Beginner Advice Lefty or Righty (not what u think, special situation - need advice)

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by ijustwanna, Jun 28, 2008.

  1. ijustwanna


    Jun 28, 2008
    Okay, trust me this is not a normal should I play lefty or righty, I've read maybe a dozen articles on the dis/advantages.

    My particular situation is different and I cannot decide what I should do, so I'd appreciate any advice I can get :meh:

    When I was 6 I suffered frostbite to my left hand, I'm right-handed. But as a result, of the frostbite the fingers on my left hand are a bit thicker and my left 4 finger slightly doesn't extend fully (it goes a little more than 3/4 the way out then stops, nerve damage donno). It's not bad and it's completely functional otherwise and all other fingers extend fine.

    I should clarify, it does extend but I just cant do it on my own, I can extend it fully.

    So obviously as a righty my left hand would be my fretting hand (terminology?? noob), but the situation kind of puts me at a disadvantage I'd think.

    I'm considering playing left handed because as I understand it, you use two fingers to strum and I think my left hand would be fine for that.

    My questions are:

    1. If I did decide to go righty, how big of a disadvantage would it be to have a 4 finger that doesn't fully extend?

    2. In terms of hand dominance, is it harder to form chords (again terminology??) or strum with your non-dominant hand?

    I know a lot of this depends on style with reg guitar, but I'm not sure how much variation there is in strumming with conventional bass.

    3. Since I am a righty, how much (in your opinion) do you think I would suffer playing lefty?

    I know lefty's play righty no problem so I'm considering it.

    4. If I did go righty, how big of a disadvantage is it to have stubby fingers, and how can I offset that?

    I've read something about a smaller neck?? And I know some of the best players have short stubby fingers, but how big of an issue is it really?

    So yea, that's about it. I really hate the idea of playing a left handed guitar because I just can't pick up and jam anywhere.

    I don't know, any suggestions are welcome and appreciated.

  2. ijustwanna


    Jun 28, 2008
    Oh and does it help that I am damn good at Guitar Hero, and infinitely better playing left handed than right handed, and it just feels more natural.

    And no, this isn't a joke, and I know GH is nothing like this venture but its the only comparison I could come up with to explain my situation. I cant play GH worth a **** right handed (left hand on "frets"), especially spanning green to orange, but do just fine with my right handed (playing left handed, right hand on "frets").. and just overall ability and coordination is better playing lefty.

    But, there's only one strum bar on GH so there's really no valid comparison. I'm interested in finding out does your strumming hand or your fretting hand do the brute force of the work?

    I'd think for bass it'd be an advantage to use your dominant hand to fret, considering from what I've seen you only use two fingers to strum - besides muting of course. But, I don't know how that translates into picking, and popping and slapping as far as coordination needed to perform these techniques.

    And I did some research on TB, and I've discovered I have smaller than average hands. In length I am in the 1st percentile (a little less than 7 in) and width 50th (about 3.5 inches).

    I've also read that the ability to span your fingers is important. One poster said his without uncomfortable stretching is about 7" from tip of pointer to tip of little finger. Mine is about 6 with my right hand and a little over 5 1/2 with my left. I'm just interested to see where that measures up.

    Okay, enuff of me for now.. back to research I guess. Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

    thanks again
  3. mutedeity


    Aug 27, 2007
    In my opinion, all things being equal, I would probably go with playing left handed. It doesn't really matter which hand you write with, really. I write with my left hand primarily and play bass right handed.

    As far as the functionality of your hands go, for the most part you will be more benefited by being able to reach as far as possible with your "fingerboard" hand. Mostly you will be using your index and middle fingers for note generation and thumb for slapping. Later on you might find that using the ring finger for some finger playing as well as tapping and popping is beneficial and maybe even the pinky can be used, but these are secondary considerations. Strengthening and adapting your weaker or injured hand is also something that you should do over time where you can.

    I would normally say that guitar hero has nothing at all to do with the realities of playing an instrument, and that episode of South Park was a good parody of that, but since you mention that you are comfortable holding an instrument "lefty" then go ahead and learn to play lefty. The main drawbacks of playing lefty is that you are going to find the market for buying basses is a little more limited and that all those scale diagrams you see in books or on the internet are going to be back to front.
  4. DanielleMuscato


    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    I'm left-handed and I learned to play guitar (now bass) right-handed, because it made more sense to me to have my dominant hand doing the fretting. You use both hands to play guitar. Do whichever is more comfortable. You are correct that if you play right-handed, your left hand will be doing more of the work (as a bassist). Jamerson only used one finger on his right hand to pluck the strings! If you feel more comfortable playing lefty, go for it. There are plenty of lefty-instruments out there to fit the bill. Carvin is a great company in that regard - they are all custom build anyway, and they don't charge extra for left-handed configuration.

