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A theory: There is no such thing as a 'handed' violin!


Rue

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I have a theory! 

I propose that there actually is no such thing as a right-handed, or left-handed, violin (or guitar, or whatever) because it actually has NOTHING to do with the right hand performing the 'more difficult' task of bowing, etc., as has been the reason most often stated.

I propose that the reason we bow (or strum) with the right hand is because it's easier to attend to OTHER TASKS with our dominant hand while we are holding our instrument.

"What other tasks?" you ask.  Well...good questions!  Tasks right-handed people do automatically with their right-hand, without thinking about it, such as:

Shaking hands.

Marking the score.

Turning the page.

Scratching.

Holding a cup of tea or a frappuccino.

Shooing away flies.

Etc.

It's just easier to put down a bow or a pick, than it is to put down the instrument, and we are thusly much more likely to WANT to hold on to it for safety reasons.

Since this was never an issue with the piano, that's why no one ever talks about 'left-handed' pianos.

Yup. :D

 

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?????????

I don't know what your point is. Or is this just a joke?

I did have a left-handed cello student for about 5 years. He was an adult who earned his living as a piano teacher with a studio of 60 to 70 students. He used one of my "right-handed" cellos that I had loaned him. His problem was learning to bow with his right hand/arm.

Perhaps children can adapt if started young enough

Apparently it can be a real problem.

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A violin is built to be played with the left hand (a "left-handed" violin). A violin designed to be played with the right hand (a "right-handed" violin) would be a mirror image inside and out of a left-handed violin.

There are people who play left-handed violins very well with their right hands, but I never heard of anybody who plays a right-handed violin with their left hand. Most people who play right-handed have at least the strings of the violins reversed to mirror a left-handed violin.

Interestingly and surprisingly, I think  it was @David Burgess who said that changing the strings and bridge of a left-handed violin to a right-handed violin configuration (leaving the soundpost, bassbar, and pegs in the same place) did not change the sound much. 

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The sound issue doesn't surprise me. I will assume it might sound a little different under the ear, but I don't even know how you'd go about proving it. I also assume anyone listening won't be able to discern any difference.

There are left-handed violinists, primarily fiddle players, primarily self-taught. No point in "unlearning" at that stage of performance.

There are left-handed guitarists, again, primarily self-taught.  Those that were taught to play right-handed always seem to have had no issue - which reinforces my theory.

But...I'm addressing the issue of people thinking they "need" to reverse instruments to suit their handedness...and I'm suggesting that there is no handedness built in to the instrument. The right hand does not play the dominant role. 

And if there is any reason for the left hand to "hold" the instrument it's due to right-handed people using their right hand to do other tasks...and nothing to do with playing the instrument.

 

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6 hours ago, Rue said:

 

There are left-handed violinists, primarily fiddle players, primarily self-taught. No point in "unlearning" at that stage of performance.

There are left-handed guitarists, again, primarily self-taught.  Those that were taught to play right-handed always seem to have had no issue - which reinforces my theory.

I am curious what kind of study you did to determine that left handed players are primarily self taught. That Idea is laughable. The handedness has to do with the easy of rhythm. The strumming of the guitar, the movement of the bow. There is much greater difficulty feeling the rhythm in the weaker limb, So naturally people choose to adapt to what suits them. Having taught many people to play, trust me you will not make a left handed child play the fiddle right handed. They will pick it up and play it left handed every time.

 

I'm suggesting that there is no handedness built in to the instrument. The right hand does not play the dominant role. 

There is handedness built into the instrument, the rhythm hand is the difficult hand.

The Violin is the bow. The guitar is the rhythm, the fingerpicking, the strumming.

And if there is any reason for the left hand to "hold" the instrument it's due to right-handed people using their right hand to do other tasks...and nothing to do with playing the instrument.

This sounds like an ill informed joke to me.

How's the turtle? 

I just got 6 small baby angelfish, and I have one old really big one.

The little ones are so cute, they think the big one is God.

