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Left Handers and Strings?

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Geoff the Duck 07 Jan 04 - 03:12 PM
Sorcha 07 Jan 04 - 03:16 PM
Clinton Hammond 07 Jan 04 - 03:29 PM
Jeanie 07 Jan 04 - 03:36 PM
jimmyt 07 Jan 04 - 03:37 PM
Joybell 07 Jan 04 - 05:02 PM
Walking Eagle 07 Jan 04 - 05:13 PM
jimmyt 07 Jan 04 - 05:17 PM
Geoff the Duck 07 Jan 04 - 05:19 PM
McGrath of Harlow 07 Jan 04 - 05:21 PM
Midchuck 07 Jan 04 - 05:23 PM
Walking Eagle 07 Jan 04 - 05:28 PM
JR 07 Jan 04 - 06:22 PM
PoppaGator 07 Jan 04 - 06:42 PM
Leadfingers 07 Jan 04 - 06:48 PM
McGrath of Harlow 07 Jan 04 - 06:52 PM
Joybell 07 Jan 04 - 07:09 PM
s&r 07 Jan 04 - 07:35 PM
Walking Eagle 07 Jan 04 - 08:12 PM
harpmaker 07 Jan 04 - 09:32 PM
Walking Eagle 07 Jan 04 - 09:40 PM
harpmaker 07 Jan 04 - 09:45 PM
Mooh 07 Jan 04 - 11:50 PM
GUEST,Stour Delta 08 Jan 04 - 05:36 AM
McGrath of Harlow 08 Jan 04 - 06:32 AM
s&r 08 Jan 04 - 06:39 AM
Mooh 08 Jan 04 - 08:50 AM
Geoff the Duck 08 Jan 04 - 01:12 PM
NicoleC 08 Jan 04 - 04:19 PM
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Subject: Left Handers and Strings?
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 03:12 PM

For Christmas we bought our twins a Ukelele each. They are about old enough to have a "Proper Instrument" of their own to learn and we thought that the Uke, being a small instrument which will fit their hands, would be a useful starting point.

One of our twins is right handed and the other left handed, so I am now faced with the choice of "How do I try to teach them to play?". I am right handed, but over the years I have known a few left handed musicians. One used to take instruments strung for a right-hander and turn it over so the neck was in his left hand, then play the chords and fingering "Upside Down". Another strings his mandoline in reverse order, and plays the left-handed version of the chords and fingering.

I play 5-string banjo, so it is a right-handed instrument. I would like my children to learn banjo at some point, but if Rowan has learned to fret with his left hand, and pick with the right, this might mean having to constuct a custom neck - I am capable of doing this, but would I be better teaching him to play using the left hand for the neck work?

I recall an interview with a well known jazz guitarist (I think it may have been Joe Pass?) who is left-handed, but plays the same way as a righ hander. He reckoned that his dexterity on the fingerboard was in part due to him playing with his stronger (left) hand.

I have NEVER seen or heard of a fiddle player (or violinist) who holds their bow in the left hand and fingers with the right. I am sure there must be as many left handed people who wish play a violin as any other instrument.

I have started this thread to ask for thoughts on the subject. I would also appreciate advice from left-handed players on the advantages or disadvantages of the way they tackle their instrument.

Looking forward to an interesting discussion.
Quack!
Geoff the Duck.


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: Sorcha
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 03:16 PM

There are fiddlers who play with the bow in the left hand. I've know several, but my reccomendation would be to teach the lefty to play right handed. Left handed instruments are not just upside down, and VERY pricey to have built....bracing, bass bar, bridge, nut, etc....all different.


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 03:29 PM

I'd say teach 'em both right handed... that way the lefie will have access to all the instruemnts the rightie will

Just about every leftie who actually played left-handed that I've known viewd it as a bit of a curse or handicap...

For every left handed instrument out there, there are a million right handed...


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: Jeanie
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 03:36 PM

I am *very* left-handed (if that makes any sense), but learned guitar straight from the outset, at age 11 or so, the standard right-handed way. (Bert Weedon's 'Play a Tune A Day' - remember ????)

I personally think that the "standard" way of playing guitar etc. actually favours left-handers, especially at the outset: it is the left hand which has to do all the hard work when struggling with the chord shapes and chord changes. Playing the right-handed way has the important advantage that you can play other instruments, other than your own, differently strung one.

Here's something else that favours left-handers: driving a car (in Britain, anyway) - where it is the left hand that has to do all the gear-changing and working most of the switches on the instrument panel.

