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Left-Handers in Society

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m u s i c   t i p s

This section of TIPS is for beginning left-handed musicians! If you are an accomplised left-handed musician, please send specific constructive tips related to technique.

banjo | cello | Celtic harp | clarinet | drums | french horn | guitar | keyboard | oboe
piano | pennywhistle | recorder | saxaphone | trombone | violin

If you or your kid want to learn to play guitar left-handed, but don't want to fork over a lot of money to buy a special left-handed guitar until you know if you are serious, here's a suggestion. You can modify a cheap, used right-handed guitar by doing three things: (1) buy an old guitar with a floating bridge (the part that holds the strings up off the top of the guitar); if the bridge is glued to the soundboard (as most are) this will not work! Take the strings off and reposition the bridge 180 degrees, so that the grooves for the fattest strings are at the top. (If the small bridge at the top of the fretboard is floating, invert this as well). (2) The holes in the pegs may or may not be a problem. If you cannot fit the fattest bass string through the appropriate peg hole, make the hole larger, using a round file or metal drill. (3) Before you made permanent modifications to some old guitar with a floating bridge that you've found at a yard sale or pawn shop, make sure it isn't valuable! (e.g. like an old Gibson).

"If you're a left-hander considering learning guitar, don't assume you have to play it left-handed. In guitar (and bass) playing, left-handers can have an advantage depending on their ambidexterity. While right-handers will complain of the problems of fingering with their left hand, left-handers can pick up chords and complex fingering rather easily because it involves their coordinated hand. It's rhythm and picking that present a problem. This is where the Neil Young method comes into play. Neil himself has a coordination problem in his right hand and he (probably unconsciously) compensates for it by using the side of his hand as both an anchor and a rhythm guide, covering both problems. This gives that rhythmic muffled (and sometimes artistically sloppy) sound that he's famous for whether it's on electric or acoustic. However, if your goal is to play scales and lots of fast arpeggiated solos ala Malmsteen, or Vai, you're better off learning on a left-handed guitar."
Shawn Anderson, USA

"I am a 39-year-old lefty. When I decided to learn to play the guitar, I decided to learn right-handed. This was an entirely practical decision because right-handed guitars are easier to find. Even though I've been playing right-handed for 23 years, it feels less natural that way."

"I am a guitar player, and play a right-handed guitar. This is the only right-handed activity I partake in. The rason I chose to play right-handed (yes, I chose, because my first guitar was a left-handed guitar) is becuase it only made sense to me that my strong hand should be the one on the fretboard.
       Although classical fingerpicking is extremely difficult this way, doing Malmsteen type speed-scales and arpeggios, is infinately easier when your strong hand is doing the harder job of fingering 101 notes in 30 seconds. The right hand then is just tremelo picking, which is equally easy for both hands.
       This is ironic considering that one of my earliest idols, Jimi Hendrix, was also a lefty. His left-handed quitar playing style is just one of those things I didn't want to mimic."
K. Johansson, Toronto, CANADA

"As a lefty guitarist, teacher and part time publisher I know how difficult it is for children to read right-handed chord and scale diagrams... Problem solved I have written and published LEFTY a guitar chord and scale book in standard musical notation, tablature and left-handed fret board diagrams. See:

"I am a lefty that plays right-handed guitar. I chose to play it the "right" way, because it would be much easier for the tutor to instruct me on the same guitar, and I would be morecompatible as far as gear is conserned with the rest of the world. Ever since I began playing guitar, I found it very strange that so many people placed such emphasis on the difficulty of playing vibrato. Indeed, some guitarists are best noted for their unimmittatable vibrato technique. To me different vibrato speed, range and ultimately feeling was far more easier to accomplish as soon as my ear was tuned. Taking into account the amphodexterity that I was indirectly forced to aquire, my right hand is far from handicapped. That said, I believe that lefties playing right-handed guitar have what it takes to be better all-round guitar players. And we all know they have paid their dues (laugh)!"

"I am a 39-year-old lefty. When I decided to learn to play the guitar, I decided to learn right-handed. This was an entirely practical decision because right-handed guitars are easier to find. Even though I've been playing right handed for 23 years, it feels less natural that way."

"I have been playing a right-handed guitar for 10 years. However, I chose to play it left-handed without restringing it (i.e., upside down). This requires that you learn the chord fingerings upside down and strum in the opposite direction. This may sound very weird but it works great and allows you to produce a rather distinctive sound (especially if you strum it normally!). Learning to play guitar this way was not as difficult as you might think; in fact, some chords that right-handers consider difficult (like B and F) become significantly easier. Learning to play this was will allow you to play right-handed guitars without modifying them while still using your dominant hand for strumming. I would highly recommend learning guitar this way if you want to learn on own without professional instruction, and don't mind having people pointing at you in the guitar shops or on stage. I also learned banjo, but that required a left-handed neck because one string has a peg half way down the neck."
Innes Muecke, CANADA

Cool. Sub-artic, even.
M.K. Holder
"I am 16 years old and have played the guitar for about three years. Due to the lack of left-handed guitars, and the price diffrence, I chose to play right-handed. It is much more difficult learning, but after a little while I became use to it."
CiD Smithe, USA

"I'm playing left-handed guitar for five years now, but when I have to choose again, I'm going to learn right-handed guitar. It's not the problem with my guitar. Okay, they are more expensive and harder to find, but when you know the adresses, you can find them. It's the problem with somebody else's guitar. Almost everyone is playing right-handed (why, for me it's more difficult) but when someone has taken his guitar with him/her at for example a campfire, I can't play. I always have to bring my own guitar, that's the reason for me to learn right-handed guitar (in near future)."

