About Left Handed Violins...

December 3, 2017, 7:36 PM · About a month ago I found something I thought I would never find. A left handed violin. I'm not left handed. I'm right handed. Violin was the instrument I wanted to play since childhood, but I severed a tendon in my left hand and despite a lot of occupational therapy scar tissue grew and I do not have much in the range of motion with my middle finger. (I can hold a bow with it though) I picked up flute instead and played through college, and now as an adult I am excited to finally pick up violin. It is something just for me and my own musical need. If anyone can offer advise, suggestions (other than don't bother learning if you're not going to hold it the right way) I would love to hear it. Thank you.

Replies (24)

December 3, 2017, 7:38 PM · There are a few left-handers on this site. I don't remember who they are. They are mostly people with physical reasons to play opposite-handed.
Edited: December 3, 2017, 8:18 PM · If you can play the flute, you should be able to play normally, but please correct me if I'm wrong. What are your specific concerns about left-handed violins or playing left-handed? In other words, can you please be more specific with your question?
December 4, 2017, 1:32 AM · Her middle finger is restricted in range of motion. On a (concert C) flute, that finger only needs to press a single key down by 5 mm, which is nothing compared to left-hand finger gymnastics on the violin.

(I occasionally play on/with my wife's flute.)

I saw the same poster on reddit a few days ago. The answers there make sense (i.e., go ahead.) I'd say the open questions are: (1) can you find a teacher that will teach left-handed and (2) is the finger injury not detrimental to bowing technique? The bow-hand fingers need some flexibility, too.

December 4, 2017, 2:40 AM · Hi adeana, I might be the only poster here who has actually taught a student using a left-handed violin (someone please correct me if I'm wrong). The student in mind has been making excellent progress, so don't let anyone tell you that it's impossible to do! Honestly, there's no particular advice I can give you except that you should find a teacher willing to be open minded about the experience, and use a mirror A LOT because, being right handed, your brain might try to get in the way. Aside from that, you will be facing all of the same challenges anyone faces when first learning the violin (and there are PLENTY of challenges to be had). Be patient with yourself and take it one step at a time. Enjoy the journey and don't focus too much on the long-term goals. Focus on those small steps.
December 4, 2017, 2:59 AM · You will have all the advantages that a real left-handers havze on a noramal violin: the violin hand will "lead". Perhaps all right-handers should play this way!
Edited: December 4, 2017, 7:29 AM · I agree with Erik and Adrian. I have seen this more among fiddlers more than classical violinists. I once did a week-long workshop with the amazing Kimberley Fraser, a left-handed fiddler and accomplished violinist from Cape Breton. She also teaches on-line courses (http://www.kimberleyfraser.com). She plays a left-handed violin. People barely notice because it's like a mirror image, which works extremely well for teaching because of her position facing the student. There is something very natural about playing this way and I imagine it would be easy for you. Ashley MacIsaac, another well-known Cape Breton fiddler, plays left-handed (with violin placed on his right shoulder) but he plays on an instrument which is set up for a right-hander. Strings, sound-post and bass bar in their usual positions. He therefore has to reach over quite far with the bow to play on the e-string. It looks very awkward but he gets a remarkable sound, and has an international reputation as a fiddler.
December 4, 2017, 1:14 PM · Han - It was probably my reddit post. Lol.
Thanks for helping clarify. I may vlog this journey as well, hard to describe the exact limitation verbally. I don't get my violin until Christmas, but I will keep people posted. :)
December 5, 2017, 2:38 AM · When my children were learning the violin I would sometimes play left handed when we were doing bowing exercises. Gives a good sense of what the difficulties are - something that someone who has played for a long time may have forgotten. You should definitely go for it if your injury is keeping from playing a normal violin. Plenty of left handed people play right handed instruments so there is no reason you should not be able to play a left handed one. Good luck and enjoy!
December 5, 2017, 6:24 AM · So long you haven't played a normal violin, you can learn a lef-handed violin normally
Edited: December 5, 2017, 11:04 AM · Adeana, you may wish to look up (on youtube) demonstrations of right (bow) hand technique, in particular what you will need to do with the fingers when transitioning between upbow and downbow. It requires some finger motion. If you know beforehand that your fingers cannot move that way no matter how hard you try, be aware that it may become a roadblock after a year or so.

Maybe it is possible to learn/invent a bow hold that doesn't involve the middle finger?

December 5, 2017, 3:58 PM · Nicola Benedetti is a classical violinist with dominant use of left hand. She started early enough and had a good teacher, so dominant hand was not an issue.
Edited: December 5, 2017, 7:40 PM · It's really a non-issue-the "leftie" violin won't be any easier to learn for the beginner. Would be the same if it was an alternate world where everyone played lefties-I would then recommend said instruments, not merely to "fit in", but for practical reasons.

