Being a left-handed player

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
User avatar
tormodg
Posts: 375
Joined: Sun May 11, 2014 11:13 am
Location: Oslo, Norway

Re: Being a left-handed player

Post by tormodg » Tue Aug 01, 2017 9:16 am

According to Wikipedia, "Right-handedness is most common. Right-handed people are more skillful with their right hands when performing tasks. Studies suggest that 88–92% of the world population is right-handed." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handedness)

So statistically about 1 out of 10 people are left-handed. Personally I have observed a clear increase in left-handed people in creative environments, which I have worked in for 25+ years. Not sure if that has any real significance.

As a very left-handed (and left-legged) person I have never actually considered the guitar to be a "right-handed" instrument. As others point out above, the instrument requires both hands, and while the function of each hand is very specific, it does not require a lefty to switch. I am very happy that I play the "right" version (pun intended) so I always have access to guitars when I need them. :)
2017 Yngvar Thomassen spruce
1994 Alhambra 6P (cedar, battered, broken and repaired)
+ various steel string and electric guitars

Sold: 2014 Alhambra Linea Profesional (spruce)

Pat Dodson
Posts: 2947
Joined: Sun Dec 28, 2014 11:32 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Being a left-handed player

Post by Pat Dodson » Tue Aug 01, 2017 9:38 am

Jeffrey Armbruster wrote:
Tue Aug 01, 2017 12:00 am
...In the case of the girl that you coached, I wonder if her previous instructor had a kind of highly regimented outlook--'this is the way everyone does it, and you will too!'...
I suspect not but have never asked lest I am irritated to have my suspicion confirmed. A common teaching support for a half twisting front somersault (a barani - cue Indian Takeaway jokes :) ) is to stand alongside the jumper and turn 90 degrees towards them. Reach across to their far hand and hold it. Now when they front somersault the coach pulls that arm and they half twist and land facing the other way.

The support (not the only method) can be done with either hand but if the coach uses their right hand the jumper will turn right. I know this particular coach to be right handed and suspect that the coach supported in a manner that was not aimed at the young girl's need but unthinkingly at the coach's convenience. A theory with possibly wider applicability? :wink:

Rasputin
Posts: 563
Joined: Fri May 12, 2017 12:25 pm

Re: Being a left-handed player

Post by Rasputin » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:03 am

tormodg wrote:
Tue Aug 01, 2017 9:16 am
So statistically about 1 out of 10 people are left-handed. Personally I have observed a clear increase in left-handed people in creative environments, which I have worked in for 25+ years. Not sure if that has any real significance.
It seems that in more permissive cultures like Norway or the US, the percentage of people identifying as lefties is much higher than in less permissive cultures like Korea or Japan. If creative types are more likely to be non-conformist than other people, the fact that more of them identify as lefties can be explained in the same way. You have an underlying number and then you have social pressure keeping it down. When you look at parts of the world where there is less social pressure, or people who are less susceptible to social pressure, you get a higher number.

Classical music is interesting in that it's hard to be musical without having a creative side and yet the culture is quite conformist.

User avatar
tormodg
Posts: 375
Joined: Sun May 11, 2014 11:13 am
Location: Oslo, Norway

Re: Being a left-handed player

Post by tormodg » Tue Aug 01, 2017 3:43 pm

Rasputin wrote:
Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:03 am
It seems that in more permissive cultures like Norway or the US, the percentage of people identifying as lefties is much higher than in less permissive cultures like Korea or Japan.
Norway has not always been "permissive" - when I grew up in the 1970s a lot of attention was put on "helping" lefties "write correctly" (ie, making us do mirror-image writing movements compared to right-handed kids, probably because it looked better). It's more lenient nowadays though.

It sounds very strange to me that "creative types" would "identify" themselves as lefties if they're not actually so (if that's what you mean). Do you suggest that these kids actually hide their left-handedness until they suddenly "come out" as lefties at some point? Sounds like their skill development would be severely challenged.

I still don't quite see how this "bias" against lefties makes a standard guitar any less suitable for us lefties.
2017 Yngvar Thomassen spruce
1994 Alhambra 6P (cedar, battered, broken and repaired)
+ various steel string and electric guitars

Sold: 2014 Alhambra Linea Profesional (spruce)

User avatar
tormodg
Posts: 375
Joined: Sun May 11, 2014 11:13 am
Location: Oslo, Norway

Re: Being a left-handed player

Post by tormodg » Tue Aug 01, 2017 3:46 pm

I found this very interesting page (written by a rightie) on "handedness and music":
http://www.rightleftrightwrong.com/issues_music.html
2017 Yngvar Thomassen spruce
1994 Alhambra 6P (cedar, battered, broken and repaired)
+ various steel string and electric guitars

Sold: 2014 Alhambra Linea Profesional (spruce)

Pat Dodson
Posts: 2947
Joined: Sun Dec 28, 2014 11:32 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Being a left-handed player

Post by Pat Dodson » Tue Aug 01, 2017 4:07 pm

tormodg wrote:
Tue Aug 01, 2017 3:46 pm
I found this very interesting page (written by a rightie) on "handedness and music":
http://www.rightleftrightwrong.com/issues_music.html
Thanks. Interesting and reasonably balanced article.

