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Left Handed Piano Players


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#1 Peter

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Posted 29 July 2008 - 02:57 PM

I'm not a musician, strictly a fan. But I am lefted handed. From what I understand, in jazz piano the left hand is used largely for rhythm, comping, and the right hand for solo, lead. So are jazz pianists disporportionately right handed? Are there any accomplished left handed jazz pianists? How does left handedness effect other instruments? Thanks.

#2 Robert J

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Posted 29 July 2008 - 03:42 PM

Pete-

You are correct, the left hand typically does do chords, bass-lines etc, and controls the bass (lower register) of the piano.

Unlike many guitarists who play left-handed by using a lefty guitar, the piano is designed to have the 88 keys in front of you which is why we get the left/right bass/treble distinction. Though there are some freaks out there <_<
http://www.lefthande...o.uk/about.html

True, most pianists have a stronger right hand, but ideally both hands should have the same facility. Of course, then there’s guys like Cecil Taylor and Stanley Cowell who will cross their hands over to both ends of the piano.

As for accomplished jazz lefties? Dunno. History shows many excellent pianists who happen to have strong left hands (as well as the right). I can’t speak for other instruments. I suppose a lefty would progress faster with the left if starting out.

Classical people would argue otherwise
http://www.pianostre....msg231961.html

Ravel wrote a piano concerto just for the left hand.

#3 WD45

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Posted 29 July 2008 - 03:51 PM

Borah Bergman "spent years teaching his left hand to play the piano like his right." So the story goes.

#4 Ted O'Reilly

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Posted 29 July 2008 - 04:07 PM

There are two terrific jazz pianists here in Toronto (who are not as well known internationally as they should be), who are both southpaws: Bernie Senensky and Mark Eisenman. I doubt that they, or anyone else, would reduce the function of either hand to the simplicity of rhythm/solo as you have. Players with great left hands, say Ralph Sutton, can be either lefties or righties. (Ralph was a rightie).

It's probably not important for reed/woodwind players, as both hands are pretty much equally needed. Trombonist Slide Hampton is right-handed, but plays left! I recall Harold 'Money' Johnson played the trumpet valves with his left hand, but I don't know if he was a southpaw. And there are left-handed bassists: Jennifer Leitham and Earl May come to mind. (I know, Paul McCartney, but let's be serious); and guitarists: Wayne Wright for one. (I know, Jimi Hendrix, too)

I'd suggest that lefties simply learn to play right-handed instruments in the most part, considering the price of an odd-ball axe, and everyone starting on any instrument is going to find it awkward until motor skills are trained. (I am on the lookout for a Sinister Steinway, though... ^_^

#5 zanonesdelpueblo

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Posted 29 July 2008 - 04:19 PM

Although not a lefty, here is a relative story about Bud Powell by Yetty Lee in 1955 Jazz Magazine, quoted in Francis Paudras' touching book:

"One night at Birdland, Bud Powell was at the piano, in great form. Art Tatum was in the audience. Tatum, known for being stingy with his compliments, said he thought Bud's left hand was a little weak. When someone repeated the comment to Bud, he took out a pocketknife, cut his own hand, then crudely bandaged it up and went on playing with the sefl-inflicted handicap. He showed such virtuosity in both hands that Tatum was dumbfounded. Some say he never forgave Bud."

#6 AllenLowe

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Posted 29 July 2008 - 06:23 PM

well, you need a lefty piano, like a lefty guitarist uses a lefty guitar -

#7 Big Wheel

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Posted 29 July 2008 - 06:58 PM

Handedness in my experience doesn't have much correlation with facility for an instrument. I think at least some of this is because the muscles required for playing are often very different from those used for grasping a fork or a pencil or throwing a baseball. I write, eat, and throw with my left hand but my right hand can play scales on the piano at a much, much higher level than my left.

#8 AllenLowe

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Posted 29 July 2008 - 07:06 PM

my mother took lessons with a famous one-handed pianist (lost the other in WWI) who just happened to be Ludwig Wittgensgtein's brother-

#9 marcello

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Posted 29 July 2008 - 07:07 PM

left-handed piano

Oh..Mary Lou Williams was left handed.


Barry Kiener was left handed

Edited by marcello, 29 July 2008 - 07:14 PM.


#10 AllenLowe

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Posted 29 July 2008 - 07:08 PM

see- and you guys think I'm crazy -

#11 Teasing the Korean

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Posted 29 July 2008 - 07:10 PM

Jonathan Edwards.

#12 Alexander Hawkins

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Posted 29 July 2008 - 07:52 PM

my mother took lessons with a famous one-handed pianist (lost the other in WWI) who just happened to be Ludwig Wittgensgtein's brother-


This is the chap for whom Ravel wrote the concerto, I believe. [There were various other relatively well-known commissions for Wittgenstein as well!]

