Why exactly do left handed people play the other way around?

Why exactly do left handed people play the other way around?

Quite a lot of strummers, but also a few fiddlers that are left handed, turn their instrument the other way around (neck pointed to the right). I have always been wondering why that should be. Assuming that the fingers on the neck do the harder part of the playing, wouldn’t that be throwing away an advantage, your left hand is better developed when you are a left hander, not?

Any other trad instruments that are or can be played the other way around? Can it be done with a box (forgive my ignorance)? A concert flute?

Re: Why exactly do left handed people play the other way around?

I always thought it was so you could share one microphone?

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LOL

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I’m a lefty and play normally on the fiddle. It might be a
disadvantage with bowing - I’m not sure. It seems natural
now after four years of heartbreak. I’m sure it was easier for me
to learn basic movement of rolls and cuts, but I am still working
on getting the timing right and easing off on the finger pressure.

On a wind instrument I found I could do trills more
rapidly and securely on the left hand notes, but that’s not
really relevant in Trad.

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If the fingers on the neck do the harder part of the playing, we right handed should turn our instruments the other way. Are they (the instruments) badly designed then?

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The left fingers may be doing the complex fingering, but the right hand and arm require skill as well, keeping the bow straight, developing a flexible wrist and fingers etc.
I’m a left hander who plays fiddle right handed, as do plenty of others. Left handers in general become more ambidextrous than right handers, because of having to cope with a world designed for right handers .
I teach fiddle, and of the left handed kids I’ve taught only one decided she absolutely had to play the other way round, the rest have got on fine right handed. (Just as well as it’s hard to find left handed fiddles in small sizes).

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Fingering on fiddle is much easier than the bowing. Likewise on guitar, most of the work is being done by the non-fingering hand (though obviously the fingering is much harder on guitar than fiddle).
I’m left-handed but play right-handed. I find the left hand work pretty easy but struggle with the right hand and have developed coping strategies. So, for example, when flat-picking tunes on the guitar I find it really difficult to get strict alternating picking up to speed and so resort to slip picking, which brings with it it’s own problems.

Re: Why exactly do left handed people play the other way around?

"its own problems" - duff at English.

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That’s a typical attitude of a guitar player who switches to fiddle (I myself am one - dropped the guitar ever since). I always thought that the left hand work was pretty easy. Worked a lot on the bow hand. Went lazy with my left hand and arm and eventually ‘hit a wall’ where everything wnet wrong and I had to build up left hand technique all over again. I am now a better player than before, but I’ll never again say that left hand technique is easy.

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I’m actually right-handed and learned to play guitar & bass left handed for a coupe of different reasons. I thought it would be to my advantage to have the right hand doing the chords etc. As I became a better player, I discovered this was actually a disadvantage. The left hand was not as adept at picking and strumming as it needed to be. I’ve tried to switch over but my way of playing is too ingrained. When I decided to learn the fiddle, since it is so different from guitar, I switched to right-handed. I am really glad because I am pretty sure the bowing would have been much more difficult using my non-favored hand.

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It may be a typical attitude but fingering on the fiddle is far easier than fingering on the guitar, especially when playing fiddle tunes (not surprisingly). It is certainly due to the shorter scale length and probably due to the fact that the fiddle is tuned in fifths rather than fourths. I mean playing the phrase E-A-c#-f#-e is just so much easier on the fiddle than on the guitar.
That said, my fiddle playing probably amounts to about ten hours in total but I reckon my fingering on that instrument is as good as people who have been playing for three years. My bowing’s about as good as fiddlers who have been playing for about ten hours (mmm?… better make that one).

Re: Why exactly do left handed people play the other way around?

Fiddling it with the left hand makes it feel like someone else is doing it.
You can also try sitting on your good hand until it goes numb and then do it.
This also feels like someone else and not you fiddling.

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On the piano, I have learned to play melody equally well with either hand but not on the bass. For the record, I am right-handed.
One of the best bass players I have ever worked with was left-handed. He had to special order a left-handed bass guitar directly from Epiphone because he couldn’t find one in a local music store here.

Re: Why exactly do left handed people play the other way around?

you might as well ask why right handed people play the way they do.

there are degrees of left handedness - for example I play strings left handed but accordions right handed, whilst other lefties I know turn their boxes over and play melody with the left hand. Whilst I use a knife and fork as a right handed person would, I would use a bat or club left handed.

others have different permutations of left and right.

everyone’s different

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DonaldK, wait until your fiddle playing amounts to one thousand hours in total; then reconsider. I think the guitar posture is more comfortable. Good fiddle posture and developing stamina takes time.

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Sound comment, millionyears_bc. That probably says it all.

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cheers Henk

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I was judging a County Fleadh accordion competition some years back and one of the competitors played a two row box upside down. (keyboard on left) He wasn’t very good but I was fascinated watching him. Often you see photos of accordion players and sometimes a whole band printed the wrong way round, thus giving the impression that they are all left handed players. I’ve been congratulated on many occasions for the tone that I can get from a harmonca, and I often wonder if it’s because I actually play it upside down.