You are correct I think; standard guitars (and playing right handed) can be fine for many lefties. That's quite different to saying "and therefore all lefties should play right handed." Some imply that and a very few say it. You don't of course. Again, thank you.

Rasputin
Posts: 563
Joined: Fri May 12, 2017 12:25 pm

Re: Being a left-handed player

Post by Rasputin » Tue Aug 01, 2017 4:26 pm

tormodg wrote:
Tue Aug 01, 2017 3:43 pm
Rasputin wrote:
Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:03 am
It seems that in more permissive cultures like Norway or the US, the percentage of people identifying as lefties is much higher than in less permissive cultures like Korea or Japan.
Norway has not always been "permissive" - when I grew up in the 1970s a lot of attention was put on "helping" lefties "write correctly" (ie, making us do mirror-image writing movements compared to right-handed kids, probably because it looked better). It's more lenient nowadays though.

It sounds very strange to me that "creative types" would "identify" themselves as lefties if they're not actually so (if that's what you mean).
No, I didn't mean that.
Do you suggest that these kids actually hide their left-handedness until they suddenly "come out" as lefties at some point? Sounds like their skill development would be severely challenged.
Sort of. It's hard to know how seriously to take a lot of the stuff you read online, this for example:

Only a few decades ago in Japan, left-handedness in a wife was sufficient grounds for divorce. The wedding ring is placed on the left hand in order to chase away evil spirits that may haunt the marriage. In Arab nations, the right hand is used to touch parts of the body above the waist, while the left hand is used for below the navel. Bedouins segregate the women to the left side of the tent to keep the right side free for the men. (Making it fairly obvious to determine which gender is considered more important.) Natives on the Guinea coast never touch their left thumbs to their beer mugs, in the belief that it would poison the beverage. Maori women weave ceremonial cloth with the right hand, because to use the left hand would profane and curse the cloth - the penalty for using the left hand is death. African tribes along the Niger river do not allow their women to prepare food with the left hand for fear of poisonous sorcery.

If there's even a grain of truth in that, then it is not so hard to see people in some cultures trying to hide their left-handedness, which could explain the varying percentages. Still, what I had in mind was more that if you are forced from your earliest years to use the right hand as a rightie would, you may well end up with more dexterity in the right hand than the left, and not realise that by nature you are a leftie (and that if you had used the left hand instead, it would have become more dextrous than the right hand you have ended up with). Therefore, there will be some lefties who don't even realise it, or think they are ambidextrous (or maybe just clumsy). Deep down they're lefties, but they won't identify as such.
I still don't quite see how this "bias" against lefties makes a standard guitar any less suitable for us lefties.
I don't either, but some lefties must have seen in that way or nobody would ever have bothered with a left-handed guitar. Maybe it's just that, when you first start, fretting seems more difficult than plucking / picking / strumming hand, and by the time we realise that that's not really true, it doesn't make sense to switch hands and go back to the start.

Alan Carruth
Luthier
Posts: 2685
Joined: Mon Dec 24, 2007 6:56 pm

Re: Being a left-handed player

Post by Alan Carruth » Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:31 pm

I have often thought of making a convertible guitar for left or right hand playing. Since most Classical guitars are braced symmetrically that's not really an issue: it's mostly a matter of the nut and saddle.

dory
Posts: 1787
Joined: Mon Jun 11, 2012 3:29 am
Location: Madison, Wisconsin, USA

Re: Being a left-handed player

Post by dory » Thu Aug 03, 2017 3:14 am

I absolutely do not think that left handed people should be forced to write with their right hands or anything else with them if they are left-handed. I only suggest right-handed playing on the guitar because it doesn't seem to me that either hand is easier or more difficult. However, not being left-handed I have no right at all to tell others what to do.
Dory

simonm
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 6566
Joined: Sat Jun 27, 2009 10:22 am
Location: Germany, Würzburg. Spain, IB

Re: Being a left-handed player

Post by simonm » Fri Aug 04, 2017 10:02 pm

tormodg wrote:
Tue Aug 01, 2017 9:16 am
...

So statistically about 1 out of 10 people are left-handed. Personally I have observed a clear increase in left-handed people in creative environments, which I have worked in for 25+ years. Not sure if that has any real significance.
I am not sure where wikipedia got its stats from. My personal experience growing up in Ireland as part of the first generation where left-handedness was tolerated, it was that about 1 in 4 was left handed in the classes which I was in, in school. Later, when I was about 30 I attended some courses with mixed age groups and the total was even a little higher. That is what I base my 20%-30% suggestions on. Here in Germany is is likely lower even today in the schools and maybe close enough to the 10% some people quote.

