The world of music is dominated by right-handed people due to their prevalence in the general population. However, a disproportionately large number of famous musicians are left-handed. You don’t have to look very far to find legendary lefty musicians such as Jimmy Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and Paul McCartney. This should give confidence to any aspiring left-handed individual that wants to pick up a musical instrument.
The modern landscape of musical instruments is incredibly vast, with left-handed versions of many instruments readily available at stores. Let’s look at some of the best instruments for left handers.
Table of Contents
- 1 Challenges Left Handed Musicians Face
- 2 Are Left-Handed People Better at Playing Instruments?
- 3 Which Instruments are Good for Left Handed People?
- 4 What Instruments Have Left Handed Versions?
- 5 FAQs
Challenges Left Handed Musicians Face
Learning and playing instruments as a lefty comes with no shortage of challenges. This includes:
Playing a Right-Handed Instrument
Left-handed people without access to a left-handed version of their instrument may be forced to learn on a right-handed one. For a guitarist, there are two options to changing a right-handed guitar to a left handed one.
This might mean having to flip the strings on their instrument backwards. If they don’t have the means to do this, they will need to learn the chords and scales upside down. This can be challenging, in addition to feeling incredibly awkward.
Such guitarists will also run into issues during performances as their left hand may hit the instrument’s volume and tone knobs or output jack repeatedly while strumming. This can throw off their instrument’s sound settings and interrupt their performance.
Instead, they can alter the instrument in more ways by removing and resetting various parts to essentially make it a left-handed one. This comes with risks of damage if not done by a professional luthier.
Similarly, there are other stringed instruments that can’t just be flipped around to switch hands, like the violin and the cello.
Most wind instruments are very hard to find in lefty versions and often must be custom-made at a great expense.
Difficulties Reading Tabs
Most instrument tabs for songs are written in the right-handed orientation. Left-handed guitars are mirrored versions of right-handed ones, so left-handed guitarists will need to visualize an image of these tabs in a mirrored version to make sense of them. While some left-handers seem to be able to do this effortlessly, others find that this can be a slow and headache-inducing process.
Limited Instrument Selection
Most major musical instrument manufacturers offer a handful of instruments for left-handed people. This selection is incredibly limited compared to the dozens, if not hundreds of right-handed instruments they offer.
Did your favorite guitar manufacturer recently introduce a limited edition signature guitar designed by your favorite guitarist? It’s probably available only in right-handed versions. Left-handed musicians are all too familiar with such disappointments. However, many push through such challenges and go on to become skilled musicians.
Are Left-Handed People Better at Playing Instruments?
With all the musical challenges left-handers face, many would assume that such individuals are worse at playing their musical instruments. However, studies have shown that this is not true.
One 2011 study from Germany investigated whether left-handed musicians experienced more discomfort when learning their instrument compared to right-handed musicians. The results were surprising. Researchers found that left-handed participants did not report feeling any more physical discomfort or negative feelings when learning their instrument compared to their right-handed counterparts.
Musical Processing and Left-Handedness
Another study from 2018 compared the piano playing skills of left-handed pianists to right-handed pianists. The piano comes only in one standard orientation, so left-handed pianists must learn on the same instruments as right-handed pianists and develop dexterity in both hands.
The results were again surprising. Left-handed pianists were equally consistent with their right-hand playing parts as right-handed pianists. Researchers found that the brain’s right hemisphere demonstrates higher precision around musical activities in general, which may make it easier for left-handers to develop dexterity quickly in their right hands through extra practice than it is for right-handers to develop it in their left hands. This could probably compensate for any perceived disadvantage that left-handers may have otherwise.
There is evidence to suggest that left-handed people may be more inclined toward music and language than their right-handed counterparts. It is believed that left-handed people utilize the right hemisphere of their brains more. This half of the brain deals with visual-spatial skills, emotion processing, and music comprehension.
fMRI brain scans have found that all musicians generally have stronger and better-developed neural connections in the right hemisphere. This may indicate that left-handed people have creative or intuitive advantages when it comes to music.
Which Instruments are Good for Left Handed People?
So which instruments are actually good for left-handed people to learn? While many left-handed musicians do overcome the challenges associated with learning right-handed instruments, it is sometimes best for them to learn on left-handed ones that are better suited to them.
Stringed instruments such as the guitar, bass, and ukulele are best suited for left-handed individuals because they come in left-handed orientations. These instruments can also be converted from right-handed configurations with a bit of effort. They also don’t require a specific hand to be stronger.
The piano is another great choice for left-handed musicians because it requires dexterity in both hands. The right-hand parts in some piano compositions may initially be tricky for them to learn, but left-handed musicians can become quite skilled at playing them with a bit of practice.
Woodwind instruments such as oboe and clarinet generally come in one configuration. Players utilize both hands equally so it does not matter if they are left-handed or right handed. The only exception is the concert flute, which left-handed musicians will need to play in the opposite orientation compared to right-handed players. The bad news is that almost no flute manufacturers produce left-handed flutes for such players.
This is unique in the world of brass instruments, but the French horn is designed to be played with the left hand. This makes it a good choice for left-handed musicians. All other brass instruments were designed for right-handed players, so it is best to avoid them if you are left-handed.
What Instruments Have Left Handed Versions?
Guitars are considered pioneering instruments for left-handers. You can quite easily find left-handed acoustic guitars for adults or kids, left-handed electric guitars, and lefty bass guitars. Ukeleles can also be found in lefty versions.
While there are no left-handed drumming kits, there are lefty double bass drum pedals.
What instrument is played with the left hand?
Most musical instruments utilize the left hand to some degree. However, the left hand is used prominently for fretting on string instruments such as the guitar, bass, ukulele, and violin. The french horn also utilizes the left hand extensively for pressing the notes.
Are left-handers more musical?
Left-handed people may be more musically inclined than right handed people. This is evidenced by a study that surveyed a large group of musicians such as instrumentalists, composers, and choir members. Researchers found that the prevalence of left-handed people in the musician sample group was greater than the prevalence of left-handed people in the general population.
This may indicate that left-handed people are more likely to become musicians than their right-handed counterparts.