"As a left guitarist who plays right-handed, I found that I've been able to play much faster by finger picking than by using a pick. I use my thumb to alternate on the bass and your other three fingers for the melody, as well as memorized picking patterns which allows me ignore my right hand altogether."

"I am a 17-year-old leftie who lives with five righties. They try to understand my frustration, but can never know my confusion between my directions because of my elementary Catholic school's hatred of my left preference. I take honors and AP classes and I have trouble completing the timed tests because of the structure. I also have been learning trombone for two years and I only found out that it was okay to use it the leftie way (on my right shoulder) after I had already learned the right way. Now I will never use my slide with the precision I could have had with my left hand. The only thing I have to show for my patience and adaptibility is that I can use a mouse (with my right hand) better than any other rightie I know."
Bernda Gaffney, USA

"Lefties in the music world are unaccomadated, even though we may be the top players. Even though you can play the trombone left-handed, they don't advise it, you may play bass trombones later, which are strictly right-handed (unless specially bought). Even left-hand conductors are told to use their right hand. But, fellow trombonist, you can always switch to french horn, which trips right handers today. I am a tuba and bass trombone player, and I am forced to use right-handed instruments."
Denise Pugh, Sacramento, California, USA

"I am a teenage lefty who plays 6 musical instruments -- I find pennywhistle and tenor recorder comfortable because the left hand is on top of the right. Celtic harp, too, is wonderful -- you're actually supposed to play the treble notes with your left hand. But whatever you do -- stay away from the violin!"
Lauren Dana

"I play folk music. I play hammered dulcimer. On that you lead with the left hammer. And its treble Bridge, where most melodies are played, is on the left.
    My first instrument was a Bowed Psaltery. Without a long explanation, its music comes from bowing strings tuned to individual notes: no fingering as on a fiddle. But my beloved wife thought she was doing me a favor by buying me a left-handed instrument. Now having learned to use a bow in my left hand, violins and fiddles are out of "play" for me, they ALL seem to be set up for right-handed players.
    I have always found fretted instruments bewildering. Guitars, banjos, mandolins used to be trouble. Until a lefty banjo player taught me that the real dexterity (how I despise that word!) on a banjo is required on the fretboard, where the left hand is. With that attitude adjustment, I tried a simple fretted instrument, the Mountain Dulcimer, and later the mandolin. I am now making progress on more conventional folk instruments."
Tim Nohe, USA

"I have a big problem. I am left-handed and I want to play the bass. The problem is, I only have half of my middle finger on my right hand (what would be my chord playing hand). So I just taught myself to play right-handed on my dad's guitar and soon it became easy."
Northcliff of The Plutioium Bellow Blowers, EUA

"I taught myself to play the piano without music at the age of twelve. For thirty years I've played on a semi-pro basis and have always considered my success as owing to my left-handedness. I've been chastised, ridiculed and the like for simply 'being' left-handed, but the unique adaption to the piano by emphasising my natural tendencies has given me a dimension of expression, style, and taste that is unique in the discipline of the instrument. I have won awards and a scholarship and I feel sure the judges were listening to the talent of the left hand, so different from how most music is written or comprehended. I would like to hear from left-handed teachers that may have recognized left-handed musicians as more than standard drills, runs, and exercises as taught on a right-handed basis. Should I have taken formal training I feel completely that I would not have accomodated my needs of self-expression, talent and ability. It is not the instrument that plays, it's me."
Aaron Irwin, USA

"I am now sixteen and play the clarinet. The clarinet is a wonderful instrument for the left hand because the first notes that you learn on it is with the left hand. It took me four years to find it (with many intstruments in between). I have played the violin, flute, and trumpet. They all gave me problems because of my handedness (especially the violin) and so I quit. Then I was introduced to the clarinet and it has been great."
I. Adler, USA

"When I began violin lessons at the age of eight, my mother asked the teacher if my left-handedness would be a problem. He said of course not, on any string instrument (violin, viola, cello, string bass, guitar, banjo, ukelele, etc.), it is the left hand that has the more difficult job requiring more dexterity. He must have been right - I had no problem learning the violin, or any other string instrument for that matter."
Sally W., USA

"I have been a drummer for over 25 years. It was difficult enough being a female drummer no less a left-handed drummer! But I learned a long time ago that if I ever was going to be able to sit in and play with other musicians and jam, I would have to play open. That is, I would not be crossing my right hand over my left to play the hi-hat while my left played the snare drum. I play the hi-hat with my left, and the snare with my right hand. You just can't sit in with other musicians and rearrange their drum kit! This does take some other adjustments in regards to what hand plays what drum, but you can readily learn to adjust. Good luck all you fellow lefty drummers!"
Mercy, USA

