Left-handed prospective violin student

July 5, 2016 at 05:12 PM · So, I'm planning on starting the violin this fall. However, I happen to be left-handed and am unsure on whether I should play the violin that way or conventionally (right-handed).

I'm sixteen already so I'm pretty set on doing stuff with my left hand, and I know the bowing will be very demanding, more so than the fingering, which I would have use my dominant hand for, if I played right-handed.

I also play the guitar left-handed, if it serves any purpose for figuring this out.

Since I'll most likely start the classes with my right-handed sister, I'm worried I'll fall behind because of the lesser fine motor skills my handedness would impose on my playing in the conventional way.

I am NOT planning on playing in any orchestras etc. so there's no concern over me ruining the playing for the rest of the group with my elbows.

What do you think? Should I play by my strenghts or do the 'conform or die' -thing? Also, if someone plays left handed, are there any suggestions for what I should buy?

Thank you in advance!

- A. O'Connor

Replies (100)

July 5, 2016 at 06:46 PM · Hello,

First of all, congrats for taking up the violin. Like the guitar, it's a great instrument. I believe there are many guitarists who play the violin; there seems to be mutual affinity between the instruments. If not siblings, they are certainly close cousins.

I am a left hander and I learned and continue to play the violin the traditional way, using my right hand for bowing and left hand for fingering. I learned the classical style, starting with Suzuki, over twenty years ago. I continue to play as an amateur today but I have not taught violin and I don’t hold any performance degrees or professional credentials so I would advise you to seek as many opinions as possible from a variety of sources, especially multi-instrumentalists (including violists:))

From what I have read, there are varying degrees of handedness and ambidexterity – and some psychologists have theorized that women may be more ambidextrous in general than men although I do not believe this have been proved definitively by the scientific community. I think dexterity can be developed over time.

I admit I have some bias in favor of you playing left-handed and some philosophers (Ralph Waldo Emerson comes to mind) would never advise you to 'conform or die'. We live in world that is designed for right handers – from the Americas to Asia. There is a bias towards doing things the “right” way. But I think in this situation, like many other choices in the life, there is an upside and downside to each to consider. Ultimately it’s your choice , but I wouldn’t recommend playing both ways.

Here are the upsides that I came up with for both methods:

Upside playing left-handed (bow – left, fingering – right)

1. You may have stronger fingers (calluses) in your right hand that can be leveraged when fingering the violin, especially double-stops.

2. I think certain types of bowing could come more naturally but I cannot say for sure. Your guitar strumming motion may translate well for the violin.

3. If bowing is more demanding then fingering or more important (and I'm not sure of either), then you may (with the emphasis on may) be able to take advantage of greater left finger dexterity.

Upside playing right-handed (bow – right, fingering – left):

1. Easier to play in a group with other violinists/fiddlers

2. Most teachers teach right handed. It could be easier to pick up visual cues involved with learning.

3. Greater choice of violins to play (I haven’t come across a left handed Strad yet. If one exists, I am sure it would have serious collectible value).

4. You are learning new movements with a fresh set of muscles. You are learning to consciously focus on developing your left and right hand together rather than favoring one hand over the other. You may have an advantage here over right handed beginners.

5. Perhaps there is a relationship between fingering, intonation and handedness. They appear to go together. I feel that intonation has been a strength for me.

July 5, 2016 at 07:42 PM · Play the normal way. Plenty of violinists are left-handed. You need the fine-motor finger dexterity and having the left hand as your dominant hand is a distinct advantage. The right hand and arm have a complex task to do but it's nowhere near as demanding in finger precision. Violinists who begin early enough actually have significantly altered mental "maps" of their left hands; the right doesn't get similar augmentation.

July 5, 2016 at 08:08 PM · The violin is already a basically left-handed instrument, so I wouldn't put much effort into switching it around to make things more difficult

July 5, 2016 at 08:22 PM · "Perhaps there is a relationship between fingering, intonation and handedness. They appear to go together. I feel that intonation has been a strength for me."

Your (unprovable) assumption is just reinforcing the OPs unhealthy and premature assumptions about her "lesser motor skills."

Handedness is not only irrelevant but unproductive to really think about.

July 5, 2016 at 08:54 PM · You have a good point Scott. Over-thinking can certainly be unproductive. As my tennis coach use to say, "if you're thinking, you're losing!"

July 5, 2016 at 09:48 PM · I should like to conduct a census! I am convinced that many known soloists are left-handed. We poor right-handers have to "allow" our left hands to "lead the dance". Pity us!

July 5, 2016 at 09:51 PM · That reminds me of what my tennis pro said -- it was kind of a mantra for him -- and it applies to the violin: "Grip it and rip it."

My guess is that "if you're thinking you're losing" only gets you to the club level. At the highest level it again becomes a mental game (not that I would know that first-hand because I'm a miserable duffer on the tennis court.)

My guess is that the same percentage of violinists are left handed as the rest of the population. You're only going to make everything really hard for yourself if you try to do this "left handed."

Besides, the violin is easy. It's not like you're trying to use a pair of scissors or a tablet PC or something ...

July 5, 2016 at 10:50 PM · "Should I play to my strengths ...?" Well, at the present you don't have any strengths in playing the violin. It is a two handed instrument, just get on and use your two hands on a standard instrument with a bow in your right hand.

I can pretty much guarantee that you will suck as bad as the rest of us regardless of which shoulder you rest the thing on. And then you'll learn some stuff and suck less, and you'll wonder why on earth you would have thought of limiting your choice of instrument to the few that are goofy handed.

July 5, 2016 at 11:03 PM · Hello Annika,

When I went to the violin making school, I found that most of us were left-handed, but none of us played lefty. There are equally complex operations going on with each hand. You should learn the "normal" way, which for the violin is right handed.

I try to keep one left-handed violin in the shop for those who just won't play the other way, and the conversion from righty to lefty of the instrument costs a couple of thousand dollars. I've made left-handed instruments for players, and although I don't mind it, I really, really think that you should play the traditional way.

Duane

P.s. Left-handed scissors suck and they don't work! Really, they don't...

July 6, 2016 at 12:17 AM · I would be strongly in favor of using the dominant hand for bowing since it is a much more subtle and delicate process. Fingerings is more mechanical which makes it less complex. Additionally the muscles and brain have already been partially trained for that configuration through years of writing/drawing (as well as sports such as tennis etc), and your guitar playing.

However there are other considerations such as converting violins which i know nothing about so you will have to weigh that into your decision.

July 6, 2016 at 02:38 AM · The degree to which violinists get distinctive brain development to finely control the left hand strongly suggests that the left-hand process is significantly more complex. The right hand has its own complex task, but the components involve the whole arm.

With all due respect, K D, as a beginner you have no idea of the left-hand challenges waiting for you, and how they compare to complex bowing techniques.

