Now I will be the first to admit that I am not musical and do not play any instruments (though for some reason my left-handed son Tom is a musical genius and can play almost anything). I had an email recently from John asking for advice on left handed recorder playing and pointing me to a website that gave some very harsh and negative advice saying basically – “Don’t do it!”
I have included John’s email and the advice he found below and I hope that anyone who knows more about this will add comments or links that may help.
This is John’s email to me:
My two sons are naturally left handed, and have just begun to play descant recorder at school. The instrument is designed specifically to be held with the left hand above the right – and the positioning of the holes on the lower finger positions don’t allow for this to be reversed. I have noticed that my youngest son seems to have a natural preference to hold the instrument in the way that is not intended, with the right hand over the left.
The wording of the information on the webpage I mentioned above leaves no room for ambiguity, and whilst the logic behind it seems reasonable, the way in which it is expressed concerned me somewhat. My eldest son has been taking classical guitar lessons for 12 months, and plays a restrung instrument following a clear tendency to hold it left handed. Being left handed myself, and growing up with a grandparent who came from the “can’t you make him use his right hand?” school of thought, (but fully understanding parents!), it goes against my principles of allowing them to follow their natural tendencies.
I don’t suppose you are aware of any slightly more sympathetic advice that might help me to support my son with his recorder technique?
And this is the advice on the website he found
I am frequently asked for advice on “left handed” recorder playing. My answer is often unpalatable, “It is a serious error and should not be done.” A left handed person is not disadvantaged. However, if as a tutor, you encourage or permit them to play with their left hand at the low end of their instrument you are effectively disabling them. Its a sobering thought.
The reason for this is that although people are not made with left or right handed advantages in respect to recorder playing, the instruments are. Furthermore, all other wind instruments are made to be played with the right hand at the bottom. If you play the recorder with the left hand at the bottom you suffer several disadvantages, inability to play all the notes in tune, inability to play large recorders, inability to play other woodwind instruments. Of course, it is possible to adopt two styles of fingering, one for the recorder and another for the rest of the woodwind. It is not a good plan, instead of reinforcing each other, the different patterns conflict and seriously limit achievement.
Most people come into contact with the recorder for the first time as a child at school or as a teacher. Unfortunately, most recorder teaching is done by non-specialists, often by non-players. There is a lack of background knowledge and appreciation of all the implications of the “training” being given. Indeed, it seems that the recorder world is dominated by amateurism at all levels… Do not submit to the child who maintains that they can “do it better” the other way up. It really is wrong, and it really does matter. In some ways it is unfortunate that descant recorders with moveable foot joints have become the standard good quality model and two piece instruments are relatively rare and regarded as inferior. When I started playing, in the early 1940’s, only the excellent and very high priced Dolmetsch model had the moveable foot. It was obvious to everyone that recorders had to be played with the right hand at the bottom.
“Left handed” recorder playing is a very short road leading to a very limited achievement, and should be discouraged and corrected as early as possible. If you are teaching yourself, or guiding others with the aid of a book, make very sure that you do not corrupt the facts. Follow all the factual instruction. Left handedness and right handedness in the player has no bearing on the way you hold the instrument any more than the side of the road you drive on.
Another article on left handed recorder playing
I found another slightly more favourable article here
They are not quite so negative but do make the point that if you learn on a left-handed reocrder you will not be able to play other wind instruments as you develop.
and we have written our own article about this before here
Left handed recorders
I have seen comments that German company Mollenhaur have made recorders in a left-handed design but cannot actually find any on their website.
Moeck, also in Germany, do have a left-handed recorder
You can get a partial solution with a multi-part recorder where you can rotate the finger holes for a comfortable fit for the little finger. Tona at L’Altra Ma in Valencia sells them and also online at her website here
We will do some more research on this but if you know more please add a comment below.