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The Weekend Vote

Are you right- or left-handed?

April 5, 2008 at 9:35 PM

Did you know that only left-handed people are in their right mind?


It's not really true. We all use both sides of our mind. But, scientists tell us that the right side of the brain controls our left hands, while the left side of the brain controls the right. I suppose this means that, in order to play the violin, we must constantly be in both sides of our brains simultaneously. It could explain why we're all so...brainy? ;)

We've actually had some great debates on in the past: should a left-handed person play "left-handed"? Being left-handed myself, I'm always puzzled by this. It never occurred to me to play any other way, and I've always felt at an advantage to have the fingerboard fall under my dominant hand. I also wonder at the evolution of our current way of doing things: is there something in the creative right side of the brain that works best for a violin hand, something in the analytical left side that works best for a bow hand and arm?

On the other hand.... (groan)

Some feel strongly that they would play to better advantage if their setup were reversed. And in the above-linked discussion, our friend Peter Wilson mentions a stand partner who used such a setup because of injury. So there are legitimate reasons out there for turning things upside down.

My question to you is simply, are you right- or left-handed? That is to say, which hand do you normally write with; I'm not going to get into being ambidextrous. (Though I read a New Yorker article suggesting that right-handed people are "handed," while left-handed people are generally not, they are ambidextrous). I'm wondering if a lot of us are left-handed, or if that's not really the case.

Also, in the comments below, what are your thoughts on handedness and violin-playing?

From Anne Horvath
Posted on April 5, 2008 at 9:58 PM
Proud southpaw here!
From Kevin Tompkins
Posted on April 5, 2008 at 10:06 PM
Shouldn't there be a choice for ambidextrous?
From Doug Dickey
Posted on April 5, 2008 at 10:15 PM
I consider myslelf right handed because that's the hand I write with, however I do most activities lefty. I'm lefty when I throw, play baseball, hockey, golf, basketball (although I lead with my right when I shoot). I'm righty when I kick, play tennis, go bowling. It seems like I prefer to do two handed activities lefty, but one handed activities righty except when it comes to dribbling or throwing. My left arm is also stronger than my right. It's pretty odd but I think it all has to do with the violin and how the different sides of out brain develop and communicate with each other as we learn this intrument. I'm no expert though.
From Catherine Fairweather Beck
Posted on April 6, 2008 at 12:53 AM
I am constantly arguing with my (beginner) students about this! The lefties can't grasp that they shouldn't switch. I keep telling them they have the advantage. I don't think they believe me!
From Bethany Morris
Posted on April 6, 2008 at 12:55 AM
I wonder if it's a phenomenon with musicians, especially violinists, to have ambiguous handedness. I'm extremely left-handed in most cases, but I hold a hockey stick right-handed and I used to be an ambidextrous pitcher.
From Kim Vawter
Posted on April 6, 2008 at 1:27 AM
I sat right down and wrote my self a letter..with my left hand. I moved slowly through all the steps that had learned when i first started writing. No muscle memory for writing but I could read it and with practice I am sure that I could do ok. (I am not a "lefty" but one out of my 3 sons is.
From Michael Czeiszperger
Posted on April 6, 2008 at 1:28 AM
I'm firmly in the left-handers should play right handed camp. As a long time guitarist primarily, and seconding on violin, what an advantage to have the hand with the most fine motor skills on the fingerboard!
From Daniel Blomdahl
Posted on April 6, 2008 at 2:09 AM
I have found that being left handed is advantageous to playing violin. There is more accuracy in fingering. And vibrato is coming along a lot easier.
From Ben Clapton
Posted on April 6, 2008 at 2:43 AM
I'm a lefty, but I'm kinda a stealth lefty. I pretty much only write with my left hand, and do everything else right handed. I think that the left hand work comes easily to me on the fingerboard, and have had people comment that my hand looks at ease. on the other hand (pun intended), my bow arm is the one that I need to pay the most attention to to make sure I get the right sounds that I want.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on April 6, 2008 at 3:07 AM
I'm right handed, and I've always thought that bowing is the most important factor in sound production, and a lot of the artistry of playing the violin is in the right hand. It's interesting to hear other people's views.

Right now, about 70% of the voters say "right handed" and about 30% say "left handed." This may not be the accurate proportions. Maybe more lefties voted, or maybe more righties voted. (To the scientists reading this: I know I'm oversimplifying things.) However, for the sake of argument, let us assume that 70% of violinists are righties and 30% are lefties. Does anyone know the proportions of righties and lefties in the general population?

From Oliver Bedford
Posted on April 6, 2008 at 8:45 AM
I'm right handed for writing and violin.

But here are two strange things:

At football I'm definitely left footed; and...

I shoot bow and arrow naturally the "wrong" way round. Once at a sports day the pro tried to make me shoot the proper way for a right hander and I missed by about 15 feet (whereas if he had let me do it the way I do it naturally, I could have shot his head off!)

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on April 6, 2008 at 11:46 AM
I'm right-handed, pretty strongly so, but my daughter is left-handed, and she has asked me whether she should learn to play the violin the other way. I've told her basically what Laurie said, that having your strong hand over the fingerboard can help you. Last night we both tried to play our violins "left handed" and it sounded horrible.
From Bart Meijer
Posted on April 6, 2008 at 1:58 PM
I'm a left-hander who has been taught to write with his right hand. For me, this means that the left hand is where most of my attention is naturally going, and that I have to pay conscious attention to the bowing side of things.
I practice this by bowing the pieces I study -- or sections of them -- on open strings only, without using any fingers. As a child I used to object that that was silly, but I no longer worry about that :) . Apart from being too tense sometimes, the left hand will seemingly take care of itself.
From Rosalind Porter
Posted on April 6, 2008 at 5:44 PM
I'm definitely ambidextrous - why can't we have an option! I open jars, pour jugs/kettles etc, hold saucepans, do vacuuming and so on with my left hand. Yet I have always written with my right-hand and I don't recall any of the problems that other children who were left-handed had because of being forced to learn writing right-handed.

I would suggest that violinists do have far greater facility with both hands than "normal" people because of the high level of motor skills required to play.

From Madeline Gralish
Posted on April 6, 2008 at 7:51 PM
I'm left-handed, but I throw, use scissors, etc. with my right hand. When I first started the violin, my mother called music stores asking if they had "left-handed" violins, and she got incredulous responses. :D

I agree with previous posters in that it feels much more comfortable to have my left hand at the fingerboard. Also, how would one play in an orchestra? Someone's eye would probably get poked out. :)

From Christine Kharazian
Posted on April 7, 2008 at 2:53 AM
I am right handed. But I wanted to share with you this:
I had a left handed adult student, whom I was teaching conventional way. Once she came to me and said that she had a dream where she was playing violin left handed and it was beautiful. It really made me think...
From Gerry Branca
Posted on April 8, 2008 at 1:35 AM
A funny thing that I tried while trying to learn the vibrato. I am right handed,naturally bowing with the right hand, but I could not get the vibrato motion with my left hand. So I switched hands. I bowed with my left hand and fingered with my right hand. Yahoo! I could rock my right hand in the vibrato motion that I could not do with my left. I do not know if anyone else out there in the violin world ever tried this,but it sure helped me!Maybe it will help someone else out there trying to learn this difficult move, or so it seems. Maybe its good to confuse the brain from time to time.

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