Teaching a left handed student

January 31, 2005 at 05:59 PM · I have my first left handed student, a talented seven year old girl. I am her first teacher, and we've had four or five lessons. What are your experiences teaching lefties? I suppose that this issue has been discussed elsewhere on the Web, but I don't know where. Can anyone direct me to a helpful site?

Replies (62)

January 31, 2005 at 07:07 PM · Hi Pauline,

I'm a lefty. This discussion went off on a tangent discussing some of the aspects though it was supposed to be about known violinists who happened to be left handed. You might get some insights.

http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=5857

I have the suspicion though that it matters more if your left handed student is an adult with all the muscles and nervous system patterns developed. After all, the violin is played with two hands. We adults have already developed the tendency to use the right hand and arm for crude "holding" types of tasks and the left for delicate tasks, and it's in the left that our "brains" as well as emotions reside (for the violin, the left hand IS the brain, as I seem to recall Galamian writing.) But your student will develop the right arm gradually as she develops because she is young and her body is still forming. When I began my bowing was even considered advanced, but I was not doing much with the more sensitive fingers and wrist and so on. I have begun sensitizing, moving, rotating, purposefully "doing stuff" with my right when not playing -- even to the point of playing things on the keyboard that make more demands of the right hand than the left -- in order to wake up the right arm. I can't see this as being necessary with a child: might even confuse.

I seem to remember reading your blog when you talk about teaching and had the impression that you were very responsive and interactive with your students and where they're at. I wonder if that in itself will do the trick. I mean, if you have a student with a short pinky, or is overly stiff or overly wobbly, too fast, too slow, too mechanical, too melodramatic - whatever shows itself you will respond to and guide and adjust. Being left handed has its own weaknesses AND STRENGTHS and if you address what comes out of that like you do with all your other students that might be enough. Supposing for example that something in her bowing is weak while her left hand action is good as a result of her being left handed. You would automatically spend more time on the bowing and the imbalance would correct itself for that very reason.

Now I feel I've stepped into the wrong shoes because I'm not a teacher. But then, I am left handed which counts for something. How is she doing so far?

February 1, 2005 at 03:11 PM · I'd have to echo Inge's post and add that if you find, after a year or so, that your student is seriously hampered in bowing, to reconsider teaching options. You will undoubtedly find that most left-handers are extremely adaptive to the world around them and will assume playing much like any right-hander. But there are those few, 1% to 3% of left handed children, depending upon what study you read, who are a mirror of a right handed student in their abilities. Which simply means that they can no better coordinate with their off hand for bowing as a right handed student could with their left.

Fingering is a rather mechanical practice, so it should not be used to judge the "off hand" performance of a player. Most of us do this in learning to type--it is not difficult.

On the other hand, bowing is like writing---try that with your "off-hand." It can be learned, but you will most likely never match the ability of the preferred hand.

If you want support on how to teach a left handed student playing a left handed instrument (along with all the reasons why "not teaching them that way" is not based in fact) there are several who post here that have good advice and experiences.

I myself have some experience in this area.

Good Luck!

February 2, 2005 at 04:59 PM · A left handed violinist will have less-developed fine-motor skills in the right hand. Pay extra attention to the development of the bow arm, especially techniques where the hand plays an increased role in the movement of the bow, tremolo, for example. Unfortunately, I know of what I speak!

February 3, 2005 at 12:10 AM · Thank you, Inge, for what you said about my teaching and for directing me to the thread on left handed violinists. Thank you all for your responses. It is very helpful to read about the personal experiences of left handed violinists.

Inge noted that the nondominant hand holds the pot and the dominant hand stirs it. This really helps me conceptualize the issue. I can make the analogy of holding the left hand still or making mechanical movements with it, while developing fluidity and control with the bowing hand. (Of course, I'm speaking as a rightie.) I will pay special attention to my leftie student's bowing.

This student is so talented and learns new things so fast that it's almost scary. She has only had 5 or 6 lessons so far. Her intonation is almost perfect and has been from the start. If she slips a little on her intonation, I just correct the position of her left hand and arm, and she's back to near perfect intonation. She learns new skills so quickly that I have to think hard to keep up with her.

There is something else of interest regarding handedness and learning for this student. Her family is Orthodox Jewish and she attends a Jewish school, where she is now learning to read and write both English and Hebrew. I suppose it won't be too hard for her to learn to read music, too. Hebrew is written right to left, and English is written left to right. I wonder what effect this has on the use of the right and left hands. Any comments?

