Does anyone play a regular upright left handed?

Discussion in 'Ask Patrick Neher [Archive]' started by Big Lefty, Dec 30, 2014.

  1. Hello,
    I am interested in learning to play the upright bass but I have tendinitis in my left hand. I know that there are left hand uprights available but they are of course rare and expensive. I was wondering how common it was for players to use a right hand bass but play it left handed, ie. fretting with the right hand with the string order reversed. If there are any good players that I could check out on youtube or something such recommendations would be greatly appreciated.
    Greg Gottlieb likes this.
  2. Oops, I meant stopping the strings with the right hand (newbie mistake).
  3. You can't really reverse the strings on a DB.
    The acoustic system is not symmetrical.
    On the high side, there's the sound post, a piece of wood kept under tension between the top and back.
    On the low side, there's the bass bar, glued more or less vertically underside the top.
    If you have tendinitis, you should get treatment and maybe get thinner strings, but I would refrain from changing your setup as drastically as what you suggest.

    Good luck!
  4. Basshappi


    Feb 12, 2007
    I played double bass in high school orchestra.
    The school took one of the right handed basses and flipped the bridge and retrung it lefthanded.
    It worked and sounded just fine. It projected ever bit as well as the righthanded basses.

    Is it the optimum arrangement? No.
    Can it cause structural problems with the bass eventually? Maybe.

    The reversed angle of the fingerboard was no impediment to proper bowing technique.
    You could of course leave the bass strung righthanded and simply learn to play reversed, A fair number of lefthanded guitarists and bassists do this.

    But the scorn for converting DBs to lefthanded stringing (and lefthanded players in general) in the orchestral ranks has much less to do with physics and moreso with "custom and tradition".
    LeftyStrings and james condino like this.
  5. Thanks for the input folks! I played bass guitar in the regular manner for years and I'm right handed. When the left hand tendinitis got bad enough I actually switched sides and started playing a left hand NS NXT electric upright. It took a while to get used to the switch in hands as well as the reversal of the strings but it went ok after a couple years. Now I'm considering getting a traditional acoustic upright bass, but there sure seems to be a lot negativity suggested about buying left handed uprights so I thought I'd see if anyone played with the strings reversed.
  6. cravinho


    Apr 24, 2011
    Viseu, Portugal
    I play a left handed bass, as you can see in my avatar. Is a carved 3/4 Strunal (5/5 model) and I buy it in Thomann (online store from Germany).
    PS: Sorry about my english.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2015
  7. Timmy Jay Meathook

    Timmy Jay Meathook

    Jan 30, 2015
    I'm an incorrigible lefty and I started on a right-handed upright, just playing it goofy with no restringing. I had been told that many left-handed players do this. And I've seen people do it--watched Paul McCartney play Bill Black's old upright in a youtube video, and saw the left-handed guitarist for the Space Cadets play the right-handed bass during a song. Seemed to work okay. Worked okay for me for awhile.


    Trouble in paradise. After a trip to the luthier to get a bump in my fingerboard planed down, I found that the whole thing had a terrible buzz on the E and the A that only went away if I applied an exhausting super kung fu grip to it. Like, it became unplayable. I have since been advised (after visiting several luthiers) that this is a thing that can happen if you play an instrument backward--the grand old master in my town said that one's fingers are "pushing up and into a hill" because of the shape of the fingerboard. Which sounds ridiculous because you're fingering a string there anyway, whether it's the G or the E. But I am assured that this is what does/can happen. (Josh at Upton Bass, where I then went to order a custom lefty, is left-handed and tells me that sometimes playing backwards goes okay for awhile but the instrument will sometimes develop a buzz. At least that's what I understood from him--apologies if I've misunderstood or misquoted you Josh!)

    Basically the bass became useless to me and I permaloaned it to my cousin.

    So I would have to say, if you really can't play right-handed, best to suck it up and pay the extra and get a left-handed instrument. Otherwise, prepare to be betrayed at any time! :(
  8. Regular bass played left-handed? Yeah, some old guy (that Timmy mentioned) with an even older bass...

  9. Timmy Jay Meathook

    Timmy Jay Meathook

    Jan 30, 2015
    Yeah, that's the one all right.

    Watching it again, actually, it reminds me of ANOTHER issue that can happen when you play goofy:

    At one point (before the killer buzz emerged) I switched my steel strings for low-tension nylon ones (Innovation Silver Slaps) because I wanted to slap and because I'm a wimp. Well, also they sound really good. Anyway, the first time I tried slapping with the low-tension strings, the G string popped right off. The shape of the bridge is such that there's a slope there that makes it easier for the string to pop off and slide down that slope if it's under some tension on the right vector (i.e. pulling out from the body to get the backslap, plus a small amount of force to the left 'cause that's where I'm standing and I'm not pulling PERFECTLY outwards from the body.) I ended up having to file down the notch where the G-string sits so that it would have a bit more bridge holding it in place. Now that I think of it, that playing-goofy thing was just one clustershag after another....