    Hope this helps!
  5. KsToaDangr


    Apr 17, 2007
    Columbia, SC
    I would suggest going to a music store that has both left and right handed basses, and try them both out. Whichever way feels more comfortable to you, go with that. Although, from what you've said, you'll probably be better off playing lefty.
  6. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    Just to be clear. Is your impaired finger on your left hand the one often refered to as the "ring finger" (the one next to your pinky)? Also, are you saying you can't straighten it completely, or that it will just not go back as far when all your other fingers are straightened?

    I ask because it is important to know that one rarely if ever has ones fretting fingers extended fully on the bass. They are also used mostly in various curved positions.

    I am left-handed but play right-handed. I agree with Dave that your fretting hand does more of the work (not all players agree with this view, BTW).

    One thing to consider is that your choice of instruments, new and used, will be much broader if you play right-handed. Also, I think it is easier to learn from teachers, videos, youtube, watching other players, etc., if you are playing the same way.

    If your fingers and hand are better at GH playing lefty, that might be a bit of a vote for that way, but the most important thing is going to be getting started. Don't worry too much about your impairment. The biggest impairment most people have is that they don't practice.

    If you get a good teacher, practice, and get in some bands, then you will be fine. An lot of bass is not about whipping out fast licks, it is about playing a role in a musical texture in an effective, artistic, and even beautiful way. That may often mean playing very very simple bass parts with terrific finesse and feel, not shredding. Musical invention, solid rhythm, taste, dynamics, articulation (style of attack and note connection), these are what matter.

    Most new bassists are certain that there is something wrong with their fingers or hands. I hear it all the time. The problems of learning to play are frustrating and sometimes mysterious. The reward of becoming a good player goes to those who work hard at a multitude of musical skills, IMHO. Practice and study, listening and playing, and being open to a wide range of music and musicians--that's what will get you there.

    Also, each of us develops our own language of playing based on our strengths and weaknesses. Find your strengths and you will have to spend very little time worrying about your weaknesses. :bassist:
  7. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    I say try both and see which works for you. Buy a cheap bass and try right handed for a few months. Then restring it lefty and try it that what. You could even just flip the right bass over and play it lefty, many lefty's play right handed basses left handed. So which way works best for you. Then you know what kind of bass to get when time to move up. You may want to take lessons or find a bass player who can help you with the basic technique and offer input from watching you play both ways.
  8. ijustwanna


    Jun 28, 2008
    Ok, so when you're talking about the index and middle fingers, you're talking about plucking right? And are these scale diagrams easy to reverse by yourself, or to read quickly backwards?

    Dave, it does. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Yea, its my ring finger. The situation is, I can straighten all the way physically. Like for instance if I lay my hand flat on top of a flat surface. But if I just straighten all my fingers on my own, the tip of my ring finger doesnt quite straighten all the way as my other fingers. Its sort of curved down from the second knuckle.

    So for example if I have my hand sideways in front of me, and all of my fingers straightened, the tip of my ring finger is a little bit lower than the others.

    As far as that, that's pretty much the extent of it, I can bend (make a fist) and everything else just fine though.

    I'm not sure what kind of movement is required you know, but I think it be a disadvantage if say for instance, I had to go from the bottom string to the top quickly with my ring finger (or do you even do that??).

    I think I'd have to pick it up instead of just extending it to get to another string.

    Does any of this make sense??


    I'm seriously considering just learning to play a right handed bass, simply upside down without restringing it like one person suggested up there. I think this would make learning infinitely harder though, but I'd be pretty unique I'd think.

    I just hate the idea of playing a left handed bass, for the reasons I listed in my OP. I want to be able to pick up a bass and play anywhere. How ackward would be simply playing a right handed bass upside down without restringing it?

    I think I'll eventually decide just to go lefty, but I'm just going through my options now. Anymore feedback is greatly appreciated.

  9. ijustwanna


    Jun 28, 2008
    I found this video of a guy who plays a right handed bass just flipped without changing the strings, I think.. Or am I mistaken?

    funny video too lol.
  10. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Some lefty's do play right handed instrument flipped over.
  11. Dogbertday

    Dogbertday Commercial User

    Jul 10, 2007
    SE Wisconsin
    Blaine Music LLC
    I say go lefty.... To flip a bass you'd need to move the strap button if standing... Also it seems to be what's more comfortable for you... buy a Cheap lefty bass and see how you like it maybe?.... they have a great return policy and quality cheap instruments
  12. mutedeity


    Aug 27, 2007
    Yes, I am talking about "plucking". The scale diagrams are less of a consideration, really, but you can probably figure them out with minimal effort by learning to reverse them. Really those things are just diagrams of how a scale would "look" if you play it on your bass. You would hopefully learn the constituent degrees of a scale and be able to play any scale, eventually, with proper theoretical development.

    It sounds to me by what you have said that you are leaning toward playing left handed regardless of your injuries or handicap as the case may be. That being said as everyone else has said, try both ways and go with the way that is most comfortable.