July 6, 2016 at 03:34 AM · I'm left handed, a professional violinist, and play the normal way. Violin has a lot of awkward aspects to it no matter which way you play and uses a lot of movements you wouldn't do in your day to day life or even playing guitar, so might as well leave yourself more options open for buying instruments, playing other people's instruments, playing in groups..

July 6, 2016 at 04:56 AM · "The degree to which violinists get distinctive brain development to finely control the left hand strongly suggests that the left-hand process is significantly more complex"

Is this based on a study? If so I would like to read it. If not then what is the evidence?

"The right hand has its own complex task, but the components involve the whole arm"

You really hit the nail on the head here. Bowing is a whole arm process. Dominant hand = dominant arm. The same arm we use for throwing a ball, writing, racquet sports, and many other things. Fingering requires almost exclusively the fingers.

With respect Lydia, it is precisely because I am a beginner that I know about the immediate challenges the OP will encounter.

Try this as a test: pick up a broom and do some sweeping. How do you hold it? My guess is that the more comfortable/natural is dominant hand at the top, other hand down the stick. Precisely the same configuration as a violin.

It will be a nuisance to not be able to play/try other violins though, especially when making purchases. So might not be worth the hassle.

July 6, 2016 at 05:26 AM · I would go as far as to say that as well as the dominant being superior for bowing, the non-dominant might even be the preferable choice for fingering since that is much closer to the roles they aquire in other activities. Think of hammering a nail; holding a pen while flicking through a text book; holding and reeling a fishing rod; using a computer mouse while tapping at a few keys; holding tennis racquet while bouncing a ball; holding a glass of wine while reaching for some cheese.

Even holding a knife and fork: knife goes in the dominant hand and it does the same motion as bowing (kind of), while the other hand does the more detail(finger)-oriented task of stabbing food. Same goes for buttering toast; cutting a slice of bread etc. The list goes on...

The neural pathways are already established.

July 6, 2016 at 06:03 AM · See this article for starters: LINK.

OP, you're going to have to learn to sort out good advice from bad on this board, since nothing here prevents people from spouting uninformed opinions. The accomplished players are telling you that you should play the normal way.

July 6, 2016 at 07:02 AM · This is all the article gives in support of your argument

"but parts of the brain sensitive to left hand finger motions was more responsive than those of non-musicians."

This doesn't address the issue of which hand is more suitable for each task. It's completely unrelated in fact.

"The accomplished players are telling you that you should play the normal way"

Perhaps OP doesn't need to be told what to do since she is 16, and presented with the pros and cons can make up her own mind. But Lydia your condescension is clearly indiscriminate. This is almost laughably haughty:

"OP, you're going to have to learn to sort out good advice from bad on this board, since nothing here prevents people from spouting uninformed opinions. The accomplished players are telling you that you should play the normal way."

Good luck to you OP, I'm sure whatever you decide will be the start of a wonderful journey.

July 6, 2016 at 07:40 AM · Until you start doing something, the brain doesn't have a neural pathway. Once you start doing it, it will form one sooner or later depending on your propensity (efficiency of your praxis, myelination etc). Regardless of your dominant hand for writing or sports etc, this is playing the violin. It is nothing like swinging a racquet, using a knife, using scissors, writing, or playing guitar.

I'm right handed but can write an essay, throw a cricket ball, play a sequence of guitar chords and cut a complex shape using my left hand, all due to practise. So from a practical point of view, there just isn't any reason to favour using left hand for bowing when playing the violin - you just need to practise playing the violin.

The violin isn't a right handed instrument, it's a bilateral instrument. It is not like bouncing and hitting a ball or using a knife and fork or anything else. It is a lot like playing a bowed instrument. If a left or right handed person starts with it being in typical position, the brain will lay down the engrams. If a left handed person sucks a bowing after a couple of years, they were likely going to struggle with bow regardless. They wouldn't be alone in that.

July 6, 2016 at 07:54 AM · "Until you start doing something, the brain doesn't have a neural pathway. Once you start doing it, it will form one sooner or later depending on your propensity (efficiency of your praxis, myelination etc). Regardless of your dominant hand for writing or sports etc, this is playing the violin. It is nothing like swinging a racquet, using a knife, using scissors, writing, or playing guitar."

This is absolute nonsense. By your logic every new task we do would be equally viable and effective with either hand. I've never swung and axe, but I can guarantee I would swing it better from the right than the left. Why? Because a) I'm right handed, and b) transference of activities such as tennis etc. Are you seriously suggesting that this is fallacious reasoning? Give me a break.

July 6, 2016 at 10:39 AM · Hi! Fellow lefty here. If you're not planning on playing in an orchestra than why not play left handed? The only problem will be finding a teacher willing to teach you to play left handed. At least in the anglosphere. In germany, most music teachers are at least partially funded by tax money so it's easy to not take 'no' far an answer and many of them are afraid of being replaced by their many colleagues waiting for free spots. On the other hand I'm sure that theres some nice older lady out there who would love to teach you without any external pressure.

Most people will try to persuade you into playing right handed. Left handed people are pretty much the only group of people who do not have a lobby so it's easy to discriminate against us. I'm sure you came across this at some point in your life. We're not connected by our skin colour, or religious believes (or lack there of) or a distinct ideology. We're just people who work a little differently than normal.

I would be playing left handed had it not been for a lack of money at the time of me starting two years ago. Converting a violin to be able to be strung the other way around is a costly affair. So if money isn't the problem go for it. Also there are more inexpensive instruments from china who are being build right from the start to being left handed.

If you for whatever reason can't start left handed you will have to work very hard (much harder than your sister) to get the bow under control. Bow distribution, volume and different bow strokes will be frustrating to learn and maybe it will never feel natural to you.

I hope I was of any help to you. If you have more questions, I'd be happy to help if I can.

July 6, 2016 at 11:04 AM · Playing the VIOLA left-handed could be beneficial in a string quartet. Otherwise, play it the regular way.

July 6, 2016 at 02:13 PM · @kd No, not saying what you said I'm saying at all, 'kay, 'k'.

Of course we all have lateralisation which allows us to more efficiently develop a hand specialisation for a task, but in fact that is pretty plastic. People can change their handedness for a task for all sorts of reasons, and in fact at any point in their learning if they are really determined and have nothing better to do with their time. Or no choice.

What I'm saying is that OP hasn't practised violin at all, and has no particular reason for not learning on a standard instrument, where she will develop specialisation for her right and left hand as she learns.

Bit confused by your analogy with axes and racquets and swinging cats or whatever. Yes an efficient brain probably does reuse some pathways, but there is still a whole new pathway that has to form for each task - the one that includes all the specific info about your posture, force, angle, speed, target. If your brain isonly going to use its engram for how to swing a tennis racquet, then I'm running for the hills when you first pick up an axe. But aren't our brains amazing, we don't even notice this stuff going on, for the most part.

