However, you may be wondering about the ukulele options available for us lefties.
The good news is that there are plenty of options available for left-handed ukulele players. Today we will be delving into a few key topics such as:
- Can left-handed musicians play a right-handed ukulele?
- Can You Convert a Left-Handed Ukulele Into a Right Handed One?
- What are the best left-handed ukuleles available?
Can Left-Handed Musicians Play a Right-Handed Ukulele?
Playing a Right-Handed Ukulele in the Standard Position
If you are picking up a stringed musical instrument for the first time, you may be surprised to discover that left-handed musicians can in-fact learn to play these instruments in their right-handed configurations.
Playing the ukulele in the right-handed configuration typically entails pressing the frets with your left hand and strumming the strings with your right hand. This learning process is usually easier for new players whose hands have yet to adapt to playing a stringed instrument.
Musicians who already play a stringed instrument such as the guitar or bass in the left-handed configuration will struggle to learn the ukulele in a right-handed configuration. However, that isn’t to say it is impossible for them to learn to do so. With enough time and practice, it is possible to become quite proficient at playing this little instrument in its right-handed configuration.
Playing a Right-Handed Ukulele Upside Down
If you are already skilled at playing left-handed stringed instruments, it may be easier for you to learn to play a right-handed ukulele upside down. This means pressing the frets with your right hand and strumming with your left hand. This playing position feels more natural and less confusing for left-handed players.
You should note that playing a right-handed ukulele in this position means the string arrangement will be upside down. The strings on a ukulele are usually arranged as GCEA from top to bottom. These strings become AECG when playing upside-down.
Prospective ukulele players who wish to play a right-handed ukulele upside-down will need to learn chords and notes upside-down. They will also need to adapt their strumming style, as a “downstrum” now becomes an “upstrum” for them. This learning process isn’t difficult, but some of the chord shapes and strumming patterns may feel unnatural for players.
You should note that you may run into additional difficulties while playing a ukulele upside-down. For example, if you are playing an electric-acoustic ukulele upside-down, the instrument cable may get in the way of your arm or elbow. Similarly, the instrument’s on-board controls such as volume and EQ will now be in direct contact with your lap in most cases. Both these issues can make playing the instrument more challenging.
Can You Convert a Left-Handed Ukulele Into a Right Handed One?
If you aren’t interested in learning to play a right-handed ukulele upside down or in the right-handed position, you may be wondering if it is possible to convert the instrument into a left-handed configuration.
It is possible to convert most right-handed stringed instruments into left-handed ones by reversing the string configuration. However, this conversion process comes with a few challenges. This includes:
Fitting Strings Through the Nut
Many left-handed bassists choose to play right-handed bass guitars upside down and with their natural string configuration because it is difficult for them to reverse the string configuration. The thick E and A strings simply can’t fit through narrow nut slots near the headstock meant for the D and G strings.
The same problem exists for ukulele strings as well. However, the thickest string on a ukulele is usually only a couple of millimeters thicker than the thinnest string. This makes it possible to fit the thicker strings through the nut slots meant for thinner strings after a bit of sanding down.
You should note that this arrangement still isn’t optimal. The thinner strings will now have room to move around in their new nut slot, and this may affect the sound they produce.
Adapting to the Ukulele Body Shape
If you are attempting to convert a right-handed ukulele with a cutaway into a left-handed one, you will have to deal with the cutaway portion being at the bottom when playing. This can make the playing experience quite uncomfortable. Therefore, it is best to choose a symmetrical ukulele for your intended conversion.
What Are the Best Left-Handed Ukuleles Available?
If you don’t want to learn to play a right-handed ukulele or perform a tiresome conversion process, you will be glad to learn that there are many left-handed ukuleles available. These are designed for left-handed musicians and feature the strings in their natural arrangement.
We researched the best left-handed Ukuleles available on Amazon and compiled the following list:
The Oscar Schmidt OU2LH is a great left-handed ukulele for beginners. It features a mahogany top, sides, and back, which lends to its warm and woody sound.
Oscar Schmidt is known for creating quality budget-friendly guitars. This ukulele model is suitable for players who are interested in learning the instrument before upgrading to a more performance-worthy choice.
If you’re looking for a concert-sized left-handed ukulele, then the Kala KA-PWC/LH Concert is the instrument for you. This model features a Pacific walnut body and a rosewood fingerboard. It produces a lovely clear and focused tone that is sure to impress.
This model also features a natural satin finish, which gives it a high-end look normally reserved for pricier ukuleles.
This ukulele by Ranch was designed to meet professional expectations. It has a 23” length with an Okoume neck and headstock. Its silver nickel frets are a joy to play, while its fret position markers make moving up and down a scale a breeze. This ukulele is perfect for beginners and intermediate players who want to show off their skills.
This ukulele by AKLOT is another great concert-sized instrument. It features a mahogany body with rounded edges for tone and comfort. This solid wood ukulele offers great sustain compared to laminated wood ones.It’s 18:1 geared tuner also ensures your instrument stays in tune for long periods.
Is It Worth Buying a Left-Handed Ukulele?
You may be wondering if it is worth purchasing a left-handed ukulele. The truth is that the market for left-handed instruments tends to be quite limited. There are generally very few options available for left-handed ukulele players. However, if you aren’t too picky about your instrument, it is possible to create some beautiful sounds with the right combination of strings and playing technique.
As you can see, left-handed ukulele players do have a few suitable options available to them. So consider consulting the above guide before setting out to purchase your first ukulele. This charming little instrument is incredibly fun to learn, and can bring you many years of joy.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.