15 Famous Left Handed Musicians You Should Know

Last updated

It’s no secret that left-handed people are considered to be a minority in society. In fact, it’s thought that only about 10% of the world population is left-handed! So, while we may sometimes feel like there’s not much we can do about it, or that we should just switch hands so we can fit in with everyone else, this blog post will hopefully change your mind and show you how talented these 15 famous left-handed musicians really are!

1. Paul McCartney

Probably one of the most famous musicians that are left-handed has to be Paul McCartney who was born in Liverpool, England, and is most famous for playing with the Beatles.

Shortly after Paul McCartney turned 14, he bought his first guitar, and since he grew up in a musical family, he found it odd that he had such difficulty playing the guitar. 

One day he saw a poster for a Slim Whitman concert and noticed that Whitman played left-handed.

With this realization, McCartney reversed the strings on his guitar and was now on the road to stardom.

While McCartney is proficient on many instruments and plays all of them except drums left-handed, he is ambidextrous.

McCartney owns the only known left-handed Ampeg Dan Armstrong Plexi guitar.

2. David Bowie

David Bowie (whose real name was David Robert Jones) was born in London, England, and owes his iconic mismatched eyes to his friend’s fist.

Bowie’s first formal foray into music was with his band the Konrads when he was 15 and at this time Bowie was already playing instruments right-handed.

Even though he was a full lefty, he taught himself to play backward for the sake of convenience due to the lack of left-handed instruments available.

But, in some music videos following his big break, he plays instruments left-handed.

While he was able to play some instruments both ways and played most right-handed, David Bowie was not ambidextrous.

3. Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix

Born in Seattle, USA, Johnny Allen Hendrix, later James “Jimi” Marshall Hendrix, had a commercial career of only four years.

After picking up a guitar at 15, Hendrix went on to become one of the greatest guitarists of all time.

His father initially tried to dissuade him from playing at all, but later relented so long as Hendrix played right-handed.

After a time, Hendrix restrung the right-handed guitar to play it left.

On certain guitars, this reverses the tonal effects from high to low.

Until his death, Hendrix continued to use right-handed guitars strung left.

4. Phil Collins

Originating from Chiswick, Middlesex, England, Phil Collins is an uncompromising lefty.

He played drums left-handed until dislocated vertebrae and subsequent spinal surgery caused loss of feeling and nerve damage in his left hand.

As a result, Colins sadly no longer plays drums and has lost most use of his left hand.

He also suffers from hearing loss in his left ear.

Phil Collins has had numerous other health problems and has all but retired from music aside from occasional performances assisted by a cane or chair.

Currently, he is working in political and activist circles with the occasional live performance.

5. Ludwig Van Beethoven

Ludwig Van Beethoven

Contrary to some popular information, one of the greatest German composers, Ludwig Van Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany, though he spent most of his life in Vienna, Austria.

Beethoven began his studies of music around the age of 10 as an unpaid organist and over the years his skills grew and he became the court organist in 1792.

That same year, at the age of 21, Beethoven moved to Vienna and began his illustrious career.

Interestingly, Beethoven’s left-handedness is not a sure fact as a contemporary biographer wrote that Beethoven used his left hand to compose but painted with his right.

It is most likely that Beethoven was left-handed and ambidextrous, though neither can be confirmed.

6. Ringo Starr

Ringo Starr by dearMoon (CC BY 3.0)

Ringo Starr (real name Richard Starkey) of Liverpool, England was the last member to join the Beatles, two days before the former drummer, Pete Best, was canned.

While Starr says he’s always felt like the odd one out in the Beatles, a large contributor to this is his left-handedness.

Starr has explained that he has never been proficient at the drums because he is a lefty playing a right-handed set.

Interestingly, though Starr does not feel he is a talented drummer, he has inspired many other left-handed musicians to use right-handed drums.

Some of these musicians include Mark Knopfler, Noel Gallagher, and Duane Allman.

7. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, baptized Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was born in Salzburg, Austria back when it was still the Archbishopric of Salzburg of the Holy Roman Empire.

Mozart was the youngest of seven children, but only he and his older sister, Nanneri survived past infancy.

While both Nanneri and Mozart were both musically gifted and trained by their father, only Mozart was able to continue his career due to gender restrictions and went on to become one of the most prolific and arguably best Austrian composers of all time.

It is unknown if Mozart was a full left-hander because he was visibly ambidextrous throughout his career.

He was likely left-handed and trained to use his right hand due to the superstitions of the time.

8. Travis Barker

Travis Landon Barker of Fontana, California, USA was the somewhat notorious drummer of Blink-182.

