May 8, 2013

Southpaw Guitars for everyone.

Dear Ask A Punk - 
You said somewhere that you're left-handed. I just started wanting to play guitar even though I'm not a kid and I'm pretty sure I'm lefty too. Where do you get lefty guitars? - Left Behind

Dear LB -
You're right. I do play guitar left-handed and all I can say is welcome to the guitar ghetto. Even if you're just starting out on your guitar/music journey, I'm sure you've already walked in to at least one guitar store. I'm sure what you saw was pretty disheartening. Hundreds upon hundreds of right-handed guitars and maybe, just maaaaaybe two or three generic-looking, off-brand lefties. It is an outrage... and if you've made the mistake of talking to the salesman, after he tried and failed to sell you one of those 2 or 3 ratty specimens, he uttered lie #1, "Well, anything we have here in righty, we can order lefty." LIES ! I tell you  LIES! .... Most guitar-makers offer lefty models in only a limited number of styles & colors. Did I mention that it is an outrage? As a result, lefties tend to get very attached to the few guitars they do manage to find. I know I do.

The good news is that you live in the internet age, so you  DO have some options. Here they are: 

It would probably shock a lot of people to learn that, near the top of my list of "Places to visit before I die" is the city of Houston, Texas. Why? Because it is the location of a one-of-a-kind store (as far as I know, anyway.) called the Southpaw Guitar Store. For those of you who have already clicked the link, I can assure you that they sell more than Fenders - They're in the middle of transitioning from an old website to the new one, so just click on the 'old website' tab to see more stuff. I have never purchased anything from them (yet) but have heard nothing but good things, and yes, I often entertain this fantasy where I come across a big pile of money and I just show up at The Southpaw with a U-Haul and load it up with one of nearly everything. I don't know what your budget is, but you're very likely to find something here.

There is always Ebay. I've had mixed results here. I bought a very inexpensive bass a while back, and it turned out to have a pick-up that no longer worked. Took it to a local repair shop I frequent and, after they got it working, I ended up with a decent enough (for home & jamming) bass for about $160 all in. Also, last year when I flew home, I wanted to jam with my niece & nephew, who've both just started playing, but the airline wanted to charge me nearly $250 to bring my guitar into the cabin (never trust a good guitar to 'baggage') I found the cheapest electric guitar I could find with free shipping, and bought that for $107 AND had them ship it to my destination - I was/am pretty proud of myself for thinking up that plan. As always with Ebay, you're safer with a highly-rated reputable seller.

I know, I know, both options 1 & 2 have one big problem: How on earth do you buy something like a guitar without seeing/touching/playing it first? You're right. It is weird. ...and not just because you might get a bad/crappy guitar. You might get a good/awesome/expensive guitar and STILL not like it for all sorts of reasons - the sound, the color or more importantly and intangibly: the "feel." There's no getting around it, and it sucks. As far as 'sound' goes you can educate yourself a little bit before you buy. Check out the songs and artists you like: what kinds of guitars do they use? Bluesy Fender's with single coil pickups? or loud, ballsy Les Pauls with twin humbuckers? - knowing that much might help you narrow down likely "sound" candidates, but "feel" is impossible to predict.  I tend to really like Fender guitars, especially Telecasters,  but there are even some Teles that I can tell, the moment I pick them up, just don't feel right to me. You've gotta hope for a little luck on this. 

Moving on.

I know some people are saying: "Hey, this is supposed to be a punk/diy site, why not get a pawnshop guitar or something?"   ...ok, ok. IF you have pawn shops in your area you can/should start prowling around them, hoping you get lucky and see a lefty hanging behind the counter. If you're going to go to all that trouble, do yourself a favor: Tell the guy at the pawn shop that you're looking for lefty guitars - even leave him your email or phone number... because they'll want to make a sale if they do get stuck with a lefty guitar. 

While at the pawnshop or yard sale, you'll see a cheap, good-looking right-handed guitar and ask yourself "Why don't I just buy that and 'flip the strings' you know, Hendrix-style?"   Not a terrible idea, but it is trickier than it sounds. The good news is that you'll have a wide range of cheap guitars to choose from. The bad news is the following: First of all, when you "flip the strings" you also have to flip the "nut" at the top of the fretboard (near the tuners) because the grooves cut into that have to match the string going into them. So SOMEone has to then chisel off the nut, and then flip it, re-sand it and reglue it (at the exact same height it was) oh, and if the nut is beveled, you'll have to just replace it completely. I assume we're talking electric guitars here, so you'll have to choose a righty-body style that still allows access to the strings all the way up/down the neck. Also you'll have to drill a new hole in the body for the strap, and it is likely that the balance of the guitar won't be right, so you'll always be holding it up with your fret-hand. oh, and when you go for a big downstroke with your pick-hand, you'll bash your wrists on the volume and tone knobs because they're now ABOVE the strings, not below them. I tell you all this because MY first guitar was a righty pawn-shop special. I loved it, but I still have scars on the inside of my left wrist from those damm knobs. 

That's about it. As I said: you're lucky we lefties have the internet now. You can find a left-handed guitar in almost any price range fairly easily - no need to do the righty/flip at all. 

...and again: Welcome!