Left/right brain integration/Strings

Alan S Moore asmoore at ix.netcom.com
Wed Dec 25 03:45:59 EST 1996

I normally don't post to this newsgroup out of self-acknowleged
ignorance. But this is within my training.  I had assumed (with no real
basis) that two factors went into the tradition of the right hand being
given the "easier" task in string playing. 1) In fact the emotional
content and ultimately the more refined dexterity come from the right
hand which ultimately produces the sound (tone, nuance, color, phrasing
and all that stuff that makes you tear up when the great play and go
back to sleep when the rest of us try).  In players who have yet to
reach the level where interpretation and nuance is possible the
mistaken belief is that the left hand has the more
"important/difficult" task. At higher levels of playing the cut between
the great and the so-so is in the right hand.  2) I theorise that the
left hand is better connected to the spatial areas of the brain and the
right typically to the verbal/speech areas. So we can estimate those
intervals with the left and make phrases that cry and sing with our
right.  But as I said, this is out of my arena. 

It also should be pointed out that the left hand is given the
spatial/intervalic task in all cultures (that I'm aware of, Chinese,
Javanese, Arabic, Slavic, Western European...) I do not know if they
have the same left=evil superstitions though.  Cross cultural studies
are at least amusing, at best informative.


In <Pine.HPP.3.94.961224114444.9399B-100000 at NeurEtV.biol.ruu.nl> "RenE
J.V. Bertin" <bertin at NeurEtV.biol.ruu.nl> writes: 
>[Apologies for a longish posting]
>A side-track to the thread on right/left handedness:
>Below are some excerpts from a recent discussion on ASTA-L, concerning
the question
>why string instruments are normally fingered with the left hand, and
>with the right hand. The general view is that lefties should be at an
advantage, given
>the fact that they use their best hand for fingering, but I'm not
convinced this is the
>most difficult task "at hand".
>Anyone any thoughts on this?
>	In fact, when I recruit, because I know so many left-handers, I
>	"Good for you.  You have an advantage."  I point out that both
hands have to
>	work.  And as far finger motion goes, there is more finger motion
in the left
>	than in the right hand.  Frankly, I guess, I have always
sincerely felt
>	that left-handed people do have an advantage in plalying a
>	instrument, since my first teacher was the standard toward which
I strived.
>	David Alonzo
>	Roswell, NM
>	I'm not so sure I agree... The bowing arm needs the coordination
and control
>	of many more muscles than does the other, IMHO, and has to
perform a
>	much larger variety of movements!
>	Is anything known on the learning curves (for the different
aspects of
>	mastering violin technique) for right vs. lefthanded persons?
>	RenE
>	Has anyone
>	ever given a satisfactory answer to the question why -- if the
left hand has
>	the most difficult job, and given the fact that most people are
>	(it's not for nothing that the latin word for left is
"sinister"...) -- (almost?)
>	all stringed and plucked instruments are played  with the right
and fingered
>	with the left hand? And not just in our culture? While keyboard
>	traditionally are arranged such that the most  difficult part be
played with
>	the most dextrous hand?
>	RenE
>	(to repeat myself from a post several weeks ago:)
>	Several years ago I read a study that found that people have more
freedom of
>	movement with the fingers of their non-dominant hand, due to the
>	increase of muscle tone in their dominant hand. If you wiggle
your fingers
>	loosely in each hand, you should notice that the hand with which
you don't
>	write has more 'floppiness" of the fingers than the other one.
Another good
>	example of this is separating your pinky and ring finger from
your middle and
>	index fingers-(the "Live Long and Prosper" greeting). For most
people, this
>	can be done much farther on their non-dominant hand.
>	Richard Spittel
>This one might be especially interesting from a neurological point of
>	Hello , I am a left-handed violinist and also currently a PhD.
candidate in
>	cogntive and evolutionary psychology.  I have never felt any
problem in playing
>	the "regular" way, and have quite a few left-handed students who
don't either.
>	I've always looked around at my colleagues in professional
orchestras and have
>	the distinct impression that there are more left-handed string
players than
>	would be expected in the general population.
>		But that's not why I'm writing; many of you have said the
>	thing.  I
>	don't believe anyone has mentioned another theory, which has
little to do with
>	left- or right- handedness, for why the violin family is played
on the left
>	shoulder.  Have you heard of the "left-side cradling" phenomenon?
 Many studies
>	have been done that have shown that an extremely high percentage
of people hold
>	babies on the left side, regardless of whether they are left- or
>	(Try it and see- pick up a pillow and pretend, or watch people on
the street.)
>	The effect is strongest in women but also strong in men.  Great
apes hold their
>	babies on the left too, but monkeys do not.  Numerous theories
have been
>	proposed as to why this is:  so the baby can hear the heartbeat
(shown to be
>	ineffective); or so the mother has her right hand free (but
mothers even hold
>	the baby on the left using the right arm).  I heard a a talk by a
>	who studies this phenomenon; he proposes that the real reason for
left side
>	cradling is that people monitor a baby's sounds (which are not
yet language),
>	and thereby his or her emotional state, with the left ear.  Why
the left ear?
>	The left ear inputs to the right side of the brain- and guess
what? That's the
>	side that is involved in monitoring non-verbal, non-language
aspects of
>	communication, and many aspects of music (though reading and
writing music
>	involves both sides).
>		So perhaps holding string instruments on the left has
nothing to do,
>	historically, with manual "dexterity."  Perhaps it has to do with
the wiring of
>	the ears and the brain.  (90% of left-handers are still "wired"
so that right
>	vs.left brain functions are the same as those in righties.)  I
don't think
>	anyone has really studied this idea in terms of musical
instruments; I
>	just came
>	up with the connection and am writing this off the cuff, so I may
not have all
>	my neurological details correct- but I think it is something we
>	consider.
>	Perhaps those of you who continue to want to consider us lefties
to be slightly
>	disadvantaged in playing the "right-handed way" will lay off! 
All of us,
>	right-
>	or left- handed, play the "left-eared" way!
>	Joanne Tanner 70243.2334 at compuserve.com
>And the best season's wishes.. whether you're left, right, or
middle-of-the-road ;-)
>| RenE J. V. Bertin            http://WWW.NeurEt.biol.ruu.nl
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