Teaching Left-Handed Students

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Tom Poore
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Re: Teaching Left-Handed Students

Post by Tom Poore » Tue Dec 31, 2013 6:27 pm

choctawchas wrote:I think left handed players should have the choice to play either way without the prejudices and anxieties of the teacher inhibiting their decision.

I have 5 left handed students and all are doing very well, including one who just scored an 82 on his recent Trinity exam.
I see no reason why beginners should be given a choice in matters of guitar positioning or technique. They haven't the experience to make such choices. It's the teacher's job to make these decisions. Further, I see no reason to characterize a teacher's training and experience as "prejudices and anxieties."

I've no doubt that people can learn to play the guitar left-handed. What I doubt is that there's any advantage to doing so. In the absence of any advantage, what's the point of giving beginners a choice on whether to play right-handed or left-handed? Particularly since playing left-handed locks them into a lifetime of playing only guitars on which the strings are reversed.

As I said before, I would never change someone who's already playing left-handed. But allowing a beginner to go down a path that offers no benefits and an obvious liability is simply something I won't do. That's an abdication of my responsibility as a teacher.

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Re: Teaching Left-Handed Students

Post by choctawchas » Thu Jan 02, 2014 10:59 am

I see no reason why beginners should be given a choice in matters of guitar positioning or technique. They haven't the experience to make such choices. It's the teacher's job to make these decisions. Further, I see no reason to characterize a teacher's training and experience as "prejudices and anxieties."
Allowing my students the choice in whether they play left-handed or right-handed has nothing to do with teaching them good posture,mechanics or technique.

My training and experience is to make sure the tiny minority of my students have the choice to play left-handed if they feel more comfortable doing so.

Teachers often make teaching decisions based upon their own experience which includes prejudices and anxieties about how to deal with situations outside their comfort zone.
I've no doubt that people can learn to play the guitar left-handed. What I doubt is that there's any advantage to doing so. In the absence of any advantage, what's the point of giving beginners a choice on whether to play right-handed or left-handed? Particularly since playing left-handed locks them into a lifetime of playing only guitars on which the strings are reversed.
A lack of an advantage is not a disadvantage.

Left-handed instruments are available across various price ranges, this I know from helping two of my student's parents purchase guitars as presents for Christmas.
As I said before, I would never change someone who's already playing left-handed. But allowing a beginner to go down a path that offers no benefits and an obvious liability is simply something I won't do. That's an abdication of my responsibility as a teacher.
I look at this from a different perspective. I see teaching left-handed players as a challenge and an opportunity.

Choctawchas
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Tom Poore
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Re: Teaching Left-Handed Students

Post by Tom Poore » Mon Jan 06, 2014 12:19 am

Allowing my students the choice in whether they play left-handed or right-handed has nothing to do with teaching them good posture, mechanics or technique. My training and experience is to make sure the tiny minority of my students have the choice to play left-handed if they feel more comfortable doing so.
On what basis do beginners decide they'll be more comfortable playing left-handed?
Teachers often make teaching decisions based upon their own experience which includes prejudices and anxieties about how to deal with situations outside their comfort zone.
I'm perfectly comfortable teaching students who are already playing left-handed. I'm also comfortable with saying unambiguously that they enjoy no advantage in doing so.
A lack of an advantage is not a disadvantage.
Nor is it an advantage. Your assertion is hardly a substantive endorsement. We already know that playing left-handed limits one's flexibility in playing other guitars. What advantage offsets this obvious liability?
Left-handed instruments are available across various price ranges, this I know from helping two of my student's parents purchase guitars as presents for Christmas.
No one denies that left-handed guitars are available. But the fact remains that a left-handed player is limited to playing guitars on which the strings are reversed. As a player, I'd find it frustrating that I'll almost certainly never be able to try out a Ambridge, Burghardt, Elliott, Fanton d'Andon, Romanillos, Rubio, Ruck, Tacchi, Velazquez, Wagner, etc. I can watch others play one of these fine guitars, and given a chance to handle one myself, I might plink out a few notes. But to really sit down and play one is very unlikely.
I look at this from a different perspective. I see teaching left-handed players as a challenge and an opportunity.
Teaching a left-handed player is no more challenging than teaching those who play normally. Being a left-handed player, however, is more of a challenge. That some prefer to ignore this issue doesn't make it go away. Nor does it answer the most obvious question about playing left-handed: what's the point? In the absence of any clear advantage, what's the point of playing left-handed? Is it merely to prove that it can be done?

