“I’m left-handed. Will a left hand ukulele help me learn to play?” This is a question that gets asked a lot, and with good reason. In the entire world, roughly 10 percent of the global population is left-handed. That’s a lot of potential uke players who’d be left out in the cold if the answer to that question was “No”.
Luckily for you, it’s not. Ukulele is a user-friendly instrument. Much like guitars, they are increasingly available in left-handed orientations the world over. Specially crafted leftie instruments in a dazzling array of colors, designs and sizes, all ready for new owners to learn how to play them.
But is a left-handed ukulele really always the better option? Is this whimsical 4-string instrument as useful as it sounds, or should you focus on learning to play right-handed? Believe it or not, many people actually do.
Not to worry, though. In today’s article, I’ll be breaking down the left-handed ukulele, its pros and cons, and what you should be looking out for if you buy one. So, without further discussion, let’s take a closer look.
The Pros and Cons of a Left-Handed Ukulele
In the music community, there’s a lot of debate over whether left-handed playing is a benefit or disadvantage to players. Some camps believe it’s better to restring a right-handed instrument in the opposite direction and play it that way. Others recommend learning to play right-handed, arguing that piano players don’t learn any “left-handed” techniques.
But it’s a buyer’s market and you’re well within your rights to buy a left-handed instrument if that’s more comfortable and will encourage practice. With that said, let’s take a closer look at some of the pros and cons of these ukuleles.
Ukuleles for lefties are the obvious choice for a player who favors that hand. Let’s take a closer look at some of the pros associated with these rare but valuable instruments:
- Playing a left-handed instrument is more natural because it follows natural instincts as a player. This is good news for practicing, helping to fight despondency as you build up our skills as a player.
- Switching to any other playing style may be out of the question due to deformities or handicaps. If this is the case, a left-handed uke is the only option.
- You’ll take your place as a true original, playing in a long line of left-handed guitar owners. It looks distinctive, which could be a good hook for your career as a ukulele superstar.
While a ukulele for left-hand players may seem like the right move for a left-handed person, there are disadvantages you may not have considered:
- When it comes to chords for left-hand ukulele players, there are actually very few designed for left-handed players. In these cases, you’ll be stuck converting right to left, which can be tricky for a beginner. Alternatively, if you choose to train right-handed, you’ll be on equal footing with all the right-handed players out there.
- There are several manufacturers out there who make outstanding left handeds. It’s a wonderful time to be a South Paw, but, nevertheless, it’s still harder to find a left-handed than a right. You need to pay attention to what’s available, who stocks the instrument you’re looking for, and, then, do your due diligence. An informed buyer is a happy buyer, after all.
What To Look For In Your Ukulele
Choosing any instrument can be complicated when you consider all of the instruments there are to choose from. From beginners to expert models, there’s a lot to consider if you want to get the model that suits your needs the best. So let’s break down the key factors in your next big left-handed uke shopping trip, so you can make an informed decision.
It may sound trite, but the most important factor in buying any instrument is that you like if not love the sound of it. This is crucial because it means you’ll be more likely to pick up the instrument and play it as often as possible. And, especially in the beginning months when you’re still new to playing, you’ll need encouragement to keep going back to practice.
In the digital age, sound is made easier online than it ever has been before. Many manufacturers offer instrument clips on their websites, so you can listen to the ukulele you want before ordering it. Reviews, likewise, will also feature videos where you can hear other people playing it and make your decision based on that. A quick search through YouTube will usually turn up a few good examples for you to base your decision on!
Before we start, some good news to hopefully make all of this easier: most ukuleles are probably going to be good enough quality for you, a beginner. At least in the beginning.
An instrument that’s bad or even subpar is usually pretty easy to spot because of its mass-produced, cheap look and feel. Mass producers who make cheap ukuleles from law-wage labor don’t put out great products.
Not that your uke has to be hand-crafted by blind monks in Nepal for it to be “good enough”. These instruments don’t even need to be made from wood, with laminates making for some beautiful, rich instruments. Add to this the fact that these ukuleles are often more durable than traditional wood, and there’s something for everyone, here.
Get the laminate or get the hard-to-beat Hawaiian koa wood. Get new strings or keep the ones it came with. Whatever you do, make sure the instrument feels right to you.
If your uke feels great but you wish the strings didn’t sound so dampened, change them out! Like the strings but not the instrument? Well, time to keep looking, but maybe ask what brand those strings were.
Guitars and ukuleles both feature “action” that must be considered when playing the instrument. This indicates the amount of effort required to press the string up against the fret to form a chord.
Too low, and your strings are likely to buzz quite a bit. Too high, and you’ll end up consuming three times the amount of energy you should just to play simple chords.
Fortunately, most manufacturers aim for something serviceable between low and high. And action is adjustable, so if you don’t like it, you can just make changes according to your needs. Essentially, it’s a factor, but it shouldn’t make or break your purchase.
On the hunt for a left-handed in an ocean of right-handed players, it’s important not to be too picky, for starters. But that doesn’t mean you should just take whatever comes your way. After all, you’re going to need the right size instrument for your playing.
Here’s a quick summary of what’s available:
Soprano ukuleles are the smallest with the highest pitch, barring pocket ukuleles. This is the most common variety, often associated with Hawaiian music and, for those on a budget, generally the cheapest.
- Length: 21 inches
- Scale Length: 13-14 inches
Concert ukuleles are slightly larger than sopranos, with a deeper sound.
- Length: 23 inches
- Scale Length: 15-16 inches
Tenor ukuleles are available in standard GCEA tuning, with wider frets and a fretboard wider than anything we’ve seen so far. With rich, deep sound, these ukes are a popular, versatile option.
Length: 26 Inch
Scale Length: 17-18 inches
Baritone ukuleles are completely different to any instrument we’ve looked at, thus far. It comes with an adjusted DGBE tuning that’s actually similar to a guitar and features a rich, extremely vibrant sound. This is a great option for anybody trying to switch over from the guitar, because of the similarities.
Length: 30 inches
Scale Length: 19-20 inches
There’s a misconception that, because the smaller, cheaper ukes are more popular, that’s all these instruments are. As with any other instrument, a difference in price with ukuleles is usually accompanied by a difference in quality. And, while they usually fetch a higher price than right-handed because of their rarity, there are similar jumps in price between models.
It’s perfectly normal to find cheap models going for less than $50 a shot. And, as we’ve mentioned, as the quality and reputation of your instrument increases, so will the price. Looking for “affordable but still good”? You’ll aim for between $50 and $200. Something more professional? You’re looking at a higher price than that, even.
Ultimately, the question of price really comes down to what you’re comfortable playing. Some of the best pros wrote their biggest hits on low-end equipment. It’s always better to choose something that fits your budget and to work with that.
Here is a selection of the best buys for left-hand ukuleles
Kala KA-PWT/LH Tenor
Caramel CT103L Tenor Ukulele
Oscar Schmidt OU2LH Concert
Left Hand Ukulele: The Complete Breakdown
Learning to play a new instrument is never comfortable, but that’s how you mark your progress. What should be comfortable, however, is the orientation of your instrument in your hands. That’s why, even though they have their pros and their cons, a left-hand ukulele is an excellent choice for someone learning to play, if they need it.
Looking for more great ukulele content to answer your every question about this versatile instrument? Check out the rest of our awesome blog content and ukulele guides, today!