Anything Left-Handed > Recreations > Left handed guitar > Uncommon Sound

Uncommon Sound –
The left-handed guitar players that changed music

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This set of 2 beautifully designed and printed books is the ultimate reference guide to left-handed guitars and the people who have played them.   These oversized books are 14  by 10 inches by 2 inches this, each, and weigh in at nearly 20 lbs.   With over 2,500 photographs and more than 1,500 album covers it covers everything to do with the history of left-handed guitarists and the left handed guitars they have played.

An absolute delight to dip into at random or to work through section by section, it will be something you will want to leave on the coffee table!

Quoted as a reference in its field on the TV game show JEOPARDY!,   featured on NPR’s Saturday Weekend Edition and Australia’s ABC, Uncommon Sound is a complete and intimate journey through the lore of the guitar and all its music from the 1920s to the present. With nearly 1,000 pages of captivating texts and more than 2,500 portrait and performance photographs, this 2-volume set’s perspective is totally unique, and its depth, scope, and insight are unsurpassed. No music lover should be without it.

Our video showing what is in the book set

Scroll down to see our videos on the detailed contents of the Red and Blue volumes

About the books

Uncommon Sound: The Left-Handed Guitar Players That Changed Music is a very special limited edition book, featuring:

  • Two hardcover, linen-bound, jacketed oversize volumes in a strikingly designed slipcase. Dim. 10.5″ x 14.25″ x 4″ … or … 267mm x 362mm x 102mm.
  • 920 pages, all full-color, of art-quality heavy stock matt paper made in France.
  • The set weighs 19 lbs. (8.6 kilos) !
  • Includes more than 2,500 photographs.
  • 150 chapters each devoted to an artist, including abundant quotes from more than 200 exclusive interviews.
  • 150 pages on left-handed guitars, with lavish photos of more than 380 guitars photographed in 9 different countries on 4 continents especially for the book and loads of never-before-published information.
  • More than 1,500 album covers.
  • Each volume has a bookmark designed like a guitar fretboard, listing all the artists alphabetically for quick reference.

Our more detailed video on the Red volume
– Rock, Pop, Punk, Reggae, Metal

Our more detailed video on the Blue volume
– R&B, Jazz, Folk, Blues, Country, World


Through the lives, music and musings of the world’s leading left-handed guitar players, Uncommon Sound reveals vital facets of 20th century popular music’s many-colored history…

  • the birth and splintering of rock,
  • the roots and evolution of the blues,
  • the advent and development of the guitar in jazz,
  • country music’s formative years,
  • the rise and demise of soul music,
  • the impact and processes of engaged folk songwriters,
  • how the guitar shaped or altered indigenous styles,
  • and countless other defining moments and trends in guitar-driven music…

The experience is both intimate and universal, giving unparalleled insight into the musical landscape and day-to-day lives of musicians – the pains and triumphs of stardom, abuses, passion, and tenacity.

The “red” volume covers rock, pop, punk, metal, reggae, and related subgenres.

The “blue” volume is about blues, folk, jazz, country, R&B, and numerous varieties of ‘world’ music.

Arranged chronologically within their genre, 150 left-handed guitar players are portrayed as the quintessential models of the uncommon musical artist, spanning the gamut from icons to pioneers, to sheer mavericks.

The guitar – popular music’s most iconic instrument since the 1920s – is gloriously represented here in an unprecedented, 150-page gallery of rare and historic lefty examples, alongside crucially informative texts.


All told in their own words, with additional comments by other artists and highly detailed texts by the author.
There’s Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Jimmy Cliff, Seal, Babyface, Jules Shear, Beeb Birtles (Little River Band), Elliot Easton (The Cars), Ali and Robin Campbell (UB40), John Flansburgh (They Might Be Giants), Ollie Halsall (Patto), Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals), Tim Armstrong (Rancid), Doyle Bramhall II, Jonathan Butler, Grant Green Jr., Al McKay (Earth, Wind & Fire), Sylvia Tyson, Dan Seals, and then …