July 6, 2016 at 02:20 PM · I would never advise someone who is physically able to move the fingers of their left hand to play in the reverse configuration. Better left-hand control is a major advantage in playing a string instrument, and you'll find that many teachers hold this view. There are tons of accomplished left-handed violinists, and indeed, left-handedness seems to be vastly more common in the string-player ranks than it is in the general population.

Playing the violin requires extremely precise control over the left hand, especially at higher levels. You need to move each finger independently, rapidly, and extremely precisely -- precision down to a tenth of a millimeter if you want to be absolutely in tune. You need to have an exquisite kinesthetic sense of your entire left hand, as not only will it be moving up and down the length of the fingerboard when you shift, but the conformation of the hand will alter with the position, with extensions and contractions, and so forth. You'll create color with vibrato, the speed of arm/wrist/finger movement, and the way that you place your finger (flatter or more upright).

Holding a bow is more of a whole-hand / large-muscle thing. Yes, the fingers flex on the bow, but you're never doing independent finger motions with them. Bowing isn't really natural for anyone, whether they're left or right handed. People with prosthetic right arms can learn to bow. The range of possible adaptations is quite wide.

I'll note that I'm a strong leftie -- I do practically nothing with my right hand, but I control a bow just fine and I consider being left-handed to have been a major advantage when learning the instrument, as did my teachers.

Being left-handed should be cause for celebration in new string players, not trepidation.

July 6, 2016 at 02:28 PM · This discussion made me think of a video I saw last year on Ray Chen FB page where one of the participants played the violin ambidextrously during an up bow staccato challenge.

https://www.facebook.com/raychenviolinist/videos/996219323774822/

July 6, 2016 at 03:29 PM · Geez, we're not talking about someone with some kind of disability or malformation. After all, pianists have to use both hands equally well--they can't "switch." So do lots of other musicians.

If we had to make a list of what will lead to success in learning the violin, we can start with factors like teacher, parents, work ethic, love of the music, innate talents, etc. But I'd place handedness way, way down the list. I don't see why encouraging someone to start something the opposite way is productive, even if they have the money to switch a violin over. Ok, sure, maybe you can get a crappy lefty Chinese fiddle. Then what? When you want to move up you can't just go try good instruments because you can't even play them. And even if someone else played it for you, after you have some luthier put in a new everything it may not sound as good. It's risky and very expensive. And then you won't be able to get rid of it.

And maybe the OP will want to play in an orchestra someday. You have to think ahead on all this. I say get a good teacher and learn the way everyone else does for now.

July 6, 2016 at 04:51 PM ·

July 6, 2016 at 05:05 PM · There has been so much written previously. Did anyone mention that it would be hard to fit into an orchestra section and also extensive work would have to be done to turn the instrument into a right hand held one. This would include a new bass bar, bridge, and I guess fingerboard, although Mr. Burgess or another luthier could address this better.

July 6, 2016 at 05:38 PM · The OP has said that they're not going to be playing in orchestra, so that's apparently not a concern.

But the practicalities of finding a fiddle are very real. Ditto finding a teacher.

July 6, 2016 at 05:43 PM · I agree with Scott and Lydia. Having read innumerable discussions on this site for several years, this does not surprise me. I'm right-handed and sometimes I wonder if I should blame that for my lack of skill. That would be easier than admitting I'm just not talented. :)

July 6, 2016 at 08:37 PM · If I make a new violin, it doesn't matter which side the bassbar goes; the work is the same. Same for fitting bridges and setting necks. However, converting a violin for right-hand hold would be major works. Maybe play the violin like Jimi Hendrix played the guitar? No conversion needed. Just restringing. :)

July 6, 2016 at 09:41 PM · No. On a proper reversed "left-handed" violin, I believe everything is reversed. The bridge is reversed, therefore the soundpost and bass bar positions are also reversed.

A regular violin set up backwards will just sound lousy.

July 6, 2016 at 11:30 PM · I don't agree that lefties have an advantage on stringed instruments; there is a reason why every culture in the world that has developed bowed stringed instruments has assigned the bowing duties (the harder task)to the right hand (the dominant hand for around 85% of the population world wide). That being said, however, play the normal way. Lefties have other brain-related advantages and any possible disadvantage in initial bowing technique will be overcome very early on by proper training and practice.

I am right-handed but among my violinist colleagues, a higher-than-expected percentage are left-handed, and 100% of them play the normal way.

Play the normal way. Play the normal way. Play the normal way. You may think right now that you aren't concerned about fitting in an ensemble but that could change later on, and why eliminate the possibility from the start? Not to mention the extreme difficulty in procuring a properly set up left-handed instrument.

Play the normal way.

Editing to add that there is a youtube video of a Japanese robot--I think by Toyota?--that has been programmed to play the violin. Its intonation (left hand) is perfect but its sound (right hand) is execrable. That's because programming a good bow arm is very much more complex than programming left hand fingers. But people are not robots, and a leftie's brain is more than capable of learning how to bow with excellent technique.

July 7, 2016 at 12:43 AM · "Handedness" indeed matters not. The violin is especially difficult for both right and left handed people, so I'd agree that it's rather pointless making it harder to find a well set-up instrument by going against the grain (this coming from a person that generally dislikes following the flow just because everybody does.) Playing "al riverso" won't be any easier, as brain and muscles have to get used to so many intricate motions and feels. Thus, I would never recommend to a student to find a right handed instrument, on account of all the inconveniences vs an almost guaranteed ZERO benefits from such an endeavor (I am not left handed, but there are a few on this thread that play the "regular" way.)

I think that even if the "which hand has it the hardest?" argument had any merits, it's just not worth it. I sincerely doubt a person would be able to scientifically quantify how much easier/harder the violin is for different-handed people, and since it's a rather unnatural instrument position with SO many other important variables -especially for beginners-fingering "better" with the right hand is the least of a player's worries, so again, I'd just learn to play in the standard position.

I would go even farther to say there's no need for "leftie" instruments of other kinds, including the more popular like guitars and bass guitars, since learning a new, unfamiliar musical instrument sets the brain back to "zero", and I am quite suspicious of any special benefits or "playing ease" of leftie instruments for lefties. If anything, for all instruments, leftie options are usually very limited, even when there's a dedicated market, vs the more regular options. It can make the learning process rather cumbersome and inconvenient.

Has NOTHING to do with right-handed tyranny. The leftie vs rightie argument has always been a silly historical fallacy ("sinister" myths and all). Some players throughout history have done well with leftie instruments, but the cases are rare, and I doubt that you'll find that every violinist on the best orchestras of the world are all right-handed-and as far as I know, they all have a "regular" playing position violin.

