Left handed violin playing

Patricia Walser said: Jul 15, 2013
Patricia Walser
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
5 posts

I’m looking for any articles or information from teachers who have worked with students playing left handed. Specifically children who are missing part of their left arm—for the bow arm, and will need to finger with the right of course.
Thanks,
Patty Walser

Janie said: Jul 16, 2013
 Violin, Recorder, Viola
Glenwood Springs, CO
16 posts

When I was a student at Northern Arizona University, working with Karin Halberg, we had a student who was missing part of her right hand. Karin had her play left handed, and she designed an apparatus to go on the bow that allowed the girl to hold the bow with only a thumb and one finger. The holder was not heavy nor cumbersome, and the girl developed a lot of flexibility with it. If you can find Karin, I’m sure she could give you some wonderful insights on her experience.

Violinmaestra

Amy said: Jul 16, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
50 posts

As a Suzuki kid, another student who grew up with me had a right arm that extended as far as (and including) the elbow joint, but no further. Her mother rubber-banded her frog to a prosthetic claw, and she was able to effectively use that for several years, even through book 3. At that time, she determined she would make a more proficient singer than violinist, so she switched to voice lessons. I think that my mom still keeps in contact with her mom, so if it would be helpful, I might be able to ask them about playing with a prosthetic, and you could then transfer that to the opposite arm.

Patricia Walser said: Jul 16, 2013
Patricia Walser
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
5 posts

Thanks for the info about your NAU teacher.  I don’t know Karin, but I am from Flagstaff actually so I will check into this.  Where you there when Louise Scott was there?  I have met her before.  My student is missing her arm from below the elbow.  Her parents have already had someone design an apparatus that fits onto her arm, and then the bow is attached to that. 

Thanks again,
Patty


From: SAA Teachers’ Corner Discussion

Patricia Walser said: Jul 16, 2013
Patricia Walser
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
5 posts

Amy—that would be great if you could contact them for me.  I’m looking for any information that people would be willing to share with me that would help me work with this child.  I do have a couple of concerns about working with her already in our 1st lesson.  This is new territory for me as a teacher.


From: SAA Teachers’ Corner Discussion

Laura said: Jul 17, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Stanton, MN
25 posts

A few years ago, the Minneapolis Star Tribune ran an article on exactly this situation. It was a girl who wanted to play, but was missing part of her left arm. Her teacher worked with staff at House of Note to adapt a violin for right handed playing and a bow to use with her prosthetic.

House of Note is in Minnetonka, MN. Their phone number is 952-929-0026. This is a wonderful shop that I use often. I am sure they could put you in contact with the teacher.

Patricia Walser said: Jul 17, 2013
Patricia Walser
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
5 posts

Thanks Laura—She actually has the violin set up now, and a bow that is set into a device that goes on the prosthetic set up just for this.

Amy said: Jul 29, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
50 posts

Patty,
So sorry it has taken a while to track down the people crucial for this discussion. (I haven’t actually spoken with the mom of the girl missing part of her bow arm, but since she has a history of not returning phone calls…)

In talking with the former teacher, she said that it’s okay to approach the student in much the same way you would any other student—just be aware that the student will be unable to achieve the nuance in her playing that you generally strive for in your students. Developing a vision of nuanced playing is still valuable, but you will have to judge how much nuance the student is capable of at any point in her playing. Aim for keeping the bow parallel to the bridge. Make sure the student knows that’s the goal. But, if she’s trying really hard , it’s okay to move on, even if the bow control is not as consistent as you would like. Remember that the primary purpose of this student taking violin lessons is to enrich her life. If you can inspire her to work hard to overcome whatever challenges her physiology may present, it’s well worth the effort. And, probably if the family wants their one-armed child to learn to play the violin, they see that as the primary goal.

You had probably already considered most of this, but I know it can be awfully encouraging to hear it from someone else. Good luck in this endeavor!

Amy B

Jennifer Visick said: Jul 30, 2013
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

I’ve just added “Adapted instruments” as a tag on this thread. You may want to browse through other threads with this tag, here: https://suzukiassociation.org/discuss/tags/adapted-instruments/

The “left handed” violin would need to be re-made from the inside (the bass bar and sound post changing positions), no?

For inspiration regarding what heights of tone quality can be reached with an unconventional bow arm, I recommend taking a look at http://www.adriananantawan.com/

Patricia Walser said: Jul 31, 2013
Patricia Walser
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
5 posts

Thank you for these links!


From: SAA Teachers’ Corner Discussion

Jennifer Visick said: Sep 20, 2014
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

Just saw on the Wolf website that they offer a “left” version of their Forte Secondo, with the adjusting arm on the opposite side, presumably for placement on the right shoulder?
http://wolfproducts.com/products/shoulder-rests/~/189/64/left-forte-secondo/

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