"As a musician, I have found that it is quite an advantage to be left-handed. When playing the drums, a south paw has a great advantage, because the extra wrist and hand strength. Most accents fall on the left hand, so it is much easier to gain the exta power. Also, usually lefty's also get really strong right wrists in an effort to compromise for the left hand. Guitar, violin, and bass supply similar advantages. While they require lots of agility in the left hand, the right hand is left to the menial task of picking and bowing, which requires less coordination."
Denise Deems, USA

"As a left-handed drummer, I have found it very discouraging to sit in with other musicians (i.e., gigs). It's easy to suggest playing open-handed if your idea is to just play basic rock grooves. Piece of cake. But it sure doesn't help if the idea is to show your best playing ability. Such as a heavily syncopated, four way independent type feel. Playing open handed when you have studied for many years in the traditional form can be quite frustrating. Make your decision at the beginning to adapt to a right-handed setup. Save yourself the hassles in the long run."
Kyle A., USA

"Don't change your instrument to suit your left-handed needs, it will just make it harder in the long run. It will make your right hand stronger."
Anonymous, AUSTRALIA

"As a left-handed string player, I question the idea that stringed instruments have a right-handed bias, though the traditional methods of teaching stringed instruments certainly do. While lefties are at a disadvantage for things like picking or bowing, these movements are fairly uniform and relatively easy to pick up even with your "off" hand; the really difficult movements involve things like chord construction, large intervallic leaps, or long streams of slurred notes... all dominated by the left hand if you play in the conventional manner. I'm pretty strongly left-handed, but when I picked up the guitar it never even occurred to me to turn it around; it seemed obvious that my strong hand should be doing the fretwork.

Another instrument with a pro-lefty bias is the saxophone. The keys that give most players fits are the palm keys (for the uppermost range of the instrument) and the "Bb cluster" controlling the lowest notes; both are played with the left hand and are therefore much easier to get under control if you're left-handed.

Drum kits can easily be set up in reverse, with the hi-hat on the right, but many left-handed drummers leave the kit in the right-handed arrangement and just uncross their hands to play. (The latter won't work if your left foot is strongly dominant, though; you have to rearrange the kit, or buy extra equipment, to operate the bass pedal with your left foot.)"
Anonymous, USA

"I've been playing the clarinet and saxophone for quite some time. I have found that being a "lefty" has had a particuluar advantage with the clarinet. The E-flat in the middle register for the clarinet can only be played one way (with the right hand). However, when repeating a certain phrase which ends on this E-flat, I have found it convenient to switch to the left-handed position (for the note before the E-flat). There's something a lot of right-handers would have a hard time with."

"I play oboe and while like other woodwinds, the left hand is on top and is the hand one first learns fingering with, my problem came with reedmaking. Oboe reeds are all made by hand and when one gets good enough, one is expected to start making reeds by hand. This involves tying a piece of cane to a prepared "staple" (a piece of cork with a tube inside that the cane is tied to) and then scraping or whitling the piece of cane down in a precise manner. The knife used is a specialized beveled blade that must be sharpened either right- or left-handed. Fortunately, all major reed supply catalogues carry left-handed knives, and learning to scrape is reed isn't all that difficult even if one is being taught by a rightie. The trick comes with sharpening the knife on a whetstone or sharpening stick. When I first learned and then re-learned a few years later, it took me and my instructor about half and hour to reverse the sharpening process. Not a huge hinderance but certainly a small challenge in reed-making."
Deb, USA

"I am a 16-year-old left-hander who plays the trombone. When I first learned to play trombone in the sixth grade, I was instructed to hold it on my left shoulder, as is standard practice. Although I had some problems early with slide precision, the biggest problem is the extremely odd feeling that accompanies holding a trombone in one's left hand in the proper fashion. By now however it has become a natural feeling, and has actually helped me in being able to support the instrument during long performances and while marching. In some ways, I believe my left-handedness has helped me rise to my position as first chair trombonist at my school."
Chris, USA

"I am a left-handed trombone player who has played for three years (I'm 13). For any of you beginners, take it from an "expert": play right-handed. I swear. I started right-handed and later tried to play left-handed. Well... it didn't work. Believe me, after a while, it feels totally natural. Oh, and a tip, whether you're left OR right handed: when you share a music stand with someone, sit on the LEFT, not the right. That way, when you look at your music, you're free to extend your slide on the left side, PLUS, the music won't be blocked bt the bell. Of course, don't tell this to the person you're sharing a stand with. Then, they'll want to sit on the left side, too!"

"I am a bass trombone player in college. I have never had trouble sliding with the right hand, though I can't play any other instruments because of the awkwardness. I think that trombone would be the easiest of the right-handed band instruments to play because it doesn't take as much cordination as moving your fingers does. Also, when using the triggers, I think lefties have an advantage because they are used by the left hand."
Shawna Prested, USA

"I contemplated programming a MIDI keyboard to make it behave like a leftie keyboard (this can't be difficult to do) but never got down to the actual programming. This might be an interesting exercise for someone, or someone might already have done it. If someone is reprogramming a keyboard to be left-handed, or has done so, I'd like to know."