Hopefully no one misconstrues my words as if I am saying that lefties are "inferior" and "therefore" should just "suck it up". I just don't believe the argument has any relevance, ESPECIALLY concerning high-level violin playing. Being different-and rest assured, we all are-doesn't mean you have to play the violin in an extremely different position. It's perfectly fine to be a leftie, but it just doesn't matter enough to find a "special" violin, in my strong opinion.

July 7, 2016 at 02:09 AM · Remove fingerboard.

remove top.

bush peg holes.

plane and/or shim neck to flatten plane of neck/fb.

glue fb back on.

remove bass bar.

new bass bar.

on old violin, the top may be thin on the bass bar side (multiple bar replacements by folks who scrape a little out each time to clean things up...)-patch? glue in a shaving? surface patch? You need a clean spot to fit a post to.

top back on.

plane fb.

new pegs.

new nut.

new post.

new bridge.

You are mostly limited to a Flesch chin rest unless you want to have someone make you a one.

That alone should dissuade one. Prices are different all over and skill levels vary. I added up the costs of all of the above modifications and came up with a little over 2k.

I do have pictures of the Kolisch Quartet with re-arranged seating, and he had his Strad converted.

Brenda Stubbert (Cape Breton) played a duet with another Cape Breton fiddler, who's name I can't recall, who was left handed. Facing each other, bowing the other's instrument. Neat trick for sisters?

This seems to have become personal, or perhaps "handy". Any competent teacher can teach someone left-handed. Not all left-handed people do things left handed. Some of us embody a screwed up ambidexterity that comes from trying to tie our shoes like other kids. I can't use a mouse left handed. I kick right footed.

Try to play the "normal" way, just like your sister. I bet it goes just fine.

Next thing we'll be griping about is violinists wanting to be considered "non-binary"...

July 7, 2016 at 03:56 PM · I have to add a funny. I decided to learn the piano, which I must admit is far easier than the violin as you make progress much faster. Anyhow, an acquaintance of mine said when I started "oh, you will find piano very difficult - you have to use both hands!"

I was so flabbergasted, I couldn't even think of an appropriate response.

The point being - both hands need to develop new skills, and unless you find it a huge issue beyond normal beginning, I would play the normal way, as many have advised above.

July 7, 2016 at 04:37 PM · Andrea wrote, "I decided to learn the piano, which I must admit is far easier than the violin as you make progress much faster."

That's true because at the outset, beginning piano is just pressing buttons. You push a key, you get a note that's in tune (at least it's in tune for equal temperament). Eventually it becomes just as hard because once again the basic human desire to do the impossible defines what is required at the highest levels.

Duane, you shouldn't need bushings for gear pegs. :)

July 7, 2016 at 04:48 PM · Paul,

Depends on the size of the holes to start with.

July 7, 2016 at 07:09 PM · I would hesitate to categorize adequate playing at any level as "pressing buttons", in my view, that would compare to thinking of bowing as simple up and down, without any tone color or "soul".

The OP asked about left handed playing, while I do agree one should consider it, the reality is that both hands needs to learn, in any case.

July 7, 2016 at 08:08 PM · Paul wrote:

"Duane, you shouldn't need bushings for gear pegs. :)"

Duane wrote:

Paul,

"Depends on the size of the holes to start with."

I don't know how many people are aware if this, but the pegs will need to be reversed (switched to the opposite side) for adequate hand clearance in first position. But maybe one could get away with not doing this with a little contortion, and not using vibrato. :-)

Other things, like swapping sides between the soundpost and bassbar, may not be as necessary.

Nevertheless, I see zero value, and many negatives, in playing the violin "backwards", compared to the conventional way, regardless of which hand is your favorite for flogging. ;-).

July 7, 2016 at 08:56 PM · David, interesting comment about hand clearance. I have seen pegs on cellos that have been cut off and mortised to accept a tool for turning the peg because with the cello there is one peg that tends to go into your ear.

July 8, 2016 at 07:50 AM · If we did not have a minimal preference, our brains would surely not know which foot to move first. The centipede problem.

For the right handed, the left hand shapes and articulates the phrases, establishes and corrects intonation; the more "able" right hand will follow fairly successfully while we concentrate on the left

For the left handed, the left hand will take the lead more instinctively, often with great success, while the bow will need more conscious attention and work.

I note with interest that guitarists are more inclind to play the "wrong way round"; their instrument is perhaps easier to modify.

In a well known film, Menuhin writes with his right hand (children were forced to do so) bur "talks" with his left. As he aged, his left hand stayed in good shape much longer than his right. And his analysis of bowing in his Six Lessons is visionary, more so than that of the left hand.

July 8, 2016 at 11:53 AM · Right-handed, but with the violin, most of my initial, hardest work was with the bow arm, though once you "get it", it's "easier". The left hand was WAY ahead in comparison. I still maintain that it's hard enough, at least initially, that in the long run it doesn't matter enough to warrant a "special" instrument.

The bow arm is deceptively complex. May truly be that some people find one or the other "easier" regardless handedness.

July 8, 2016 at 10:17 PM · Adrian wrote, "For the left handed, the left hand will take the lead more instinctively, often with great success, while the bow will need more conscious attention and work..."

Well that sure sounds good, but without any type of substantiation it seems rather like mere conjecture.

I do everything right handed except when I played hockey as a boy I shot left. Maybe that's why I spent so much time in the penalty box. Had I not become a chemist, maybe I could have joined Joey Kocur and Bob Probert on the Red Wings' goon squad.

July 9, 2016 at 07:21 AM · Yes Paul, pure conjecture! Or rather a sneaking suspicion based on teaching dozens of students and watching accomplished players in their unguarded moments.

And do you seem to confirm my pretentious theory by doing the everyday acquired stuff with your right hand but using your "better" left hand when the chips are down?

When I got tired of simplistic articles on left-handedness, I sought out books in the medical section. Much less cut-&-dried.

July 9, 2016 at 12:45 PM · I won't get into the playing controversy, but I wonder if the reason string instruments are set up is that they, and keyboard instruments, are from "let to right," so to speak because most cultures read from left to right and put 'low' to the left of 'high'?

July 9, 2016 at 03:55 PM · In ancient Greece, Low and High were inverted, and so when the mediaeval church adopted Greek names for the diatonic modes they got them all wrong! Which doesn't matter.

BTW Arabic and Hebrew are written from right to left. Do they smudge their ink, or are they often left handed, or doy they hold their pens differently? (Serious question.)

July 9, 2016 at 04:43 PM · Marjory's onto something. If dexterity is about left-handness, when what's up with the piano? (What's the root of the word "dexterity" after all?) Isn't nature deliciously complicated?

Adrian it depends on which skill is more important -- shooting from the blue line or landing a haymaker on one of their enforcers.

