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Music and Lefthanders

With left-handers using the dominant right side of their brain, they may be more creative than right-handers and music is something where left-handers seem to have a natural advantage.   However,  set against that are the practical difficulties of obtaining left-handed instruments and finding teachers that can help you to play them left-handed!Most instruments require the right hand to be more dexterous (which isn’t a pun!). The piano is an obvious example, but even a trumpet is difficult to play left-handed.We are producing a series of articles about how left-handers get on with various instruments and would be very interested in your comments and feedback – please add any thoughts or experiences you would like to share as comments at the bottom of this page.

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Uncommon Sound – The left-handed guitarists that changed music

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Our survey on school experiences – Music

We did a wide-ranging survey on lefthanders' experiences at school (click here to see the full survey results) and there were certainly some interesting comments about music and instruments.

Of the people who play guitar, 49% said they play left-handed (strumming the strings with the left hand) and the same percentage, 49% said that they had been allowed to make their own choice of which way to play.

These were not the same people – it is just a coincidence that they both come to 49%! A closer look at the answers shows that roughly half of the people who play right-handed were forced to play that way (even though they are naturally left-handed).

Interestingly (and a bit confusing!) half of the people who play left-handed also said this this method was not their own choice. From looking at their detailed comments, they seem to have made this answer because, being left-handed, they had no option but to play that way rather than that they were coerced to play that way by someone else.

I have a son who is also left-handed and wanted to play guitar. We considered it easier for him to learn the right-handed way as there are not many left-handed instructional books available at the local music store and the likely availability of a music teacher that could teach left-handed.
I naturally hold a guitar backwards, but since the guitar was made for right-handers, I learned that way.
ok, it's not actually guitar but the upright bass, which is made with the sound post off centre so the larger strings are receiving more support, to restring a bass would collapse the body, I could have a custom made but that may cost $5000 at the VERY least

*** Click here to see the full list of comments about guitars and stringed instruments ***

38% of people said that being left-handed made some musical instruments more difficult to learn and play. These were some of their comments:

Most instruments require the right hand to be more dexterous (which isn't a pun!) The piano is an obvious example, but even a trumpet is difficult to play left-handed.
Balancing a flute without hitting the next person was sometimes a challenge, but actually pretty funny for the teachers.
Actually, it made playing cello easier, because (once you get past the beginning stages) the left hand actually requires more fine-motor coordination.

*** Click here to see the full list of comments about musical instruments ***

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32 comments on “Music and Lefthanders
  1. Lorraine Ramsay says:

    I played Chello from aged 6 to 11 because I was left handed and Stephen who was also a lefty probably only 3 of us in school we got choose to play it.

  2. Sydney Adams says:

    I’m left handed and I’ve played a few instruments. I have experience playing the trombone and the guitar. With the trombone your right does most of the work along with many other instruments. It’s hard to grasp at first but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy. I personally think lefties are used to easily adapting and learning things differently. Also with the guitar I ended up learning how to play right handed. I actually think it’s easier because your left hand has to map out all of the different chords being up by the frets. If you’re wanting to learn how to play the guitar, I defiantly suggest learning how to with your right hand. It ends up saving you money and it makes the learning process easier. 🙂

  3. Stefanie says:

    I am actually right handed, but every string instrument I pick up, I play left handed. at first I thought there was something wrong with me, because I would hold the guitar, violin, even a pool stick backwards. I have found it to be very difficult finding a guitar or violin that is specifically made for left handed players.

  4. Miriam Pia says:

    Now it is 2016. Last year I looked into buying bass guitars. I was very happy that online it was easy to find left and right handed ones. There was still a weird difficulty, but much less severe than in ‘bad circumstances’. There was a kit available for the right handed one. I was sorry they didn’t just also have the complete kit for the left hand, but was very happy to see that the left handed basses were right about the same price for the same brand – I think that’s a win in itself. Also, shopping online reduced the amount of distress about having to shop half the country to find the left handed music supplier. Had my finances been better I would have bought one of each kind to play around with it and see which does what. My right side is good enough that I feel like the people who posted that as a lefty, learning the more complex stuff on the left hand side of a right handed instrument seems to make sense instead of it feeling backward. I have a theory about myself already.

