The simple answer is yes.
There are many left-handed violin players. However, most left-handed violin players choose to learn how to play the violin right-handed.
Learning to play the violin is incredible, but how do you decide which type of violin to choose when you are left-handed?
Both right-handed and left-handed violins are available; if you are a beginner, it can be overwhelming to decide. Also, even though most people play a right-handed instrument, you might wonder if learning the other way might benefit you in the long run.
Before buying a violin and supplies, one must know the different options for left-handed violinists.
Do Lefties Need to Play Left-Handed Violins?
The standard way of playing the violin is with the bow in the right hand and the violin in the left hand. However, when playing in the usual manner, the right hand is the bow hand. Therefore, when speaking about a left-handed violin, we are talking about a violin played with the left hand as the bow hand.
Most left-handed people don’t purchase and play a left-handed violin as it’s not a requirement to play the violin. Many left-handed musicians play the violin the traditional way just fine. Some examples of left-handed musicians are CPE Bach, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits), Paul Simon (of Simon and Garfunkel)
However, some players cannot or prefer not to play violin right-handed for various reasons.
Reasons to Play the Violin Left Handed
Fiddleheads offer lefty violins for people who, without these violins, might be unable to play the violin. In addition, some musicians play left-handed because of physiological issues such as nerve damage, missing fingers, stroke damage, etc.
Sometimes a lefty’s handedness is so dominant that they have no choice but to play a left-handed violin as they can’t play a traditional violin. So often, lefties pick up an instrument and start playing it backward- some famous musicians like Sir. Paul McCartney, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendryx, and Canadian fiddler Ashley MacIssac taught themselves to play left-handed.
The Difference Between Left and Right Handed Violins?
A left-handed violin is a mirror image of a right-handed violin.
- Bass bar
- Sound post placed on the opposite side
- Neck angle
- Fingerboard angle
- Chin rest may be flipped
- Peg and peg hole arrangement
- Bridge carving and setup flipped opposite of a standard violin
- String reversed
Should you play the Violin Left Handed?
There are many things a left-handed player should consider when choosing what type of violin to play- whether considering comfort, instrument availability, or other factors, choosing the right instrument is a significant part of starting on the violin.
Although no solution works for every left-handed player, there are some general things to consider. You should decide on a violin to fit your playing style. The best reason to learn the violin is that you may have a chance to play with others who like the same style as you. Left-handed violin playing is generally no problem in fiddling and other alternative styles. Your playing style will decide the way you are seated if in a group.
The only time left-handed playing may be out of place, or a possible hindrance is in a classical setting. Orchestras like to have everything in sync, so there is no distraction. So it’s a possibility if you bow with your left hand, an orchestra may not even accept you.
Choose a Violin That Feels Most Comfortable
The type of violin you play can significantly impact your learning experience. Whether you play right- or left-handed, the main reason to choose a type of instrument should be your comfort.
When choosing the most comfortable violin for left-handed players, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Some left-dominant players experience a right-handed violin more comfortable – and some experience it the other way around.
Benefits of Playing a Left-Handed Violin
Left-handed violins are designed for left-handed bowing and the right hand for the fingering. Therefore, when learning specific bowing techniques, it might be advantageous for lefty players to use their left hand for bowing.
Benefits of Playing a Right-Handed Violin
You can play quick passages with your dominant left hand when playing on a regular violin.
When choosing your violin for comfort you should try out both a regular instrument and a left-handed one to see what feels the most natural.
Nicola Benedetti, is a Grammy Award-winning, left-handed violinist who plays on a regular violin. She is left-handed but plays right-handed. Her left-hand technique has a significant advantage because of the way she plays.
Choose a Great Sounding Violin
A beautiful-sounding violin can significantly influence our will to pick it up, practice, and become better players.
Building left-handed violins is still relatively new. If you want to play a fine left-handed violin, you may need to find a violin builder to custom build one. Unfortunately, most violin builders have more experience building right-handed instruments, which might affect the quality of these instruments.
You might think, why can’t I turn my right-handed violin into a left-handed one? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
You can’t reverse string a standard violin and make it into a left-handed one. The whole instrument is a mirror image of a right-handed violin. Therefore they are crafted differently. The peg holes need to be reversed. Inside the instrument’s body, the bass bar and the sound post will need repositioning because the bridge is turned around.
You can play a right-handed violin left-handed. Ashley MacIsaac is an award-winning Canadian Fiddler who plays on a regular right-handed violin, using his left hand as a bow hand.
The Slightly Higher Price is Worth It
There is a slight increase in cost to have lefty violins built and set up. This is because making a violin backward is not easy. A luthier that has trained for many years to make a violin one way automatically may have trouble reversing the process despite what some makers may claim.
Making a lefty violin takes longer and must be checked more frequently as the instrument is built to assure quality.
Even with the higher cost of a left-handed violin, it doesn’t compare to the cost of having a regular violin altered by a luthier and knowing it’s done correctly without harm to the instrument.
Whether you prefer a traditional instrument or a left-handed violin depends on your preference. If you are a beginner, you might want to try playing a regular violin first to keep your options open. However, if playing a left-handed violin helps you feel more comfortable in your practice, go ahead and learn to play the violin left-handed. Are you a left-handed violin player? Do you play with a standard violin in that standard manner, do you play a standard violin with your left hand as a bow hand or do you play a left-handed violin? Do you have any questions or comments? Please leave those below. We’d love to hear from you.