February 3, 2005 at 01:07 AM · In the days of quills, right handers had no problem with smudging the ink since the pen followed the hand. Lefties, if allowed to use their dominant hand, were given a ridiculous posture to adopt that long outlived the wet ink phenomenon. I learned to write Arabic a while back and that's also right to left. Feels the same. Only I wonder how the right handed people writing in those languages handled the ink smudging problem before modern pens.

I just posted a question that might be indirectly related to the left hand. I have a feeling that this problem would not have developed had it been my dominant hand. But again, that's me learning as an adult.

February 4, 2005 at 01:22 AM · I gave my little leftie another lesson today. She is so good she astonishes me. I looked at her right hand and saw that it is very relaxed. I'm always reminding students to let their right hand relax. She is having some trouble learning to read music, but I'm sure that she'll do it. She plays beautifully.

July 18, 2005 at 01:49 PM · There are left handed violins you know. Not sure where one would get ahold of one though.

July 18, 2005 at 01:55 PM · It's not worth getting a left handed violin, as it would always be difficult to find one, and you're never going to be able to get a really good violin. it would be too difficult for her to change over later.

From my experience (being a leftie myself) focus on her bow hold. Being her non-preferred hand, she probably won't think about it a whole lot. Other than that, I can't think of anything that would be a whole lot different.

July 19, 2005 at 02:32 PM · Oh, definately not a left-handed violin. Please! Imagine the problems she would have in orchestra! She'd have to play on the viola side on the outside, no matter what! You never know...being left-handed may be good for her. She may have different problems that "us", but it might be good anyway. I'm a right handed violinist, and I still have just as much trouble (I think) as the left-handed violinists with the bow. The bow is just something you have to develop, IMHO.

July 19, 2005 at 03:30 PM · I agree with Carley. I have taught a few lefties, and I have found that there is little difference in the beginning stages. Lefties have a slight advantage on the fingerboard, and righties have a slight bowing advantage. The violin is an akward, unnatural instrument for everyone at first. I left-handed violin is definitely unneccessary.

July 19, 2005 at 03:58 PM · Yes, and they're a lot of great left handed players who play with regular violins. Anne-Sophie Mutter, Joseph Silverstein, and Paganini to name a few...

July 19, 2005 at 04:49 PM · Just curious, could you direct me to the sources that claim these great violinists are/were left handed?

I'm not trying to challenge you in any way. I'm simply curious to read the info for myself. :)

And, truth be told, I'm mostly interested because my 16 month old son has been using his left hand a lot lately, which is scaring me a bit!

July 19, 2005 at 05:12 PM · http://www.anythingleft-handed.co.uk/fam_entertainment.html

just scroll down to the musicians list and it has a bunch of names. Casals, Gould, Robert Schumann, etc. Hower Mutter, and Silverstein weren't listed there, but I do know they are both lefties.

July 19, 2005 at 08:29 PM · Thanks for the info, Rick. I guess my son is in good company if he is indeed left handed (and wants to play the fiddle).

But how will I teach him how to throw a ball or write?lol

July 21, 2005 at 08:09 PM · William, I can feel your pain. I have been there myself. My daughter, 5 yrs now is a leftie. She has played the violin for 2,5 yrs now. When she started playing, I was not sure whether she was left-handed or not as she used both hands about as much, I just had a hunch like you do now. Well, at 4 we knew for sure. She is doing OK, vibrato and shifting seem to be quite easy for her but the right hand needs even more attention than usually. Things like bowin straight and a nice bow hold need a lot of reinforcing. But generally I think it is a very minor disadvantage if at all. No fear, it will be fine. Just prepare yourself for some extra hours on open strings with your son.

July 24, 2005 at 03:51 AM · Hand Dominance ( ie the tendency to perform single hand tasks more easily with the left or the right hand)is rarely excusively left or right, many people have mixed dominance.

Equally important is specialisation - the brain being a plastic organ learns new skills and then soughts out how to organise those skills so that they are quickly and efficiently performed - and this should over time reside with either the left or right hands. the key to this is practise, so that the brain develops the feel of the task and can efficiently file it away. The violin being a bilateral instrument, would require advanced specialisation anyway.

I'd suspect that many left handers playing right handed style who feel that could be the cause of their diffiuclty, would have had diffiuclties regardless. There's certainly enough right handed people playing right handed style who find bow hold a challenge to suggest that its just a bloody hard skill.

