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 Post subject: Left or right handed?
PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2017 8:07 am 
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Location: Somerset, UK
I recently took up the tin whistle as a tiny step toward a long-held and likely forlorn hope of one day learning the uilleann pipes. I haven't even learned how to spell that properly yet, and I'm already in my 40's, so it's a long road ahead.

Anyway, picking up the whistle and looking at fingering charts in my eagerness to get started, I naturally took to playing with my right hand on top, nearest my face. I am oddly-handed: I write with my left hand, but I play guitar and do most other tasks right-handed. When I do something new, I usually find one hand feels more comfortable than the other and usually it's the right. In this case, however, it seems I'm playing the whistle left-handed.

After a week of this, I learned that this is seen as wrong: that most tutors and advice suggest you play with the left hand uppermost which is, apparently the right-handed grip. I tried this and immediately forgot everything I'd learned, failing to make even the most basic note changes.

Looking in to it, it seems as though if you just want to play the whistle, there's actually no particular reason to favour a left or right handed grip. However, it does seem as though playing the pipes is harder left-handed and that a specialist set is needed. I have found conflicting advice on both counts, however, and am now confused and disheartened: it's hard enough learning a new skill without having to learn a new grip, too.

Can someone please give me a definitive answer on the matter?


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2017 1:50 pm 
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There is no "definitive " answer, just what works best for you.
Being cloot hasn't done Mary Bergin any harm.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2017 2:08 pm 
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While no-one can give you a definitive answer because there isn't one, I'd consider changing...

While it makes no difference whatsoever if you just want to play whistle, you'll have more restricted choice of pipes, flute or any other woodwind. So, given that you've only just started and sound fairly ambidextrous, now's the best time to consider the change if you want to make it, and I doubt it would take you that long to catch up with where you've got to however weird it feels at first.

FWIW, I'm a natural right-hander (and I'd say very right-handed) playing multiple instruments the regular way but guitar and bass left-handed because I'm a finger short in my left hand. And, while I did originally start guitar right-handed and can still form simple chord shapes that way, it now feels positively unnatural to me as a natural right-hander, so reckon I speak from experience! That said, your choice is your choice and there's nothing definitive about my experience.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2017 2:24 pm 
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If you're only a week in, now is the time to change if you're going to do it.

Nothing wrong with playing lefty whistle and righty pipes. They are two completely different instruments, and your brain will compartmentalize each of them properly.

Bring righty on whistle hasn't helped me much at all with righty pipes, for whatever that's worth. There's a lot going on with the pipes, and the different fingering system is way more of a learning hurdle than which hand is on top.

Why are you playing whistle if you want to learn pipes? :wink: Get your set already and get started.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2017 3:20 am 
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Thanks for the advice.

awildman wrote:
Why are you playing whistle if you want to learn pipes? :wink: Get your set already and get started.


Three reasons:

1 - I have nowhere to practice. My house is small and my wife and children are not as enamored of professional pipe players like I am. I doubt they would take kindly to sharing the limited space with a bag of cats.

2 - I don't know how I would learn. I live in North-East Somerset, an area not know for its overflowing bounty of uilleann pipe tutors. It's a very complex instrument and not something I'd trust the internet or a book and CD to teach me.

3 - The expense. Sets are pricey things, especially if they prove to be too much of a hurdle or I prove to not have enough dedication. Better to prove to myself I've got the legs to master the basics of whistle playing before investing.

All of these things seem to suggest to me that I ought to leave it a couple more years before perhaps investing in some pipes. We're thinking about moving and I may have a bit more space, time and money to spend on them, along with the sense that I might be equal to the task.

Besides, I often see people lamenting the way the whistle is treated as a second class instrument in discussions like this. And now I can see why: it's fun to play, and it's easy to learn to belt out a few of your favourite tunes. While at the same time discovering players like Mary Bergin shows you how far you can take the instrument given enough time and skill. If I never get to the pipes, I'll still have learned something entirely worthwhile.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2017 7:44 am 
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Sure, the whistle has been a gateway drug for many a piper, including myself.