Writing from left to right (which means the arm always moving across the body, rather than more easily away from it) you just do, because you know nothing else. (As an aside, it must be the *right*-handed in Israel who have this hindrance, writing Hebrew).

The only task I have difficulty with, from being left-handed, is doing the ironing. Well....that's my excuse, anyway !

Have fun, Ducks and Ducklings !

- jeanie


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: jimmyt
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 03:37 PM

Geoff, Being Lefthanded and playing Guitar and upright bass bassackwards, I would encourage your lefty to learn to play standard right handed instruments. There is almost as much dexterity required of both hands on stringed instruments and if you start them young, and tell them this is the way to do it, they will thank you for it later on , when they want to borrow an instrument, etc. I never have the opportunity to get a feel for an instrument without buying one as there are so few lefty instruments out there to try, etc. When I look back and wonder why I started this lefty idea when as a trumpet player, I played the valves with my right hand! Teach em right handed.


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: Joybell
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 05:02 PM

There are lots of instruments where laterality does not even come up. Piano for example. Playing stringed instruments strung "backwards" is a definite disadvantage as far as I've seen. You have to always use your own instrument, it's difficult for right handed players to teach you, chord charts are set up for right-handers. My left handed husband says he had a positive advantage,as a beginer, being able to manage the fingering more quickly with his dominant hand. He says he reckons that stringed instruments are designed for left-handers and there would be more reason to string them "backwards " for right-handers. Joy


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: Walking Eagle
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 05:13 PM

I'm left handed and I play left handed. This after playing right handed and being very frustrated for many years. Start the left handed one right handed. If he starts to say, I can't play this--It's too hard--I hate this--I can't keep up--This is dumb, whatever, then consider changing him.

Sorry Jimmy, he WON'T thank his dad later on. My teachers tried to change me in school and all it led to was frustration and hatred of education on my part. It lasts forever!

Many instrument companies, Martin for instance, make left handed instruments as a common thing now.

Don't risk frustration with the child, if right handed doesn't work, any luthier can switch the saddle and nut for his instrument. Assuming, of course, that he wants to stick with the uke.

Being left handed is NOT a disability.

W.E.


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: jimmyt
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 05:17 PM

I agree, Walking Eagle, that IF it seems to be a problem, switching over is better than quitting, but I still think that if it is just as easy for some one way or the other, there are lots of advantages to having stock instruments at your disposal...this being said from another left hander


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 05:19 PM

Thanks for the coments so far. My personal feeling was that learning in standard stringing makes some sense, but I am right handed, and I wondered if left handers would have a different perspective. It seems you support my view.
Any more comments will also be listened to.
Quack!
GtD.


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 05:21 PM

There are three options for a left-hander, not two, aren't there?

One is to use standard instruments, and learn to play using the left hand for chording and such and the right hand for fingerpicking or plectrums or holding the bow.

The other is to use standard instruments, but play them backwards, chording with the right hand - the way Elizabeth Cotton is said to have played it.

And the third is to chord with the right hand, but have an instrument strung (and ideally built) the other way round.

The ideal thing would be to learn it so you could play using either hand to do either job, whether you're right handed or left handed. (Maybe the Ducklings could have both sorts, and learn to play all three ways.)

But I'm not at all sure about this idea that the hand that's doing the chording is doing the difficult job, and the other hand is having it easy. The fact that Django Reinhardt never changed over to playing the other way even when half his hand was burnt off suggests that that is an over-simplification.


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: Midchuck
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 05:23 PM

I, also, am left handed and have always played right handed.

I agree with those who say it's much more convenient of a way to go.

I might be a marginally better flatpicker if I played lefthanded, but I might be a much better flatpicker if I practiced as much as I should, so I can't really blame handedness.

Peter.


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: Walking Eagle
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 05:28 PM

I find that left handed instruments and playing instructions are readily available. Maybe in the U.S. ? I dunno.


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: JR
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 06:22 PM

I'm very left handed also, but play right handed. Until I was about 45 or 50 I couldn't hold onto a pick.. it would fly out of my right hand part way through a song. I had to finger pick/strum. I tried stringing backward, but that never felt "right". I'd suggest letting the kid just "play" with the thing and see which way he thinks is correct. He'll be right.


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 06:42 PM

As a right-hander, I always felt that guitar-playing demanded a lot of left-hand dexterity, and that learning forced me to develop my left hand skills.

I learned to type at the same time that I was learning guitar, and to this day my left pinky does a much better job on the QWERTY keyboard than does my right pinky (which I don't use at all). I make most of my typos with the right ring finger, on the O, P, L, :, ., and / keys.