Sharelle

July 24, 2005 at 04:17 AM · I'm left handed, and find playing violin very natural. It's helped me play guitar too right handed. Btw, I've never heard of anybody playing violin left handed, is there anybody famous doing that?

July 24, 2005 at 12:09 PM · i'm left-handed too. Nikolai Znaider and Repin are also. for me, its not a problem !! on contrary it always helped me for my left arm.

but i had to developp better the right one, so now i'm fine with both now !! :)

July 24, 2005 at 12:18 PM · actually, I had extreme problems with my right hand. my teacher told me that I held the bow like a pickaxe :/ yeah I'm left-handed

but when I changed my teacher, it was problem of only about 5 years to "heal" my right hand..

however, I think that my lefthand technique went forward quicker than for my friends

July 30, 2005 at 07:33 AM · I got so upset when I read the last messages for this discussion.

I am left-handed and I find difficulty to bow with my right-hand. I wonder how people try to make logical explanations to prove that it is better for left-handed people to use right-handed violins. If that's true, then all right-handed people should use a left-handed violins!?!

Like right-handed people, left-handed people like to use their dominant hand to bow. It's more natural.

For me, I am a beginner (took just one lesson) and I tried to use my both hands to bow but I can control better my left hand to bow. I decided to convert my violin to a left-handed one as I am not plannig to play with an orchestra.

I would like to ask if it's enough for me to change the strings order to have the violin converted. Or I have to swap the "bass bar", and "sound post" positions. If I did not change these two parts' positions, will the produced tone will be wrong?

I am asking because swaping these parts positions will require cracking the violin box which I think can harm it.

July 30, 2005 at 08:11 AM · One Lesson? Take ten lessons without any left-handed playing during that time, and at the end see if you still want to bow with your left hand. I doubt you will.

July 31, 2005 at 05:14 PM · Ashraf. regardless of hand preference, learning the violin is very akward at first. Holding the bow is difficult for both lefties and righties. I am sorry the thread upset you. Hang in there, and violin will come more naturally.

July 31, 2005 at 06:39 PM · If after ten lessons you still decide that you'd rather bow with the left hand, there are "backwards" violins available for purchase (usually at folk-music-oriented places). A google search should reveal some. They'll have the soundpost and bass bar in the swapped position, as they should be.

If you just switch the strings, yes, it'd sound odd. I'd be more concerned about the structure of the instrument supporting the pressure of the E-string, though, with the soundpost so far away, and if you just turned the bridge around, it will more easily warp because of the way the grain goes.

It could be very awkward for you if you get used to playing the other way around, however. You'll never be able to borrow anyone else's violin, and what if you decide to join an orchestra later? A community orchestra probably wouldn't mind you, but you'd probably have to sit apart. I wouldn't be surprised if a left-handed instrument is more expensive than right-handed violins of the same quality.

There are reasons why 99% of violinists play with the violin in the left hand and the bow in the right, and it's not because 99% of people are right-handed.

As a lefty playing "right-handed", just think of what a fantastic left-hand pizzicato you could have!

August 1, 2005 at 12:40 PM · "is there anybody famous doing that"

The only classical musicians playing with a reverse set-up (personally I think 'left-handed set up' is a misnomer) that I'm aware of, do so because they have some sort of problem with their left hand & are unable to use it for fingering notes, but can still use it to bow.

Reinhard Goebel, leader of Concerto Antiqua Koln, plays with a reverse set-up because he developed a problem with his left hand. There was also was an orchestral violist in a symphony in the mid-eastern states.... Detriot SO, possibly.

August 3, 2005 at 02:30 AM · I'm a professional left-handed violinist, who plays in the typical 'right-handed' way. I strongly feel that there is little advatage or disadvantage in being left or right-handed. Both hands must be highly developed to play the violin (and most other instrumnets) well.

September 7, 2006 at 03:53 AM · I'm sorry to rain on your parade. I'm a lefty and it really bothers me when musicians specially (artists have a softer side!!!)speak of changing a leftie to a righty when playing violin. It's like telling a homosexual person it's not "natural" and you should be a heterosexual!!! Pesonally I'm orthodepic surgeon for many years we used right handed instruments in the operating room. Then, when left handed equipment came about "we" (lefties) never ever touched a right handed tool again. So, If God created left handed humans then one can play the violin left handed, might a little harder for the teacher to teach, but can be done. I have more time in my hand now and I want to learn the violin, but I will refuse to learn right handed.