Next time you request that folks "let you know", you might consider leaving both your name and your e-mail address... Also, please note that this page does not function as a message board, general query, or chat room - try posting queries to the alt.lefthanders newsgroup (and see next comment for interest).
M.K. Holder

"I want a left-handed piano so I can learn how to play it...."
Carol, USA

s p o r t s   t i p s
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This section of TIPS is for left-handed sports! If you are an accomplised left-handed athlete or coach, please send specific constructive tips related to technique. Check your local library for left-handed manuals (see Diana 1972 in the bibliography for brief, illustrated sports tutorials.)

baseball | boomerang | cards | coaching | cricket | equestrian | figure skating | fishing
flag corps | golf | marksmanship | racket sports | racquetball
softball | track | volleyball | water polo | wrestling

"Something as simple as playing a game of cards is confusing to the left-handed child. If you fan the cards out naturally left-handed, the numbers dissapear. The child must learn by themselves how to overcome this quickly, or they don't get to play."
Jim Hettenhouse, USA

"Even in the seventies and eighties there weren't enough lefty scissors, and girls field hockey was hell with a right-handed stick! Remember we're out there."
Anonymous, CANADA

"I am a lefty, high school student who helps out with the younger volleyball team. Trying to teach them how to serve or hit opened my eyes to really how difficult it must be for righties to teach lefties. As a lefty, I am more aware of the problem than most righties so I was prepared with the "mirror image" method, but many righties do not recognize the need to change methods for a lefty."
Sarah Radford, USA

"I'm a lefty but when I began wrestling I never bothered to tell the coach. Therefore my first two years I was really confused; don't be afraid to speak up and let people know of your left-handedness."
Ron, USA

Coaches out there: ask your team at the first meeting if there are any left-handers; give lefties the proper training, and use them as your secret weapons (it's amazing how many right-handed opponents get disoriented facing a leftie)!

"I'm a 17-year-old male in high school. I always like sports, but I was never that great at them. I believe that's because I was forced to use my right hand and play the way right-handers played. If I were able and taught to play like a left-hander I believe I would be great at sports. I would like to advise educators, especially those who teach K - 3rd grade to encourage possible left-handed students..."
Josh Bellew, USA

COACHES:  "Now that the baseball season has officially begun for our children, I would like to remind all coaches to remember your left-handed players. A lot of the drills that you do are right-hand oriented. For a little kid this can be very confusing."
Jean Hymes, Buffalo, NY, USA

"As a boy, I remember being a better second baseman than another child, but I was left-handed. I believe the coach felt foolish putting a southpaw at second base. I was relegated to right field with the daisies."
Anonymous, USA

"I have found that as a left-handed softball/baseball player, the tendancy is to hit to the 'wrong' side of the field. Most coaches realize this and have their players watch extra carefully for this when a lefty comes to bat. My advise is to hit a little late, putting the ball where the right-handed batter would usually put it. This will usually get you on base.
       Lefties also seem to get walked more, because the right-handed pitchers get confused when the boundaries change because we are on the opposite side of the plate."
S. Niemann, USA

"Volleyball: A left-hander is always best hitting on the right side (weak side). When faced with hitting on the strong side, it is best to line up on the inside of the set and move to the outside always keeping your shoulders parallel to the net. Make a sure look down the line, and keep the cross as a second option always because it is the easiest to readjust to. "

"My sport is competition boomerang throwing. Left-handed throwers require special mirror-image boomerangs (relative to right-handers). Due to the oddities of physics, left-handed boomerangs circle from left-to-right whereas right-handed boomerangs travel right-to-left. This is interesting in itself but there is a cultural bias included. At tournaments throwers stand in groups on the side away from returning boomerangs. Unfortunately, this is where left-handed boomerangs are returning (and visa versa). Result: left-handed throwers are tolerated, but not particularly popular at tournaments."
Ken Farr, CANADA

"I am totally left-handed.... I learned to cope, i.e. fishing, just turn the reel upside down and reel backward. I still have trouble giving directions left and right, I just tell people to watch which way I'm pointing - that is always correct. I only have verbal trouble with it. Door handles are bad. I often bark my knuckles because the handle is too close to the door, same with screen doors, only with them I tend to get my fingers caught and bent backward when I try to let go of the handle. Being a lefty tends to make a person be inventive to stay in one piece and not get too frustrated."
Shari Milks, USA

"I am a 25-year-old left-hander who is compensating well in a right-handed world, I played the violin, cello and french horn with enjoyment. I also participated in Winterguard (a.k.a. color guard or flag corps) twirling a sabre, since the movements must be uniform thoughout the group, there no way to "express" your handedness, I was constantly throwing from the wrong rotation and twirling the wrong direction from observing from the mirror image. Once we figured out I could replicate movements from observing side by side (I knew what my hands were doing but not theirs) the movements became much more fluent. As far as stringed instruments go, the cello was much more enjoyable to play be cause I feel the fingerboard is less antagonistic to the natural position and strength of the left hand."
Julie Yeater, Toledo, Ohio, USA

"LH Raquetball players: Practice RH play until your just good enough to fool your opponent during warm-ups, then switch to your natural hand for the match. The first game is yours, guaranteed. Of course, this only works once with each guy."

"Similar to the racquetball tip, don't tell your opponent that you are left-handed. Due to the fact that most opponents will be right-handed, we get used to playing against them. Being left-handed means that for all racket sports such as tennis, squash and table tennis for example, the ball will get to them at differing angles and with differing spin. Let the opponent work it out for themselves. Sport is as much in the mind as the body. God gave you an advantage so use it."