    It is indeed and option for you to string your bass "upsidedown" and play a right handed guitar left handed. There are a few considerations with wearing a strap and with where tone pots and so on are when you play, but those things can also be overcome.
  13. ijustwanna


    Jun 28, 2008
    Yea I am leaning towards playing left handed. When I was talking about playing a right hand guitar flipped, I meant not restringing it. I have seen a couple of videos and whatnot of people who actually play this way and are damned good (well sounds good to me)..

    I'm only considering this so I can play everywhere, and I think I'll be cool if I can play upside down lol. Especially if I'm good. I'm 22 and work at home, online, so I have infinite amounts of time to practice.

    I realize there will be problems with the strap and stuff but there seems to be a fix for most everything. I'm really debating between this, and just going left handed. Luckily my dad's best friend plays bass and is going to let me borrow one of his (right handed) to see if I should go left or right.

    Also willing to give me free lessons, even if just a few I think it will be pretty beneficial.
  14. Ten Four One

    Ten Four One

    Dec 5, 2006
    I've been told that my left hand hardly seems to move when I play - talk about economy of motion! So I'm sure you'll be fine if you play righty. Though, you may not be able to play, say, Bach's Cello Concerto easily. Upright bass players can't span as many notes as electric bass players (upright basses are 10 inches longer!). Cello players need to move their hands around quite a bit to reach all the notes because of the way cello's are tuned - but that doesn't mean they need a wide finger span, but that their whole hand moves when they play.

    This is a pretty complex bassline, do you think your fingers are flexible enough to do this?

    I would tend to err on the side of playing righty, unless you think the nerve damage itself will somehow slow you down or degenerate because of your playing. On the other hand, the constant use may reinforce some of the nerves and it may improve your condition, I don't know.

    Guitar hero can help a bit with manual dexterity and a lot with timing.

    It's called "plucking" not "strumming" on a bass, and you rarely play chords, you play single notes typically.
  15. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    Play however you want. I seriously doubt the ring finger on your left hand is going to have any effect on your ability to play right-handed.

    In fact, if you play left-handed, it might be difficult to use that finger in 3 finger plucking, though it may be ok for popping.

    It strikes me that you want to play left-handed because of GH and being cool. Knock yourself out--but don't use a little physical issue to decide you "have to" play left-handed.

    Finally, IMHO, nearly anyone can play left or right-handed. Just explain how you will "flip" someones bass when they ask you to play in a club standing. Answer: you will have to sit. Yeah, that will be really cooool. Rockin out in a rockin chair! Yeah. :rollno:

    Think about what will serve your musical skills, not what is cool. OK, I'm done. :atoz:
  16. Martin Bormann

    Martin Bormann

    Sep 20, 2007
    Whichever route you decide to go (I strongly suggest learning to play southpaw), don't rely on diagrams too much, learn to read sheet music first.

    As far as your ring finger goes, you're going to have problems with it due to it's mobility issues whether you play right handed or left handed.
    My suggestion is because you cant' fully extend it to play left handed, but get some physical therapy. They can help you get some more motion back in the finger.
  17. Deacon_Blues


    Feb 11, 2007
    Based on what you've said in this thread so this far, I'd recommend to play a right handed bass the "right" way. It doesn't to me seem like your problem with your left ring finger is a big issue, as long as the muscles in that finger work well enough to fret a note with it.
  18. mutedeity


    Aug 27, 2007
    Hmm, I don't know why you would recommend that. From what the OP is saying he is leaning towards playing left handed anyway, regardless of his difficulties with his left hand.

    I don't know if I would necessarily go about it by playing a right handed bass upsidedown. It works for some people I guess but there are quite a few considerations to think about in terms of how it will affect your technique. I think, all things being equal that the OP should probably play left and get a left handed bass. At the most, if he is going to use a right handed bass and play left, he should get the nut altered and string it upside down.
  19. Deacon_Blues


    Feb 11, 2007
    I just think it's unnecessary for the OP to make things more complicated than they are. As long as his ring finger otherwise works, I don't see a reason to not play a right handed bass. I don't know if you ever need to play with your ring finger straightened. See MarkTAW's and Jim Carr's responses above, I'm with them on this.

    He says also he want to flip over a right handed bass and leave the strings as they are. If he ever would like to learn to slap'n'pop, he would be in quite a bad position with the strings in reverse order...
  20. mutedeity


    Aug 27, 2007
    Well the reason is as I have said to you that he is already leaning towards playing lefthanded and said he is more comfortable that way. It's like saying to a parent whose child holds their pencil with their left hand that there is no reason for them not to learn to write with their right hand. If he is more comfortable playing left handed, which it seems to be the case, he should probably pursue playing left handed.

    As I said in my last post, I don't think it's necessarily a good idea to play with his strings upside down on a right handed bass. I have seen it done though, including slap and pop. But as I said he should probably at the most have the nut reversed if he is going to insist on a right handed bass and string it backwards.