Lefties can use any of the three options mentioned by Kevin, above, and I suppose you could find at least one left-handed string player to endorse each approach. I think that playing the standard-strung instrument upside-down-and-backwards would be the most difficult and counterintuitive approach, but at least two very notable (and very different) players have used that technique very successfully: Libba Cotton and Jimi Hendrix.

If it were my kids, I encourage them to both try the standard "right-handed" method, at least at first. If the lefty twin exhibited any problem at all (including simple lack of interest compared to the otehr twin), then I'd experiment with the other methods.


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 06:48 PM

The main advantage of playing a left handed instrument is that the clowns who turn uo at sessions and 'have' to borrow an instrument wont pick on the leftie!


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 06:52 PM

But you'd be likely to get would-be Libba Cottons and Jimi Jendrixes asking if they can borrow it, Leadfingers...


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: Joybell
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 07:09 PM

Nothing stops certain people from trying to borrow your instrument!


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: s&r
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 07:35 PM

We never have difficulties teaching RH guitar to LH people provided they have never tried to play. Both hands have to learn new skills on an instrument, and feel clumsy at first. One of us is LH and the other is RH. We both play RH.

LH stringing of RH instruments cause problems however - cheap classical guitars with no bridge compensation can br strung LH; the problem occurs with steel strings and slanted bridges, which wont play in tune stung LH

Fiddles can be LH strung, but there may be some loss of tone. Looks strange in orchestral work.

Bizzarely, LH pianos are available...


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: Walking Eagle
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 08:12 PM

Jimi Hendrixs' guitar was strung for a leftie. Maybe if us lefties started standing up for our rights ( heh, heh ), then you righties wouldn't be in such a quandry as to what to do with 'us'!

I once gave my Martin to a leftie who had been playing 'the wrong way' ( i.e right handed *BG* ) for all his playing life. Inside of a night he had the thing mastered and said that he had never played so well in his life. That is saying something as he is a very good player. He said he felt like he was home. I sold him that guitar and stepped up one for myself. I called Elderly, they said no problem and my instrument was in my hands by week's end. Martin is one company that doesn't make me feel like they have to turn the whole factory upside down just to provide me with a quality left handed instrument. Our Sam Ashe here keeps a number of left handed instruments on hand all the time.

A left handed piano you say? Now, that is odd.


With left hand firmly on my mouse,

W.E.

P.S. With a lot of music going to tab, it makes no difference at all.


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: harpmaker
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 09:32 PM

Making LH people play RH is a big mistake. As Its the rhythm hand rather than the chord shapes that puts LHrs off learning. They find it hard work. Buy the LEFT HAND STUDENT a LH instrument, and he/she will do just as well (and maybe better) as the RHndrs.


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: Walking Eagle
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 09:40 PM

AND when advanced flat picking comes along.... Lefties DEFINATELY gotta be in their right mind then!

I'd forgotten about that part Harpmaker. Thanks for the reminder.


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: harpmaker
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 09:45 PM

OK Geoff, quack, is that a 4!


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: Mooh
Date: 07 Jan 04 - 11:50 PM

I'm righthanded.

Aside from the fact that there're lots of lefties playing rightie and they're hard to pick out of the crowd, there is very little guitar instructional material designed for lefthanded play which is a major consideration in an increasingly tab-centric world.

I have had only a couple of lefthanded students and they didn't relate to the mirror image thing at all so visual examples were not effective. One read standard notation well (for his tender years) while the other was a frustrated tab reader, but neither was happy with their equipment, music, and book choices. I should poll my students now to find out how many of them are lefthanded...they all play right.

I don't like the idea of forcing righthandedness on anyone (though I believe it's the better choice) but I distinctly remember, when I started to learn guitar, believing that my right hand would fret better because it was more agile than my left, and was clearly dominant when I played piano. Right or wrong, my left hand learned the necessary agility and maybe my right hand fingerstyle technique benefits from my piano experience.

From the outset, the instrument will feel foreign when held and played either way. It only takes the novice a few days to get comfortable with holding the instrument and not much longer to get comfortable playing it, especially when given decent advice on technique and posture.

I've encountered leftie players who regretted their decision not to start as a rightie because eventually they encountered the lack of leftie resources and equipment.

I am also not aware of any physiological reason why a lefthanded person can't play a righthanded instrument as well as a righthanded person. Further, I am not convinced of the "handedness" of the instrument to start with, particularly since fretting seems more difficult than strumming to beginners yet the dominant hand gets to strum.