"I am a runner and I always get confused when we do form drills. Is there anyway that I can remember what hand to lead with, I have tried everything."
Michele, USA

"I've tried several sports, but only one with success. Running. Still, even in this rather unbiased sport, there are problems. If you are left-footed, start with that, your right leg back and your left arm forward. (Almost everyone, including confused lefties, start with their left arm back.) This will help your momentum at the start. Also, on a track for distance events, pump your left arm less on the curves. This will waste less energy because your momentum will be helping you turn, rather than fighting against it."
Mike Inkmann, Western Illinois Univeristy distance runner, USA

"I have generally always felt privileged to be left-handed, particularly in the sporting arena. The one exception to this is in figure skating where I prefer rotating (both spins and jumps) in a clockwise direction. This is generally opposite to the other members of any group I have been in. This... makes it slightly more dangerous, since you're always moving in the opposite direction to the flow of people doing approaches to jumps, spins, etc."
Heather Laundry, USA

"I am taking golf lessons and unfortunately I am being instructed by a right-handed instructor (not by choice). I have to remember when he says right I use left. There are great instructional golf books out there. Again, the majority are for right-handed persons."
Jerry Clarke, Nova Scotia, CANADA

"I'm 14, male and left-handed. I play golf and I have not been able to find any books or magazine, or videos to help me with my game."
Nick Buschur, Ohio, USA

"In softball or baseball, DO NOT, as advised here, try to hit to the opposite field. Learn to pull the ball hard -- right at the first baseman. In school and playground leagues, he's usually a klutz (unless he's a lefty). Ted Williams batted left, never hit to the off field -- not even once, batted .344 lifetime and hit 521 home runs. That despite Lou Boudreau putting on the Williams shift."
Ric (Lefty) Teague, USA

"In team sports, lefties can be a great advantage. As a water polo player, my coaches quickly took advantage of my left hand. My left-handedness allowed me to score very easily from the right side of the pool which is usually considered a weak side. This gave my entire team a great advantage. Lefties can give a competitive edge to any soccer, basketball, vollyball, or water polo team provided their coaches know how to use them and train them."
Anonymous, USA

"Like many left-handers I am also left-eyed, but ended up right-armed and right-legged. This means when I throw a ball I must judge where two lines (line-of-sight and line-of-throw) must cross at a distance instead of simply keeping the two lines parallel as when your dominant eye and arm match. The sooner you realize what the difficulty is the sooner you will master your aim!"
John Heaney, USA

"Coaches:  Most of the time you need not try to do things left-handed for the 1 or 2 leftys on your team. Especially as the age groups get older. Most of us leftys can figure out how to do things with a righty teaching us."
Tom Smith, USA

Coaches, assume nothing. Just ask the left-handers on your teams whether or not they are having trouble, and proceed accordingly.
M.K. Holder

"I have been helping to coach young girls' softball for a few years. I have only had experience with a few left-handed players. At a recent game a grandparent complained about their left-handed grandaughter playing shortstop. The child has good control when throwing the ball... (As much as can be expected, our girls are between the ages of 5 and 8). The grandfather claims to have vast experience with coaching and claims that no self respecting coach would use a left-handed player at short. He says she should be playing second base!?! At this point our coaches feel that it is a matter of development, as the young girl needs to be able to understand the basics and pay attention to all the plays before she is put in a base position. Although I have some confidence that the girl will not continue to play short for the rest of her softball playing years, I also believe that pertains to anyone playing any position in any sport at the age of 6. I guess my question is, is there a major faux pas being committed by our coaches by putting a left-handed player in the position of short stop? Or is this just a sidelined parent problem?"
Charlotte, USA

"I am a left softball player, and I know that I have an advantage over most people when I bat. I'm walked more often because pitchers aren't used to pitching to me, and I am closer to first base. I have beat out many ground balls because I am so close to first. Also, I have a great advantage at first base. However, I am discriminated against. I was told that I could never play shortstop. My dad is left-handed, and he was a great short stop. I used to be a pitcher, and I had a great advantage because lefty softball pitchers are rare. Because the ball comes out of the other side, the batter is confused, and the ball curves differently. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't play a certain position because you are left-handed because if you can get to the ball faster, you are better for the position."
Jennifer Miller, USA

"I am a 16-year-old left-handed baseball player. Being left-handed has allowed me a unique advantage in the game of baseball. Although playing shortstop, third base, right field, and catcher are pretty much closed to lefties at the competitive level because it takes more time to throw from these positions. However, lefties almost always enjoy preference over right-handers at first base provided they have equal or better skills. This holds true in pitching also. But the most useful place a lefty has on the baseball diamond is at the plate. Throwing a lefty in your lineup kind of spooks right-handed pitchers a little, because they are harder to pitch to. Also, you can learn to switch hit like I do and really mess with their heads!"
Chris, USA