    ***If you want to be an activist, please join me in writing to politicians to have an official day declared after which all shop owners will carry left handed versions of products, and then have public broadcasts to make the general public aware of this. If we do it that way then stores will consistently stock goods and lefties will know to go ahead and buy their gear from the shelf. Up to now the entire problem has been inconsistency of shops stocking the left handed goods and consumers being inconsistent about their buying patterns. If we solve this, half the problem will disappear.

  5. Anderson says:

    Olá, também sou canhoto e acho que como em todos os lugares, o músico canhoto enfrenta muitas dificuldades em se adaptar ao mundo dos destros. Atualmente estou querendo aprender a toca o Cello e estou com muitas duvidas sobre o que devo fazer. Se inverto as cordas ou se deixo como está. Toco contrabaixo elétrico há mais de vinte anos e não tenho pretensão alguma de aprender tudo de novo como destro. Inclusive, o motivo de estar postando uma mensagem aqui é justamente a pesquisa que venho fazendo sobre esse tema polêmico. Espero ser aceito por vcs para que possamos trocar experiencias desse mundo fantástico dos canhotos (dentro das nossas limitações linguísticas, é claro).

    Saudações. Paz e música.

    Hello, I am also left-handed and I think as everywhere, the left-handed musician faces many difficulties in adapting to the world of right-handed. I am currently trying to learn to play the cello and I’m with many doubts about what I should do. If you reverse the string or leave as is. I play electric bass for over twenty years and I have some claim to learn all over again how right-handed. In fact, why be posting a message here is precisely the research I have been doing on this controversial topic. I hope to be accepted by you guys so we can exchange experiences of this fantastic world of left-handed (within our linguistic limitations).

    Greetings. Peace and Music.

  6. TTC says:

    Being left handed is no bar to playing instruments well. I play woodwind, brass and stringed instruments and have never felt I needed to make any adjustment to the way the instrument is played. Particularly in woodwind, I play clarinet, recorder, flute and saxophone and all need each hand to be doing just as much as the other and as we have all had to learn to use the right hand so much in other areas of life, this has never been a problem for me. For brass instruments you don’t need a lot of fine motor control to use the valves and I’ve never found these to be a problem. Strings are just awkward for everyone starting out, but I still feel that using my left hand on the fingerboard is much more satisfactory than switching it round and bowing with the left. Makes me think that the right handed players must really struggle to do that with their non-dominant hand! Piano was the one I really struggled with, but I think that was more to do with lack of flair/enthusiasm than the fact I am left handed.

  7. Wigz says:

    I notice right handed people always try to shoot down a TRUE lefty and deter them from leaning in their natural state of handed ness…what made me pick up a left handed guitar as opposed to right is what felt more natural…and I’m about to buy a left handed violin because I’m left handed duhr…right handed people are jealous I think but that’s my opinion.

  8. john says:

    I just started STFWing for left handed cello, and lo and behold, every page says “switch”. It makes me want to take a ruler to their hands every time they write, or play, or do anything with their right hand. What kind of medieval bullshit is this switch crap? Now I see here that a lefty store’s page also has a lot of “switch” crap on it too. Did you forget the damn nuns and rulers that easily? Does the entire world have to reread De Kay? Come on guys, the answer is NOT to go against what you feel is natural. While it produces some geniuses like Carroll or Hendrix, more often than not, forcing a lefty to switch just means that they’ll never excel because everything is ALWAYS wrong.

  9. Evelyn says:

    I have been playing the violin for 7 years now and have always played it right handed. I never found it any harder that my right handed freinds to start with-in fact i excelled because I found it easier to place my fingers of my left hand than they did. However my bowing technique has just gone downhill because it is my nondominant hand and I find it quite hard to control the finger flexibility and movement…. BUT I am now taking my Grade 7, I play in several groups and I have a great time… so I guess my lack of bowing finesse is not so important!

  10. Carson Harris says:

    Im a lefty. I play Guitar(electric&acoustic), mandolin, ukelele, piano, and a little bit of drums. When I first started playing my dad tried to teach me right handed. It was awkward. I couldn’t strum with my right hand; so I got a left handed guitar and started playing. Over the years i started turning right handed guitars upside down, inverting the chords and strumming patterns and found that that was a fun way to confuse people. When I started playing piano I found that it was a lot easier for me than most lefties because my right hand was already strong enough to carry the melodies from playing guitar for eight years. Yes, lefty instruments are hard to come by, and quality lefty instruments even farther and fewer in between but I don’t regret learning lefty. The plus side, the other band members dont try to play you instruments!