September 7, 2006 at 04:33 AM · I always thought it would be easier to be a lefty - since your left hand fingers do more moving and work than your right hand fingers, but obviously the bowing arm does more work than the left arm, so I wouldn't know... I also always felt being a lefty or righty is defined as having "better" motor skills in one hand than another, and fingerings and stuff use your motor skills, correct?

Interesting topic, sorry I'm off topic!

September 7, 2006 at 05:06 AM · I am glad to see you addressing this issue with this post Pauline.

I am a very left handed person, and when I started violin in Soviet Union, they were great at noticing these differences.

Unfortunately when I left Russia at age 10, I had to find many things on my own.

One excellent book that helped me alot with the bow arm was "Drawing on the Right Side of your Brain".

I believe it is still very much in print.

I think that many (right handed people) don't realize how awkward it is to develop motor skills with your weak side.

Say like asking a right handed person to throw a ball with their left or use a hammer with it etc.

I do recommend (and have done this with my students), that they look outside of the violin as well in order to improve motor skills with the bow arm.

Afterwhich when they apply the newly learned visualization of the paths of the right arm mvt., things become more clear (especially when they are addressing issues like bow levels, bow speed etc.)

September 7, 2006 at 06:34 AM · Ardy,

I mean no offense, but I don't really think of playing violin right handed or left handed. Each hand has its own important job. The skills needed in the left hand are totally different than the skills needed in the right hand. You don't hear of pianists worrying about being left handed and wanting to switch the chordal parts to the right hand and the melody lines to the left hand. That wouldn't make any sense. That's just not how piano is played, (unless specifically called for in the music). It doesn't really matter which side is dominant. Learning the violin is difficult and awkward for right and left handed people. Plus, just think how much stronger and more coordinated your right hand will become from developing a good bow arm. Although I am right handed, my left hand is actually stronger and more flexible than my right hand because of playing the violin. Think of your left handedness as an advantage. Bowing is difficult for everyone no matter what, but at least you've got an advantage on lefthand technique.

If you're interested in fiddle, or something more folk or rock oriented you might look into buying a left handed fiddle if you really want to. (Don't just switch the strings or adjust the instrument you have! Buy a violin specifically set up for a lefty.) If you're wanting to pursue classical music, I would stick to a traditional violin set up. Otherwise you're really limiting yourself later on. If you ever change your mind and want to play chamber music with violinists or violists it will be quite awkward, and I doubt that any community orchestra would be too eager or happy to have to make special seating arrangements.

The traditional set up will give you more options.

-Laura

September 7, 2006 at 12:55 PM · Hi. I'm a left-handed, professional violinist. It is my considered opinion that it poses no special advantage or disadvantage to be either left or right-handed in playing the violin the standard way. Each hand has an extremely important job to do, and so, from whatever direction we come from we must become quite ambidexterous.

Among the great violinists, I'm aware that Joseph Silverstein is a leftie. If anyone knows of other great lefties, let us know!

September 7, 2006 at 02:16 PM · ...this is inevitably such a passion-filled topic...but try as I might, I can't see any inherent 'handedness' in learning to play the violin...if anything, lefties should have a slight initial advantage when learning to play the 'regular' way...

September 7, 2006 at 05:15 PM · Ardy,

This is not a political issue. Nobody is talking about making "lefties" play "right handed". As has been noted, both hands do extremely hard stuff and require training so holding the violin either way makes virtually no difference in the long run to either group...

That said, you should know that there is a much higher percentage of left-handed people playing the violin (as a percentage of all violin players, that is) than left-handed people in the general population. I think the incidence of left-handedness in the general population is something like 8-15%, right? As I recall, it's something like double that in the professional violin world. So, I think that overall if there is a difference, the violin might be a bit EASIER for left-handed people set up the way it is. Also, I think that you could argue that the left hand requires more dexterity than the bow hand. ( I know a bunch of you will scream about this remark!)

It always helps to have some facts before you scream discrimination, don't you think?

Howard

September 7, 2006 at 02:24 PM · Ardy,

Also, I did have one student who had to play violin backwards (notice, NOT left-handed) because she had injured a hand at some point. I taught her by having her look at me in a mirror! Well, not all the time, but whenever she seemed not to be able to turn what I was doing around.

