Long ago it was regarded as almost “sinister” to be left-handed. Folklore ridiculously suggested lefties had the ‘mark of Satan’. They were often forced to write with their right hands and lived with the stigma of being left-handed.
Interesting, left-handed people as a group have historically produced an above-average quota of high achievers. They say, “left-hander’s brains are structured differently in a way that allow them to process language, spatial relations and emotions in more diverse and potentially creative ways.”
About 10-15% of the world’s population are left-handed and a greater proportion are gifted musicians. They’ve all adapted to playing an instrument; either re-stringing their instruments, turning their guitars around and even turning it upside-down.
1. Paul McCartney
Rumour has it that when he was first given a guitar, he didn’t know what to do with it; until he flipped it around. Paul saw a picture of Slim Whitman playing left-handed and realised that it was necessary to reverse the guitar, pick with the left hand, and reverse the strings. He’s ambidextrous but favours his left hand for guitar playing. He also has a rare collection of instruments for left-handed musicians.
2. Ringo Starr
This is another Beetle member famous for being left-handed. Apparently his grandmother forced him to write with his right hand and he’s comfortable playing the drums on a right-handed kit. However, take a close look and you’ll see that Ringo leads with his left hand. This is a unique style and lends itself to a different sound.
3. Phil Collins
When Phil was drumming for Genesis, he played his drum kit backwards so the snare and kick drum were on the other side. This obviously felt more natural to him. He doesn’t play the drums anymore after he suffered extensive nerve damage in his hands.
4. Tony Iommi
Tony is the lead guitarist of Black Sabbath and plays left-handed. He said in his autobiography, “The easiest thing would have been to flip the guitar upside down or learn to play right-handed. But I’ve been playing for a few years already and it’ll take me another few years to learn it that way. That seemed like a long time, so I was determined to keep playing left-handed.”
5. Robin Campbell
Lead guitarist of UB40, Robin is a left purist and has always played left-handed. The band is not known for frenetic instrumental action but Robin’s strumming is world-famous.
6. David Bowie
Bowie is naturally left-handed but chooses to plays a right handed guitar. You’ll see him in the odd music video playing left-handed but he taught himself to play right-handed for the simple reason that there weren’t enough left-handed guitars in the shops in post-war Great Britain.
7. Stewart Copeland
The Police drummer is comfortable leading with both his left and right hand. However, he mostly plays right handed because, as he says, “It’s more convenient that way. Like most left-handed people, I am close to being fully ambidextrous.
8. Al McKay
Al was the driving instrumental force in the explosive funk sound of Earth, Wind & Fire. What few people know is that he honed his six-string skills during a lengthy tenure with the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. He now performs with his band, The Al McKay Allstars, performing a show called The Earth, Wind & Fire Experience. He performs at the major jazz festivals in the world with this 14-piece ensemble.
9. Justin Bieber
The Beebs is best known for his pop songs but he also likes to pull up a stool onstage and perform an acoustic ballad solo. He generally strums with his left hand but, being ambidextrous, he’ll also strum right-handed.
10. Miley Cyrus
Miley was born left-handed but her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, trained her to play the guitar right-handed because he knew how hard it is to play left-handed. She can also write with her right hand but she does everything else with her left hand, including grabbing the steel rope of a wrecking ball.
His mainstream career only last year but he is still revered as one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of music. Jimi was naturally left-handed but his father tried to force him to play right-handed because he believed playing left-handed was a sign of the devil. To overcome the problem, Jimi took right-handed guitars and restrung them to play left-handed. When his father was around, he’d play right-handed or risk losing his guitar forever.
Known as one of the best songwriters of the 20th century, Kurt Cobain was also a very good guitarist. He played left-handed.
Dennis was an American musician, singer, and songwriter who co-founded the Beach Boys. He was one of the first 'open drummers' which means he did not cross his hands when playing the hi-hat and snare drum simultaneously.
Carl Philippe Emmanuel Bach
It is not know for sure that he was dominant left-handed but his father, JS Bach, wrote in a letter that “his son needed to work on building up his right hand to match his left.”
Ludwig Van Beethoven
His left-handed status has never been confirmed, but biographer said at the time that he’d seen Beethoven use his left hand when composing. He painted with his right hand so he may have been ambidextrous.
Historians think Mozart was truly left-handed, but others believe he may, in fact, have been ambidextrous. At the time, left-handers were forced to write with their right hands which might be the reason he wrote and composed with both.
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