Playing Left Handed
I often get asked why I started playing left handed. My answer is simple- I am left handed. I was 6 when I started to play. I had already been in school and I knew that my left hand was dominant. When I opened up my first fiddle case Christmas morning, I automatically put the bow in my left hand. I was lucky enough to have a teacher that believed it was important for me to play the way the felt the most natural. He simply reversed my strings and taught me in mirror image.
I also get asked if it was difficult to learn that way. My answer is that it was not. It was no more difficult than the experience of a right hander. My teachers never expressed any difficulty in teaching me, either. For me, it would have been much more difficult to learn right handed. People are often puzzled by this, arguing that I would have been better off learning right handed since my fingering hand would have benefited from the dexterity. I understand this argument, but I have to say it’s not entirely thought through. If that was the case, wouldn’t all the right handers play left handed? While we see people playing fast tunes, and are amazed at the speed of their fingers, the higher skill is actually in the coordination of their bow hand. Sure, it becomes more complex when you start shifting to other positions, or adding vibrato, but for the most part, your hand is locked in place and it is the fingers that are moving. You use your non-dominant hand’s fingers on your computer keyboard all the time and don’t think twice.
But the bow… that is where the real magic happens. You’re relying on the same coordination that a tennis player might use to return a volley. You are incorporating your shoulder, your elbow, your wrists, and trying to guide a stick that it’s two and a half feet long with the utmost precision. So naturally, it’s going to ultimately feel more comfortable in your dominant hand. The bow arm is where you really feel and express the music.
This having been said, I know plenty of players who consider themselves left handed but play right and are champion fiddlers. I know that everyone has different degrees of ‘dominance’ in a dominant hand. There are people that have great dexterity and coordination in what they would consider their non dominant hand. However for me, this was not the case. I am severely left handed. And I am very grateful that I was given the choice to play the fiddle that way.
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