Less obvious in this discussion is the matter of making decisions that lead to wider possibilities rather than fewer ones. A player who regularly decides to do things that restrict his or her horizons will come up against limits that other players don't have to deal with. To me, a good part of a teacher's raison d'être is to advocate decisions that offer more flexibility, not less. A beginner who decides to play left-handed is starting off on the wrong foot. He or she is making a fundamental decision based on either ignorance or the mere desire to be different. Neither is a good way to start. As a teacher, it's my job to help students make good decisions. It's emphatically not my job to shrug and say "whatever."

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Re: Teaching Left-Handed Students

Post by choctawchas » Tue Jan 07, 2014 7:25 am

A beginner who decides to play left-handed is starting off on the wrong foot. He or she is making a fundamental decision based on either ignorance or the mere desire to be different.
I think this clearly sums up your view about anyone who decides to play left handed.

Thank You,

Choctawchas
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Samuel

Re: Teaching Left-Handed Students

Post by Samuel » Thu Aug 21, 2014 2:48 am

Agree with lagartija. I am a lefty too, but I managed to cope with it. My left hand is usuallyy for strength, my right for dexterity though. Nevertheless the fretting comes naturally with practice. Never mind about left or right handed, I think.

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Re: Teaching Left-Handed Students

Post by Lyralefty » Wed Sep 17, 2014 8:37 am

80guitarguy wrote:Hi Everyone,

I'm a right-handed player but I've just got a new student who's left-handed that I'm teaching basic guitar instruction to....notereading, chords, etc. I'm wondering if anybody has any experience with this...is it very challenging, anything I should be aware of? I'm going to be using a left-handed guitar instruction book.

Thanks! :D
Hello,
My experience as a Lefty who occasionally tutor right handed guitarists is that there is no major difference in terms and fingering that I can call to memory. I find its easiest to pretend your looking at a mirror, if that makes sense???
In my experience when I was a student my guitar teacher taught me using right handed diagrams, and a right handed book, and it worked very well. He gave me all I needed to teach myself later on.
Anyways I hope this helps!

Lyra
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Re: Teaching Left-Handed Students

Post by Alicia » Wed Sep 17, 2014 9:56 am

We can forgive the self-taught for their ignorance. But surely teachers should play right handed, unless they have a physical reason not to?
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Re: Teaching Left-Handed Students

Post by lagartija » Thu Sep 18, 2014 3:29 am

Alicia wrote:We can forgive the self-taught for their ignorance. But surely teachers should play right handed, unless they have a physical reason not to?
Most teachers were at one time students. If they learned left handed, then reworking everything because you get to the point where you wish to teach is an unrealistic expectation, in my opinion; it is starting all over again as far as coordination and technique are concerned. As a lefty who learned right handed, I once decided to see if I could switch and play left handed. No way! It felt so awkward! I realized how developed my right hand had become at arpeggio patterns and my left (with slightly tougher fingertips) to fretting. I remain a right handed player. If I had started out playing left handed, I would be quite reluctant to throw all that effort in the trash to switch because others thought right makes "right". :wink:
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Re: Teaching Left-Handed Students

Post by Alicia » Thu Sep 18, 2014 6:30 am

I have to wonder about the pedigree of a teacher's own education if they were taught to play lefthanded themselves. My first "teacher" may have been great at the acoustic guitar but knew nothing at all about the CG and couldn't even read music, and yet he advertised his services as a CG teacher to make money out of the unwary. I think of classical instrument teaching as more like a martial art. I want to know who taught my teacher to be convinced about whether I am being taught correctly. For example, I teach the flute and my teacher was in the same class as James Gallway. It follows then that what I teach is the same as (or evolved from) what James Gallway was taught. My two CG teachers (real ones, after the first pretend teacher) both had degrees in CG and while I didn't recognise the names of their teachers I am happy with a university degree as evidence.
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Re: Teaching Left-Handed Students

Post by choctawchas » Sun Sep 21, 2014 4:27 pm

Then perhaps you might want to ask Monsieur Delcamp if he is qualified to teach in spite of playing left-handed.
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Re: Teaching Left-Handed Students

Post by Tom Poore » Sun Oct 05, 2014 12:55 pm

A bad start doesn’t mean one will always be bad. For many students, a bad start is almost an inevitable rite of passage. What’s important is that, somewhere along the line, the student finally gets good instruction.