 

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I write with my left hand, use a bench plane right handed but am better using thumb planes in my left hand. I use gouges and chisels in the left handed way but hammer better with the right hand. I seem to be mixed up! I 'play' my violin and guitar in the right handed way. I think I write and use a spoon left handed as I copied one of my older brothers. This brother is to me a proper left hander. He doesn't play the guitar but if he picks one up it is in the left handed manner. He started playing the violin in the right handed manner but even after over ten years he feels he might be somehow better off restarting playing ' left handed'

From observing his desire to play instruments in the mirror image of other, most usually right handed, people I wonder if left handers learn in a more visual way so feel compelled to mirror their mentors? To me playing the guitar is very visually assymetrical so maybe tends to be mirrored by a visual learner? Also strumming, would seem to learners as being suited to their stronger hand? The violin playing posture is not, to me, so visually assymetrical and both hands seem to need strength, one holding the bow the other holding the violin so my very left handed brother could just about cope with 'right handed' violin playing? He also plays the trumpet, in the 'right handed' manner without a problem, maybe because the view from the front of a trumpet is quite symmetrical?

However, this may be nonsense, as I have already mentioned, I am quite mixed up, often forgetting which hand is my usual Crisp or peanut grasping hand -my left I think? - finding either hand will do as long as it reaches the mouth swiftly!

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15 hours ago, Rue said:

The right hand does not play the dominant role. 

I really don't understand your point nor the point of your point. Of course, the bow or pick hand plays the dominant role. 

The bow or the pick and the hand that holds them are what are most responsible for the sound of the music. It has been said that "the left hand is the technician and the right hand is the artist." I completely agree with that.

Bow speed, point of contact, and pressure are the main determinants of the sound coming coming from a violin. A left-handed violin played by a right-handed player will sound different because the variations in pressure and point of contact are going to be naturally different campared to a left-handed violin played by a left-handed player. In fact, Katrina Nicolayeff (above), who holds the record for number of Grand Master Championships, told me that one of her judges told her he can always recognize her playing because of this, even though it is a blind competition. And she is a highly-trained player, not "self-taught."

In guitars, the strum naturally starts from the low strings to the high strings, and so the strum hand moves naturally down with gravity. Up and down string plucks also sound different. I suppose a right-handed player could flatpick a left-handed guitar by strumming upward against gravity, but that seems absurd, and I have never seen a good right-handed guitarist who plays that way.

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On 9/9/2023 at 7:04 PM, GeorgeH said:

A violin is built to be played with the left hand (a "left-handed" violin). A violin designed to be played with the right hand (a "right-handed" violin) would be a mirror image inside and out of a left-handed violin.

There are people who play left-handed violins very well with their right hands, but I never heard of anybody who plays a right-handed violin with their left hand. Most people who play right-handed have at least the strings of the violins reversed to mirror a left-handed violin.

Interestingly and surprisingly, I think  it was @David Burgess who said that changing the strings and bridge of a left-handed violin to a right-handed violin configuration (leaving the soundpost, bassbar, and pegs in the same place) did not change the sound much. 

I was just going to ask about this.

Even if the soundpost and bass bar position doesn't matter much, wouldn't the fingerboard, particularly the nut, and the bridge matter?  Aren't the grooves designed to accomodate the width of the strings in a particular order? 

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16 hours ago, Rue said:

The sound issue doesn't surprise me. I will assume it might sound a little different under the ear, but I don't even know how you'd go about proving it. I also assume anyone listening won't be able to discern any difference.

There are left-handed violinists, primarily fiddle players, primarily self-taught. No point in "unlearning" at that stage of performance.

There are left-handed guitarists, again, primarily self-taught.  Those that were taught to play right-handed always seem to have had no issue - which reinforces my theory.

But...I'm addressing the issue of people thinking they "need" to reverse instruments to suit their handedness...and I'm suggesting that there is no handedness built in to the instrument. The right hand does not play the dominant role. 

And if there is any reason for the left hand to "hold" the instrument it's due to right-handed people using their right hand to do other tasks...and nothing to do with playing the instrument.

 

I agree with this.  When you are starting out, is there is a preconcieved conception that the violin is set up for right handed players, then maybe there may be an effect on left handed players on a psychological level.  But when teaching violin to beginners, I never think to ask about, or assert disadvantages of, right hand or left hand dominance.  

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3 hours ago, GeorgeH said:

I really don't understand your point nor the point of your point. Of course, the bow or pick hand plays the dominant role. 

The bow or the pick and the hand that holds them are what are most responsible for the sound of the music. It has been said that "the left hand is the technician and the right hand is the artist." I completely agree with that.

...

This is my point!