September 7, 2006 at 02:47 PM · speaking from personal experience.....there are very few teachers who truly understand the challenges of a "very" left handed student.

For those who (are right handed and ) would like to know, imagine, putting your bow in your left hand, and try visualizing the string levels let alone playing on them.

Then try a different activity, like football. Throw the ball with your left. If that side of the brain has never received information regarding all that is required in that activity, the result will be obvious.

For very left handed kids, they may require extra attention in what I am talking about.

Many develop extreme tension(in the bow arm) due to lack of correct instructions.

It is worth while for a teacher to spend extra time on basics of the fundamentals of the bow arm.

Bow levels.....developing right hand finger springs etc.etc....

September 7, 2006 at 05:16 PM · Gennady, I don't have to imagine. I can remember how it felt to learn left hand stuff! But you are correct that the bow arm techniques take longer to learn in the beginning for the lefties. I have also noticed though, that my left-handed students seem to get bow distribution more easily than the right-handed ones, despite other issues. Any ideas about that?

Howard

September 7, 2006 at 09:03 PM · Howard,

There are many degrees of left-handedness.

Those kids that are extremely left handed, without proper instructions, end up being very tight and clumsy in the bow arm.

Those are the ones I am talking about, since I was one of them, I can speak from personal experience.

I found many answers by myself, since most teachers (and that includes some of the best) did not see these issues as being issues at all.

It has alot to do with changing the equilibrium of the brain, as one teaches their left side the many different task required to improve.

September 8, 2006 at 08:13 AM · We discussed related issues in another thread I started about playing left-handed violins. That discussion was very heated, but it also has some light, and I refer readers to it now. A lot of contributors to that thread said that they are left handed.

BTW, my 7 year old leftie is now 9 and plays beautifully.

Ashraf, I agree with Jim. Controlling the bow is certain to be very difficult at first for everyone. Be patient and give it a fair try before seriously considering switching to a left handed violin.

March 18, 2007 at 06:32 AM · I am a beginner violinist living in the Greater Boston area. I have been totally left handed in all activities for the 57 years of my life. I took private lessons for three months bowing right handed because I'm basically a people pleaser and wanted to buy in to the standard arguments against bowing lefty. I never got over the awkwardness of holding the bow in my right hand. I discovered that there are inexpensive violins built left handed (from Romania and, possibly China) and I decided to quit wasting my going nowhere lessons. I bought a Gliga GEM2 (built in Romania, sold at violinist.com or Ebay or Elida in the UK). Since I bought it over the internet, I had Ryan Thomson (see http://www.captainfiddle.com) try it out. Ryan is a professional left handed fiddler who offers research and support for lefties after his experience with switching from right handed bowing because of a disability. He approved of the instrument, I liked the sound of it...but then there was the teacher problem.

Surprisingly, my original teacher who pushed hard for bowing right handed, agreed to try to continue teaching me once my resolve was apparent. It is working out great! I find that facing him while he plays is just like watching a mirror image and I have no trouble converting it to left handed playing. The only confusion arises in the use of the term "right hand" when referring to the bowing hand and "left hand" when referring to the fingering hand. But us lefties are used to that. When he says "right hand" I translate that to "bowing hand". Although I am his first left bowing student, my teacher has agreed to be listed on Ryan's website to recruit more like me. And, by the way, I was only "physically handicapped" while bowing right handed.

I have gone from enraged to mostly amused by the extreme hostility directed toward bowing left handed. I hope, like Ryan Thomson, to find a few right handers willing to play quartets with me once I'm good enough. And a professional right handed Irish fiddler (of Danu fame) puts it best when he said to a struggling class of beginners: "No one gets left behind." My dream is that more teachers would respond as this talented pro (Eden McAdams-Somer) did: "I'm glad that you are experimenting with the most comfortable way to play the violin. It is really important to do that. Have you taken many lessons? I'm not sure how well I could teach you, as so much of teaching and learning in music involves imitation and demonstration and I am a right-handed fiddler. But I would be willing to give it a try."

That's all we lefties need, a chance. Hey, teachers, put a little spice in your life. Challenge yourself by teaching a lefty.

March 18, 2007 at 08:46 PM · Correction to yesterday's post: I bought my left handed Gliga violin through http://www.violinslover.com.

March 20, 2007 at 10:42 PM · http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=8328

Please look here for a discussion of left handed violins and people who play them.