July 9, 2016 at 04:55 PM · @Adrian: When I write in Arabic, being right-handed, I just have to be careful to not smudge what I wrote. :)

Though I'm not Arab, and people wriiting in Arabic seem to either hold their hand below the line of writing, or turn the page 45 degrees counter-clockwise (opposite of English).

I seem to gravitate towards the first, though. :)

July 9, 2016 at 04:57 PM · Apparently the French army calls the left-handed "laterally challenged". Except that their best sharp-shooters are left-handed.

July 16, 2016 at 07:05 PM · Hi everyone!

Wow, I didn't expect this many answers and I'm grateful for every single one of them. I am still considering the matter (living in Finland makes it hard to try and find a left-hand violin or an agreeing teacher so currently right-hand is the top-runner) but I will notify my choice later on here.

Thank you again for all your answers, it was great to receive advice from people who know their stuff.

Love,

A. O'Connor

August 5, 2016 at 02:23 PM · I am a lefty who learned cello right-handed twenty years ago, but always pined to bow with my left hand. I finally granted my wish and learned violin left handed. Wow I am so glad I did! So glad, that I commissioned a left-handed violin. Left-handed violinists ARE playing in real orchestras nowadays. Only YOU can decide which way to play, but please don't let anyone tell YOU what you can or cannot or should or should not do. I won't even try...there are several possibilities for lefties to play, successfully. Try every alternative, and choose what feels best to you. :)

August 10, 2016 at 06:15 PM · The amount of disdain that violinists have for left handed players is appalling. The kind of open hatred and discrimination here is not seen anywhere else in the modern western world.

It is a fact that left handed people are born left handed. It is a fact that it is advantageous to bow with the dominant hand. That is why all bowed string instruments in all cultures are bowed with the right hand. That is why thousands can play with perfect intonation but it is bowing that separates the masters from the rest.

It is incredibly rude and insensitive to simply say "play the normal way" without any explanation, or to suggest that one needs to be disabled in some way to warrant playing left handed. I am appalled to see some people mock those wishing to play left handed as "rebellious".

Telling a left handed person to play violin right handed because they have no disability is like telling a gay man to marry a woman because "hey, you've got perfectly good male reproductive organs and ****ing the regular way works, why can't you be straight?". Because he's not.

August 10, 2016 at 06:25 PM · In terms of practical advice: playing in an orchestra does become impossible. That's about the only really reason to not play left handed.

There is nothing difficult about a right handed teacher teaching a left handed player, since everything is simply reversed. It's probably the conservatism (and elitism) in the music community that lead some teachers to refuse to teach.

Finding a left handed violin is difficult, but not impossible, and they should not cost significantly more than an equivalent right handed violin. If none of your local brick and mortar shops carry left handed violins, try the online shop Gliga Violins, which has some pretty good instruments and probably the largest selection of left handed instruments anywhere (violins, violas, cellos; in both full and fractional sizes).

By the way, here is a good article http://education.jhu.edu/PD/newhorizons/strategies/topics/Arts%20in%20Education/thomson.htm

August 10, 2016 at 10:02 PM · It's just hand dominance, Joey. Not genocide.

August 10, 2016 at 11:42 PM · "In terms of practical advice: playing in an orchestra does become impossible. That's about the only really reason to not play left handed."

Leaving aside the issue of availability of left-handed instruments, that's a little bit like saying, "Other than that, how did you enjoy the play, Mrs. Lincoln?"

Pretty sure my left-handed professional colleagues do not feel in any way oppressed, especially since they are represented in numbers greater than would be predicted simply by population.

August 11, 2016 at 12:53 AM · Okay, so I live in Australia, but I have NEVER seen a left-handed violin.

August 11, 2016 at 01:07 AM · Aren't they just upside down in Oz? ;-)

August 11, 2016 at 03:10 AM · In reply to Mary's above post:

What are the other disadvantages? Not being able to play in an orchestra is indeed a major disadvantage. Buying a violin is another one, which I did address. I honestly cannot think of any others.

I do not claim that left handed violinists (who play right handed) are being oppressed. I do, however, claim that people who want to play a violin left handed are being oppressed.

There was another thread here on violinist.com about someone who wanted to learn violin left handed. She was shot down by a whole long page of passive aggressive (and some actively aggressive) posts mocking her. One poster even said that she deliberately wants to play left handed violin to annoy people. He even declared (with no evidence) that she picked violin rather than a say a woodwind instrument, since a violin had different roles for the hands, so she could play left handed and be obnoxious. And those ideas were condoned by many people.

The music community is several decades behind the rest of society in accepting the fact that left handed people exist. The attitude of violinists reminds me of that of many (mostly older) Asian people who insist that it is impossible to use chopsticks with the left hand.

August 11, 2016 at 05:11 AM · Given that the violin has difficult tasks for both left and right hands, and to judge from the ranks of accomplished violinists, it appears that lefties are actually exceptionally common, there does not seem to be strong evidence in favor of a reverse set-up being of significant benefit for lefties. The musical community is perfectly happy to acknowledge that lefties exist, and leftie beginning violinists are often regarded as having an advantage, not a drawback.

Given the drawbacks of difficulty finding decent left-handed instruments, playing in ensembles, and receiving instruction (whether from a teacher or by looking at books, etc.), the sensible advice is to just play the normal way.

No one is preventing lefties from going and doing something dumb, but neither should they expect that their desire to go down an ill-advised path will be cheered on by knowledgeable people.

(I'm left-handed, and I've always regarded it as an advantage for violin. It's a disadvantage for piano, though, in my opinion.)

August 11, 2016 at 01:33 PM · Funny how Mary Ellen finds a larger-than-expected number of left-handed colleagues in her orchestra: perhaps being left-handed does indeed help violinists?

August 11, 2016 at 10:17 PM · Ironically, I sometimes see cheap left-handed violins selling for less than right-handed violins. On the "converting a violin" question, I saw a Cecilio (yes, definitely VSO) left-handed electric violin on sale on Amazon for $35 and back-converted it. I had another cheap violin around and swapped out the bridge, chin rest, and better strings for my right-handed 8 year old. At his level it is playable and provides some novelty. The only weird thing about it right now is the pegs are still "left-handed", but this does not affect playability.

And yes, yes, yes, I know this is a cr@p instrument. After a couple of months of travel and some resistance to returning to violin, however, the new instrument pulled my son back to playing and I think I'll be able to get him into lessons later this month. (He has a much nicer acoustic violin.)

Part of the challenge with communities like this is that really there are many communities. There are people who have given their lives and fortunes to violin and there are also people who might be happy to scratch out some suzuki tunes on a $300 ebay left-handed Gliga. It's good to hear both the norms of the professional community and also to hear from those who have found joy in simpler pursuits.

