So who’s in the club?

While it’s reassuring to read about the many left-handed musicians – even among the ones aged over 50 or over 60 – who made it big, I can’t help feeling depressed at the thought of how many lefties (famous and unknown) have, for a variety of reasons, had to learn to play righty. There may well be as many ‘closet’ lefties as there are ‘out’ lefties, so to speak, or even more.

Wikipedia is once again very helpful and, by the look of it, reasonably thorough in its research:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_musicians_who_play_left-handed
Essentially, if we ignore ‘closet’ lefties who play full righty, there are three kinds of lefty players: those who play full lefty, those who play upside-down righty, and those who play upside-down righty instruments but restring them as lefties.
The three separate lists are highly intriguing, and contain a few surprises.

This article on Gibson’s website offers more info on the most famous lefties in music, and the many comments added at the bottom are worth reading too:

http://www2.gibson.com/news-lifestyle/features/en-us/famous-left-handed-guitarists-1003-2012.aspx

Phil Brodie’s page shows another good list, with handy photos and mini-blurbs, of lefties in music, including drummers.

http://www.philbrodieband.com/music_left-handed-guitarists.htm

Jazzamatazz has a blog entry with interviews to or about many great lefty musicians, and it’s a brilliant find on the topic – check it out:

http://jazzamatazz.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/left-handed-blues/

On the basis of all of the above, I can say I understand (as well as pity, TBH) those lefties who learned to play a righty instrument, upside-down or normally, because they had no access to a proper lefty instrument and/or wanted to be able to choose among a higher number of often cheaper models. But taking a righty guitar, turning it upside-down and then going through the trouble of restringing it as a lefty seems a bit weird to me. The hassle of having to replace or modify the nut and possibly the bridge is added to the bother of an instrument’s body that’s shaped all wrong. Is this sort of hybrid setup really that much cheaper and/or more convenient than getting a real lefty? Can anyone enlighten me on why it’s a relatively common option?

The photos below show me playing one of my proper lefties and me attempting to avoid messing up the tone knob on an identical, righty model. And that’s before I mention the lower horn sticking wooden bits in my ribs, and the ‘wrongly’ moulded backs of some other righty bass guitars I’ve tried. No contest, I’d say.

Lefty bass

Full lefty bass

Righty upside-down bass

Righty upside-down bass

My future blog entries will deal with lefty groups, my findings on the variety of opinions about and feelings towards being left-handed, and the choices we are faced with if we want to be musicians. I’m planning to continue with some psychology-related insights and mentions of useful material (books, videos etc.) .

Please feel free to comment on any of the above, or let me know if I’ve missed a good link, or indeed if any of you have written something about being a left-handed musician that you would like me to post about. (The Leave A Comment link is just under the tags and categories list at the top of this blog entry.)

TO BE CONTINUED…

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7 thoughts on “So who’s in the club?

  1. Cool, thanks for the link to Jazzamatazz. I interviewed lefty Devon Allman and we spoke about being left-handed, very interesting — his dad, Gregg, his uncle Duane, and all his siblings are left-handed.

  2. I think it’s a common option among beginners to flip over a righty instrument, mainly because of money, and availability. I started by flipping RH instruments, but once I progressed enough to need something better than a cheap starter, I vowed to never do it again. And it’s been LH guitars/basses ever since.

    We also need to consider peer pressure, lazy/misinformed salesmen, and a whole host of preconceived misconceptions, such as ‘it’s easier to find righty instruments’ and ‘it’s just as easy to learn right as it is to learn left’. It angers me to think of the numbers of people who gave up learning to play because they were given bad advice, or coerced into trying to learn in a manner that’s unnatural to them.

    The situation can only improve by making more noise, and letting beginners know that they don’t have to kowtow to the majority, and the situation for LH players is improving all the time. But only because our willingness to make a noise, complain to the guitar companies, and refuse to play upside-down. I can understand why someone would think playing a righty guitar strung righty is a good option, but I don’t agree with it. My feeling is that in doing so, they are holding back who don’t want to do the same. The more left-handers that stand up and let Fender, Gibson, etc. know we’re out here, the better things will get for all of us.

    • Absolutely. And Warwick, don’t forget Warwick, they have been very lefty-friendly so far, offering lefty models of almost their entire line. (Things may have changed a little of late, due to the financial crisis, I haven’t checked in detail, but I’m hopeful they’ll keep flying the flag.)

    • Hi Sylvia, I’ve been to the London Bass show every year since 2014 and have often seen you there with your camera, as a fellow lefty I did want to say hi to you but you looked busy so I left you to it.. I have an interview section on the Bassically Speaking column of the July 2016 Issue (with Stanlley Clarke on the cover) and I’ve gotten to know Joel very well too. Ellen O’Reilly and her Partner Sven are good friends of mine.
      Anyhow I digress, I found your wordpress page here and find it interesting. We both may be lefties but have a few differences of opinion on it I think lol.
      I went through pretty much the same thing I think (first bass was a converted righty which I had in 1989, quite symmetrical so easy to play, then switched to a proper lefty in 1991).. I used to get frustrated with the lack of choices, but in recent years I’ve discovered a few things that could have made my “struggle” a bit easier, including a few “converted righty” options that I’d even employ now. I’ll explain a bit more if you like?

  3. Then I must mention Gaskell Guitars out of Oz. The only company in the world (so far) that makes only left-handed instruments. It was a great delight to see in the comments for one of their guitars being reviewed on YouTube, that someone complained because they couldn’t get a right-handed model! “Now you know how WE feel” was the reply.

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