View Full Version : Left-Right...

Hawk Henries
Jun-25-2008, 03:27
As some of you may know I build and play Native flutes. I have done so for more than 19 years. When I began it seemed natural for me to place my left hand at the bottom(last three notes) and right hand (top three notes) at the top. This has been very comfortable even amidst peoples comments of my playing "backwards" :rolleyes:

Now that I am learning oboe my world is turned completely around :p as I have to play with right hand at the bottom.:eek::crazy::eek:

Really it has not been to difficult though in the beginning it felt like quite a workout for my brain especially if I was looking at my fingers while playing :crazy:

Has this happened to anyone? Which instruments?

Jun-25-2008, 03:28
Hawk - it wasn't until the late renaissance that left hand top right hand bottom became standardised with wind instruments. Prior to that time, it was pretty much flexible.

Hawk Henries
Jun-25-2008, 03:38
Do you think this was influenced by religion?

Jun-25-2008, 04:09
I have no idea, I'm not a musicologist. I assume it was purely "what happened". Modern man gets bored, picks up a piece of wood, drills a hole through its middle (no mean feat with their tools then), drills some holes in the sides and blows. After pacifying the wife, who says "cut that infernal noise out or I'll not change the straw in our bed for another season ..." He finally gets a pleasant enough sound. Hey presto! the prototype musical instrument is developed. I can't imagine renaissance man knowing too much about ancient grecian instruments as tomes were only available to monks (what a bloody waste).

Corno Dolce
Jun-25-2008, 04:28
Hello Hawk,

Imvho, I seriously doubt it had anything to do with a belief system. Methinks it was more of a question about ergonomics. Until somebody can produce a scholarly paper that unequivocally states it had to do with a belief system in regards to left-right placements of fingers, hands, holes and like, I'll stand by my statement.


CD :):):):):):):)

Hawk Henries
Jun-25-2008, 04:37
My question about religion arises from my experience as a child. For a short (very short) time the school I attended was run by nuns. Whenever I used my left hand especially for writing (I am left handed) they would smack it with a ruler and make a comment about it being the hand of satan or some such stuff. I believe this was a common belief among certain religions for quite some time.

BTW what is a tome?

Corno Dolce
Jun-25-2008, 04:49
Hello Hawk.

I greive with you that you had to endure such treatment during your early school years. When I went to Public Elementary School and during a Math Class I was asked to write a Math equation which I then got wrong, the teacher then yelled at me for being an F******idiot and dragged me to the Principal's office and said that I was a retard who didn't belong in his class. We have all suffered injustices at the hands of ignorant people both in secular and parochial establishments. Its not necessarily because of the religion of the school. A tome is another word for a book or collection of documents.


CD :):):):):):):)

Hawk Henries
Jun-25-2008, 05:12
CD I agree with you statement about suffering injustices but I think we might diverge where you say "Its not necessarily because of the religion of the school". Many schools were intent on "educating" (re-educating) based on their religous doctrines.

I do not think it coincidental that the evolution and standardization of musical instruments requires the right hand to be in control-dominant.

Gotta go to bed now...thanks for the discussion and I look forward to reading your response :):)

A quick search yielded this:

The left has become nearly universally shunned. The right has been associated with all things good and pure whilst the left has been shunned as unholy, evil and relegated to inferiority [Gregory 1987, Gooch 1984]. Although Gooch says that "the left is universally unlucky in the classical world", Gregory in the Oxford Companion to The Mind (http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0198662246/vexencrabtree) says that "this symbolism has pervaded nearly all cultures (except the Chinese)." "Ancient Greeks and Romans regarded the left side as inferior and profane, and in medieval times use of the left hand was associated with witchcraft" [Gregory 1987]. In New Zealand the Maoris considered the right side to be godly, representing life; the left side is dedicated to demons and the devil, representing death. Muslims believe good spirits speak into peoples' right ears, but evil spirits speak into the left. In medieval Europe the Devil is drawn with its left hand outstretched. Amongst North American Indians the right represents bravery and virility but the left signifies death and burial. In China you must eat with the right hand. The Nuer people of Africa, the Dutch Indies local native populations and many other old cultures bind the left arm to put it out of use 'for long periods', especially in the young and with left-handed people. Throughout the African continent the right is good and the left is evil. In some places wives should never touch their husbands' face with their left hand. The same patterns persist in South America: The right is good, is life, is divine but the left is female, bad, evil and morbid. Pythagoras set out in his Table of Opposites that the right hand side, male; lightness, was the opposite of the left hand side that was female, and darkness. Schools until recent decades used to "correct" (meaning: 'with the right') left-handed pupils.