Among the 150 in-depth profiles, discover…

  • Paul McCartney’s experimental, multi-arts approach…
  • How DeFord Bailey fended off racism as the 1st African American in country…
  • The spiritual side of Dick Dale, the super-loud King of Surf Guitar…
  • Mark Knopfler’s behind-the-scenes working style and tastes…
  • Why Los Lobos’ Cesar Rosas left rock for Mexican trad and then came back…
  • Albert King’s gradual development of his signature sound and playing style…
  • How Rooftop Singer Bill Svanoe developed “Walk Right In” and the 12-string sound…
  • The dark side of Bob Geldof’s humanitarian dedication…
  • Why Bill Jennings, one of the 1950s’ top jazz guitarists, sank into oblivion…
  • The true confessions of soul legend Bobby Womack…
  • How Dónal Lunny introduced the bouzouki, plus revolutionized Irish folk music…
  • The irrepressible career moves of Slim Whitman, country ’s smash-selling maverick…
  • How Django Reinhardt prompted Tony Iommi to become the father of metal…
  • The story behind Eric Bogle’s political anthem The Band Played Waltzing Matilda …
  • How Lefty Bates, who played with Jimmy Reed a.o., was in fact TWO people…
  • Seminal blues artist Otis Rush’s decades-long struggle with adversity…
  • How the English Beat’s Dave Wakeling unwittingly created a tuning and a genre…
  • The epic & poetic story of Atahualpa Yupanqui, Argentina’s foremost songwriter…
  • How Matt Beck went from prodigy child pianist to upside-down guitarist…
  • A detailed look at Elizabeth Cotten’s upside-down fingerpicking technique…
  • How jazzman Dickie Thompson wrote the B-side of rock’n’roll’s first single…
  • The near-death and drug-bent blows of born-again Rusty Burns…

And so much more…


«An incredible amount of work went into this book. I am totally enjoying this masterpiece. »

L.A. Jones (blues artist)

«'Uncommon Sound' is one hellova book, in size, subject and readability. Each segment gives really good insight and understanding of what went on that steered these famous players in their careers. I am especially taken by how many are driven by jazz, but decided to pick other venues as the money maker. I would encourage you all to get this book if you can because, in all likelihood, you would love to have this in your collection. This book really belongs in music libraries and universities. I think it should be in ALL of them. »

Wayne Wright (jazz guitarist)

«'Uncommon Sound' is beautifully written, presented and conceived and a fascinating insight into why left-handed guitar players are a bit more special… I don't think I've ever read anything about Thunder that puts what we do as well as this. An amazing piece of work. »

Luke Morley (Thunder)

«One of the most wonderful books I have ever read.
… The articles are fascinating, and you can spend hours just browsing through one book or the other, jumping from here to there, just enjoying the pictures … The book is fairly pricey (over $300) but Christmas is coming. Included is a CD featuring 20 of the musicians from the book. At over 900 pages and 2500 pictures, it's the perfect gift for the local southpaw pickers and strummers in your neighborhood. But you don't have to be left-handed to enjoy it. There's such a treasure trove of information and images that anyone with a heart for guitars will be thrilled to find this under the tree. Just don't drop it on your toes! [Excellence in Writing Award-winning review] »

Housed in a sturdy, glossy outer case, the two sumptuous volumes of this guitaraholics' set are packed with reams of info, 2500 photos, some 1500 album sleeves and enough left-handed guitars to fill 150 pages (the equivalent toilet-reading time to learning Stairway To Heaven backwards) … The mix of legends and overlooked heroes makes for an enlightening and always enjoyable read. »

RECORD COLLECTOR magazine, January 2007

«A lush book-reading experience. Engel's massive tomes offer an incredible series of portraits of some of popular music's most influential players. Although the focus is left-handed players, this is more a book about personal paths – about musicians breaking new ground, creating new sounds and in some cases changing the course of musical history. As it covers just about every non-classical style, you also get first-hand accounts of the rise of folk-rock, the demise of soul and some of the genuine talents behind the punk explosion. Uncommon Sound is a book to dip into for a clearer idea of what a musician's life really is. »

THE BULLETIN magazine, September 28, 2006

«I am floored by the enormity of this work. The books are beautifully bound with wonderful photos of all the musicians featured, and I am particularly impressed with the text's attention to detail. Congratulations! »

Beeb Birtles (Little River Band)

«This pair of gargantuan tomes, weighing in at 920 pages, present an exhaustive study of the unique contribution of the left-handed guitar player to popular music, across almost every imaginable genre. Interviews of all the major players and coverage of all the rest make this a comprehensive work in the literal sense of the word: elevating it far beyond a mere cataloguing exercise. Yes, that is an extremely hefty price tag for a book – but what a book. »

GUITARIST magazine, December 2006

«Neuroscientists know that right hemisphere of the brain controls the left side of the body. And that means the amazing guitarists that John Engel has assembled show the power of the right side of the brain. These musicians are trailblazers – and Engel tells their stories with skill, verve, and panache. Whether you're left-handed, right-handed, or ambidextrous, you should read this book. »

Dan Pink, acclaimed social trend analyst and bestselling author of A Whole New Mind.

