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Left Handed Ukulele — Helpful hints from a Left-Hander, continued...

As the final word in this debate about left-handed ukuleles, a reader offers helpful tips. (Continued from here)

John Solon continued:

“I stand by my statement about motor skills. You describe people, not lacking in motor skills, but people lacking in confidence, which is an entirely different issue. I've had students with the same issue... more with hammered dulcimers than with ukulele, but I have had both. In such cases, I encourage the student to become comfortable enough with their instrument (and with themselves) to learn how to do simple maintenance of their instruments, as doing so will build their self-confidence, ultimately helping their playing.

left-handed ukulele

I did not give instrumental instruction through the music library or the university's School of Music. I did not aspire to train professional musicians for concert careers. I taught through a local music shop that specialized in stringed instruments, and gave lessons to adult students most of whom had pined, often for decades, to play music, after someone thoughtlessly discouraged or disparaged them when they were kids. But they wanted music SO MUCH, that they kept trying. I've had dulcimer students who were afraid to even hit the strings! That is a genuine obstacle in hammered dulcimer playing. My JOB as their teacher was to help them get beyond that, not to suggest that they take up the clarinet instead. That DOES make teaching more challenging, but it IS about the needs of the student, rather than the convenience of the teacher.

right-handed ukulele

"Brave people who buy strings..."??? "Brave" people pull other people out of burning buildings! You don't even need enough nerve to go outside to buy strings nowadays. So someone buys the wrong gauge strings. Have 'em go buy others, Ask that scary young woman at the music store to help in finding the right ones. Bring the instrument along, if needs be. Even a baritone uku in a hardshell case isn't so heavy that it can't easily be toted to a music store once in a while.

Validating people's anxiety about simple things like finding the right strings, stringing, basic instrument set-up, tuning, etc. is not teaching them anything they need to know. They need to know that strings go out of tune, break, even just get so old and oily that they sound bad.

They need to know that, while instruments can be magical, they are NOT magic. Students who are afraid of such things need to be helped past their fear, because there really isn't ANYTHING there to be afraid of... other than not learning to play when you desperately want to.

But YOU feel that you "cannot and will not try to convince them that such mechanical feats [!] are for everybody". Well, as I said above, NOTHING is for "everybody". But none of the "feats" you cannot or will not try" to help your students learn are rocket science... or dangerous... or requiring of esoteric knowledge. Like playing the uku, or any other instrument, they do require some instruction, and they do require enough nerve to pick the thing up and give it a go. More than once.

If someone is so inept they they will make a total matchpile of their instrument if they try to change a string or reverse a nut on their own, then they need a teacher who CAN AND WILL walk them through it. If you won't (since I expect you well could if you would), well, that's about you as a teacher, not about the student or their needs. Just edit you page to say that you don't teach left-handed playing. Put a few links on it to people who do, like Washtub Jerry or Curt Scheller. But please, don't continue to put up a roadblock.

BTW, if someone absolutely HAS TO impress a ukulele-toting girl/boy of their dreams before s/he gets away, there's always "Mack the Knife":

C6, Dm,
G7, C6,
C9, C, Dm7, Dm,
G7, C6

Be prepared! Practice the Dm7 and C9 upside down ahead of time, and file them away for such an "emergency". The others are easy enough 6to flip on the fly. That'll make a REAL impression! You can even play upside down! ;)


Well, I hope all that has been enlightening. Or at least entertaining. Obviously, I can't tell you what to do. But hopefully the arguments presented here give you what you need to make an informed decision - even if it does turn out to be a decision you make differently further down the road.


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