Despite this being the conventional wisdom - I propose that the choice of which hand to do what actually doesn't matter and is NOT the reason why the right hand bows or strums. 

The reason we bow/strum with the right hand is because it's easier to put down the bow/pick...so we can do OTHER things with our dominant right hand.

 

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2 hours ago, violinnewb said:

I agree with this.  When you are starting out, is there is a preconcieved conception that the violin is set up for right handed players, then maybe there may be an effect on left handed players on a psychological level.  But when teaching violin to beginners, I never think to ask about, or assert disadvantages of, right hand or left hand dominance.  

Yes!  And it seems, when no fuss is made about it...no fuss occurs!

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4 hours ago, Rue said:

This is my point!

Despite this being the conventional wisdom - I propose that the choice of which hand to do what actually doesn't matter and is NOT the reason why the right hand bows or strums. 

The reason we bow/strum with the right hand is because it's easier to put down the bow/pick...so we can do OTHER things with our dominant right hand.

 

This is beyond--------(insert your adjective of choice at this time)--------

Of course it matters, it absolutely matters. One hand can accomplish the task easily.

The other hand cannot do it at all, and if attempted,, is met with much discomfort, both physically and mentally.

The reason that "WE" strum or pick with the dominant hand is because "IT IS" the dominant hand, not so we can do other things with the dominant hand.

This whole train of thought is-----------

Why am I wasting my time with this?

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Quite often when I was at infant and junior school I was viewed a little disapprovingly by teachers as I wrote with my left hand and was not the neatest writer. The last time a teacher discussed the possibilty of improving my writing by my changing over to the right hand was when I was ten years old. I write in the "overhand" style and tend to smudge the ink with my hand as I move across the page of fresh ink. My writing slopes backwards - to the left - if  I try to write with my hand in the more standard position, below the writing being done. When I moved to secondary school the teachers didn't notice the left handed writing as much  but instead viewed me disapprovingly because of my slightly naughty older brothers!

I have often wondered why it seemed so important, in the past, to be a right hander instead of the 'sinister' left hander. 

I was reading about the Peloponnesian War and the author, Thucydides, described the tendency of one of the sides, I can't remember which, of a formation of infantry, of even the most disciplined troops, to always start extending and curving backwards as the soldier on that end was more vulnerable, less defended, as the shield was held on the left arm and the spear or sword was in the right. I realised then that a left handed soldier would probably be out of the question in early warfare and maybe the notion that a left handed person could spell trouble may have been a matter of life and death in early times? Perhaps the few people who couldn't be forced to become right handed - like my truly left handed middle brother I mentioned in my post above would have been more suited to and used for ambush type shock troops? Also I think a left handed person would maybe  have got in the way a bit when harvesting crops in a team, a person who swung their sickle, or later on their scythe, in the opposite direction to rest of the workers would maybe slow things down, spoil the rhythm or even be dangerous? Maybe the idea of having people all right handed emerged becaused it made things run more smoothly when people were working in team situations?

Are there any left handed string players in Orchestras, I wonder?

I wonder how a modern ancient Greek would fare in battle, the shield in the left hand, the sword or spear in the right, how would he manage to hold his mobile phone?

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8 hours ago, Andrew tkinson said:

...a left handed soldier would probably be out of the question in early warfare and maybe the notion that a left handed person could spell trouble may have been a matter of life and death in early times? Perhaps the few people who couldn't be forced to become right handed - like my truly left handed middle brother I mentioned in my post above would have been more suited to and used for ambush type shock troops? Also I think a left handed person would maybe  have got in the way a bit when harvesting crops in a team, a person who swung their sickle, or later on their scythe, in the opposite direction to rest of the workers would maybe slow things down, spoil the rhythm or even be dangerous? Maybe the idea of having people all right handed emerged becaused it made things run more smoothly when people were working in team situations?

Are there any left handed string players in Orchestras, I wonder?

I wonder how a modern ancient Greek would fare in battle, the shield in the left hand, the sword or spear in the right, how would he manage to hold his mobile phone?

That's it!  We use our weapon hand to hold the pointy stick and to draw back the string(s) of the thing shaped a bit like a crossbow...

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At least four of Missouri's most highly regarded traditional (old-time) fiddlers were left handed and played normally set up fiddles "over the bass", i.e. bowing with the left hand. Attached is a link to one of my favorites, Cyril Stinnett, who was national grand champion in 1966. I have one of his fiddles, bought from his grand nephew. Decent instrument, absolutely normal setup.