April 3, 2007 at 03:18 AM · I'm left handed and have never had any trouble playing the violin that was related to hand dominance. None of my left handed students have had any trouble either.

I have a big problem with labeling the regular violin as being right handed, or a reversed violin being left handed. Each hand has an equally difficult task to master when playing the violin, making swapping the violin around unnecessary.

April 3, 2007 at 04:46 AM · Both hands have quite a job, really. Not to mention both hemispheres of the brain. I've always been rather happy, as a lefty, that my dominant hand gets the task of all the incredibly intricate fingering on the violin side.

Do you still have your lefty student, Pauline? Have you noticed any remarkable differences?

April 3, 2007 at 07:23 AM · I still have my lefty student. I've been teaching her for two years, and I'm constantly amazed at how talented she is and how quickly she learns everything. I haven't found that her left handedness affects her playing.

April 19, 2007 at 01:04 PM · I'm a violin teacher that's new to the site. The reason I joined is because when I googled "left handed violin student", this discussion came up. I just recently took on a left-handed student and planned to teach him on a lefty violin. We started lessons and I had no trouble adapting to teach left-handed. But several people brought up the issue of orchestra playing, so now I'm trying to find out if that is really a problem. Is it certain that a left-handed violinist won't be accepted into an orchestra?

April 19, 2007 at 09:50 PM · there have been some very well known lefties, including:

Niccolo Paganini.

Then there were also:

Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, Prince Charles, Clarence Darrow, Richard Dreyfuss, Albert Einstein, Queen Mother Elizabeth, Marty Engles, Peter Fonda, Judy Garland, Lou Gehrig, Uri Geller, King George VI, Betty Grable, Rex Harrison, Ben Hogan, Danny Kaye, Sandy Koufax, Cloris Leachman, Marcel Marceau, Harpo Marx, Paul McCartney, Marilyn Monroe, Edward R. Murrow, Stan Musial, Lord Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Ross Perot, Cole Porter, Robert Redford, Nelson Rockefeller, Ringo Starr, Emperor Tiberius, Tiny Tim, Queen Victoria, and Henry Wallace.

World famous artists include:

Milton Caniff, Escher, Hans Holbein, Paul Klee, Leonardo da Vinci, Bill Mauldin, Michelangelo, Pablo Picasso, Raphael, and Ronald Searle.

Our left handed Presidents include:

George Bush, William Clinton, Gerald Ford, James Garfield, Herbert Hoover, and Harry Truman. Ronald Reagan (who was forcibly converted from left to right in childhood).

In Tennis, left handed notables include:

Jimmy Connors, Rod Laver, John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, and Guillermo Vilas.

to see many others:

http://www.anythingleft-handed.co.uk/fam_entertainment.html

April 21, 2007 at 07:15 AM · Abigail, I suggest that you also read the thread on left handed violins at

http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=8328 You'll find interesting discussions there.

April 21, 2007 at 09:11 AM · I don't know whether to call myself left handed or right handed. There are some tasks I do with my left hand and some with my right:

When I was young and learning to write, I remember that I used to swap hands regularly while writing because neither hand had enough stamina to continue writing and so I swapped hands when one hand got tired. This made the teachers upset and I went to have a test which determined that I should write with my left hand, which I do until today.

I also brush my teeth with my left hand, use a spoon in my left and drink with my left. My right hand is stronger than my left though.

Trying to do any of those tasks with my right hand now feels incredibly weird, but I think the point I'm trying to make is that we do what we are used to, or simply what we are told is right. Is bowing difficult for me? Of course it is!! I think bowing is difficult for 99.9% of violinists. It is ridiculous after a single lesson to decide that bowing in the right hand is too difficult for you and to swap to a left handed violin.

The problem really is that it is very likely that there ARE people who just are unable to bow with the right hand, but I seriously doubt that anybody could determine that until you have been playing for at least 2 years, by which stage it would be equally difficult to swap hands as to continue.

Either way, I believe that we are able to develop either hand to do anything if you just train it. Drivers in England change gears with their left hand and drivers in the US change gears with their right hand. Do left hand drivers in the US complain about the gear box being on the wrong side? What about pilots flying from the captain's seat who have to fly with their left hand on the yoke, as opposed to the co-pilot who can fly with his right hand (and opposite hand on the throttle). I think some Airbus aircraft have side sticks in the cockpit and require the captain to use solely his left hand to control the plane. Left handed F-16 pilots have to learn to use their right hand to control a high speed multimillion dollar fighter jet under the toughest of conditions. They do not fly left-handed F-16s!