«As a proud cack-hander, it's always seemed obvious to me that all lefties are creative geniuses. Now John Engel's remarkable book confirms my suspicions. Left-handed guitarists are clearly a special breed apart, although as Sylvia Tyson, one of Engel's many featured musicians, reminds us: ‘Any instrument you play, you play with both hands. And what you lack in one hand, you make up in the other.' »

Tony Bacon, music editor and author of Electric Guitars: The Illustrated Encyclopedia.

«This book should be subtitled ‘not just for lefties'. While it's fascinating to discover how much of our music culture has been shaped by the left hand, each of these profiles, like the musicians themselves, stands on its own merits. Whether you play lefty or righty, you'll enjoy the experience of this book. »

Walter Carter, author of Acoustic Guitars and Other Fretted Instruments.

«A must-read for anyone who loves any kind of music. Already by holding their guitar the ‘wrong' way, these musicians epitomize the unbridled, non-conformist spirit of popular music. Engel has tapped into probably the broadest range of musicians to ever find themselves in the same book; and their uncommon sound is a tribute to all music makers. Engel's detailed accounts bring us on a series of personal journeys to the very heart of the music that shaped a century. »


«John Engel has written what certainly will be the definitive book on left-handed guitarists. John takes the reader on a surprising tour of the history and impact left-handed players have had. An amazing amount of research combined with a beautiful layout. »


«All the info you could ever need (and more) on left-handed guitar players and guitars from the world’s foremost authority on the lefty. »

GUITARIST magazine, July 2006.

«Vast, insightful, beautifully researched, and *fun*! This book is essential reading for all guitarists (righties included!) and their fans »

Jas Obrecht, former editor of GUITAR PLAYER magazine.

«Every now and then a person's love and knowledge of a subject combine to produce something that is altogether unique. The word ‘unique' pre-empts comparative adjectives and often, as in this case, falls straight into the realm of the superlative »

MI-PRO magazine, May 2006
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8 comments on “Uncommon Sound
  1. Steve - left-handed bandit says:

    I played a right-handed guitar upside down for years; just felt natural. Talk about an uncommon sound, as unique chords feel natural and are easy to play that way…eventually bought a lefty, but still play right-handed guitars upside down.

  2. Mike Rex says:

    You may be interested to hear that I have just released my first album, at the age of 62, entitled “Left-Handed, Upside-Down” (referring to the way I play the guitar). It is currently available for download (individual tracks and the complete album) on iTunes and Amazon and will be available on CD soon. If you go onto you will find links to every track, with lyrics, on YouTube.

  3. WB says:

    I’m a 5o-ish year old left hander, but as a youngster in school teachers insisted i learn to write right-handed. Same thing when i learned to play classical guitar and later violin. Although i was annoyed by this at the time, i believe it may have been all to the good when it came to music as i think about it now. My dexterity was, after all, in my left hand, and that is where the complexity is when fingering a guitar or violin. Also, I rather think i would have had a tough time playing in symphony had i been holding a violin in my right hand. At least for me it worked out well. For other instruments this may not be the ideal. Now my biggest problem is finding a leftie mouse that is ergonomic and high resolution. 😉


    i am basically a 80% left handed.
    I am studying guitar right now. am studying it right handed right now.
    i think i would like to study left handed guitar after studying it in right.

  5. Optimizing Space with Bunkbeds says:

    I love keeping up to date on everything new so i

  6. Mark Averi says:

    Do you know of video guitar lessons for Left Handed people….



  7. Mik Madej says:

    Why don’t your videos play?

    • admin says:

      They all play fine for me, in both Internet Explorer and Firefox web browsers. Just click the white “play” triangle and give it a few seconds to start streaming.
      If anyone else is having problems seeing the videos please leave a comment here and let us know which web browser and version you are using and we will look into it.

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