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Left-handed student

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  • #16
    Re: Left handed student

    In Northern Ireland, there is a small but noticeable number of really good players that play right-hand-on-top but bag under left arm.

    It looks funny, and it's not the most ergonomic thing in the world, but they make it work. You do have to adjust blowpipe length and such for the ergonomics to be feasible, but it can work.

    However, if it were me, I would just stick with top hand coinciding with bag arm. You'll have to communicate with vendors more, to be sure that you get a reverse-hole-cut bag, but other than that there's nothing all that annoying about it.

    Massed bands suck no matter what, and your student will be more recognizable. So, maybe that can be harnessed into a positive.
    Serving Jello with a ladle since... forever


    • #17
      Re: Left handed student

      Originally posted by jackhawkpiper97 View Post
      but they make it work.

      The trouble with these things is you see the ones that work; you don't see the ones that had to give up the instrument because a crooked wrist led to chronic pain while playing.
      -- Formerly known as CalumII


      • #18
        Re: Left handed student

        A couple of thoughts occur to me ... spurred by previous comments.
        When teaching a left handed person, from the very beginning ... as teachers, are we doing them a service, or a disservice, by allowing them to play right hand on top? I think an argument can be made for both. Individuality, and nature vs nurture definitely play a role. However, uniformity (for the players benefit - no one else) also plays a role. I *think* if it were me, I would do my very best to have the left handed person learn right handed. Failing that, if there were no other option, I would allow the left handed play. Apparently though, that ship has already sailed and it's now time to pick up the pipes.
        If the right hand has to be on top, or is on top and that can't be changed, I would lobby for the bag to be under the right arm - mirror image. Think of the angle of your arms when you play (if you're right handed). Your left arm (top hand) runs roughly parallel to the ground. Your right arm points more so toward the ground. The left arm plays a part in supporting the bag. Also, it's close to the chanter stock, so minute pressure adjustments are easier to make on the fly, for the top hand notes, which need those adjustments more often than bottom hand notes. I just think ergonomically speaking that the top hand should be attached to the arm that helps support the bag - better control.
        It's a life long passion we're passing on. People will do this thing we call piping (hopefully) until the day they die. It's very important that we give people the tools to do this thing in the easiest and most economical fashion. Short term pain for the learner will pay large dividends for that same player down the road, and for the rest of their life. Sure, almost every obstacle can be overcome, and yes we need to encourage diversity and creativity. That though has to be balanced with solid and proven methods, so we can make the learners road an easier one. Sometimes in the long run, the easiest thing to do is ... do it the way it should be done! I sound like such a stodgy old tyrant, but sometimes that's the best!
        There's only nine notes ... how hard can it be?


        • #19
          Ok, it's time for me to chime in here. All the comments so far are by people that have opinions, but no personal experience. I play bag on left, right hand on top. So yes, although I'm righthanded, I play left handed. I tried hard when I first started, but could not manage to play left on top, it just wasn't working. I haven't found it any great problem, though, and I play just fine. My birls are sharp and crisp, even though it's technically the weakest finger on the non-dominant hand. I'm Grade 4, I compete solo and in band, and except for a few odd looks, no issues. If the student is more comfortable that way, let him play that way. If he's not struggling, well, that's one less thing to worry about.
          "Your Honor, I solemnly swear I am up to no good"


          • #20
            Time for me to chime in too.
            It has seemed to be a constant debate. Some people are firmly in the camp of "left on top and bag on left" and any other way is wrong. As a beginner and naturally left handed I struggled with this. I automatically started playing right on top with the practice chanter before I found out I was playing it "wrong". I tried playing other instrument(s) right handed before and I never got far because it never seemed very comfortable. So i decided that I wasn't going to change how I learned the pipes and I would learn to play "left handed" (learning the pipes are too important to me to try to do it "un-naturally"). When I got my first set of pipes, they were of course set up to play on the left shoulder. Just for kicks one day, I switched the drones around and played it on my right shoulder. Despite the ergonomics, they were much easier to play and more comfortable.
            One "left handed" point I would like to make that right handed people don't seem to always realize: Pertaining to massed band marching...We, the left handed live in a right handed world and all our lives have had to compromise and adjust how we do things... from operating a pair of scissors to, well, playing instruments... Marching in a line with everyone else's drones on the other side, it is up to the left handed player to adjust, not everyone else to avoid the odd one out.
            Just sharing my experience, I am still a beginner, I wouldn't mind switching shoulders when I start playing in a band, but I will not switch hands!!

            What really cemented the silliness of the entire debate in my mind was a picture I saw from a book.
            Traditional Gaelic Bagpiping, 1745-1945 - John G. Gibson.jpg If it didn't matter to them, why is there a debate in the first place??


            • #21
              Re: massed bands

              Every piper in massed bands should make sure his drones aren’t hitting someone else’s drones. And in a big enough massed bands doing a countermarch, no matter what you do you’re probably gonna hit drones.

              That being said, a set coming up on the right shoulders is a bit unexpected.
              You don't have fun by winning. You win by having fun.


              • #22
                We had a good left handed/right shouldered piper in my old band. It never caused any problems in marching or the look of the band. In the circle, he was great to stand across from because it was like playing in a mirror. The only difficulty it caused was he could never really try anyone else's new pipes. Oddly enough, he was right handed for writing and everyday tasks. I'm lefthanded for almost everything involving fine motor skills. When he asked why I didn't play his lefthanded way, I told him my pipes are controlled on the left hand side of my body, my left hand is doing most of the fiddly bits, and the only thing my right hand is doing is strike-ins and the low hand notes. I'm pretty sure what's called right handed style is secretly left handed.
                For the original poster, get your student a left handed bag and everything else should go as normal.
                Before you start fixing problems with your reeds, check to see if the bag or stocks are leaking.


                • #23
                  There have been, and are now, several very good pipers who play with hands reversed. This fellow rose to Pipe Major playing that way

                  Last edited by pancelticpiper; 06-18-2021, 05:50 AM.
                  proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; Son of the Revolution and Civil War; first European settlers on the Guyandotte


                  • #24
                    Here, every other piper in the front rank is fully reversed

                    proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; Son of the Revolution and Civil War; first European settlers on the Guyandotte