#13 AllenLowe

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 07:04 AM

that's the guy - my mother used to have sheet music books with his markings -

#14 Robert J

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 07:34 AM

I recall an episode of M*A*S*H where a wounded soldier was saved, but he lost his right arm. He was crying out "why not my legs instead?". Then it was revealed he was a concert pianist in civilian life.

Major Winchester went out of his way to find the Ravel score so he could practice his left hand and build his music performance confidence.

Fair to say we'll never see that kind of storyline ever again on a 1/2 hour prime-time show.

#15 Niko

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 07:35 AM

He then approached more famous composers, asking them to write works for him to perform. Benjamin Britten, Paul Hindemith, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Franz Schmidt, and Richard Strauss all produced pieces for him. Maurice Ravel wrote his Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, which became more famous than any of the other compositions that Wittgenstein inspired. Sergei Prokofiev also wrote a concerto for him, his fourth; but Wittgenstein said that he did not understand the piece, and he never played it publicly.


from paul wittgenstein's wikipedia entry http://en.wikipedia....ul_Wittgenstein

somewhere i read that if people said "wittgenstein" before WWII they meant paul and not ludwig... in that same place i read about the massive amount of money (a really large figure) they inherited from their dad, ludwig didn't take it, but paul used it to buy these compositions...

from their dad's wikipedia entry http://en.wikipedia....rl_Wittgenstein
of the five sons, three commited suicide ealry on while the remaining two became really famous...

* Hermine (b. 1874 in Teplitz, d. 1950) unmarried
* Dora (b. 1876 in Vienna, died at birth)
* Hans (b. 1877 in Vienna, d. 1902 in Chesapeake Bay, probable suicide)
* Kurt (b. 1878 in Vienna, d. November 1918? suicide)
* Helene (b. 1879 in Vienna, d. 1956) married to Dr. Max Salzer
* Rudolf/Rudi (b. 1881 in Vienna, d. 1904 suicide)
* Margherita/Margaret Anna Maria (b. September 19, 1882 in Neuwaldegg, today Vienna, d. 1958 in Vienna) married 1904 to Jerome Stonborough, divorced in 1923
* Paul Wittgenstein (b. May 11, 1887 in Vienna; d. March 3, 1961 in New York)
* Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein (b. April 26, 1889 in Vienna; d. April 29, 1951 in Cambridge)


fasincating family...
since klimt came up earlier today elsewhere, here's margaret:
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#16 Alexander Hawkins

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Posted 31 July 2008 - 03:51 AM

that's the guy - my mother used to have sheet music books with his markings -


wow - very cool!

#17 mikeweil

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Posted 31 July 2008 - 03:48 PM

my mother took lessons with a famous one-handed pianist (lost the other in WWI) who just happened to be Ludwig Wittgensgtein's brother-


This is the chap for whom Ravel wrote the concerto, I believe. [There were various other relatively well-known commissions for Wittgenstein as well!]


AFAIK Paul Wittgenstein never performed the concerto Ravel had written for him ...

#18 Niko

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Posted 31 July 2008 - 03:52 PM

my mother took lessons with a famous one-handed pianist (lost the other in WWI) who just happened to be Ludwig Wittgensgtein's brother-


This is the chap for whom Ravel wrote the concerto, I believe. [There were various other relatively well-known commissions for Wittgenstein as well!]


AFAIK Paul Wittgenstein never performed the concerto Ravel had written for him ...

see my post above, guess you're confusing it with the concerto prokofiev wrote for wittgenstein


from wikipedia http://en.wikipedia....t...and_(Ravel)

The Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D major (Concerto pour la main gauche en ré majeur) was composed by Maurice Ravel between 1929 and 1930, concurrently with his Piano Concerto in G Major. It was commissioned by the Austrian pianist, Paul Wittgenstein (brother of the philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein), who lost his right arm during World War I. Wittgenstein gave the premiere with Robert Heger and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra on January 5, 1932. Before writing the concerto, Ravel enthusiastically studied the left-hand études of Camille Saint-Saëns. The concerto was first performed by the French pianist Jacques Février, chosen by the composer himself.



#19 Shrdlu

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Posted 05 August 2008 - 03:04 PM

This is a very good point, and I have often wondered about it.

I am left-handed, and my first music lessons were on the piano, but I was unable to progress very far on it. I wonder if it would have helped to have had a left-handed piano. (I've never seen one, lol, but I do know a guy who pulled a piano accordion apart and reversed it all, as he is left-handed.)

As a reed player, I also wonder whether left-handed versions would be easier to play. But, after all these years, I can't imagine switching over.

I recently took up the electric bass, played the usual way around, and I don't see that there would be any advantage in switching it around - but it is an interesting point.



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