August 13, 2016 at 12:19 AM · Kevin is half right about playing viola in a string quartet - It's perfectly feasible to play 2nd violin left handed too: The order, L to R, is 1st Violin, Viola, 'Cello, 2nd violin; every instrument gets to face the audience.

James Barton, Allegri string Quartet founder 2nd violin played left handed.

August 13, 2016 at 08:53 PM · I'm left-handed and feel no advantage or disadvantage in playing the normal way. I feel no oppression, no - er, sinister - plots against me, etc. Whichever direction we're starting out from, we have to end up being pretty ambidextrous. It would be interesting to find out about some great violinists who have played the normal way. One that I know of was Joseph Silverstein.

August 14, 2016 at 12:47 AM · In fairness, some people have absolutely no interest in playing in orchestra. I personally think they're missing out, but hey, not my monkeys, not my circus! ;) (I'll be sure to remember that amusing "how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?" witticism, though.)

That being said, I beseech the OP to just play the usual way. There truly is no discernible advantage to "left-handed violin," and so many known disadvantages. Early in my teaching career, I ran a string ensemble program at a very small, very isolated rural school peopled with students of a strict religion. (I was asked not to discuss parts of the body while teaching, which is a bit difficult to say the least when it comes to telling students how to position and move arms and hands, and I also was rebuffed when I tried to organize a field trip to the symphony for the kids.) One of the students arrived with a "lefty" viola, and while I'm entirely certain that student never went on to play viola anywhere but in his own home, I still regret allowing him to keep it.

In addition to everything everyone else mentioned about why it's a bad idea, the harsh reality is you will be laughed at. I guarantee it.

August 14, 2016 at 01:01 AM · "What are the other disadvantages? Not being able to play in an orchestra is indeed a major disadvantage. Buying a violin is another one, which I did address. I honestly cannot think of any others."

The more salient point is that those of us who have already played the violin for decades understand that there are not any true advantages to playing "lefty." So there's no good reason to do it since there are clear disadvantages.

August 15, 2016 at 09:23 AM · Hi I just thought I'd better put in my two cents to this discussion. I'm totally left handed at everything....although I learned guitar right handed and completed a music degree on the classical guitar. I've recently been learning the violin (right handed too) and I can say that for the violin as with the guitar, being left handed has been a huge advantage. I've had to put a little more effort into my bowing but I find that using the dominant hand on the fingerboard for both instruments makes sense and has made vibrato, trills, shifts, double stops etc a lot easier. During my music degree I could play guitar right handed as a lefty better than most of the right handed students. Jimi Hendrix is supposedly left-handed or ambidextrous but I watched footage of him recently lighting his guitar on fire on stage and he used his RIGHT hand to strike the match...I can tell you now that no left-handed dominant person would do that...so maybe one of the reasons he was so good was because he used his dominant (right hand) to play the fingerboard when he played the instrument left-handed. Mark Knopfler is another great guitarist who is left-handed but plays right handed. I'm sure there are violinists and other instrumentalists in this category too as mentioned above.

August 15, 2016 at 10:55 AM · @ Matt this sort of post is an affront to logic

"for the violin as with the guitar, being left handed has been a huge advantage. I've had to put a little more effort into my bowing but I find that using the dominant hand on the fingerboard for both instruments makes sense and has made vibrato, trills, shifts, double stops etc a lot easier."

'Huge advantage', 'more effort', 'lot easier'? These terms make no sense without having learnt both left and right handed. Even then a comparison would be dubious because to be truly scientific you would have to learn both ways simultaneously to avoid bias, and preferably also independently, which would of course be impossible.

Also, lighting a match with right hand is not evidence if anything. He was more than likely left handed and played guitar that way. Anyway violin is not really comparable because of complexity of bowing.

August 15, 2016 at 11:11 AM · To K D

True...Maybe someone should do a study to compare the skills of left handers playing 'left handed' to 'right handed' and also against right handers playing 'right handed'...although there aren't many right handed people who would play left-handed so they will never know the "huge benefits" ;) of using your dominant hand on the fingerboard. I guess words like "huge advantage" and "a lot easier" come from the amount of effort I feel I have to put in to play as well if not better than people who have been playing the instrument for much longer. Maybe the real 'right-handed' way is the other way round. You should do a study and try it :)

August 15, 2016 at 12:10 PM · @ k d - your determination to see the study that supports everyone else's anecdotal but entirely valid experience is ridiculous. You've got sweet f a experience as a player, you've never taught violin, you don't construct violins, & you speak as an experiment of one just like the rest of us, yet the combined experience of other contributors is dismissed by you as unsubstantiated.

I find your arguments as equally uncompelling as you obviously find everybody else's. Tennis racquets, brooms, pencils, cats tails, most (admittedly not all) cutlery: they're all neutral objects. Plenty of examples of left or right handed people who use these in their non dom hand (oh, that's not a study, sorry. That's just within my own circle of relatives and acquaintances. But still, it's a thing).

So here we have right handers who can do some stuff with their left hand, and left handed people who can do some stuff with their right hand. That's enough indication that it's worth just going with a standard violin, getting good lessons, and learning to play rather than dwelling on left or right hands doing bows or fingerboard.

However, based on nothing but your lack of knowledge and experience, you recommend something that people WITH knowledge and experience have given good reason not to do.

Why?

August 15, 2016 at 12:12 PM · Maybe an experiment with identical twins. Or clones.

There is also a personal factor which is that individuals could have a proclivity for the mechanics related to either bowing or fingering, in which case the dominant hand might feel more 'natural' doing that task.

August 15, 2016 at 12:17 PM · Sharelle my recent post was simply refuting the logical fallacies in Matt's post. As to my previous posts, I was offering reasons to support my argument. Which is more than most people did by simply proclaiming right handed to be correct and left handed flagrantly wrong, based on their experience which does not amount to much in the context of this argument.

August 15, 2016 at 12:19 PM · As I wrote earlier, I am a lefty who plays cello right-handed and violin left-handed. If I had it to do over again, I would have played cello left-handed too. The reason: I have much better control of bow nuances with my dominant, left hand. Of course this won't settle anything, but I just don't want the nay-sayers to drown out my encouragement to left-handed persons to try playing left-handed before making a final decision, which is entirely up to the individual. It is possible to try out playing left-handed without changing anything on a normal violin. or bow.

August 15, 2016 at 12:25 PM · I remember your post Erin, though I'm sure everyone else filed it away as irrelevant.

I think most top players would say that bowing is the more complex process, and has greater impact to overall performance and output. Having the dominant hand on that task seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Thats not to say that anyone should or shouldn't play left handed, there are other factors already covered above numerous times. But all else being equal, dominant on bow seems correct.

August 15, 2016 at 01:26 PM · Erin : How do you try out playing left handed on a normal violin without changing anything ?