"My family shoots competitively at a gun range. It is a family sport, but I have had a hard time adjusting to do it my way. If a left-hander is going to take up this sport they need to look for good quality performance gear that is ambidextrous and I would encourage them to make their gun ambidextrous. My dad had my gun changed so now I can drop a magazine and flip the safety quickly and safely. For equipment, not all holsters are ambidextrious, so watch out. Buy carefully. I would also encourage lefties to try out a gun style before getting it made ambidextrous. After my dad got my .45 redone for me, I found other guns that I like a lot more over that one, but I don't want to have him pay to get it fixed too...."
Laura Wickre, USA

"Equestrian events, a.k.a. horseback riding, is one of the few sports where handedness doesn't matter. One uses left and right sides of the body equally. In fact, it has helped me a lot with my overall balance as I use my left hand for everything and my left leg is slightly stronger than my right. With my work in dressage, I have to be balanced and use each leg equally or else my horse doesn't go the way that I want her to."
Deb, USA

"If you are a fencer, TELL your coach you are left-handed. It is a great advantage to you as you can hit target areas denied to right-handers, and it throws some right-handers off balance when they find themselves facing a left-hander."
Madeline Campion, Montreal, CANADA

"I have found that playing basketball is much easier if you are left-handed. When you shoot, the other player will swat at your right hand: easy lay-up!"
Chad, USA

I am a 26-year-old left-handed cricketer. It is widely known that left-handed bowlers are hard to be put away when bowling to right-handed batsmen. In a game I was playing I bowled 22 overs/12 maidens/6 wickets/24 runs.It is also widely known that right-handed bowlers dislike left-handed batsmen because they have to change their line and length."
Anonymous, AUSTRALIA

See Diana 1992 in the bibliography for tips on golf, tennis, bowling, and baseball.

d a i l y   l i f e
d a i l y   l i f e
r o u t i n e   s t u f f

Looking for places to buy left-handed items? A left-hander on-line maintains a long list of vendors (thanks Janis!)

As inane as this little rhyme sounds, it does help one remember which direction screws, threaded nuts, lightbulbs, etc. turn (clockwise vs. counterclockwise):
righty tighty, lefty loosey
(The exception to this rule is the threading of bottled gas regulators, which rotate counterclockwise for safety reasons.)
Thanks to an anonymous contributor

"When I was learning left and right when I was young I was told "The "right" hand is the one you "write" with." This was supposed to make it easier to remember, however, since I'm left-handed this totally confused me. I still have problems telling left from right because of this."
Tara, USA

"Three-ring binders are a little talked about, but frequent source of irritation. Writing in a three-ring binder requires a lot of hand and arm bending just to produce the worst of handwriting!"
Bill Morris, USA

"Just a small tip to university, college, and high school students: I have had much trouble working with three ring binders, until one of my profs showed me a little trick. It takes some getting used to, but it makes things a whole lot easier. Start from the back of the binder, and work on the other side of the page."
Mark Miller, CANADA

"I have found that the combination of a 3-ring binder and loose-leaf notebook paper is a good combination for classrooms with "fold up" desks on the right-hand side. Take the paper out of the binder, and use the binder as a slanted (toward you) extension of the desk. The combination of the extension and the slant can make writing much easier."
Greg Dickinson, USA

"My solution for using those horrible right-handed desk/chair combos and not injure myself with a 3-ring binder while I was in school was to keep paper upside down in a clipboard (so that the metal clip was at the bottom of the pages). That way the top and left edges were free from painful obstructions."

"I am a left-handed teacher and wince to see other left-handers try to write with a contorted hand. When I was taught how to write, my teacher tried to have me assume the same position in order to make my writing appear slanted to the right. I also had to tilt my paper to the left which made me curl my arm even further! I was always uncomfortable and ended up with severe writer's cramps.
        My suggestion: left-handers should do just as right handers do: arm is relaxed and straight and tilt their papers to the RIGHT! So what if the writing is a little more vertical for a left-hander this way? At least they'll be relaxed, won't cramp up AND write for longer periods of time. It's certainly worked for me!"
W. Brick, Ontario, CANADA

"I find that spiral bound notebooks that are bound at the top of the notebook work really well for me. My hand nevers rubs on it and never have a problem with it."

"My husband, a natural left-hander forced by parents and teachers to use his right hand, cannot distinguish left from right. Interestingly enough, one day when he was with my sister as navigator, she gave directions as "hang a Ralph" for "turn right" and "hang a Lou" for "turn left", and he was able to follow her directions perfectly!"

"I have never been able to tell left from right but I do know cardinal directions well, even in strange cities. If you can use E,W,S,N, you can 1) intimidate the people who don't even know where the sun rises, and 2) never worry about giving the wrong direction no matter which end of the street someone comes from. After all, right or left is subject to where you stand, but cardinal directions never change. But when I have to give my non-cardinal-oriented husband directions in the car, I just use "your side" or "my side"!"
Mary Lowe, USA

"As a leftie I never could give directions as to turn left, right, etc. I would always get them mixed up. My mom taught me a trick that has helped some, when I give intructions I look at my hand and the one that makes the L with your middle fore-finger and thumb is left. I know it sounds crazy, but I'm 21 and I still have to use it!"
Catheirne D., Texas, USA