I'm damn glad there's no lefthanded pianos around here, that would mess me up but good!

My advice? All things considered, no lefties.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: GUEST,Stour Delta
Date: 08 Jan 04 - 05:36 AM

Surely the best way would be to let the child decide.

I'm left handed but play right handed and with a guitar held this way a lefty definately has an advantage. BUT some lefties are not totally left handed in all cercumstances for instance i write with my left hand, practise archery left handed but hold a cricket bat, kife & fork
right handed.
In the UK they used to force left handed children to learn to write right handed and caused much distress, thank goodness that went out of favour many years ago!
So after rambling on, i mean to say that the child will naturally pick the instrument up and find the most comfortable way for them to play it.
It's hard enough to get them interested in the first place so don't make it even more difficult for them.


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 08 Jan 04 - 06:32 AM

Get one of each and let them decide which to play. (You'll probably end up with the left handed child playing the right hander ukelele and the right-handed child playing the left-hander...)


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: s&r
Date: 08 Jan 04 - 06:39 AM

LH Pianos http://www.slamgrand.com/Construction.htm

Odd though it seems - or is it?

The idea of forcing RH use of pens etc died many years ago.

In our experience with many guitar students over forty years, those who have never played are comfortable very rapidly using RH instruments. Those that have played, for however short a time, prefer to stay left-handed.

We point out the choices to the students, and suggest that they try RH, if necessary lending them an instrument. Only one of such students was unhappy with RH playing.

Letting the child decide assumes that the choices are understood by the child... We don't ask children to decide diet, or bedtime

Or do we?

It is possible that a LH player playing RH develops a different syle of playing because of their 'dominant' hand, so perhaps the leftie plays better hammers, bends, pulls etc. Perhaps. My wife and I play differently (I think she's better than I but I ain't gonna tell her) she's LH I'mRH and we both play RH.

Stu


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: Mooh
Date: 08 Jan 04 - 08:50 AM

Letting the child decide this is to allow an uneducated and uninformed decision with a 50% chance of failure. Their comfort with the instrument based on first impressions is the wrong way to make the decision. It isn't like writing. Last I noticed most of us use only one hand to write but two to play guitar (or whatever instrument).

If a stringed instrument student arrives for the first lesson already having played, I won't change their handedness. If they've never played before I strongly recommend right, for the reasons I mentioned earlier.

(Some things, the archery example has been used, don't depend on the hands but the eyes. The dominant eye is the better way to assertain which way to draw a bow, imho, but I'd be interested in other reasoning.)

The greater challenge is to play guitar with restricted use of the hands and fingers due to permanent injury or disease. I've had students with those concerns and they were able to make real and listenable music...but that's another thread I expect.

It seems to me that the whole argument depends on guitar "handedness" and I'm not convinced that ultimately one hand has it easier than the other, or that in any event the choice is made to serve the "better" hand.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 08 Jan 04 - 01:12 PM

Well!
Some interesting points being made.
I certainly DO NOT intend to dictate that my son behave Right-handed or force him to behave in an alien manner when he is naturally Left-handed. He writes with a pen in his left hand, but scratches his bottom with either. On the other hand (sic) I am a great believer that ALL of us should try to develop skills with both hands. It is incredibly useful to be able to knock in a nail, using a hammer in your left hand and also upside down.
One of the best skill I have found for strengthening the non-dominant hand and increasing your control of BOTH of them is Juggling. The coordination between brain and TWO hands working in a sequence where Neither hand is dominating the pattern is a great asset.
I also do not intend to let him make a mistake purely due to an uninformed chance decision. He is Four years old, and should be open to learn ANYTHING from scratch, as should his right-handed sister. I do, however, intend to take on board any and all arguments made here, as long as they are backed up with something which seems like sound reasoning.
OKAY - back to you lot...
Quack!
Geoff.


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Subject: RE: Left Handers and Strings?
From: NicoleC
Date: 08 Jan 04 - 04:19 PM

Other than purely an issue of dexerity, the child may also experience some awkwardness if Dad and Sis play one way, but he plays the other. All the 4 years old I have met are a curious mix of trying to fit in and wanting to establish themselves... the chips may fall either way.

Also, if he starts RH and has difficulty keeping up with his sister it may squash his interest. I gave up piano at a young age because I was so frustrated that I perceived myself to be struggling while my brother picked it up like a natural.

I think I'd suggest starting him RH, but be aware that it just may not work for him and let him know that there is another way if he wants to try it.


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