August 15, 2016 at 02:37 PM · Brian, I think the how is pretty obvious; only handicap is that using the usual chinrest limits the reach of the right hand across the fingerboard; a center chinrest is better.

August 15, 2016 at 05:01 PM · No, "dominant on bow is" NOT correct! Some players and teachers have emphasized the greater importance of the bow because so many students tend to ignore it.

Both hands, in my considered opinion, as a highly experienced professional violinist and teacher - and as a "leftie" - have equally important, though entirely different jobs to do. Who would want to listen to a violinist with a superb bow arm, but who plays constantly out of tune, has poor vibrato, trills, shifting, etc.? Since when was left hand technique simple and easily assignable to a weaker hand?

No matter where we're coming from or how we do anything else with the violin and bow down, when we're playing we must be - or come to be - ambidextrous. And if we're not to begin with, the violin - and I suspect most other instruments each in their own way - provides a great opportunity to develop more ambidexterity.

August 15, 2016 at 06:09 PM · Even if bowing is more complex, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's more difficult for the hand - I make many more small, precise movements that need to be controlled with my left fingers, while my right fingers mostly just hang out loose on the bow and most of the stroke is controlled farther up the arm, from the back/shoulder and the elbow.

August 15, 2016 at 08:24 PM · I agree with Raphael and Irene. There's a large gross-motor component to the bow arm, and there's also a lot more variance in the way that bowing technique is physically adapted to different players. Indeed, exactly what you do with your bowing, physically, is also going to be wedded to the particular bow you use. You can afford more tiny quirks, even when you're playing at a pro level.

The high-precision high-velocity requirements of the left hand are far more unforgiving.

August 15, 2016 at 09:16 PM · @Irene, dominant hand = dominant arm and shoulder too.

@ Raphael and Lydia, never suggested left hand is simple. But if you look at players beyond a certain point of expertise, they all play the correct notes, with flawless trills and a well developed vibrato. But what makes one better than the other is the bowing. Look at any masterclass; intonation and all other left hand function is never even mentioned. It's all about bowing interpretation, expression, tone etc.

The question then becomes, with which arm is an individual more suited to bowing? Perhaps that varies, and for some people, both arms are equally compatible to the task. But for me, it is unequivocally my right, dominant hand.

August 15, 2016 at 09:26 PM · As a lefty, I am not claiming to be a universal model; just trying to factually share my experiences. When bowing cello right-handed, I invariably found I caught on new techniques more easily with my left hand; I then used my left hand to teach my right hand what to do with the bow, sometimes holding a bow in each hand!

August 15, 2016 at 10:10 PM · kd, I think your assumption that intonation ceases to be an issue for advanced / professional players is deeply flawed - I'd say at auditions for orchestral positions, rhythm and intonation tend to be the things that cut most people in the first round or two. People tend not to address it in masterclass settings because it's a tedious issue to fix or to listen to being fixed.

August 15, 2016 at 10:38 PM · Irene, putting aside the question of the accuracy of your assertion regarding masterclasses, I'm not really referring to the people who are cut from the first round or 2 of an audition. There would typically be dozens that make it through that stage. (And of those eliminated, I doubt intonation is their only problem.)

August 16, 2016 at 02:14 AM · Irene knows what she's talking about, in each of her posts. And k d, you're incorrect. Dozens do not make it through round 1, much less round 2, of a professional symphony audition.

Also, with all due respect, k d, you're an adult beginner with a year of violin under your belt. Irene is a professional. I'm going to hazard she knows a ton more about masterclasses, pro orchestra auditions, and playing the violin in general, than you do.

August 16, 2016 at 04:12 AM · No, "dozens" do not make it through a round or two of a professional audition. Six to eight on a generous day, maybe, from the first round, definitely not after a second round. If there is an intonation problem, that's a dealbreaker. Same with rhythm. It's pretty much a "one strike you're out" process unless the issue is small and everything else is wonderful.

Just in case anyone was curious. Misinformation drives me crazy.

August 16, 2016 at 05:12 AM · Here is a 'recent' audition from the METS orchestra, which I belive is in New York.

http://static1.squarespace.com/static/52b27a4de4b0530a47b48253/t/534f22f9e4b05a88e5fb367d/1397695226039/?format=1000w

Yes, dozens made it through the first round (67), and 15 through the second round, which is still quite a lot, and definitely over a dozen. But perhaps the judges were just being overly generous that day.

Why is it that the so-called experts are so frequently and obstinately wrong?

Link source: http://www.metorchestramusicians.org/blog/2014/4/16/auditioning-for-the-met-orchestra

August 16, 2016 at 06:39 AM · No. You have badly misunderstood that blog.

208 submitted resumes and only 67 were invited and played the first round. Of those 67, only 15 were advanced past the first round. 15 is not dozens.

The resume process is not the first round.

It's not surprising to me that the Met advances about twice as many candidates as my orchestra does; it's a very desirable job in a desirable location and attracts many more strong candidates than we do. The people we hire are excellent but I'm quite sure we hear a wider range than does the Met since we attract a lot of candidates looking for their first job.

August 16, 2016 at 07:32 AM · I agree i misintetpreted the data somewhat but there was in fact an additional round of eliminations from the submitted cds. That's not an entire round of auditions, but still.

Aside from that, I stand by my original thesis "beyond a certain point of expertise they all play the correct notes, with flawless trills and a well developed vibrato".

What I am wondering is, in your opinion, what is it that separates the top soloists from the rest, or any world class soloist from the top orchestra players. Wouldn't it be accurate to say that all these players have flawless intonation and the difference results mostly from the bowing?

August 16, 2016 at 08:11 AM · Top soloists would "stick out like a sore thumb" in an orchestra, while solos played by e.g.concertmasters are "good" but often dissapointing.

After some stimulating teacher workshops, my orchestral colleagues would turn and say "shsh!", or "less vibrato, Adrian!"

In an orchestra, we spend hours not really hearing ouselves properly. If we are due to play solos or quartets, we need a lot of extra private practice.

The playing of "top" solists has charisma, authority, and above all, beauty...

August 16, 2016 at 08:57 AM · What is this illogical line of thinking you're wandering down, k d? I understand (but don't agree with) your premise that a left handed should play left handed because of whatever [dubious] reasoning.

But are you then saying that after a certain level of proficiency (which using your example should be about an AMEB grade 8) is attained by the left handed person playing a standard violin set up, this will negatively impact on them and they won't be able to progress further because they are using their non dominant hand on the bow?

Preposterous thinking - it would mean most or all players who are better than that must be right handertd. That there would be no / few lefties playing rightie in a major orchestra or supporting themselves with high level professional playing eg soloing and studio gigs, because they were unable to develop more than competence in those essential foundations.