April 21, 2007 at 06:27 PM · Okay, but if you can't even BOW with the right hand, how on earth are you going to do all the intricate finger work with the right hand as your violin hand?

I'm a leftie, and I just don't get this debate at all!

My daughter is also a leftie, and she plays the guitar. I'm noticing that the right hand for guitar is QUITE involved, but neither her, nor her left-handed teacher, has proposed playing the guitar with the other hand.

A New Yorker article from a few years ago argued that left-handed people are actually not "handed," whereas most right-handed people are. In other words, most lefties are ambidextrous.

April 21, 2007 at 06:50 PM · Laurie,

we discussed this matter before and more and more I am convinced that left handiness around playing violin is just used for some hidden agenda:

1. Please, treat me especially carefully because I am special.

2. I want to get special attention, please.

3. Excuse for not being able to practice enough since this violin has not been adapted to the player's special needs (whatever that means in this case???).

4. You name it.

This is not serious stuff, believe me. I am saying this as trained-to-be rightie.

May I suggest to introduce the topic category "half-serious" here?

FMF

April 21, 2007 at 10:09 PM · Laurie mentioned guitarists. Obviously are many who play lefty. I think it was simply their natural inclination which didn't bother anybody. If it did contain a plea for special attention, it wouldn't be seen as that. Every Paul McCartney song was written lefty. One of my violin teachers said violinists have a herding instinct. Migrate into the herd with the alphas in front :) We know from David Burgess no substantial changes to the instrument are required. If someone doesn't need to conform to orchestra protocol, the only problem would be people who have a problem. Maybe a quarter of lefty guitarists play lefty and upside down.

April 22, 2007 at 01:00 AM · I'm a leftie and I play a regular "right-handed" violin. Personally I don't buy the arguement that anyone has to play a left handed violin and I think that teachers should discourage it and not buy into an otherwise lame arguement

Playing a violin is totally a learned process. There is nothing instinctive about it. It's all learned and relies on extensive muscle memory. You also have to use BOTH hands to do some equally intricate work. I actually find it to my advantage to be left handed. The additional dexterity that I have in my left hand is a real plus to being able to do complex fingerings. I don't feel I'm at a disadvantage using my right hand to bow either. Like Laurie mentioned - there is a certain amount of ambidexterity in lefties. That's all the more reason to say that ANY left handed person can successfully learn to play a regular violin.

Lefties should start playing on a regular violin right from day one. They will find that it's actually easier. The disadvantages of learning to play left handed far outweigh any advantages.

Baseball gloves, gravy ladles and scissors are the only things that should be specially made for a left handed person. And... since I learned to use right handed scissors with ease, maybe left handed scissors aren't necessary either!

April 23, 2007 at 01:14 AM · I think one of the reasons that violin playing in the Classical world is so uniform is for the ease of section playing. The first violins are almost always set up on stage so the F-holes face out into the audience. If a concertmaster had a switched-out leftie set up, well, that would hamper all of his/her solos.

Jim C, I am a leftie too, and so is my brother and my Dad (my Dad was forcibly switched over to write right handed in the 40's). My brother started out with his ultra expensive special leftie scissors, and kept losing them, much to my Mom's chagrin. So when it came time for me to learn to cut, she just put the scissors in my right hand, and I was fine. Now, I can cut both ways, but my brother can't.

Do any lefties here have a switched out mouse? I heard that you can do this...

August 10, 2007 at 04:00 AM · I have an update on my little leftie. She learns and plays so well that it's a joy to teach her. I remember a lot of different opinions in this discussion thread about which hand is harder to use and the advantages and disadvantages of being right or left handed. My student handles her bow extremely well. From the start, she had a very relaxed, but functionally correct, bow grip. She is now studying the Vivaldi Concerto in Suzuki Book 4. There are shifts between the first and third positions, and she does them so smoothly and precisely that I can't even hear her shifting. What a kid! I'm looking forward to playing the movement of the Bach Double in Suzuki Book 5 with her. I'm not her mother, but I can't help bragging. ;-)

August 11, 2007 at 12:23 PM · I have a student who's a lefty, and I didn't even realize this until a year after she'd started playing the violin (and sxhe was a beginner). :)

February 3, 2009 at 09:13 PM ·

I would like some advise on this,

I am 24 years looking to learn the violin .I am not looking at playing it professionaly .I would like to learn and play it the best I can ,and continue for very long hopefully.

