left handed playing,,,,

March 8, 2007 at 06:03 PM · i am curious to know how people decide if they want to play left handed (bow with left hand)...

is the violin a mirrow image even inside the viollin?

anyone you know that can play both ways? that will be cool,, lol..

if you have a kid to start violin, how do you eval to see which way to go?

any great ones out there left handed soloist? how about concertmaster, lol?

Replies (22)

March 8, 2007 at 06:05 PM · I've never actually met anyone who plays "left-handed," though I've heard of people doing it. It would be rather difficult in an orchestra!

I'm left-handed, and it never even occurred to me to play the violin differently than the conventional way; it's always been a great fit.

March 8, 2007 at 06:33 PM · I used to watch a lot of orchestras on PBS and I remember a lefty or two. Burgess said once here that the inside of the violin can be the same, that there's no significant difference if you reverse the bass bar and sound post. Surprising, eh?

March 8, 2007 at 08:47 PM · In NYC, I have worked with a left handed violinist.

I am left handed as well, but no one insisted that I re-string the fiddle or play mirror image etc.

March 8, 2007 at 10:15 PM · yes, jim , i do find that surprising. obviously significant enough that no violin makers that i know of randomly put the bassbar to either side.

March 8, 2007 at 10:30 PM · Well, obviously too, he was talking only about difference in sound.

March 8, 2007 at 10:31 PM · i actually mean difference in sound as a result of the side of the bassbar. thanks

March 8, 2007 at 11:19 PM · Violin sound stays the same. But violin acceptability goes all to hell.

March 9, 2007 at 02:29 PM · I know of three people who play lefty. Some years ago, there a woman in the Buffalo Phil., also a young man cellist at Interlochen. Both suffered catastrophic injuries to left hands, and re-trained. Locally there is a great fiddler, Bobby Henrie, who plays fiddle and guitar lefty. I don't know what else he plays. He doesn't use conventional modern violin position or bow hold, mirrored. Like a lot of fiddlers, his are "invented". // One of the cool things about string playing is that it increases cross-brain connections and what educators call crossing the midline. Without going to detail, it is something like becoming mentally ambidextrous- also suggests to me that there's not a lot of reason for lefties to play left, though there could be a lot said for everybody playing both ways. As an aside, my folks tell me I tended lefty when I was little, switched myself to righty when I started school (no pressure.) Now there's a lot I can do with either hand, and though I write right-handed, I do other things lefty. :) Sue

March 9, 2007 at 02:40 PM · Other thoughts- the incidence of left-handedness is increasing in school-age people. There used to be a lot more lefty boys, but more girls are lefty now than when I was in school in the 50's-60's. I did informal surveys of my string students a couple of years, and found a statistically higher number of lefties than the general school population. A surprising number of lefty girls choose the viola. (No joke.) Sue

March 9, 2007 at 02:49 PM · sue, thanks for the info, entertaining to say the least.

yes, the bilateral training sounds very interesting. in sports, out of necessaty, good players need to be able to "shoot" from both sides. even some golfers try to learn to swing the other way, to balance the muscle development. since i have recently been heifetzed, i do not dare to suggest anything here, but it is certainly cool to think about it. would love to see sarah chang, or mutter "reverse" at the end of a show, as a joke, so some beginners can relate, lol.

those 2 that you know of in the orchestra, where do they sit and how do they sit?

March 9, 2007 at 02:47 PM · sorry, duplicate.

March 9, 2007 at 03:24 PM · Mr. Ku, your joke about switching over sides by great soloists reminded me of a great tale I read in "Szekely And Bartok: The Story of a Friendship" by Claude Kenneson. Szekely relates that after Bartok wrote his famous two-volume "44 Duos", he needed to put them in an order that would benefit students, so Bartok manned one violin part (he was, of course a marvelous pianist, but not a violinist!) and Szekely took the other violin part, but switched the bow to his left hand, in order to relate to a less accomplished player. That was Bartok's idea, not Szekely's!

March 9, 2007 at 03:46 PM · lol, anne, what you are saying is more than illuminating because i have been narrow-minded enough to think of the left hand playing with a different violin with different, mirror image set up so that the E string will be closer to the fingers.

what you are saying, if i am not mistaken, is to play the current right hand set up violin the left handed way, so that the G string will be the closest to the fingers.

hmmm, all you need move around is the chin rest i guess.

and for some, ok, for a few, the shoulder rest.

August 3, 2007 at 11:42 PM · There are several other classical left handed violinists that I'm aware of and quite a few jazz violinists. One, whose name I don't recall, lives in NYC and I believe he plays with the New York City Opera Orchestra. He is left handed in all areas, without injury to his left hand and had a teacher that recommended he learn the violinleft handed. Another very famous left handed violinist was Rudolph Kolisch. I believe he may have had an injury to his left hand or arm. There is a lot of information about him on the internet. There is also a popular left handed violinist by the name of Ryan Thomson (I believe his website is fiddler.com). He is a wealth of information - has written books on the subject and supports leftie learning violin left handed. There are a number of newer left handed violins being made. In response to someone's comments about the possibility of a left handed concert master, this would be possible as all that is required is a outside stand position. However, there remains much discrimination against left handed players in the classical music world. An additional difficulty for a lefty who wants to purchase an older violin is that the person cannot fully evaluate the right handed instrument and has to rely on the opinion of others. I think most could agree that for the professional classical violinist, being left handed

remains a handicap which is why it is recommended that left handed children learn the traditional right handed way.