In my own case, I started out self-taught, which is bad. Then I had bad teachers, which is bad. Then I finally had good teachers, which resolved a multitude of original sins. Going through this limited my progress as a player. But I believe it helps me as a teacher. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. I know the value of good teaching because I’ve lived through the consequences of bad teaching.

I tell my students I started out with an idiot for a teacher, but they’re lucky to have a brilliant teacher. Curiously, both teachers are the same person.

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Re: Teaching Left-Handed Students

Post by Todd Tipton » Sun Oct 05, 2014 1:49 pm

Tom Poore wrote:
I tell my students I started out with an idiot for a teacher, but they’re lucky to have a brilliant teacher. Curiously, both teachers are the same person.

Tom Poore
South Euclid, OH
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Brilliant!
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Re: Teaching Left-Handed Students

Post by tormodg » Mon Oct 06, 2014 7:47 am

I am a lefty. When I started playing at age 11 nobody even thought about it AFAIK. I can't remember it ever being an issue. So I've always played RH and it has never been a problem. Like others here, having my CG nails on the non-dominant hand is a benefit. :) Being able to play most guitars "the right way" is good, too.
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Re: Teaching Left-Handed Students

Post by sbrodhead » Mon Sep 12, 2016 8:36 am

No body was born with the ability to play guitar. Neither the fretting hand/finger motions nor the plucking hand/finger motions are natural. You must learn these abilities through diligent practice.

There is absolutely no intrinsic difference in ease of playing using a right or left handed guitar for a raw beginner. A right handed player could use a lefty guitar and vice versa. It is all in the practice/training and therefore what you are used to.

Which hand frets and which one plucks is arbitrary. On classical guitar, I feel the fretting hand has the most complex movements.
For instance, do you ever see a guitarist watch their plucking hand - brief glances aside ?

Left handed players have an initial advantage training their left hand and similarly right handed players have an initial advantage with the right.
So, I feel left handed players actually have an advantage as beginners using a righty guitar as the fretting hand has far more complicated movements and finger independence needs. For the same reason, a beginner right handed player should learn on a lefty guitar.

But with practice, both left and right handed players become ambidextric and the challenge becomes synchronizing left and right hand playing together.

I play volleyball and use both hands equally and independently. I believe guitar playing made this possible as I was very right handed as a child.

I struggled with left hand issues more at first, but now that has gone away. By the time you are an intermediate player, there are no righty/lefty issues. The brain rewires naturally. Practice makes perfect.

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Re: Teaching Left-Handed Students

Post by Noctivagant » Wed Sep 14, 2016 7:56 pm

I'm also a lefthander who plays righty. When I went at 11 to buy my first guitar (an electric) the salesman pushed a right-hand model on my mother despite my protests. I've always been a very proud lefty.

In hindsight, I'm glad I ended up going with a righthanded guitar. I've always been pretty close to ambidextrous, and I think almost all lefties I've met are to a fair degree. I progressed faster than my peers who started at the same time as me due to my more able hand being on the fretboard. Since I started playing with a pick, I think the difference was more magnified since the dexterity required for strumming and picking is much less than fretting on the fingerboard. I really think that the only think I lost by playing righty was a better basis for rhythm in my picking hand. I don't think it has a large impact on classical playing, but the ability to strum chords in rhythm when playing with a pick didn't come to me as easily as my peers. I guess I can't really blame my poor rhythm on this though.

I don't think there's any real advantage going either way past the beginning stages of playing. The slight increase in keeping nails intact on the non-dominant hand might be one, though.

I really do respect those left handers who play lefthanded instruments, that's got to be quite an impediment to finding instruments and playing with peers. I can't say I really see how there's much of a difficulty in teaching or being taught. What exactly does a lefthanded book change? Chord charts?

Honestly, I've never understood why the plucking or bowing defaults to the dominant hand rather than the fingerboard hand being dominant. That's where most of the dexterity is required, classical guitar is an exception as it's demanding of both hands. Anyone know where this precedence comes from? Maybe from early stringed instruments that didn't have a fingerboard?

Dutch
Last edited by Noctivagant on Wed Sep 14, 2016 8:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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