Re: Why exactly do left handed people play the other way around?

WELL IF YOU PLAY YOUR MOOTHIE STANDING ON YOUR HEAD YOU CAN PLAY IT THE RIGHT WAY ROUND AND EVEN MORE PEOPLE WILL BE AMAZED

Re: Why exactly do left handed people play the other way around?

Open - holed flutes can (usually) be played right or left handed.
Concert flutes (w/keys) can be constructed for either right or left hand playing.

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For keyless flute and whistle I think it is just a convention. I have heard once upon a time that there are much more left handed Uilleann pipes set than left handed (in the rest of their life) player, and thta’s just because nobody told them how to hold their hands whrn they strated with the whistle 😉

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When I see somebody play the flute left-handed it looks wrong to me - as if they are about to fall over, so I shut my eyes and just listen!

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Weirdest one is Seamus Egan, not sure which hand he prefers, but he plays flute one way and whistle the other way! Not sure how he keeps it all straight…..

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Myparasgon - Very true. I’m inclined to talk through my arse sometimes so that would be handy. I know I’m getting on a bit but I’m not that deaf yet………….You broke one of my best wine glasses.

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Henk, I bow to your greater experience and perhaps I am not best qualified to comment anyway as I play the wrong way round, as it were. But playing the wrong way round all my technical limitations are in the picking/bowing hand.
If I were to take up the fiddle seriously I might well consider playing it left-handed so that I held my bow in my left hand.
What would be ideal, of course, would be to be totally ambidextrous.

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You need your boss hand and arm on the bow. The one you would smack someone in the gob with, or caress your lover’s face with.

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DonaldK, mind I didn’t mean to offend you or something, but I recognize your reaction from my first half year or so of playing the fiddle after switching from guitar: ‘gosh, this is easier than I thought’. But then, after the initial astonishment…..

Not that it necessarily works for you that way, but I”ve seen that lerarning curve more than once.

Anyhow: good luck, enjoy!

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Left and right handedness is a spectrum from 100% right to 100% left, with most of us somewhere in between. I think I’m 60/40 right/left. Things I do naturally tend to be left, things I have been taught tend to be right. (Too much unoccupied thinking time to work all this out!)

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Interesting, mehere. Matches with the way millionyears_bc is thinking.

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type in one handed fiddle player on you tube this guy hasnt got a choice,just shows you dont need a loose wrist to play a fiddle

Re: Why exactly do left handed people play the other way around?

Fiddles are necessarily constructed to be held in the left hand. The internals are graded—and the base-bar and soundpost are arranged—to have the low strings on the left, and the higher strings on the right. Having the higher strings on the right makes the higher-position notes on the e-string easier to reach with the left hand (since the player doesn’t have to reach over all the other strings to get there). All in all, 99.9% of violins are made to that spec.

Some people (like Ashley MacIsaac) just play a standard fiddle in the opposite hand. This allows for heavier low notes, but is much more awkward for the high notes on the e-string—especially as you go up into higher positions.

Other people try to simply reverse-string a normal fiddle, ignoring it’s internal structure, but this never sounds as good as the same instrument strung normally (sort of like wearing shoes on the wrong feet).

And some people (like Kimberley Fraser, who sounds fantastic, btw), started with a reverse-strung fiddle, and eventually spring for a custom-made reversed violin. But this is quite expensive, takes a long time, and is difficult to trade up, since there are so few people in the world that need custom-built reversed fiddles.

At the end of the day I think it’s hardly worth it, unless you have a real physical limitation (like missing fingers on the left hand). The headaches you have to put up with playing a reversed instrument far exceed the questionable disadvantage of learning to play normally as a southpaw.

(My brother is a lefty, and he plays cello normally)

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"Often you see photos of accordion players and sometimes a whole band printed the wrong way round, thus giving the impression that they are all left handed players"
The most blatant example of this is in the intro to a Tommy Peoples tune book. There is a full-page photo of him apparently playing the fiddle left-handed.
Um … [thinks] … TP isn’t actually left-handed, is he?
I’ve never seen a left-handed violinist or cellist in an orchestra - it would cause interesting problems in a crowded string section - but there used to be a professional string quartet that had a left-handed player.
I don’t suppose it matters if you’re a pianist, because when you get to a certain level on the piano you effectively have to be ambidextrous.

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I’m left-handed but I don’t remember anyone ever giving me the option. And I doubt it would make much difference on the flute but I’m going to go give my keyless flute a try in a minute.

However I’m getting really frustrated about my left foot that goes haywire when I try to dance a hornpipe fast (enough to suit the authorities). My right big toe is seriously in danger of being severed by the heel of my hard shoe. Oh maybe this is the problem: the left hand and the right foot have to co-ordinate when you’re walking on all fours. So the right hand and the left foot are the weak ones…??

C. Nicolas







And I

Re: Why exactly do left handed people play the other way around?

I have a question for Georgi:

Where do you live/come from? I haven’t heard the word southpaw since my childhood.

C. Nicolas