The violin is a stringed instrument generally played by bowing with your right arm while you place it on your left shoulder and balance its neck with your left hand. Since the bowing action is of the utmost importance when it comes to controlling the sounds that your violin makes, right-handed people can use their dominant arm to play the violin with excellent results.
There’s a story that this came about at one point in history when many right-handed fencers took up the violin, which made bowing with the right hand quite natural. That doesn’t mean that there were no famous left-handed violinists in those days!
In addition, relative to the music you can produce, some experts feel that your finger’s positioning is minor compared with the bow’s action. Therefore, having the bow in your right hand makes it easier for you to learn the violin, especially if you’re right-handed, of course.
Table of Contents
- 1 Can You Play Violin Left Handed?
- 2 Is There a Left Handed Violin?
- 3 Left Handed Violin Vs Right Handed Violin
- 4 Advantages of Playing Violin Left Handed
- 5 Disadvantages of Playing Violin Left Handed
- 6 How to Decide Whether to Play Left Handed Violin
- 7 Where Can I Get Left Handed Violins?
- 8 FAQs
Can You Play Violin Left Handed?
Do lefties play violin differently? Is it harder to learn? If that’s what you’re wondering about when deciding to pick up the instrument, we have some good news for you. Recently, there’s been more emphasis on assisting left-handed students who want to learn. So, if you want to know the answer to this question, then you’re in luck.
Numerous luthiers and stringed instrument brands worldwide are now manufacturing left-handed violins for left-handed students. While this may make initial learning for beginners easier, you should think twice before you go this route because there are disadvantages to this as we explain below.
At the same time, there’s more help for lefties who want to learn how to play right-handed precisely because of the challenges that come with playing left-handed. So, pick up your violin and start learning today!
Can You Play a Right Handed Violin Left Handed?
Since most stringed instruments out there are for right-handed musicians, what can you do if you’re a “southpaw?” While you can always purchase a violin made explicitly for left-handed people, you can also try to learn to play a right-handed violin instead.
If you’re a lefty and you use a right-handed violin, your right hand will fret the notes while your left hand will hold the bow. However, this does not mean that you can simply reverse the strings of a right-handed violin so that you can use the bow with your left hand.
A left-handed violin is a complete reflection of a right-handed one. However, unlike for some acoustic guitars where making a right-handed guitar left-handed by just reversing the strings is possible, a violin would need more adjustments and this would just ruin the instrument. We’ll explain the differences between a left and right-handed version in more detail below.
Therefore, you must either learn to bow with your right hand and fret with your left or buy a left-handed violin. You can learn more about violin playing and improve your technique by looking at lessons online or hiring a private violin tutor.
Is There a Left Handed Violin?
The fact that you’re right-handed or left-handed is irrelevant once you decide which handed version to learn on. Both of your hands will have to put in a lot of effort to learn their respective purpose.
Of course, left-handed violins do exist. However, it is a matter of how you start learning to play this instrument. A left-handed person can play a right-handed violin. However, they may have to put in more effort than usual to master the instrument because it may not feel natural to bow with the non-dominant hand in the beginning. Not to mention, it depends upon how a person is taught to play the violin.
Violin tutors and instructors will encourage you to learn to play on a right-handed violin, even if you’re left-handed. However, some companies do make left-handed violins designed explicitly for left-handed people. Don’t forget that a few right-handed violinists may develop a long-term issue with overuse because of constant fingering with their left hand. Some of them try to switch to fingering with the right hand to adapt. While there is no such thing as an ambidextrous violinist, this is probably as close as it gets.
While you can shop for one in certain physical and online stores, you may not be able to find a left-handed version of your favorite right-handed model. That said, you can always ask a luthier to build a custom-designed left-handed violin for you if you’re willing to pay a premium for it.
In the end, learning on a left-handed violin while being a left-handed violinist can make the entire learning process a whole lot quicker and easier but there are some considerations before deciding if it’s the right choice for you. So, the answer to your question is yes, left-handed violins exist!
Left Handed Violin Vs Right Handed Violin
Let’s look at a few key differences between a left-handed and a right-handed violin. First, it isn’t as easy as reversing the string on your right-handed violin so you can fret with your right hand and bow with your left hand. So always keep that in mind. That being said, let’s begin:
A right-handed violin is placed on your left shoulder and balanced using your left hand. Fretting is done by the left hand and bowing with the right. On a left-handed violin, the process is reversed, so think of it as a backwards violin. A left-handed violin is placed on your right shoulder and balanced with your right hand. Furthermore, fretting is done with your right hand and bowing with the left.
A left-handed violin is a mirror image or a reflection of a right-handed violin. It is not an opposite! Moreover, you can’t turn a right-handed violin into a left-handed violin by just reversing the strings and vice versa. It is because these musical instruments are manufactured very specifically.
Although the bodies of both left-handed and right-handed violins look identical, there are differences between their interior design and neck. As far as the construction is concerned, the tuning peg position, order of strings, and the arch of the bridge all differ in a left-handed violin.
