Wind instruments and left-handers
We often get queries from parents concerned that their left-handed child is not being allowed to play their chosen instrument in the most comfortable way for a left-hander.
One concerned mum contacted us on behalf of her 5 year old daughter Kerri who had started to play the recorder and was progressing extremely well, playing as her left-handed mum did with her right hand at the top of the instrument. Things began to go wrong when Kerri was told by her teacher to use her left hand to play the top notes, which she found very uncomfortable and thus dented her conficence and enthusiasm to play. Why, asks her mum, does it matter?
We asked advice at the Royal College of Music and the Centre for Young Musicians. Adopting the standard hand position for wind instruments is important, it seems, because although the recorder would appear to be pretty ambidextrous, should a child wish to progress to other wind instruments such as the clarinet, oboe or saxophones, the lower holes are positioned for the right-hand fingers. However, both hands need to be equally flexible and are worked just as hard so these instruments could be considered even-handed. It is unfortunate that Kerri's teacher did not alter her fingering when she first picked up the instrument, as she would have then played her first notes with her left hand, and have become accustomed to holding the instrument this way. Once positioning has been learnt, it is very uncomfortable to reverse it.
Interestingly though, the standard finger position could in fact be considered to be advantageous for left-handed players, as Club Member Vicky who plays the oboe and recorder pointed out. Vicky found that since the first notes you learn are with the left hand, she feels greater co-ordination and control than right-handers would. This point is taken even further for players of the French horn, an instrument which gives left-handers a distinct advantage, as it requires geater dexterity in the left hand than the right.
We will be adding articles on playing other instruments soon, and do add your comments and experiences on playing wind instruments in the box below.
More information on learning to play instruments left-handed is available in Lauren's Book “Your Left-handed Child” published by Hamlyn and available from our online shop.