"Although I took to school like a duck to water, I was the last child in my class to learn to read a clock, because I went the wrong way around the clock face. I have taught lefties with the same problem to read a clock easily by a simple trick. Place your left and right hands in front of you, touching and side-by-side. Turn them, as if you were turning a door knob. The left hand turns counter-clockwise and the right clockwise. Tell the student that clocks are right-handed. The student's own hands can tell him or her which way the hands on the clock move."
Anonymous, CANADA

When making posters for projects or notices, I've found that in order to use markers without smearing the ink, putting a piece of paper underneath your left hand while writing keeps the ink from getting all over your hand. And if you know what you're going to say, consider using the left-handed ingenuity and writing from right to left!!"
Sarah A. Lonnevik, USA (bubbles@texoma.com)

"As a father of five right-handed young adults, the problem of a left-handed parent teaching them became a mirror image of the normal parent child relationship. After some experimentation, I arrived at the idea of the mirror image rather than side by side training. For example, I taught my sons to tie a [neck]tie by standing in front of them and pretending to be a mirror rather than the traditional over-the-shoulder method."
Martin Powers, USA

"Teaching basic skills to left-handers can sometimes be very trying because many things are seen backwards by the child. Facing a child to demonstrate can sometimes be easier if both of you imagine that you are looking in a mirror. If that doesn't work, ask a fellow lefty to teach the skill. Most left-handers are very willing to help because they have been there at one time or another."
Jeff Swander, USA

"I have 3 children, my husband and I are both left-handed and we both went through the regular routine... how do I raise my 3 right-handed kids? No one ever cared about us."

My advice is a double negative: invert the advice given here for right-handed parents of left-handed kids. To wit: get a right-handed friend or family member to help, try the mirror image routine, etc.
M.K. Holder

"I... have a very pronounced ability to transpose and mirror information to perform a task in a left-handed nature when it is demonstrated with the right side dominating. That is to say the "handedness" of a demonstration appears to have no impact on my ability to mimic it."
Laundry Heather, USA

Even though many contributors to this page have advocated the use of "pretend you are looking in a mirror" demonstration techniques for teaching opposite handed children, it is important to note that this is certainly not the best technique for all left-handers (see preceeding comment)! Try different stategies and use whichever one works best for you.
M.K. Holder

"Left handers are not just "mirror images" of right handers, because they are forced to write right-handed text. My hand dragged across my writing, causing it to be very messy, and was put in a "penmanship class" for having "bad" handwriting.Suggestion: Don't sweat the penmanship; encourage typing.
      Also, the "left handed" student desks are useless for "upside down" lefties [i.e. inverted writing]. In school I usually got around this by putting one desk in front of me (to rest my hand) while I wrote on a "right handed" student desk (the type with the table attached to the chair). Suggestion: Don't use the table/chair combo for lefties, allow them a full desk.
      Spiral bound books are very difficult for lefties. Actually, for upside down lefties any spiral bound book (left or right bound) is difficult to use. Suggestion: Loose leaf folders allow (upside down) lefty to write with good support for his/her hand when the paper is out of the folder."
Bruce K. H. Kau, USA

"I was pleased when I found out that the mouse [on my computer] could be easily converted to being left-handed. We run the Windows 93 program.... by going into the control panel and clicking on mouse, we can easily change the mouse from right-handed to left-handed.... If you want to really drive the family crazy, change the mouse and don't tell them how to change it back, they really learn respect for lefties using a computer in a hurry!!"
Anonymous, USA

"When as a college student, I was confronted with those postage-stamp sized tablet-arm desks on the right, I brought a legal sized clip board to class, turned it upside down and clamped it to the desk. This extended the writing surface farther to the left and made it easier to take notes. In my work I sometime have to take notes where there is no desk. I use a clip board with a writing pad. When it is time to write I reposition the paper so that the clip is on the right side of the paper (the board and paper are at right angles.) This puts the clip out of the way of my hand which is above the line and it also creates an arm rest to the left of the paper. If I fill up the whole sheet I have to reposition the clip once or twice since the paper is hanging off the side of the board."
Erick Lorenz, USA

d i a g n o s e   t h i s !
d i a g n o s e   t h i s !
d i a g n o s e   t h i s !

This section is to help physicians better diagnose medical problems specific to living left-handed in a right-biased world, and to better serve left-handed patients. If you've experienced medical problems due to right-biased infrastructure, BRIEFLY describe your specific experience.

"I recently broke my ankle, which required the use of a plate and screws to realign the bone. As the break was healing, one of the screws started to bother me. The Dr. suggested "friction massage" using a circular motion. Without thinking about it, I proceeded to rub counter clockwise, loosening the screw and causing more damage. After 4 months, the Dr. had to remove the hardware because I started to damage the nerve. Fortunately, everything is fine now."
Cathy, USA

"There is an absolute pausity of left-handed surgical instruments availiable..."
Patrick Flynn D.V.M., USA

"I am a surgical resident (physician training to be a surgeon). I am often forced to dissect, suture, etc. with my right hand, as it is too "awkward" to teach me to operate with my left hand. In order for me to operate with my dominant hand, the entire O.R. must be re-arranged (e.g., everyone has to stand on the opposite side of the table to what is "normal". LH instruments are too expensive and it is impractical to have them sterilized for the cases on which I scrub. I have received terrible scores in technical abilities, except from the ONE LH attending surgeon here. A few RH attendings have even suggested that LH residents be forced to train for an additional year so we can better learn to operated in the RH fashion!"
Anonymous M.D., USA

Medical School Administrators:  Is the above how you'd like *your* hospital policy toward training left-handed surgeons described? Consider implimenting policy and set-ups that accomdate both left-handed physicians and left-handed patients.

