Left handed vs. Right Handed Playing

Posted: 6/4/2006 5:32:19 PM

From: Brooklyn, New York

Joined: 11/25/2005

A bit of back story. I play guitar and bass left-handed. It feels weird to even hold a right-handed guitar. I do most things left handed, except bat and cut with scissors.

My questions: How many on this list are left-handed? How many of you that are left-handed play a theremin with the pitch on the left and volume on the right?

As a left-handed guitarist, I phrase notes and chords with my right hand and control the volume (strumming/picking) with my left. I find this similar to the way a right-handed theremin player plays. Why is it this way and not opposite for right-handed theremin playing? Why do some lefties (Pamelia Kurstin, Dorit Chrysler, et. al.) play the theremin backwards?

As seen in my earlier posts, I am building an RCA style theremin. Before I drill the holes for the antennas, I want to make sure I set it up for best way for me to play it. I don't have a theremin to practice on, so I don't know what works for me. When I play "air theremin" (is there such a thing?) I imagine playing it normally [right-handed]. When I really think about it it make sense to me to play right-handed.
Posted: 6/5/2006 4:26:04 AM
Charlie D

From: England

Joined: 2/28/2005

Pamelia does own a left-handed theremin (I believe you see it in the E'Pro video) but frequently is forced to play a normal one back-to-front simply because there are so few left-handed ones around, and presumably she doesn't want to lug it around everywhere. The only problem with doing this is that she has to lean over the instrument in order to tune it, and that's impossible to do in a satisfactory manner when you're disrupting the EM field.

My suggestion is that you add a second pitch tuning dial on the underside of the theremin, near the reverse side (or even on the back panel itself, if you can disguise it. . . perhaps as one of the handles or mock fittings?). That way you can tune it from either side, and therefore play the instrument from either side without having to lean over and struggle with the dials from the wrong side.

Making a lefty RCA reconstruction would still be better for you if you decide to play left-handed, but it would probably make the instrument much harder to sell on if you ever decided to - either way, I can still see this reconstruction having all the charm of an original RCA.

Good luck.
Posted: 6/5/2006 12:35:06 PM
Jon B

From: Somerville, MA

Joined: 8/11/2005

Pamelia has at least two left-handed instruments: An E-Pro, and an Ethervox. Dorit has a left-handed E-Pro as well, I believe.

Guitarists need dexterity in both hands. Moving fingers up and down the fretboard and picking notes while playing a lead both require fast accurate and nimble fingers in both hands. Theremins are different from guitars in that theremin really only require dexterity in one hand -- the hand controlling pitch. While some coordination is needed to control volume, or expression, the volume hand doesn't need the subtle dexterity that's required to nail a sequence of notes accurately. For that reason, I would strongly encourage would-be thereminists to use their dominant hand to control pitch.

P.S. I'm a leftie as well.
Posted: 6/5/2006 2:25:18 PM

From: germany

Joined: 8/16/2005

hello lefties!
i am left-handed as well, what means that i write/hammer/scissor/smoke/phone/etc. with my left hand.

i started playing the guitar as my first instrument (8y old). as i had watched my dad (right-handed, as my mum) play the guitar since i was a little kid, i naturally took up the guitar the "normal way". when i later (at 11) started to play the piano, i was forced to play it like a right-handed, simply because of the keyboard layout of our upright piano (in fact, i never saw a real piano with inverted keyboard layout, but i can programme my K2600 in that way). i continued to play both instruments and added double bass and a bit of drums. the bass i played the common way, because i had an instrument provided by the school, the drums i learned (as the guitar) by copying the movements of my friend drummer (right handed) and trying it at his kit.

when i started playing the theremin now last year (back when i was 22), i thought a lot about my hands, and what they do generally, in daily activities, and in music. i came to the conclusion that my left hand is my strength hand and the right hand is my subtlety hand.

with the guitar, i need my left hand to press the strings really hard, by forming different patterns (i.e. chords), while my right hand is used to pick the notes, what requires a lot more delicacy.
at the piano i had to play melodies and the more elaborated stuff mainly with my right hand, whilst my left hand is occupied providing bass notes (often in octaves) and the harmonic backbone.
at the bass again i need my left hand for pressing the strings down really hard, the right hand has to control the bow.
with the drums i was leading with my right hand again, having the left hand mainly for a strong back-beat.

so: my right hand was always (as a tendency) engaged doing more subtle things.

and finally back to theremin:
i decided to play the pitch antenna with my right hand. i think secondly for the right hand -> subtlety reason and mainly for the "piano: right hand -> melodies" reason. i do not really imagine a keyboard between me and the antenna, but for me it feels most natural that way. on the theremin, as on the piano.

oh, this post got long... but as i thought a lot about it, all the thoughts want out somehow...
(-: robert
Posted: 6/5/2006 5:04:52 PM

From: new haven ct.

Joined: 7/8/2005

I also play left handed. For years before I even got a theremin I air theremined left handed so when I got one, it seemed natural to play that way.
Posted: 6/5/2006 9:09:01 PM
Jeff S

From: N.E. Ohio

Joined: 2/14/2005

I was thinking about that at work today. You don't need to have a theremin to determine if you are a left-handed or right-handed theremin player. The theremin is the ultimate "air" instrument. Since you never actually touch it, it is largely a mental exercise. As long as you understand the basics of how it's played, all you need do is put on some music and "imagine" yourself playing while going through the motions. I'm sure you will soon discover which "handed" you are.
Posted: 6/8/2006 9:16:15 AM

From: Jax, FL

Joined: 2/14/2005

I am right handed and I play bass and guitar.

When I first started playing theremin I turned my right handed Etherwave around and tried to play it that way but somehow it did not feel right.

I thought that since I was already used to controlling volume with my right hand and melody with my left I would play the theremin lefty style.

Is there any way you could wait to drill the holes until after you wire up the instrument?

Maybe you could try it out both ways for a while and see how you want to install them.
Posted: 6/8/2006 9:56:04 AM

From: Kingston, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

I remembered Pamalia playing right handed, but it finally came to me, she played with her back to us behind a music stand; my mind filled in the image. I'm still curious, do some folks switch easily?

Posted: 12/19/2008 4:18:06 AM

From: Maryland, USA

Joined: 12/13/2008

I have a PAiA Theremax kit coming monday, Dec 22, 2008, and just had the left/right thought.
I'm a right handed guitar player, so controlling theremin pitch with on the left and attack with the right seems logical to me, same way I play guitar. I have more skill at fine movements with my left fingers due to string instrument practice. A trombonist might think controlling pitch and vibrato with the right hand would be best on theremin.
Hmmmm, I'm trying air theremin, and can't figure out which will work best, so I plan to make my antennas easily reversible. Same holes in both sides of the cabinet, inside fahnstock clips or spade lugs or some more modern quick disconnect for the antenna wires.
Posted: 12/19/2008 9:39:01 AM
Brian R

From: Somerville, MA

Joined: 10/7/2005

More food for thought: Lev Termen had studied the 'cello; Clara Rockmore was an accomplished violinist. Both were accustomed to controlling pitch with their left hand, and volume/articulation with their right, yet both reversed those assignments in developing the original instruments and playing techniques.

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