  11. Benjamin Avalos says:

    I play bass guitar, double bass and piano. I strum/bow with my left hand and fret with my right hand. My teacher encouraged me to play righty but my hands did not respond properly it felt really ackward. Getting instruments is always a problem and converting a righty to left is not always a good idea.

    As for my double bass it is very unlikely that I will ever play in a professional orchestra because I would be bowing the wrong way and that is just not aesthtic.

  12. Fiona says:

    I play the cello and agree with the comment that it is an advantage to be left handed because the left hand does the fingering while the right just pushes the bow across the strings. Also it would be impossible to play a cello set up backwards in an orchestra unless everyone was left handed as you’d be bumping into each other.

    I had to give up playing the piano though because my right hand was not strong enough to carry the melody, I couldn’t coordinate both hands together.

  13. Graham says:

    I’m left-handed, and play the guitar and violin (piano too, but not relevant to my post). Although it makes logical sense to me to fret with the dominant hand, which requires dexterity and coordination, I could not play the right handed way. I’m not able to bow or strum with my right hand, nor able to fret with my left hand.

    Of course, the disadvantage is that I’ll never be selected for an orchestra, as I would clash with my standing partner. But I play some nice fiddle music in both an Irish Celtic style and American bluegrass style. And people always notice a left-handed fiddle player.

  14. Teresa says:

    I was born left-handed. My mother switched me before entering school saying I have to use my right hand because that’s how it is [desks, scissors…..] In some respects I’m glad she did so. I play the piano, flute and piccolo. I found it very easy to learn the piano and excelled rapidly I believe in part because I originally was left-handed. It was very easy to play the bass lines and easy for me to read both bass and treble at once while learning a piece. Carrying 2 themes simultaneously was not a problem. After playing for only 2 years [as a teen] I was competing and performing compositions of 9 pages or more from memory and won ribbons.

    • Teresa says:

      I believe it does not matter when playing the flute. Both hands require equal dexterity. Holding the instrament to the right was never an issue.

  15. Grace Attard Hedley says:

    I’ve been playing the drum for two years. I still have to take my exam. My tutor is left-handed as well. Sometimes I still think I still have much to learn. Being in the minority is not easy but I love music and love my drums and that’s what counts.

  16. brian says:

    i’ve been playin guitar for 36 years. i originally wanted my guitar strung lefthanded, but my music teacher told me i’d be able to chord faster being lefthanded, and right hand’d be used for strumming/picking need not be as fast, as a rule.

    • David says:

      Whoever told you that you could change chords faster is talking rubbish. Another gem is that playing right handed is an ‘industry standard’. The truth is your pick (or fingerpicking) hand does most of the work. Think about it, if it’s an advantage to play with your dominant hand on the fretboard then right handers are playing the wrong way round. I am left handed and teach left handed beginners guitar; my starting point is that it feels natural to hold a guitar with the neck to the right rather than ask which hand a person writes with.

      • Trisha says:

        I am learning to play guitar. I tried for a few months to play “right-handed” but struggled with the awkwardness of holding the guitar and trying to form the chords with my left hand. Finally I bought an eledtric guitar with 3 pegs on each side and simply re-strung it, moved the screw for the strap and have had a great deal of comfort and success now. I have had sever al right handed players tell me it is easier to learn to play right handed given that I have never played before, they really couldn’t know that to be true. I can tell you I was about to give up my dream of learning to play. Not anymore! I plan on purchasing a TRUE left handed made guitar in the near future.

      • Alex mcCallum says:

        I find it difficult to play the piano and guitar left handed,as I always want to play the opposit way around. People who are right handed often get it wrong by saying lefties have a life time to get used to it. Rubbish, there are always new challenges every day. It’s not easy living in a back to front World.

        Some left handed people don’t adapt that easy, I’m one of them. However, i’m not one for giving up that easly anyway. Where the piano is concerned, much of the piano music is written by very musically cleaver right handed people. Don’t foget it took them years to learn right handed from the very best teachers of their time. So when you do learn to play, you had double the task.

        Wouldn’t it be fun to ask Yahmaha or Casio to build into their keyboard with a switch that converts right handed to left handed as standrard. Don’t give up left handers where the piano or guitar is concerned, it may take you longer, but you will get there. Good luck.