Patients:  If your surgeon is left-handed, you might ask if s/he uses left-handed impliments...
M.K. Holder

"When I was about ten, I had to go to the hospital to get my appendix removed. All went well until I woke up and found the IV in my left hand. I couldn't draw or color because the IV would stick me! Be sure to tell the doctors that you're left-handed and that they need to put the IV in your right hand."
Anonymous, USA

"I recently was in the hospital and when the nurse came to take blood for testing, she didn't ask me which hand, she just picked up the left and went at it. As a result of the nurse not asking, I couldn't use my left hand to write for a week and a half after that, and it hurt constantly because I would forget and try to use it for simple tasks. I had to take a tape recorder into my classes at college because there was no way for me to take notes. Make sure you find out the handedness of someone before you insert a needle into a side of their body. The same thing happens to my grandmother who is also left-handed."
Anonymous, USA

"A problem I have found is the distinct change in blood pressure between my left and right arms. I have had one doctor ask my handedness, in order to place the band on the 'proper' arm. I can't remember how different the blood pressure is and in what direction, but my doctor has advised me not to set any store in those machines at drug stores. If you have blood pressure that seems weird to you, insist on it being done on your left arm."
S. Niemann, USA

"This is a quick hint for eye doctors. For years when putting in my contact lenses I did exactly as the doctor said. I put the right contact in first. The problem was that this was unnatural for me and I was always getting my lenses mixed up. One day I began putting the left one in first and I have not been plagued with this problem since. "
basson_c@hotbot.com, USA

"When examining a patient with a problem to either of their arms DO NOT assume that they are right-handed. I don't know how manty times that I have been to the doctor with a problem on my left arm or hand and been told it was a good thing that it was to my left and not right because I could still write. Actually I couldn't still write, and had trouble siging papers in the ER because my left hand was bandaged up. "
Anonymous, USA

"Please refer to the Thyroid Foundation of America, Inc. for information regarding an apparent constellation of traits in some left-handed dyslexic individuals. Thyroid disorders such as Grave's disease seem to be correlated with premature gray hair in the families of these people. I became aware of this work by Lawrence C. Woods, MD, FACP while looking for information about my thyroid trouble (Grave's) and was quite surprised as the above attributes of my family and myself were exactly descibed. From my perspective, the impact of the "layering" of frustration acumulating due to "defects" in handedness, learning style, and emotional response over the course of my forty year life has been perhaps my largest "health" issue. It is my hope that any physicians dealing with left-handed patients (especially children) will be able to utilize the above referenced information to assist them in not overlooking what can be an important feature of their health and wellbeing. "
J.D.J.M.Kovarik@att.net, USA

"After years of using right-handed desks, I started to develop muscle spasms around the shoulder blade area. In college, my back was always in constant pain until I started to take notes on my lap and use left-handed desks when possible. This allowed my left arm to rest preventing the strain caused from having no arm rest. Five years after college, I still have some problems, but I have learned some excercises and better ways to relieve the desk plague syndrome."
Dan Harwell, USA

"As a college student having to use those infamous right-handed desks, I can attest to the serious back pain they caused me from contorting my body to sit and write. This happened after only two months of using these desks. After locating a left-handed desk, which was no easy task, I began using only left-handed or full desks and noticed my back pain quickly subsided..."
P.J., Texas, USA

"D uring high school and college, I often found myself twisted around the right-handed desks attempting to find a comforatble position to write in. I do believe that this has contributed to the serious lower back pain that I have experienced since I was 16 years old. "
Karen, USA

"Alack of left-handed accessible desks has caused me throughout my undergraduate (at Texas A&M University) as well as graduate work (SHSU). I have chronic back, shoulder, and neck problems which I believe are somehow related to the "twisted" position I (a left-hander) am forced to sit in in order to have a hard surface to write on. I have been known to take up two desks if they are close enough together (and not mounted to the floor) in order to access a right-handed desk mount from the left. However, this also causes back, shoulder, and neck strain because I am having to lean farther to the left than is natural."
Jennifer E. Welch-Spencer (rgs0497@unix.tamu.edu ), USA

p u r p o s e   o f   w e b  p a g e
p u r p o s e   o f   w e b  p a g e
r a i s o n   d' ê t r e

The objective of this website is to communicate accurate information and simple coping strategies pertainent to left-handers living in a right-biased society.
The author is a biological anthropologist who does primary research into handedness. This site is collaboratively built, incorporating comments from left-handers worldwide. I ask that comments be directed to a certain topic (for this page, tips useful for left-handed pursuit of music, sports, and daily life).
Left-handed musicians and athletes, please help make this resource more valuable by adding suggestions for how to master your instrument or sport (be specific!). If you know left-handers who are struggling to learn, pass this URL on to them:


speedo textsurfer, eh?

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NOTE:  Unsolicted mail is answered once a month. Please do not ask for help with homework, see instead my online Research Guide or or this page's bibliography.

LAST UPDATE:  17 January 2000