 

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18 hours ago, Evan Smith said:

Of course it matters, it absolutely matters. One hand can accomplish the task easily.

The other hand cannot do it at all, and if attempted,, is met with much discomfort, both physically and mentally.

The reason that "WE" strum or pick with the dominant hand is because "IT IS" the dominant hand, not so we can do other things with the dominant hand.

Why am I wasting my time with this?

In the spirit of robust dialogue:

1. Can one hand accomplish something more easily because it is biologically dominant or because that is what we are trained to do?  For instance, I am right handed.  But I was taught to wipe with my left hand and eat with my right.  My kids think its weird.  Actually, its weird that I discuss wiping with my kids in the first place.

2. Is the reason we strum and pick with the right hand really because of dominance?  I know plenty of left handed people who strum and pick right handed or bow right handed.  Plenty.  Most of them are better than me at both guitar and violin.

3. I really think that differing opinions are good for discussion.  Why are you wasting time with this?  That is a question that only you can answer.

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Scientific studies have shown that handedness is related to brain structure. There is no point in positing that people use their dominant hand to hold bow or a pick because it is easier to put a bow or pick down.

People use the hands they use based on their brain structure, and most musical instruments are built for right-handed people because most people are right-handed. There is some discussion that "Gestural communication may have been an important part of early language evolution, or perhaps hand control and language share a certain type of neural information processing that is particularly well supported by the left hemisphere in most people.

So it would make sense that the hand most responsible for musical expression (bow or pick) would be the one that also supports gestural communication.

It would be interesting to know how musical performance is active in the brain relative to language centers. 

"Right-handers differed on average from left-handers in their brain asymmetry in ten specific regions, spread widely across the brain’s surface. In all ten of these regions, the grey matter of the right hemisphere tended to be relatively larger in left-handers, consistent with increased neural resources to support that hemisphere’s role in controlling the left hand. “This is the first time that specific parts of the brain’s anatomy have been linked confidently to handedness”, says Francks."

The whole article is short and quite interesting.

https://www.mpi.nl/news/large-study-compares-brains-left-handers-and-right-handers

 

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On 9/9/2023 at 3:43 PM, Rue said:

I have a theory! 

I propose that there actually is no such thing as a right-handed, or left-handed, violin (or guitar, or whatever) because it actually has NOTHING to do with the right hand performing the 'more difficult' task of bowing, etc., as has been the reason most often stated.

 ( ... )

Perhaps it is more important how committed one is to wants and needs. 

More left handers I have known have amazing left hand work on a traditional set up. Many guitarists and several violinists have been amazing left handers. Certainly in the piano world, the arc of development favors the right hander in the beginning and the left hander most likely in the middle.

The environment matters so much. And time. How many lefties had to become righties? I am so crappy with my tools, that a properly set up and prepared left hand operation might be better than the "normal" right hand cut.

Then there are those who can simultaneously use both hemispheres of their brains differently. Do not think it is a parlour trick...

 

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Then there are those with injuries.

It might matter when the player is injured, that age might insure better success.

Also the instrument. Taking this to the extreme, a trumpet or bugle? Django had great success, a relatively unknown guitarist who benefit from more traditional gamba tuning, that continued to perform right handed despite injuries.

Can we adapt to a flipped QWERTY keyboard or switch to a "Dvorak" style keyboard?

I remember being in a special arts program and the smart kids grabbed all the right handed scissors. I adapted the left handed scissors and found them to be sharper and more precise. What can one do?

In sports, even the visual bias of the eyes matter, if not the hearing in both ears.

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Using the dominant hand for the bow arm makes a lot of sense when it is thought of as a 3-D problem, rather like hitting a golf ball.  That is what I tell normal people bowing is like, and it makes them realize how long it takes to get good at it.

Some lefties do manage to go through life passing as conventional violinists.  Although I confess that the day I learned that Joseph Silverstein was left-handed, I immediately grew less impressed with his bowing ability.

One of my own violins was once owned by Rudolph Kolisch, who led his quartet from the right side, bowing with his left hand. There are a lot of redrilled holes in the scroll-- I do not know if there were any special accommodations made for the bass bar and sound post.

 

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