For some skills, I reckon it simply doesn't matter. Think of driving a car (manual rather than automatic) in the UK or Japan vs most of Europe or the USA. While there are certainly accidents when tourists get confused about which side of the road they are supposed to be on, I doubt if there are any people who would insist on having the gear lever on the right side or left side. We just get on with it and change gear with the hand nearest the gear lever in the same way a we have to play a piano the way it is built.

User avatar
Phuong Hong
Posts: 14
Joined: Thu Jul 13, 2017 12:08 am
Location: Southwestern Illinois

Re: Being a left-handed player

Post by Phuong Hong » Sun Aug 06, 2017 5:12 pm

There are many good responses on here, but I would like to add some other reasons as to why a lefty may stay a lefty on classical guitar. This is from both personal experience and from what I have heard from other people, albeit in other aspects of life, over the years.

Left-handed guitarists may like the dominant position of the left arm as compared to the right arm in the guitar position. It gives their "more attractive" side a spot in the limelight as opposed to conforming to traditional standards. They may also have had an upbringing which inhibited the use of the left hand, and this can now be seen as a little rebellion on their part. As much as I hate to admit it, there is some satisfaction in defying all those "right hand, right way" people I have had the displeasure of interacting with over the years. If only more people were tolerant like those on this forum, many of us lefties would not be so cynical. :mrgreen:

Being experienced in other disciplines may play a factor here. The southpaw position in martial arts, archery, baseball, etc. can cross over into the world of guitar. Being an avid archer and martial artist myself, I feel much more comfortable in the lefty position since the hands are at their familiar locales. Musical instruments may have been borne out of modified weapons, so this would lend some credence to this idea of crossover comfort. The piano in comparison is neutral in stance, so handedness is not as much of a factor, and some pieces may emphasize left or right hand (e.g. Rachmaninoff vs Chopin).

Depending on the person, there may be more musicality flowing through one's dominant hand. While the fretting hand is the precise machine which does most of the hard work, the plucking hand is responsible for the accurate representation of your music. The plucking hand must select the right tone and timbre for every single note while being mostly ignored by our eyes, so a finer, more whimsical control is crucial. Classical music is boring enough, I would not want to make it even more monotone! :lol: :chaud:

In comparison with other instruments, the classical guitar is at the crossroads between the traditional and modern ideals. Unlike the standardized shape of the violin, we are still trying to find our figure, so it stands to reason that there should not be such a staunch traditionalism towards the right-handed approach, but we will always have those people. The guitar is also an intimate instrument without the violin's orchestral pedigree no matter what those guitar orchestras would lead me to believe; it should be a part of your identity. Play it how you want to play it. There should be no concerns about necks sticking out from the group (please don't hunt me down, orchestra players :desole: ).

User avatar
tormodg
Posts: 375
Joined: Sun May 11, 2014 11:13 am
Location: Oslo, Norway

Re: Being a left-handed player

Post by tormodg » Sun Aug 06, 2017 7:18 pm

Phuong Hong wrote:
Sun Aug 06, 2017 5:12 pm
Musical instruments may have been borne out of modified weapons ... The plucking hand must select the right tone and timbre for every single note while being mostly ignored by our eyes, so a finer, more whimsical control is crucial. Classical music is boring enough, I would not want to make it even more monotone! :lol: :chaud:
So, to sum up your post: Lefties playing right-handed guitars sound boring, and they can't even use the element of surprise to whack any critics in the head from an unexpected angle. :casque:
2017 Yngvar Thomassen spruce
1994 Alhambra 6P (cedar, battered, broken and repaired)
+ various steel string and electric guitars

Sold: 2014 Alhambra Linea Profesional (spruce)

User avatar
Phuong Hong
Posts: 14
Joined: Thu Jul 13, 2017 12:08 am
Location: Southwestern Illinois

Re: Being a left-handed player

Post by Phuong Hong » Sun Aug 06, 2017 10:14 pm

tormodg wrote:
Sun Aug 06, 2017 7:18 pm
Phuong Hong wrote:
Sun Aug 06, 2017 5:12 pm
Musical instruments may have been borne out of modified weapons ... The plucking hand must select the right tone and timbre for every single note while being mostly ignored by our eyes, so a finer, more whimsical control is crucial. Classical music is boring enough, I would not want to make it even more monotone! :lol: :chaud:
So, to sum up your post: Lefties playing right-handed guitars sound boring, and they can't even use the element of surprise to whack any critics in the head from an unexpected angle. :casque:
As I said, it would depend on the person for musicality and handedness. I have been playing musical taps with my left hand as a way of passing time, so translating it to guitar was relatively easy. For others, either hand would have achieved the same result.

You are absolutely right on critics. They conspire against us, always searching for the next sacrifice to their altars of unspeakable horrors. There's also the audience who wants a refund in a free concert- equally terrifying. We should always keep our heads on a swivel and our hands locked and loaded for a musical brawl. Will you be ready for the bloodbath? :twisted:

Return to “Public Space”