    The reason that just occurred to me is that now as I watch this video, Sir Paul is playing those strings really gingerly and not giving it any of the proper rock 'n'roll beating it would get it wasn't a holy relic.
  10. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    Jennifer Leitham plays upright left handed.
  11. slappin sammy

    slappin sammy

    Dec 28, 2016
    nicolas dubouchet you tube
  12. madbanjoman


    Feb 23, 2011
    I play a right handed DB from the left side. I had an old Epiphone restrung lefty but never took the time back then to learn it that way. It was strung that way for years. Didn't seem to hurt it.
    LeftyStrings likes this.
  13. I know of many accomplished left-handed string players, both in the classical and pop worlds. However, they all perform on instruments made especially for them with the "correct" mirror-image set up.

    The players who I've seen or heard of who play "backwards" with standard (right-handed) instruments, encounter several severe technical problems. There are intervals (positions, shifts) which are relatively easy that become nearly impossible when the strings are reversed. Keep in mind that we have several hundred years of experimentation that resulted in the tuning systems that we use today (it's because after all these years of trial and error, the system we use today offers the most consistent results).

    If you are going to learn the instruments left-handed, it would be best to do it the proper way and get an instrument that is designed to work that way. Why make things difficult for yourself?

    Attached is a shameless plug. There is no way that I would have been able to do this on a right-handed bass:
    LeftyStrings likes this.
  14. Matthijs

    Matthijs Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2006
    Nice plug Fstasiak :)

    But just out of curiousity: what I see is a extreme control and virtiuousity in your right hand. What has been the actual advantage for you in playing the instrument lefthanded? I'm very much left handed and I've always felt it was actually an advantage in learning to play the bass the righthanded way. Looking at you I'd think some right handed people would benefit from doing it your way.

    I'm not trying to start an argument here. You and other acomplished players show lefthanded playing works for left handed players (and I'm not even mentioning all the right handed players on right handed basses :) ). So I know there's not a very strong base of evidence for switching everybody's basses around. I personally think about basses the same as piano's: no one needs a left handed piano.
  15. RE; Matthijs

    I was trying to mainly answer BigLefty's fist question asking if anyone played a right-handed instrument left-handed, without reversing the setup.

    I was trying to avoid the reasons for playing left-handed, and only addressing if it's done, like BigLefty asked.

    When I started playing, holding the instrument left-handed seemed way more natural, so that's what I did. However, I made sure to reverse the set-up so that it still functioned in the same way (only in mirror image). The players who don't change the set up encounter many technical problems. Imagine trying to play octaves or a passage high on the G string; Can get way more awkward then one can manage.

    As for reasons for doing so, two come to mind, and in the end it doesn't really matter. Some players start off right handed and switch due to an injury while some do it because it feels more natural and the claim that they can play easier with the other hand.
    LeftyStrings likes this.
  16. madbanjoman


    Feb 23, 2011
    I can't say I have been playing long enough to know if such limitations are on the horizon for me. I do know that I play around 100 gigs a year this way. I play pizz and can play the neck up to thumb position. I am working on both thumb and arco, but I am not doing either at a gig yet. In the music that we play there is little need for either. So if there ends up being a limitation that is exclusive to playing this way it at least won't inhibit my ability to carry out my duties in the band. Would playing high on the E be difficult for right handed person? As for slapping, I stink at it but I have GripMax strings on my DB and I have never popped a string practicing slapping.
  17. Timmy Jay Meathook

    Timmy Jay Meathook

    Jan 30, 2015
    So, I have a bit of an update. Although I personally am sticking with my proper left-handed bass, apparently Ken Smith from the Jive Aces plays left-handed and it's a regular right-handed bass. I got to speak to him briefly at Viva Las Vegas this year and he told me he just played that way because it felt more natural, and some years later someone went "Maybe you should switch the strings around" and he was like, "Well no, not now!" He usually plays rented basses on the road, which presumably is a lot easier if you're playing a right-handed instrument.

    So whatever was the cause of the buzz problem I ran into (and I have been told by left-handed players that it's a thing that can occur at any time) some players seem able to avoid it.
  18. Hi Folks!
    Original poster here. In the three years since I posted the original question i have been playing a left handed EUB. I've been recently in the market for an acoustic upright and the same question has brought me back around. Thanks for all the great information and advice. Much appreciated!
  19. Timmy Jay Meathook

    Timmy Jay Meathook

    Jan 30, 2015
    Welcome back... we, the Brethren of the Sinister Low End salute you!

    In my search for bona fide left-handed uprights, here are the four I've been able to track down:

    1) Upton Bass of Connecticut (they have a storefront in Boston as well.) I got one of their custom plywood Bohemians and the left-handed "upgrade" cost an extra $500. I think it ended up costing me about $2750 US including the upgrade. I love the poopie out of it.

    2) Engelhart does left-handed versions of their Maestro, Supreme and Swingmaster basses, again for a moderate upcharge. You can order these through Gollihur Music.

    3) I have also had my eye on Gollihur's "Gollihur Classic" which is a *beyootiful* replica of Bob G's '41 Kay. They can do a left-handed version. It's very reasonably priced, I think $1350 plus an upcharge for the leftification.

    4) I feel like I must have misunderstood because it seems too good to be true, but.... Thompson Bass makes a left-handed version for (they told me) the SAME PRICE as the right-handed version (Whaaa??!!), about $1200 if I recall. They seem to sound pretty good; there are some videos of Joe Fick playing a Thompson and it sounds amazing but then it's Joe Fick so presumably our mileage may vary.
    LeftyStrings likes this.