(Edited to add to my rant). The thing that separates the top soloist from even the top first chair, I feel very confident I saying, is NOT that they are left or right handed. It MIGHT be about having better memory, understanding of the structure of the music, more accurate and rapid correction of intonation errors, nicer parents, more money, home schooling, starting at a right age rather than six months later, having a great teacher ... Your suggestion is immediately dismissable, whether you stand by it or not.

August 16, 2016 at 10:08 AM · Ah, I see the issue. k d, I think you're making a flawed argument based on the fact that you yourself are a newcomer to violin-playing, and haven't reached the point (and won't for many years) where you can look at a violinist and really see what sets one apart from another -- you don't yet have the playing knowledge yourself to see how technique and the results link. Despite this, you're arguing stubbornly for a position that the more experienced players are attempting to explain is wrong, based on their much deeper understanding of technical accomplishment.

There are many tiers of "soloist", with the largest distinction probably drawn by how many paid concerts a year they play, and whether or not they have a major-label recording contract. There's also some specialization -- some may be more recitalists vs. concerto players and vice versa, some may specialize in certain types of music, etc. Top-tier concertmasters may be better players than some soloists (and top concertmasters often also play some solo concerts each year). Concertmasters are typically expected to have both orchestral skills and a soloist's skills. And then you have top-tier quartet players, which is its own set of skills in musicianship. What separates players at each of these tiers varies.

For orchestra players, reliability of technique, precision, and control are extremely important -- the ability to render the music in exactly the way intended, and to nail it every single time. Consistency is prized. Players, even the concertmaster, have to be able to function as a cog in the machine. It also helps to be able to perfect music on as little practice time as possible. Left-hand issues are much more likely to betray a player in an audition, since at that level, good control over the bow is a given.

For soloists, stage presence, charisma, and musical personality are really important -- is listening to this player compelling? Both left and right-hand technique are expected to be sterling, even though soloists can and do sometimes make mistakes. Interpretive choices matter and are manifested in both hands. The choice of where to shift and how, and the color of vibrato used, for instance, is integral to a player's distinctive personality -- this is often enough to tell players apart when you hear them on the radio, i.e., think of Heifetz's fast, intense vibrato and characteristic slides. Both left and right hands combine to produce a player's signature sound (for instance, thick fingers leads to a more broad Perlman or Oistrakh-like sound, and the player's trade-off between speed and weight of the bow arm contributes to how dense the sound is, i.e., think Milstein vs. Oistrakh).

The violin places a lot of demands on both hands, but fine-motor control in the left hand is especially important, enough so that it is visible on MRI images; the younger a violinist starts, the more the brain develops a visibly detailed cortical map of the left hand, and no similar change is found for the right hand. This seems to clearly indicate that the left-hand technique is so demanding that neurons actually measurably grow in order to support it.

August 16, 2016 at 11:27 AM · Mary Ellen, Sharelle, Adrian and Lydia - bravi!

August 16, 2016 at 12:31 PM · Firstly, I apologize for my snarky remark above. Inexcusable and I eat my words.

Sharelle, as usual you misinterpret or misunderstand.

Lydia, Mary Ellen, Adrian, thank you for the well thought and expressed comments (and patience). My inexperience undoubtedly limits my understanding of the matter. Nevertheless, the subject is an interesting one, and I doubt that there is a simple answer but perhaps in the not too distant future some kind of technology, computer simulation or clones will yield some further insights.

August 16, 2016 at 12:57 PM · "The violin places a lot of demands on both hands, but fine-motor control in the left hand is especially important, enough so that it is visible on MRI images; the younger a violinist starts, the more the brain develops a visibly detailed cortical map of the left hand, and no similar change is found for the right hand."

------------------------------------------------------------------

Have MRIs been done to see if there is corresponding brain development in the cortical map of the right hand of a left-handed player? just curious...this is so interesting. It is my uneducated guess that fingering is wired in more than bowing, which is more conscious; the MRI findings you report could support that guess.

August 16, 2016 at 02:08 PM · Fingering is very precise individual-finger control, and one of the reasons that you do drills for speed (Schradieck, for instance) is because the resulting myelination allows the brain to conduct signals to the fingers faster. An EMG of a violinist's hands will show sharply elevated nerve-conduction speed in the left-hand fingers.

The bow-hand, on the other hand, is a kind of organic, fluid action. In some ways, what we are learning is not so much "how to control the bow" but "how to be flexible and how to be just active enough to set the bow in motion and let it do its thing". This is actually different on every bow.

August 16, 2016 at 07:54 PM · 1) Experiment: to better understand a beginner's difficulties, I sometimes change hands (without modifying the violin!) Even a simple one-octave scale becomes impossible: my mind knows what to do, but my hands flounder. I don't do this often - I might get better at it..

2) As a real right-hander, I concentrate hardest on the left hand and let my "better" right hand follow. Usually.

3) I should like to find out what proportion of left handed violinists are found amongst a)amateurs, b)professionals, and c)stellar players. I wonder if the proportion doesn't increase from a) to c)?

August 16, 2016 at 09:03 PM · "Bowing is a much more subtle and delicate process...I think most top players would say that bowing is the more complex process, and has greater impact to overall performance and output. Having the dominant hand on that task seems perfectly reasonable to me...all else being equal, dominant on bow seems correct."

Followed by assertion that high level players not getting through auditions (as an example) would be due to their not having the bowing skills of the cohort who did get through.

Forgive my drawing the lines that led to misinterpretation. It was kind of laid out there, like a sneaky trap that I fell in to.

August 16, 2016 at 09:45 PM · It's not the violin but I was a semi-finalist in an international classical guitar competition. I'd only been playing classical guitar for 5 or 6 years and I was playing 'right-handed' as a left handed person. I've only been playing the violin for a little over a year but am playing repertoire around the grade 6/7 level. Right-handed people always have commented on how good my right-hand technique is on the guitar and they are surprised when they learn that I'm left handed.

August 16, 2016 at 09:45 PM ·

August 17, 2016 at 02:05 AM · Re proportion of left-handed violinists among professionals, in the very small sample of violinists in my orchestra (we are undersized due to budget constraints), I count 4/23 (17%) that I know of (I might have missed one or two). Our cello section is more impressive with at least two (the front stand) out of seven-- I honestly can't say about the others though. 2/7 is 29%.

Google says population is 7-10% left-handed.

August 17, 2016 at 07:41 AM · On a DVD about Yehudi Menuhin he writes with his right hand (left handed children were obliged to in thos days) but he "talks" with his left hand. Suzuki likewise.

Over the years, his left hand withstood the ravages of time better than his right..

And like Suzuki, his analysis of bowing is deeper and clearer than that of the left hand IMHO. Maybe he had to give his right hand more conscious attention?

August 17, 2016 at 01:00 PM · I live in Australia so I do not know what the situation is overseas. Is it easy to find a left-handed violin in the US ?

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