Barker got his first drum kit at the age of four and played on that same kit until he was 15.

While Barker is left-handed, he has always played on a right-handed drum kit out of habit.

The only time he switched it up was when he broke his right foot and used the left to peddle instead.

Barker found his inspiration from other great drummers such as John Bonham, Alex Van Halen, Tommy Lee, and Danny Carey, but his first-ever inspiration was Animal from The Muppets.

9. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

German classical composer Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was born in Weimar, Germany in 1714.

He was the fifth child of his arguably more famous father Johann Sebastian Bach.

Bach, along with three other siblings, all grew up to become musicians like their father.

Though Bach and his siblings were well trained by their father, they pursued university degrees to acquire better jobs after graduation.

It worked, and Bach went on to play for the Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia.

While there is no record of Bach being left-handed, it is believed he was due to something his father said to him in a letter.

In the letter, Bach’s father advised him to train his right hand to match his left.

10. Justin Bieber

Pop legend Justin Drew Bieber was born in London, Ontario, Canada and was exclusively left-handed from birth.

Bieber went to a French immersion school in Stratford and while there, learned to play piano, drums, guitar, and trumpet.

In 2008, Bieber’s mother uploaded a video of him singing to YouTube, and his fame only grew with each new video.

Beiber then signed with an American record label and moved to Atlanta, Georgia with his mother, where he would go on to become one of the most talked-about and controversial artists in recent memory.

While Bieber sings more than he plays instruments, he still exclusively plays left-handed.

Beiber has had an extremely lucrative career from 2008 to the present, and though he is less active in the music industry than he once was, he shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

11. Mark Knopfler

Mark Freuder Knopfler is a Glasgow, Scotland-born musician famous for his role in the band the Dire Straits.

Knopfler started playing guitar around 13 after years of exposure to his uncle’s piano and harmonica playing.

Knopfler played in a band called the Café Racers until 1977 when the name changed to Dire Straits when they recorded their first demo.

While Knopfler is left-handed, he plays the guitar right-handed.

It’s just the way he learned it, and he never switched.

Kopfler started a solo career in 1996 and continues playing to this day.

12. Noel Gallagher

Noel Gallagher is the lead guitarist of the English rock band Oasis and was born in Manchester, England.

While Gallagher plays the guitar right-handed, he is exclusively left-handed for everything else and claims that guitar is the only thing he can do right-handed.

After a turbulent school career and several dead-end jobs, Gallagher got lucky when he ended up joining a road crew for a friend’s band.

In 1991, Gallagher returned from tour and joined his brother’s band, taking over as songwriter.

Gallagher quit the band in 2009 and has been working solo ever since.

13. Dennis Wilson

Dennis Wilson

Dennis Carl Wilson of Inglewood, California, USA, co-founded the Beach Boys with his brother Brian in 1961.

Wilson is particularly famous for flip-flopping between hands between and even during songs.

Though he was left-handed, he was a very skilled ambidextrous musician.

Wilson was known to be a bit of a terror as a kid, earning the name Dennis the Menace, and later in life, he briefly invited Charles Manson and some of the cult to live with him.

While the arrangement was short-lived, Wilson had a lot of respect for Manson, and they exchanged many musical ideas.

14. Tony Iommi

Anthony Frank Iommi of Birmingham, England, and Black Sabbath has an interesting history with his left-handedness.

Iommi is a lefty through and through.

He initially started playing guitar left-handed, and though he did consider switching, he never learned to play guitar right-handed.

When Iommi was still working in an industrial factory, he lost the fingertips of his right middle and ring fingers.

This caused him to briefly stop playing and leave the band, then named Earth.

Iommi returned to playing and eventually rejoined Black Sabbath in 1969.

15. Daniel Barenboim

Daniel Barenboim by Carlos Choin (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Daniel Barenboim was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and has since become one of the most revered pianists in the world.

Currently serving as the Berlin State Opera and Staatskapelle Berlin music director, Barenboim is an extremely accomplished man.

He is a musician, conductor, humanitarian, and polyglot fluent in six languages.

While Barenboim is very much a lefty, he holds the baton in his right hand when conducting.

Summing up our List of Famous Musicians who are Left Handed

As you can see, there are a number of very accomplished musicians who are left-handed.

It’s a shame that so many of them have had to learn to play right-handed instruments though due to what’s available to them.

We’ll be adding to this list soon so let us know which great left-handed musicians we’ve missed and we’ll update it to include them.

Photo of author
Written by Dan Farrant
Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.