      • lorraine drake says:

        david do you teach banjo also maybe by skype

  17. Rhea says:

    I play a few musical instruments and have found being left handed a distinct advantage when learning the piano. My right hand could do the melody because it had the more dominant sound but my left hand was okay because it didn’t require so much looking at on my part; being the dominant hand it was easier for me to learn to play the bass line than for right handers.
    And some wind instruments seem to me to be set up for left handers. The drums, well, I learned those too but you can set them up either way.
    Being able make music was more important than the handedness….although I can’t do stringed instruments as I can’t work out which way I want to play them.

  18. Lifelong Lefty Lee says:

    Similar to one of the comments in tan above, I learned to play the acoustic guitar strumming/ picking with my right hand & the left hand forming the chords & notes. I found it was MUCH better that way, as I found it more challenging to get my hand & fingers positioned on the neck of the guitar than to pick/strum the strings. I wondered why any right-handed person would want to play the guitar that way!

    • Joey says:

      I totally agree; I’ve been playing guitar and other string instruments for 10 years. I’m left-handed and have found that advantageous when forming the chords on a right-handed guitar. I also fingerpick almost exclusively, and find that it is easier for my right hand to adjust to fingerpicking patterns.

      • David says:

        Some left handed people do play right handed the late Gary Moore and Steve Morse are examples. Yet Jimi Hendrix played left handed and he learnt from other guitarists from around Seattle; unless Seattle is the world centre for left handed guitarists then it’s safe to assume that Jimi learnt mostly from right handed players. Paul McCartney tried to learn guitar right handed but got nowhere until he switched: I skipped trying to learn right handed, but it’s only during the last ten years that I actually made any progress. A few left handed players are in fact right handed. The only rule is to play the way that feels natural to you.

        • Nanaa says:

          1. I have 2 constantly cahgne grip when writing2. always smudge, even if there is a solution just not comfortable enough3. tend to get into trouble with other people around me Of course, you’re entitled 2 your own opinion so it doesnt matter if u find it cool try practising if you want, even. Start by writing out letters of the alphabet or something is also apparently scientifically proven to give u a mental boost f you try writing with ur other hand

  19. Gerry says:

    I am left-handed and learned to play drums right handed because at that time there was no one to tell me otherwise. I just watched other drummers and unfortunately for me they were all right handed and set there kit up that way. To explain. A right handed drummer, playing a standard five-drum kit, sets his kit up in the following way.
    Hi-hat on the left, played with left foot, bass drum on the right, played with right foot. The snare drum is directly in front of the drummer, between his knees and the small and medium toms are attached to the bass drum as follows:
    From left to right in a curve starting with small tom, medium tom and finally the floor tom. As the name implies it rests on the floor on three steel legs or (sometimes on modern kits) a stand, in which case it is called a “floating” tom.
    If you looked at the set-up in a mirror you would see how a left-handed drummer would set his kit up.
    Playing drums properly requires a very high degree of independence of limbs. In other words you should be able to perform four different actions, or rhythms, with all four limbs simultaneously without any of your limbs being influenced by the other. It’s a bit like rubbing your belly and tapping your head – only much more difficult, and it takes a lot of practice! As far as handedness is concerned the top drummers in the world can perform with both hands with near equal skill.
    I have taught both right handed and left-handed people to play drums and I always encourage left-handers to use the left-handed set-up as the most natural for them.

  20. Jay says:

    I am left handed and I play the Organ. I was told that it was more difficult fot a left handed person to learn an instrument.

    • David says:

      Did they tell you why? It may well be the case with orchestral instruments but in my opinion it makes no difference with keyboard instrument as it can be technically demanding for both hands.

  21. Christine says:

    I have always played the piano for church services and find that my right hand does some creative things with chords/accidentals whilst my right hand bashes out the melody. So in my case, this is an advantage not a disadvantage.

    • patricia says:

      I totally agree, Christine…as a 12 year old I played at Sunday School and the church
      organ later. I have started practising and playing more lately…and yes it is true.
      My left hand does a LOT of extra chording as my right hand does melody. I mainly
      play by ear now, and can pick up anything I hear. I used to accompany singers, but
      now I say “my piano is the singer” and I way prefer to let my Heinzman just “sing”.

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