Piano for a student with only left hand

Christine Clougherty said: Feb 28, 2019
Suzuki Association Member
24 posts

Dear Suzuki Teachers and Parents,

Have you taught a student on the piano (or do you have a child) who only has the use of the left hand? I am going to start lessons with the elder brother (11 years old) of my student (8 years old). He has wanted to play the piano for a long time.

I was planning on starting with Twinkles, and then looking into other repertoire for left hand only. Occasionally I have re-arranged a simple piece for a child with a broken arm, so that may work for simpler pieces as well.

I look forward to hearing any of your stories and experiences so I can make this the best possible for this young student.

Thank you!!

Samuel Sidhom said: Mar 6, 2019
Samuel SidhomInstitute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Recorder, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Bartlett, TN
1 posts

Hi Christine, I also teach a sibling of one of my piano students who has only her left hand. She is 8 years old. I am following the Suzuki Piano repertoire except for adapting it for the left hand. To keep it more interesting, I started to add harmony (mostly lower thirds) in some of the passages when appropriate (like the second line in Rhody). I’m looking for more ideas, so I’m glad you asked this question! Thanks!

Christine Clougherty said: Mar 7, 2019
Suzuki Association Member
24 posts

Thank you for your reply. I was wondering about adding harmony, so that is a great idea.

I had another teacher reply that perhaps brass instruments would work because you can play them with one hand. I didn’t realize that, so it is a great suggestion as the children head into middle school and high school.

Anne Bowman said: Mar 8, 2019
Anne BowmanTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Plano, TX
10 posts

A former student had a stroke at birth which paralyzed his right (dominant ) hand. He studied modified piano repertoire through high school and he also played cello in school orchestra/private lessons using an attachment to hold the bow in the right. Very gratifying and therapeutic!

Anne Bowman

Barbara Eadie said: Mar 8, 2019
Barbara Eadie
Suzuki Association Member
Victoria, BC
39 posts

Brass instruments will work, but only trumpet, euphonium and tuba. The trombone needs the right hand to control the slide and the French Horn uses the left hand to work the valves and the right hand goes inside the bell as pitch adjustment. I would recommend the trumpet, although the student would need a left-handed trumpet. The instrument is set up to be played with the right hand. Left-handed trumpets do exist, but I do not know how common they are. Some of this depends on what the limitations are for the student. If there is no right hand at all, that is one thing, but if the right arm works and it is just the fingers that are the problem accommodations can be made. Appliances can be made to help adapt the instrument so that it is playable. There is a Canadian violinist that has the use of only one hand who plays the violin at a very high level. He has a special appliance made to hold the bow. The WarAmps helped with this.

How about voice lessons?

Christine Clougherty said: Mar 11, 2019
Suzuki Association Member
24 posts

Thank you Anne and Barbara for your thoughtful replies. I am glad to know that piano can be a longer-term instrument, but that cello and brass are possibilities for high school and beyond as well. I thought two hands were needed for some brass, so I appreciate the details on the different instruments.
Yes, voice lessons certainly are on the table, and I think he likes to sing….

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