Inside a violin’s body, there’s a wooden slat called a bass bar that runs from the top to the bottom of the strings. This is under the left leg of the bridge in a normal right-handed violin, while the sound post is under the right side. If you want to reverse the strings, you’d also need to alter the peg holes suitably to reverse the sound post and bass bar, which isn’t feasible. There’s also a difference in thickness on the back and top plates of the violin.
Advantages of Playing Violin Left Handed
If you’re a left-handed person, learning to play the violin on a left-handed instrument will make the learning process smoother and more manageable. After all, your dominant hand is your left hand, and you will bow with it. So, basically, you will have to teach your right hand to fret the violin properly.
Students were taught to play the right-handed violin for many decades, whether left-handed or right-handed. However, to achieve maximum success and become a master violinist, playing a left-handed instrument with your left hand may prove to be less challenging.
Furthermore, if you have a disability or injure your left hand, you can learn to use it to bow instead of holding the frets on your violin. It’s a bit like teaching yourself to be left handed. Also, you can get by with a limited bowing technique if your left hand has a disability. There are a few left handed violin players who either played right-handed from the beginning or switched due to an injury later in life.
Disadvantages of Playing Violin Left Handed
There is no denying that you will need a left-handed violin if you want to play with your left hand. Unfortunately, this will limit your choice of instruments, as left-handed violins are challenging to find. Most music stores just don’t readily stock them!
Furthermore, your violin instructor may not be able to teach you properly if you’re left-handed and your teacher is right-handed. Not to mention, left-handed teachers are difficult to find too!
Are There Any Left Handed Violinists in Orchestras?
Unlike a lone left-handed drummer in a rock band, when playing the violin with your left hand, it will be challenging to sit in an orchestra, which is another disadvantage. You might end up elbowing your neighbor due to the lack of space to your left when both violinists move their elbows towards each other instead of in the same direction.
As a result, you will probably have to sit a bit away from the entire orchestra. What’s more, not every orchestra will accept left-handed violinists! Moreover, if you learn to play left-handed, it will be challenging to switch back to your right hand if you change your mind halfway through the learning process.
How to Decide Whether to Play Left Handed Violin
Let’s look at a few things you must consider before learning to play right-handed or left-handed:
- Style of music
If you’re interested in classical music and want to play in an orchestra at some point, your best bet is to learn to play on a right-handed concert violin. Even though you can find a few left-handed concert violins, orchestras would find it difficult to seat you or may not even accommodate you if you play left-handed. Whereas, if your preferred style is folk music or as a solo jazz player, choose whichever orientation feels most comfortable to you and fiddle away!
- Availability of the instrument
If you live in an area with only a couple of music stores, it won’t be easy to find a left-handed violin. Furthermore, it won’t be as simple as buying a right-handed violin and reversing the strings. Violins don’t work that way!
- You will need a luthier
If you purchase a right-handed violin to bow with your left hand, you will have to contact a luthier. They will open up your right-handed violin, install a new brass bar, reverse the order of the soundpost, replace the nut to accommodate left-handed strings, and add a left handed violin chin rest.
If you can find a left-handed violin at your local music store, nobody is stopping you from learning to play with your left hand. However, if you can’t, consider the points above and decide accordingly!
Where Can I Get Left Handed Violins?
Finding a left-handed violin in your local area can sometimes be a difficult feat to achieve. However, more and more instrument suppliers are manufacturing left-handed variants of this classical string instrument these days.
For example, this DZ Strat is an excellent choice if you’re willing to spend on a top-quality model.
Furthermore, you can also visit Fiddlershop’s website to find a few new left-handed violins. Finally, you can also visit ViolinsLover and go through their catalog of left-handed violins. What’s more, they also have listed down violin options by age group. So, rest assured, you will be able to purchase one for your kid or yourself!
How does a left-handed person play the violin?
A left-handed person can play a left-handed violin by fretting it with their right hands and bowing it with their left hand or they can choose to play the violin right-handed.
Are there many left-handed violinists?
Yes, there are numerous left-handed violinists. For example, Charlie Chaplin, Rudolph Kolisch, Niccolo Paganini, and Ashley MacIsaac are left-handed violinists.
Are lefties better at violin?
Typically, lefties aren’t better at violin than righties and vice versa. Therefore, it is all about improving your skills and practicing to become a master violinist over time.
Can a violin be strung left-handed?
You cannot simply interchange strings on violins, as you also have to change the bass bar, soundpost, and peg holes at the very least in order to convert a right-handed violin to a left-handed version.
Is there a left-handed and right-handed violin?
Yes, you can purchase left-handed and right-violins from your local instrument store or online. However, right-handed violins are more readily available than left-handed ones.
Can a cello be played left-handed?
Typically, left-handed cellos don’t exist. It is because they are neither right-handed nor left-handed and they require a particular playing position. The soundpost and bass bar inside your cello always accommodate right hand bowing. However, you can easily play the cello as a left-hander and you’ll probably find fingering techniques easier and bowing a little more challenging.