left-handed student

Sarah Strickland said: Jan 8, 2013
Sarah Strickland
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
22 posts

Hello! I would be interested in hearing anyone’s stories about teaching a student who plays left-handed. I think the mirror-image part might actually make it easier, but I am worried about damage to the instrument from reversing the way the strings are strung.

The left-handed student I will be working with is an adult, who already plays several musical instruments including the keyboard and the guitar (normally) but has found that she is much more comfortable bowing the cello with her left hand, and fingering with her right. Since she is an adult with some experience, I hesitate to force her to play the “right” way.

Advice? Thanks!

Barb said: Jan 8, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

I’ve seen this topic come up on http://cellofun.yuku.com/. If you are going to string a cello in reverse, apparently you will need to take the cello apart to move the bass bar … and of course the sound post… and have a reverse bridge made, and I would think the fingerboard would also need to be re-made? At least if it’s a Romberg type… And the nut…

And then she will encounter trouble if she tries to play in an orchestra…

There are a lot of techniques that at first feel more comfortable doing the wrong way, but eventually we learn. In the long run it is easier to do things right.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Wendy Caron Zohar said: Jan 8, 2013
Wendy Caron Zohar
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Ann Arbor, MI
94 posts

There are some isolated instances of violinists who have had to relearn the instrument due to left hand injuries in mid-career. The great violinist Rudolph Kolitsch is an example of such a case. In his quartet, after getting his instrument adjusted (as described above) and restrung and retraining himself (one huge project) he sat across from where first violin normally sits in a string quartet, so that his f-holes still projected outwards to the audience, and with his left hand he bowed out towards the audience as well. But this is rare! It doesn’t work well in an orchestra, indeed. Perhaps this should only be contemplated where there is injury, or missing digits etc.

I am left handed, but it never bothered me. I think in fact, it helps with the facility required in the left hand for facility in fingering and shifting. And my right hand works just fine on the bow. Perhaps you can try to bring your student around to thinking about this in a new way; open her up to the idea that she is blessed to be left-handed and it will make her fingering that much easier. Certainly this will give her a brighter experience than the alternative she is considering.

Perhaps Paul McCartney started this trend, of playing backwards? so that George’s and Paul’s guitars both faced in towards the center? A guitar is easier to set up backwards than a violin. What do others think?

WZ

Wendy Caron Zohar

Barb said: Jan 9, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Hi again Sarah, I don’t know how much experience you have with teaching adults, but just in case it’s little, thought I would mention that most of the adult beginners I have taught have struggled more with feeling awkward than the kiddos. Even right handed.

I don’t think Paul McCartney’s left-handedness had anything to do with making the guitars face a certain way. Probably more guitarists reverse their guitars because, as you say, it’s easier to set up, and because they more often play solo. Or at least not in orchestras with tight seating! :-)

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Kathryn Kilian Vovk said: Jan 13, 2013
Kathryn Kilian VovkViolin
Phoenix, AZ
7 posts

I’m left handed, and I think it’s fine to play “normally”. Each hand has different functions, and they are equally important; I agree with some points that Wendy made, such as the initial awkwardness of learning an instrument being frustrating for adult expectations. The only thing perhaps to make sure of is that there isn’t another reason why she was left handed, other than a natural tendency (i.e. was there some injury or motor difficulty that pushed her to be left-handed?).

It seems like a lot of work, to change the whole set-up of the instrument. Learning violin is a difficult thing never mind switching it around! ;-)

It’s great that you’re being so thoughtful for your student! Hope this works out for you/her one way or another!

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