August 13th was International Left-handers Day and we’re highlighting some left-handed guitarists and bassists that you should know about.
Lefty guitarists and bassists that are visible in the mainstream may be few and far between, but there tends to be a common thread among lefties whether they’re mainstream, indie, or the everyday bedroom recorders. This commonality is adaptability and a reinvention of how the instrument is played to suit one’s own style. Many of the musicians mentioned below had to learn on a right-handed guitar played upside down. So let’s take a moment to acknowledge all the lefties out there. Let’s be real though, there is no reason not to celebrate left-handed musicians everyday.
Know any favorite left-handed guitarists or bassists? Let us know in the comments below.
Self-taught guitarist Elizabeth Cotten (1893–1987), of Chapel Hill, North Carolina got her start by playing her brother’s right-handed guitar upside down and left-handed. Despite Cotten’s early passion for guitar, she only began recording and performing in her 60s. Her unique fingerpicking style is filled with an attention to detail and improvisation that has directly influenced fingerstyle folk and blues guitar today.
Bassist and drummer Kathy Foster grew up in the Bay Area before relocating to Portland, OR and co-founding punk/indie band The Thermals with former band mate Hutch Harris. With her latest musical project, Roseblood, Foster writes, arranges, and records everything. Full disclosure: Kathy is also the host of our workshops this summer!
Australian born Courtney Barnett is a lefty guitarist known for her quick-witted storytelling lyrics and her own unique fingerstyle technique that came about by not enjoying the sound of a pick. Barnett founded Milk! Records in 2012 and has recently made a collaborative album with Kurt Vile. PS: Courtney is on the cover of our 15th issue, currently available at a store near you or through subscribing!
Shamir is a guitarist and singer-songwriter who has created numerous indie rock recordings that are often DIY and lo-fi in style. Shamir plays the guitar left-handed and upside down and their music is heavily influenced by country and punk.
Barbara Lynn of Beaumont, Texas, has been playing blues-infused soul since the 60s. She’s often discussed as the “lefty queen of R&B and blues” and has had numerous billboard-charting hits including “You’ll Lose a Good Thing” and “I’m a Good Woman,” the latter of which was recently sampled by Lil Wayne. Lynn has toured with Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, and Ike and Tina Turner.
Inspired by Tina Turner and Janis Joplin, Malina Moye is a singer-songwriter who fuses soul and blues-rock. She is one of the only women invited to play the Jimi Hendrix Experience Tour. Moye plays the guitar left-handed and upside down and is also the first African-American woman to join the Fender team who plays guitar in this way.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Hayley Kiyoko’s first instrument was the drums around age six. Kiyoko plays guitar and bass left-handed, both of which have been part of her songwriting process in the early days of her career. Now, she has evolved her sound into the synth-pop world creating chart-topping hits and is one of the only queer Japanese-Americans to do so.
Taipei born and LA raised, Joanna Wang has been releasing music since 2008. Wang’s debut album, Start From Here, was written and recored in both English and Chinese. The album became number one in Southeast Asia. Wang creates a unique blend of folk, jazz, and pop sounds in her work.