Even in the electric guitar/bass world, where lefty instruments are way more common, I am of the same opinion. Not saying it's "wrong" to go "contrarian", but more than all instruments require our brain and physical skills to adapt, so "dominant" hands matter little-IMHO.

Edited: December 5, 2017, 8:36 PM · Adalberto, It's not a "contrarian" issue for the o.p. She has an injury to her middle finger on the left hand which prevents her from playing in the standard mode. There's no choice for her. She'll have to play with the violin on the right shoulder so she can bow with the left. An instrument built for playing this way makes it considerably easier to learn, in the circumstances.
December 5, 2017, 7:54 PM · Mr. Duchemin,

She's not "wrong"-not even left hand "dominant". Will be able to improve with such an instrument even with the "opposite" hand preference/dominance. It does make getting a better instrument later on more difficult, if that's the intent-not impossible.

"More than all instruments" phrase I stated above-must have been phone auto correction. I cannot make sense of what I typed. What I meant is that all instruments requiring two hands require our brains/bodies to adapt to each arm/hand's role, so being a leftie or not matters very little in the long run. May as well go "normal" because of that (and does not apply to OP's situation.)

December 5, 2017, 8:02 PM · I can't think of any issue except the strangeness of having to switch everything you read and see to the opposite. The middle finger on the bow has to have some flexibility, but if you can play flute successfully, I can't imagine it would restrain you from bowing well. Congratulations on finding your instrument and enjoy!
December 5, 2017, 8:37 PM · Adalberto, thanks, I understand your point now!
December 6, 2017, 11:07 AM · It sounds like a good reason to play the other way. I wouldn't call it "playing left-handed" though - I'm left-handed and the "normal" way of playing has always felt completely natural to me! So perhaps, for a right-hander, playing with the fiddle on the right shoulder will be quite an easy way to play, after all!
December 8, 2017, 4:17 PM · Hi -- I'm a newbie to V.com. I began violin lessons just six months ago. I'm left hand dominant. At my very first lesson, my instructor asked me if I was left handed. I guess it was just that obvious to him. About four months into lessons, he had me try a left handed violin. [Maybe it was his gentle way of saying "You're just not getting this." Lol.] Well, it instantly felt comfortable to me, however, I had become comfortable with the "normal" way of playing. After three weeks of left handed violin, we agreed to continue playing right handed.
So, I agree with Laurie: you definitely are justified in playing left handed. All the best to you.
December 8, 2017, 10:45 PM · Please play normally, unless you have a one-sided disability, in which case the OP does. Han, thanks for telling me that violin requires more left hand work than flute. Now I understand why the OP must play the other way around. She could rely more on wrist motion instead of finger motion for bowing.
December 9, 2017, 2:21 AM · Correct me if I'm wrong: the finger motion and wrist motion work together to "fine-tune" the longitudinal motion of the bow, without introducing lateral movement. Wrist motion alone at a fixed arm position would result in lateral movement and the bow contact point moving along the strings. So, you can't replace finger motion by wrist motion.

That said, I think I read somewhere an opinion that the "flick of the wrist" between bow strokes is overrated and that clean bow changes can be achieved otherwise. Can't remember where though.

December 29, 2017, 2:26 PM · So the finger motion in issue isn't side to side, and aside from getting my pinky to stay curvy on the bow I'm not having any discernable issues. The thing my left middle finger cannot do is tract inward, like when you make an e in American sign language finger spelling. I can move it down in a curved c shape and touch the fleshy part of my palm, but cannot pull it up. If that makes any sense. I did get my violin for Christmas and have been playing on it every day since. Just working on open strings and keeping my bow long and straight, and of course on that darn pinky. A few people recommended some sort of beginingers bow hold where the thumb is further down. I'm going to give that a shot during today's practice session.
December 29, 2017, 3:35 PM · Great to hear. Are you able to take lessons? If not, that's okay. Now I get why you have to play left-handed.
January 1, 2018, 7:53 PM · I also have to play left-handed, due to physical disability. I tried the "right" way for about a year, but had to quit when the pain in my right hand got too much. Also, with me missing the index finger on my left hand, the limited mobility in that hand was magnified. For the next year, I kept trying left-handed, but going back to right-handed when everyone insisted I had to play that way. I finally decided to ignore them and play left-handed anyway. I am learning much faster now.

What I am trying to say is that there is likely to be a lot of pressure to play right-handed, even though there is a physical reason not to. Ignore them and play the way you are able. It will make it much more enjoyable.

January 1, 2018, 7:59 PM · Agree. Physical disabilities are the most valid reasons to play left handed. If teachers don't let their students play left-handed, even if they're disabled, that is terrible.

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