Left Hander forced to learn ukulele and guitar right handed

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Joined: Sat Jan 11, 2020 6:53 am

Left Hander forced to learn ukulele and guitar right handed

Post by PartyHero » Fri Jan 17, 2020 4:31 am

I just need your thoughts regarding left hand guitar players.

I come from a piano- and xylophone-playing family. I am the only right hander in my family (my father, mother and 3 brothers are all left handers).

My wife is also a left hander, and it comes to no surprise that my sons are left-handed.

3 years ago, my sons participated in their school's ukulele program. Both were given right handed ukuleles. I complained to the coordinator that my sons should be encouraged to embrace their left handedness (which is connected to the right hemisphere of the brain - which is the location for creativeness and abstract thinking). I even suggested I will buy or re-string their ukulele to left hand.

The teacher refused, saying:

we don't have left-handed ukulele teachers
we can only buy right-handed ukuleles
I don't have the time to teach two left handers in a class of 24 right handers
this is a world for right handers, your kids need to learn how to live in it
I thought that was the most ignorant and uneducated reasoning from someone who calls themselves educators - more so an educator of music.

But to me music is music, and I let my sons learn right hand way. But I did see them struggle to cope and in my mind it hindered their natural development had they learned left hand and embrace the natural ability of their master hand. I even asked the teacher to sign the registration form with his left hand, he said "why, I write with my right"...to which I rolled my eyes.

QUESTIONS: - any readers experienced the same (either themselves or their kids) learning guitar, bass, ukulele? - am I right in thinking that left handers should be taught to their natural ability and not be forced to be right handed?

Now that both my elder son started high school, he wanted to take guitar or bass lessons with the school....I am now back to my original situation.

Questions: - should we insist that my son be taught left handed? - can a natural left hander (forced to learn right hand ukulele) revert to a left hand style for electric bass?

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Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2020 10:40 am

Re: Left Hander forced to learn ukulele and guitar right handed

Post by gimelvav » Wed Mar 04, 2020 11:35 am

I worked at a music store and encountered many lefties that played right-handed and were glad they did. It's hard to find left handed stuff. It can be difficult to modify some guitars for left-handed playing. The issues are different depending on whether they're acoustic, electric, or acoustic-electric. I wasn't going to get technical, but I think I can keep it fairly simple.

Consider an acoustic guitar. A lefty has the option of just flipping it over and playing with the low string on the bottom. That's how some lefties do it, and that's OK. Most, however, will play a restrung guitar with the bass strings on the top, where they should be. If you don't flip the strings, the the chord charts are harder to read. When you restring a guitar for left-handed playing, you have to recut the nut, the part at the "head" that the string run over. The slots are different sizes depending on the strings, and the nut slopes down toward the tuners. But that's only half of it. The saddle, the bone or plastic part at the other end, is sometimes angled to compensate for harmonics. If you don't angle it in the other direction, the harmonics will be off and it will sound perpetually out of tune. And, that's something that can only be done by a luthier routing a new saddle.

Consider an electric guitar. Again, a lefty can just flip a right-handed guitar over and play with the strings "upside down". Some do. Again, most chose to "set up" the guitar left-handed. You still have to do the same thing with the nut. The "saddle" part is easier because most electrics have and adjustable bridge and you can just reverse the adjustments. There are some electrics however that don't have an adjustable bridge. They might have a fixed pre-compensated bridge that would have to be either replaced or just lived with. Even after you set up the nut and the bridge, the controls MIGHT be an issue. Some electrics are laid out so that the controls are out of the way when you flip the guitar. In fact at least one guitar has the controls set up so that playing it lefty gives you a slight advantage, but many guitars' controls will get in the way and things like switches might be more susceptible to being accidentally activated. Many guitars have jacks for the guitar cable that are very inconveniently located when the guitar is flipped.

Consider an acoustic-electric guitar. In addition to the regular left-handed problems of an acoustic guitar, many acoustic-electrics have the controls and built-in tuner on the side of the body facing up where a player can easily access them. These aren't just set-and-forget controls. They might have a tuner with a muting feature, a batter level indicator, a feedback eliminating filter, a polarity switch, etc. Flipping the guitar over without relocating the controls to the other side will prevent easy access to all of these important controls. Moving the controls requires routing a hole on the other side of the guitar - always a scary thing to do with an expensive guitar, and somehow patching up the gaping hole left where the controls were originally located. I have NEVER seen anyone do this mod. Even if someone was willing to do all that, the pickups in these guitars are usually installed in a way that compensates for the tension and volume of the different strings. Bass strings have more tension and more volume. The best pickups compensate for these differences and would have to be relocated, flipped, or readjusted if the order of the strings changes.

Finally, consider this. Have you ever seen a left-handed piano? A left handed-harp? A left-handed violin? A left-handed flute player? I think left-handed ukulele, bass, and guitar players are spoiled because they CAN do it, so some of them do, but there are many more reasons for them to simply learn to play like everyone else does. As a guitar player, I can tell you that a lot more of the musical stuff is done with your left hand than your right. I've always thought that lefties have an advantage over righties when playing guitar right-handed.

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