Paul Hawthorne's Web Site

1995 custom left handed walnut Woodsong banjoLefty or Righty?

This is a call you have to make. In part it depends on how Lefty you are, presuming that is the reason for your question. My experience is that either way is reasonable. I not only play right/left, but also both the upside down ways, which is not convenient, the 5th gets in the way. Also at arms length, behind my head, etc, etc... 'tain't that hard.

There are a roughly 100-1000 times more right handed instruments, this is tempered by the fact necks are bolted on and a lefty neck can be built/ obtained. There is a move right now to more LH ones, but still often at a premium. Dumb. As I am writing this, Deering and Gold Tone both supply quality regular production instruments from entry level of about $300 list up basic professional banjos at under $2000 street prices. Beyond that you will probably run into a significant premium for a lefty, and it won't be an on the shelf item. Custom ones do exist, and the banjo above which I obtained pre-owned is lefty .....

The water is muddied by the reality most people give up anyway, both from deconstructive adult (non) learning habits and unreasonable expectations, as well as traps that are presently part of the whole learning motif (perfectionism, unreasonable expectations vs time, "anchoring", fight a problem rather than flow into it, refusal to listen incessantly, etc.). .

A lefty playing a rh instrument can be another excuse to quit. For insight, see the reading list. Retraining of learning, re-accessing early childhood learning motifs which are still there, is always a necessity for an adult because the ignored reality is we are set up to fail by Civilization, and in the USA by public schools in particular. This is well documented.

OK now. Here is how to test how well you as a lefty could play a left handed banjo, if you have a right handed one to use now. This will also allow a right handed player with a physical impairment/condition to assess the concept of switching to playing lefty.

  • Normal rh tuning is gDGbd
  • Swap the 2nd and 4th strings. You will likely need new ones to do this.
  • Tune to gbGDd
  • Flip the banjo over to play it left handed. There will be a tuning peg pointing at the floor.........(fx: Outer Limits music here, but not yet on this banjo .... )
  • chromatic tab
  • Capo at the 5th.
  • Fine tune the tuning (lefty) to gGceg, that is capoed 5 to c, and the 5th still at the same pitch as the first. To put it differently, your first and 5th string will be identical in pitch. It is the fifth note of the C scale and you can get away with it easily in this open c tuning playing the most common chords, the I, IV, and V.
  • You now have a usable left handed banjo.
  • Experiment. The tab above will now work too, at any 3 frets.

I'll have more to say on this.


Last Updated 15 Jul 2006 by PJH

Edited 31 Mar 2007 by WF