Monday, March 8, 2010

I'm Left-handed: Should I learn to play right- or left-handed?

Now there's a loaded question if I've ever heard one! Especially since I'm right-handed!

My advice to left-handers is this: If you don't already play an instrument left-handed, DON'T START! Why? Well, there are several very good reasons why.

1) Once you start left-handed, you'll want to play all instruments left-handed...

2) Since most instruments are made right-handed, you won't get the same selection of left-handed instruments that you'll get right-handed. They cost more and many have to be special-ordered.

3) If you want a vintage left-handed instrument, it's much harder to find.

4) You won't be able to play other people's instruments and they won't be able to play yours.

5) If you want to play violin in an orchestra, you WON'T BE ALLOWED to play left-handed.

6) Many instruments don't even come in left-handed models (e.g., the trumpet, the flute, the cello, etc.)

Now, onto some other information for you if you still aren't convinced. Both hands have to learn to do something, so what difference does it make? As a teacher, I have taught many left-handers to play right-handed. I've not had ONE single student come back and tell me they wish they would have done it the other way around. I've not had one single student not able to do it.

As far as teaching goes, I have had several left-handers that seemed less coordinated at first, but this went away after several weeks of practice. My left-handed students that learn right-handed generally thought that any problems they were having were related to the fact that they weren't playing left-handed. This is quickly dispelled when they have a chance to talk to others who are learning and they see that practically everyone faces the same challenges. When they realize the difficulties they are having are not limited to themselves, they get over it quickly because they stop making excuses.

If you MUST play left-handed, for whatever reason, I suggest the upside-down backwards method. In the St. Louis area, we are lucky to have one of the finest left-handed upside-down backwards players I know of. He played with the Over the Hill Gang for 17 years and his name is Harry. Harry plays the guitar, mandolin and fiddle all upside-down and backwards. He is simply incredible! Now what does that mean? It means he takes any ordinary instrument and simply flips it over. He doesn't restring it (which would not work well for several reasons that I'm not going to go into right now). When everyone else is strumming down, Harry strums upwards.

How about switch-hitting? It's common in baseball, so why not make it a standard in music?

One more insteresting fact. When I was in college, we used to do these informal polls on the blackboard in the music majors' student lounge. More than half of all the music majors were left-handed. How many played left-handed instruments???? None!

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