August 3, 2007 at 11:46 PM · Forgot to add to this. The left handed violinist from Buffalo began by sitting in the back near the tympanist and retired from the Philharmonic sitting behind the concert master.

August 4, 2007 at 06:39 AM · See similar discussions on this site at http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=6053 and http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=8328

August 4, 2007 at 08:59 PM · This is a debate that I have with myself to this day. I had a massive injury to my left elbow. It was wired back together with the usual hardware store worth of stuff. I can not pronate my wrist as well as I used to be able to do. It is quite difficult to play and tiring. I have wondered if I could/should "switch sides".

August 5, 2007 at 04:21 PM · Turning a regular violin into a left handed violin is quite involved and costly. My mother was a professional left handed violinist who learned as a left handed player because of a partial amputation to her left index finger. She had several lowish quality violins that were made for a left handed violinist. Her first childhood violin was a right handed violin that was reversed for her. The finer violin that she used for most of her career was reversed for her and later, when sold (around 1985) was again reversed back for a cost of $2000. She began her studies with the assistant concert master of the San Francisco Symphony and I don't recall any mention that there were any problems learning or teaching left handed (from either her teacher or her). As she was right handed, I do remember her comments that she would have had a better bow arm if she could have bowed with her dominant right arm and I certainly remember mention of the constant discrimination because she was left handed. The discrimination followed her throughout her career. I really did not think discrimination would still exist today until a co-worker, married to a famous violinist mentioned a conversation among musicians that she was privy to which inlcuded that no orchestra would want a left handed violinist because of the way it looks. By the way, my father, who was a violin teacher, always taught left handed students right handed technique.

August 6, 2007 at 07:32 PM · Hello, I am 39 years old, & left handed in everything I do it seems. I play Soprano Sax, Drums,& Left-Handed Guitar all 100% by ear.

This works out very well for me since I really only have a desire to play them as a part of my church worship team & our worship leader as well as our other musicians do not use sheet music.

I am just starting out on violin, again just to use as a part of our church worship team. Since

I already play a left-handed guitar, I purchased a left-handed violin.

I have just been learning on my own, playing by ear & looking up stuff on the internet. that is how i came to find this site.

I can see the argument about lefties playing right handed if they want to be in an orchestra but other than that, I would never expect a left handed person learning violin to play right handed. Just like I would never tell a right handed person they should play left handed.

Playing a left-handed violin is 10x more comfortable for me since I have already been playing a left handed guitar for 10+ years.

You cant really use the argument about a piano, Sax, etc...since there is no left or right handed instrument.

I have only had my violin for 3 weeks now, but enjoying it very much.

I just wanted to tell you a bit about myself,& what I use my instruments for. "Church Worship Team" & I am glad I found a site like this.

August 8, 2007 at 05:39 AM · When I first got my violin(i was 8 years old) I started to hold it left handed way because that seemed like the most comfortable and natural way to hold it. Then I had my first lesson and my teacher told me that even though i'm left handed I need to hold it like everyone else. I sometimes wondered what it would have been like if I had played left handed.

August 8, 2007 at 06:03 AM · I think the only compromise I can think of is similar to the shoulder rest(less) question, with a twist. I think left handed persons should be given the opportunity to explore on their own terms and decide. If they choose standard, fine. But they 'should' be able to decide for themselves.

Similarly, I think that one should learn with and without(carefully) a rest, because it helped me a great deal personally, and I think it would help others get in touch with good posture in ways that would augment today's known standards even.

But, the left-handed question, I think we owe it to southpaws to do the work, and find a place for them to discover themselves. It bothers me to think that one ounce of creativity might have been lost because of their feeling pressure, especially give that southpaws are noted as the creative bunch among us--especially.

Some objective proof seems to exist that southpaws sometimes injure themselves in our right handed world. That's enough proof for me.

August 9, 2007 at 01:11 PM · I'm a lefty fiddler. I've always played the standard way, as do all the southpaw fiddlers that I know, and I've never seen the violin equivalent of the left-handed guitar that we encounter from time to time. Both hands are plenty busy playing a violin, so your "opposite" hand will have to learn significant skills one way or the other. Righties have to learn to finger, slide, and vibrato with their "opposite" hand, while we lefties have to learn to bow with the "opposite" hand. In both cases it's a challenge. Seems to me if a prospective violinist is left-handed to such a pronounced degree that learning any skill at all is almost impossible with the right hand, that person is unlikely to make it as a violinist either way - and of course the same would be true of someone who is markedly and exclusively right-handed. You really need to be able to use them both.


Jerry Y.

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