Watch Elizabeth Cotten show her 2-finger "Cotten Pickin'" style on her upside-down guitar

Originally published at: Watch Elizabeth Cotten show her 2-finger "Cotten Pickin'" style on her upside-down guitar | Boing Boing


Freight Train is such a beautiful song. Watching her play guitar is always a little brain melting, though. The way she uses her index finger to do what the thumb usually does is really impressive.


One advantage to not restringing for left hand is you can hand your instrument to someone else and they can play it.

The chord charts are all correct as well.


Elizabeth Cotten is terrific, and I always really liked “Freight Train”

A couple side points: Jimi Hendrix also was a lefty that played with the strings this way and Django Reinhardt played with just 2 fingers on his left hand too (but he’s a righty)


I believe Albert King also played upside down guitar. And, Django inspired Tony Iommi who lost something like two and a half fingers in an accident. Learning about how Django played was the push Iommi needed to keep playing guitar :smiley:


She also played 5-string banjo upside down with the drone string at the bottom.


I’ll have to find some videos of that. That sounds amazing.

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Hendrix typically restrung his guitar so the low strings were still on top, though, I believe. Eric Gales does just flip a right handed guitar over and play it without restringing it, the same as Cotten did.


This is the first finger-picking song I learned, right-handed, and it really is pretty easy to do. For better or worse two-finger style is now so natural I find it really hard to throw a third finger into my right-hand technique for more complex Fahey/Kottke stuff.

Otis Rush also.

I have lefty friends who tried to learn guitar that way and didn’t get far, and I think most righty guitar teachers can’t really give them any advice since it’s backwards to us, like trying to play drums mounted on the ceiling. You either figure it out on your own or find another player in that style for tips.


I always forget I’ve got a third finger I could use until I get to Fahey (or someone like him). I just wrapped up a Peter Lang song that had similar requirements.

But, that’s what I like about Jorma Kaukonen. The third finger is almost like a safety net for me :smiley:

I taught guitar to a couple of kids and had no idea they were both lefties for years. They somehow managed to use a right handed guitar strung like a right handed guitar.

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I know some guitar teachers push new left-handed students to play righty, but I have a lefty friend who plays righty, he just felt more comfortable playing that way despite being a lefty.

I encourage my students to do what felt the most natural to them, apparently it was playing right-handed them. I may have even used Elizabeth Cotten as an example of another way they could play.

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