Here is my problem.I use my right hand more efficiently for writing,brushing,sketching ,typing ect.In other words for most activites that involve more finger movements does not involve the use of the entire hand I use my right.

Anything which involved the entire hand like throwing a ball,even playing snooker or golf the left is what I use ,even for brushing my hair

I would like to believe that it should be a natural option to play with my left.But after going through the site it sounds quite discouraging.So what would you suggest start playing with my lef tor right ?I wouldnt wanna try my right first and then go back to my left or vice versa.As I have already lsot of a lota time and dont wanna waste any more time jumping between hands.Pretty soon I would like a commission a violin(I always wanted a really nice fancy violin a carbon copy of one of the classics, not necessary I am good enoughfor it).I dont wanna spend money on somthinfg wqhich I feel I might change later.

Could some one also let me know if a violin is made exclusively for a leftie that is total reverse would it effect the quality of the violin tone wise in any way?

February 5, 2009 at 04:46 AM ·

I have a thought that is completely untested, so take it as such.

Although you may be teaching them to play a right-handed violin, I would suggest having a good-sized mirror in the room. Although their hands will be learning it the same as someone right-handed, their brain may integrate it faster if they can see the 'left-handed' version of what you do. They are probably pretty good at doing the transposition mentally, but they have to grasp it first.

February 5, 2009 at 05:47 AM ·

Well, there's always going to play clarinet or flute. Then handedness won't matter.

Something I always found funny about horn players in school bands...during marching season they play using bell-front instruments held like a trumpet, with the valves fingered using the right hand. Duting concert season, they play traditional french horns, with the right hand in the bell and the valves fingered using the left hand. How on earth does *that* work? :P

February 5, 2009 at 12:57 PM ·

anish,,, one really has to take with a grain of salt when mixing our own situation with others' advice.

for instance, if handedness is that important, don't you think by now we should be able to tell left vs right handed pianists because their playing will be "lobsided", that a right handed pianist's right hand should sound different from left handed pianist's right hand?  it simply does not and if it does, other factors may be at play.  it is not like playing piano with right hand and left foot.

many people in many fields switch "handedness" because of circumstances.  Björn Borg switched due to injury,,,his started tennis one way and switched to the other side, and did ok after that.

my piano daughter has been playing piano for years, and is also a great typist, with strong hands and arms from years of golf.  when she fools around on the violin, the hands on the violin look very unskillful, suggesting to me that all her prior "hand experiences" are not of much help for violin specific activities. 

the longer you dwell on this dilemma, the more of a chance that  it will become a limiting factor, which is, in a sense, amplified by you.  but do realize that playing violin left handed has many obstacles that you may not be able to overcome later as you can imagine. 

February 5, 2009 at 09:40 PM ·

I also definitely don't agree with any notion of learning and playing a "left-handed" violin.  I'd go as far as suggesting that being lefthanded is actually going to benefit a pupil when it comes to more advanced technical matters, because they'll already have much more experience of using the left hand in terms of motor skills.   My feeling is that, if anything, a teacher might have to be careful to ensure the right arm and hand develop and maintain full functionality for bowing technique.

Also agree that it is best not to make any undue issue of lefthandedness - but simply to approach each new step forward as it comes. 

February 6, 2009 at 01:23 AM ·

I am a complete leftie - left-handed, left-footed, left-eared and left-eyed. I started learing the violin properly at the age of 5 and have never had any issues with the right-handed violin. I don't think it's really worth making an issue of it unless you run into troubles.

Left-handers are usually pretty good at coping in a world that's predominantly right-handed

February 6, 2009 at 03:48 PM ·

I have had one left-handed student - one of my cello students. Started as an adult in his late 40s, although he is a professional piano teacher.

The bow arm gave him lots of trouble (and cello bowing is easier than violin bowiing, because the whole arm and shoulder are higher than the bow hand). It took a few years until he seemed to get reasonable control of the bow.

Perhaps a child could be expected to learn faster. I know that if I ever get another left-handed student (violin or cello) I will initially concentrate more on the bow hand than I usually do.

Andy

February 6, 2009 at 05:12 PM ·

 being left handed myself i haven't found it to be a hinderance in my playing. admittedly my bowing isn't as strong as my left hand but that could just be seen as my left hand being stronger than my right. my first teacher didn't think it especially important that i was left handed and just taught me normally!

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