I agree with most of the advice you have already been given; handedness doesn't matter much on the whistle, but piping right-handed will make a vastly greater number of sets useful to you. If I were in your position, I would switch hands on the whistle now, while it will be easy. In fact, I did it the much harder way; switched from left to right after playing decades on the whistle. I find there is a certain symmetry in playing both pipes and whistle with the same handedness, and I'm glad that I made the switch - but "your mileage may vary".

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 28, 2017 5:11 am 
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An Draighean wrote:
Sure, the whistle has been a gateway drug for many a piper, including myself.

I agree with most of the advice you have already been given; handedness doesn't matter much on the whistle, but piping right-handed will make a vastly greater number of sets useful to you. If I were in your position, I would switch hands on the whistle now, while it will be easy. In fact, I did it the much harder way; switched from left to right after playing decades on the whistle. I find there is a certain symmetry in playing both pipes and whistle with the same handedness, and I'm glad that I made the switch - but "your mileage may vary".


^
Indeed.

I currently play flute, whistle, and pipes lefty / backwards. I made the decision to stick with lefty pipes on the advice of others here and my teacher, because I have thirty+ years of sinistral playing built up, including GHB.

BUT, If I had only been playing a week or so on whistle, I'd make the switch to "correct" playing immediately. It will not present significant challenges to fingering, as I discovered when playing early music woodwinds in college. BUT, I had to pass up a lot of good deals on used pipes in order to get a set that will work - I had to order drones made new.

Since pipes are so expensive, you want to give yourself the most leeway when it comes to finding a set. It's hard to do that when you limit yourself to a mainstock + drones that are set up lefty.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 28, 2017 6:05 am 
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I'd suggest switching now. Not only are pipes mostly right handed, some lower pitch whistles also offset a couple of holes for easier fingering. My own D+ whistles have the extra hole offset, but I can offset it either way depending on the player.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2017 9:01 am 
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Matthr

As you live in NE Somerset you may wish to. if you have not already; contact the Hibernian Centre in Avonmouth or Jill Elliot. She has a website http://www.fiddlelessons.co.uk/. She or the centre may be able to put in touch with a teacher for the pipes.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2017 6:04 pm 
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If you were to stick to the whistle I'd say play it as is most comfortable to you, and don't fret it. But flutes and pipes tend to be directional and you would limit yourself to instruments made specifically for 'backhanded' playing.

My two cents can be donated to your choice of worthy causes.

Tygh

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2017 6:05 pm 
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OH yeah. . .and for all you people who don't remember what it is like to learn. . .try swapping hands for a few tunes!

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2017 8:42 am 
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Tyghress wrote:
If you were to stick to the whistle I'd say play it as is most comfortable to you, and don't fret it. But flutes and pipes tend to be directional and you would limit yourself to instruments made specifically for 'backhanded' playing.

My two cents can be donated to your choice of worthy causes.

Tygh


More true for pipes than flutes (righty keyed flutes are not _that_ bad for lefties), but still true enough in both cases ;)

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2017 4:10 am 
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Not in a million years should I suggest switching hands....it's not natural...end of. True we are in a right handed world but pipes don't know if they are left or right handed....it's just the way they were made....


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2017 9:13 am 
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Change change change. Pipes are definately left or right handed, chanter with keys, regulators. So are flutes.... clarinets, oboe etc etc all set up for right hand down. La Gaita tambien

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Heres a few tunes round a table, first three sets;

http://soundcloud.com/fiddlerwill/werty
http://soundcloud.com/fiddlerwill/jigs-willie
http://soundcloud.com/fiddlerwill/jigs


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2017 10:00 am 
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I'm equally bad with either hand. . .I am what is called 'hetero-dextrous'. I write, and do many fine motor skilled activities left-handed. I do many more muscular activities right handed. As far as instruments and music, both hands have to be skilled in fine motor motion, Piano is demanding of both hands. Frankly, so are the whistle and the pipes. The whistle doesn't have a 'handed' bias, but the pipes do, they are either left handed or right handed. HOWEVER both hands will be equally challenged by the pipes when it comes to ornamentation. I would recommend starting off right handed on the whistle if your target are the pipes. Wrestling the octopus will be so strange in any case, it won't matter if you have a slight bias toward one hand or the other, you'll have to 'school' both hands equally. The availability of right handed instruments is the economic tipping point in this case.

Bob

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