How to Convert a Standard Guitar to a Left-Handed Guitar

Do you want to convert a right-handed guitar to a left-handed guitar? Maybe you have found a cheap right-handed guitar and want to change the strings. Maybe you’re not sure if you even want to play guitar but want to try out a right-handed guitar first. I understand your dilemma. I’ve owned several converted left-handed guitars.

When I started playing, I knew I needed a left-handed guitar, but I didn’t have enough money to order one. I spend some time scouring pawn shops and flea markets. Eventually I found a cheap acoustic I knew I’d be able to convert to a left-handed acoustic guitar. I took the guitar home, flipped the strings, and started playing.

The guitar sounded awful. I wasn’t sure if it was due to my own inexperience or some error I made, but the strings buzzed and the chords were difficult to make. I took the guitar to a shop and had their luthier inspect it. He found a couple problems and gave me instructions on how to convert this guitar to a left-handed guitar.

If you’re trying to convert a guitar to a left-handed acoustic or left-handed electric guitar, you’ll find the following useful, but first you need to find a guitar to convert to a left-handed guitar.

You’ll need at the bare minimum a new set of strings and a tuner. You may also need a nut blank, a screw driver, wood glue, a truss rod adjuster.

First, after removing all the strings, remove the nut and flip it around. The little grooves in the nut are sized for each string, and if you don’t turn this around, the top E string will sit too high and the bottom E string will sit too loose.  Assuming you can get it loose and rotate it, go on to the next step. If you can’t do this, you’ll need to buy a blank nut and do the filing yourself. You can find plenty of tutorials to help you do this. Before you replace the nut, drop a little wood glue in so your nut doesn’t fly away when you tune.

When converting to a left-handed electric guitar, it’s a good idea to reverse the pickups. Usually this is a simple matter of removing the nuts that secure the pickguard or electronics cover, undoing a couple screws, and rotating the pickup by 180 degrees.

Next, thread the new strings through. On some guitars, depending on how they’re built, you may have trouble fitting the strings through the lower saddles or even the tuners. Both the saddles and tuners are easy to replace.  When converting to a left-handed acoustic guitar, you may need to reverse the string saddle on the bridge.

After you’re finished, be sure to check the intonation. Converting to a left-handed guitar can affect the intonation. If you need to adjust the intonation, compare the pitch at the twelfth fret to that of an open string. If the pitch is the same, you’re golden. If the pitch is different, you’ll need to adjust the string saddles at the bottom. Usually this is done by adjusting Phillips-head screws attached to the string saddles on the bridge. While intonation adjustments are easy for a converted left-handed electric guitar, left-handed acoustics with a fixed bridge aren’t nearly as forgiving.

That’s just about everything you need to know to do a quick-and-dirty left-handed guitar conversion. Remove the strings, flip the nut (or make a new one), flip the pickups or saddles, restring, check intonation, and play.

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