Jun-25-2008, 05:30
I was also a left-handed kid in school until the teacher changed me in
the first grade and that changed everything. I believe that's why I had
such a hard time learning. I can write with both hands now. It just
feels a bit awkward but I can do it. As for my learning anything I find
it really hard to grasp even the most simple things. The easiest thing
I could take in a church class I flunked it. That was guitar which I
all ready know how to play with even a spanish flair if I wanted to.
judy tooley

Corno Dolce
Jun-25-2008, 05:31
I can entertain your opinion and appreciate where you are coming from. As I am ambidexterous I have never thought about right-hand dominant. When I practice music I always begin with the left-hand figurations. Solo line musical instruments can be constructed as to work with those who are left-handed. So, I don't necessarily buy into the the right-dominant theory. When checking the historicity about left-hand I note that Muslims eat with their right hand since the left hand is used for wiping their backside. In Paris one has the *Rive Gauche* = Left Bank. China has the concept of Yin and Yang. In Italian one has *Mano Sinistra* = Left hand. That being said, Public Schools also had/have their doctrines which quite often fail the student and causes him/her mis-development. At this point I shall stop with what can easily devolve into a public vs parochial school argument since we are readily served by other Fora who specialise in this politically infected argument.

So, there are cultural and religious antecedents about left and right but I'm leery about painting with too broad brush-strokes about the wrongness or rightness over how musical instrument constructon has developed. Earlier generations of instrument makers could simply have specialised in making instruments in a certain way. Since the earlier generations of music instrument makers are not living now to defend themselves, I shall not venture into criticising them.

Humbly and respectfully yours,

CD :):):):):):):)

ps. I note that R.L. Gregory is just the editor of the book. It is not a product of independently verifiable scholarly research by himself that has been peer-reviewed, so thusly I cannot put stock in it. Does he even propose a categorial remake of intellectual thought across the cultures of the world or is he content at just taking critical potshots? Does he represent some *master-race* we don't know about - one that is better than anyother - I'd sure like to know his reference group.

Jul-10-2008, 20:39
I've always been a wee bit envious of those folks who are ambidexterous. It seems like such a natural thing that it is a shame we can't all share that talent.

I remember when I was in first grade (I attended Catholic elementary school) and I erased an answer on a quiz. The nun, Sister Francisca (whom we were all still afraid of when we were in 8th grade, even though she was a tiny, old woman) came over to my desk (I always sat in the front row) and yelled at me for erasing without asking permission first and pulled me out of my desk by my ear and shoved me into the next row of desks.

Another time I was looking at her habit (whatever you call the box thingy they wore on their heads in the Franciscan order). It had a white cloth "box" worn on the head, over the amp. The long black veil was attached to the front of it and secured with two pins. She made me write on the blackboard 100 times, "I will not look at sister's pins."

For all the torment we received, I have to say that the quality of the education and discipline was well worth it as it developed character (and humility) and gave us a good and rounded education. When our family moved to Fort Lauderdale from New Jersey I wanted to attend public high school. The first 2 years in HS we were learning things that I was taught in the 6th grade.

It's a shame that teachers cannot discipline children nowadays. Ah well, at least I have "funny?" stories to tell about my youth now!


Jul-10-2008, 22:04
I can agree Cyber. I was paddled for even looking up at the teacher.
Back then they didn't know what ADD or ADHD was as a disorder.
I had it and I still have it.
judy tooley

Corno Dolce
Jul-10-2008, 22:10
Hi greatcyber,

Yes, I'm old enough to remember some teachers who were not afraid to enforce discipline. I've had my hair yanked and ears pulled or boxed a few times. I have not suffered lasting *damage* because of it - well, maybe my ego became bruised at the time. Many of todays students sass their teachers and show an utter lack of respect, which distracts from everybody's learning. Schools are to be for the edification of young minds but mischief and bad behavior have to be nipped in the bud immediately.

About 6 months ago there was a student in a computer science class I was taking at the local University. The professor's last name was Kwak. The student started to make fun of the prof's name(quack-quack) and after a few minutes the instructor yelled at the student and and asked the student to collect his things and leave.

The student refused at first and just sat there wondering why he was being *singled* out. Of course, there was no instruction that could be accomplished during the *melt-down* and people who are paying good money for the class were getting upset. After 15 minutes then the student left the class and the prof apologised for the distraction. I still can't believe that there are people of college age who resort to childish behaviour.


CD :):):)

Aug-09-2008, 12:30
It could be a sexist thing, you know men always being right had to be on top and this way women could not access the keys, just a thought:rolleyes:

Aug-11-2008, 23:58
The lower hand is the one that supports the weight of the instrument, thus it is logical to use the stronger hand for that.

Aug-13-2008, 00:30
The lower hand is the one that supports the weight of the instrument, thus it is logical to use the stronger hand for that.

What if you are left handed?

Oct-25-2008, 05:02
Getting back to Flutes, With a baroque Flute you can play left or right, the trouble started when they began to improve the instrument and fit key work, ending up with the modern Boehm Flute, but I know of no reason why one could not be converted for left hand.