Because it Worked so Well for Hendrix
Like any other guitarist that doesn’t believe there is such a thing as enough guitars I have more guitars than I use in a given day, a couple of which are mostly retired. Among the retired is an old Squier Stratocaster my dad had given me pretty much when I began playing guitar. I don’t like the idea of a guitar sitting around and collecting dust and since I’m big on pushing boundaries I started toying with the idea of learning to play left-handed. The only problem is my need to pay bills dictates that I can’t just run off and buy a whole new guitar, so I had to get creative.
So I figured what the hell. Hendrix turned a righty into a lefty. So can I. While I was doing so I documented the steps I took for the convenience of anyone else who might wish to do the same.
The list of supplies is a lot simpler than you’d think. I managed to do this with nothing more than a hammer, a razor blade, and a rectangular block. Of course on top of that you’ll need a spare guitar. For an obligatory disclaimer you may want to play it safe and use a guitar that you’re not afraid to hurt should something go wrong. The process really isn’t that difficult and I don’t see how any severe problem could just happen out of no where, but I can’t speak on the behalf of everyone, so when playing around with sharp objects do be careful. And if you’re a kid make sure you have parental supervision.
As I’d said above, this really isn’t that difficult. The first step is to remove all of the strings. Since the guitar is bare this would also make for an excellent time to clean up the neck and body a bit if you like. You may as well, unless you’re like me and completely forget that you were going to do that until you start writing an article about this topic.
The first concern is the nut. The grooves are shaped to fit the strings from low to high. Depending on what guitar you’re using this will be a different problem for everyone. I’m using a Squier Strat, so I can’t offer unprecedented advise on removing a Gibson or a Schecter nut. I did however look into alternative nuts a bit and found that it’s really not terribly different. Unless it’s actually screwed into the steps aren’t terribly different. You just have to be really careful.
Anyway. To remove a Strat nut I took my Kobalt razor blade and gently cut on both sides of the neck (as shown in “Procedure 1″), outlining the nut. The stock nuts have a finish on them that should be cut off to prevent too much from ripping off when you knock it loose later. If you have a decent enough of a blade it shouldn’t take much pressure to cut through the finish so do be gentle. It’s better to lightly go over a few times than to grind away with too much force at once.
After that I took a hammer and a block (as shown in “Procedure 2″) and, with the block resting up against the nut on both sides I gently tapped it with the hammer to jostle it loose. Then I went to the long side and gently tapped it a few times. It should pop out with relative ease. Now all you have to do is flip it and push it back in. It’s that simple.
Past that it’s a matter of restringing the guitar, making pickup height adjustments, and saddle adjustments to reset the intonation.
Things I’ve learned from doing this
Making a lefty from a righty really isn’t that hard. Playing left-handed on the other hand is quite difficult. My new picking hand gets tired really quickly, I can’t even make a simple power chord, and changing to another power chord without losing time just doesn’t happen. I keep smacking the headstock into things, the guitar cable is right where I want to lay my forearm, and getting used to the new location of the knobs and pickup selector has not been seamless.
But the new challenge insofar has been quite fun, so there’s that. If you’re still up for experimentation beyond that you could always swap out the pickups next.
One last thing. Since I’ve taken up the lefty guitar I’ve been reminded of the invaluable nature of exercises. Apparently you can’t just magically start shredding away, so it’s time to practice finger independence again.