Playing a standard strung right-handed upright bass left handed...?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Ryanetics, Apr 7, 2017.

  1. Ryanetics


    Apr 7, 2017
    Hi all, I'm a lefty bass guitarist. Been playing that way for about 25 years now so too late to turn back!

    After a lot of reading, discussions, and hours of playing in the stores, I decided that I was going to play a right-handed bass, strung right-handed, left handed. It seems to me that a) it's a different enough instrument that I don't have to rewire my brain to try to play it, and b) being "cursed" a lefty I am WAY better at playing right-handed guitars upside down and lefty than you probably are! ;)

    Thus, it hasn't really been difficult for me at all to go back and forth between my left-handed electric bass guitar, and my right-handed upright bass (with my left hand plucking).

    So far, so good, it seems. I don't have to modify a righty or spend extra bucks on a custom lefty. And the HUGE benefit of eliminating the "oh I wish I could jam with you guys on that bass that isn't mine... but I'm left-handed".

    BUT, am I setting myself up for failure down the road here? Is there anything I am not seeing in the future playing-wise that will make me regret this decision? Keeping in mind that I AM A LEFTY and there's no changing that now! And, I'm not looking to play in an orchestra any time soon. Just blues, bluegrass, country, maybe some jazz, the standard pizz and slap stuff.

    Thoughts? And thanks! My first post!
    LeftyStrings likes this.
  2. rufus.K


    Oct 18, 2015
    We lefties have to endure ... keep at it
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  3. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I have a friend who did just what you did when he went to college...back in the days where studying bass meant DB he learned it righty and four decades later is playing the h*ll out of both instruments. If you're comfortable, stay with it because all the hassles of playing BG lefty get multiplied a hundred times with a DB.
    the_Ryan, Groove Doctor and Ryanetics like this.
  4. madbanjoman


    Feb 23, 2011
    IMG_1084.JPG I have been playing from the left side of my right handed upright for a couple of years. The one down side is if you ever need an EUB. The wings to lean it against your body aren't symmetrical. I did find a solution, MK EUB are made to order and they didn't charge me extra to built the wings left handed and the bass right handed. This is pic of my custom MK Studio.
  5. Ryanetics


    Apr 7, 2017
    So it seems that the consensus is that there aren't any booby traps up ahead by learning to play this way then?
  6. You'll lose a little something pulling the string away from the bass bar instead of toward it, but it won't be the end of the world.
    Ryanetics likes this.
  7. I had a friend like you in that he was left handed and played left handed bass guitars, but was using a right handed upright playing like a lefty. Eventually he ordered a custom left handed upright that was also much superior in design and build than his plywood right handed bass. He was thrilled with the change and won't be going back.

    I think you should reconsider just spending the money and get a proper left handed upright bass made. (or buying one already made)
    I think you should consider how you could be setting a very low ceiling for your URB playing.

    1. lower quality tone. An URB is not symmetrical in the inside. Bass bar on one side, sound post on the other, when plucking a bass in reverse direction, is doesn't sound as good. I'm not sure why, but it's audible.

    2. playing in higher registers. the skinny strings are on the wrong side for you to access as easily.

    3. complicating finger patterns already learned from left handed bass guitar

    But you are correct in thinking that it will be a lot easier sitting in on jams and using other people's instruments.

    Other than saving some money initially, I see more long term upside in having a lefty URB than in playing a righty URB lefty. You could also later on add in a portable lefty EUB into your arsenal to take to jam sessions and the like (or just bring your BG).
  8. Ryanetics


    Apr 7, 2017
    Thanks guys. The more I have thought about it and played, the more it seems like this is a far less permanent decision than forcing myself to play righty when I first started playing. I could be wrong, but I'm thinking that if I decide to get a true lefty upright, it won't be that difficult at all to retrain myself, as I will be continuing to switch back and forth between backwards upright and regular lefty bass guitar.

    I might be wrong though! Oh, the torture of being a lefty.
    Elusive1 and LeftyStrings like this.
  9. Realistically, if you're not travelling for gigs frequently.... just go full lefty. The inconvenience to take your lefty DB or your lefty EB everywhere is minor. If DB is just a casual thing, either way is OK, but full lefty will allow a higher level of proficiency long term IMO.
  10. Marinda


    May 6, 2017
    I am RIGHT handed, i play right.h bass with strings reversed, or upside-down how ever you wanna say it...I do this cause the tabs to me are backwards, a guy finally showed me if i stand it up, then showed me tabs. I understand now, my bf says they read as if your looking down like on ur bass. All of it still is wrong!! Lol i try to play and naturally when i see tabs on e string (im trying to hit g, same for g, i try to hit top e) so i put the strings on backwards! Now i play awesome!! It just feels right, plus in my head the low e should be bottom...and high g top!! right?!?! anyways thats how i play, also im small so its very hard to reach the 2 main notes e & a on the 1-4 freds my first bass was short scale which i love! I just got a new ibanez and my bf begged me to TRY to play normal!! ( gave it a sporting chance) immediately i noticed the neck was longer, to hit e or a on 123 i had to literally line my arm wrist to elbow with the neck and i had about 5 sec till my wrist cramped up and i was like yep im switchin em !!! when i was done i was like ahhhhh i tried normal for about a week after playing backwards for 2 years! btw thats what i call it i tell ppl i play backwards bass... why dont ppl ever say that its catchy!! lol
    Ryanetics likes this.
  11. Ryanetics


    Apr 7, 2017
    Well that's just crazy! Why would you do that to yourself?!? Hahaha. I'm really not a self-hating lefty, but it's just been limiting in terms of instrument selection and jamming.

    But thank you for the reply, I enjoyed reading it.
    Marinda likes this.
  12. Acoop


    Feb 21, 2012
    I think it would take just as long to learn one way as the other, if you're so determined. ... Years ago I knew a man that was left handed and only had right handed basses to practice on so he learned. Then bought a lifted hand bass and learned it that way and last I saw him he could play both left and right handed basses forward and turned around very well.
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  13. @Ryanetics - so what did you end up choosing? Any photos?

    I was thinking.... for jams and for travelling you could buy a Ukelele bass, string it left handed, and leave that in the trunk of your car as your backup BG or emergency DB-like tone.

    I ran a Kala Ubass thru a Sansamp ParaDriver, sounded awesome and weighed nothing.
    dhergert and LeftyStrings like this.
  14. Ryanetics


    Apr 7, 2017
    Hey @Groove Doctor thanks for asking. I kept the bass strung righty, and play it lefty. To answer my original question, if I wanted to play thumb-position on the G string, yes I would have set myself up for failure, to an extent. Having to stretch over the fingerboard to the high strings is not ideal for that. BUT I am happy with the choice for what I play, for the reason that I can pick up a standard upright and play it.

    Here's a vid from my "early days" of playing upright (half the songs or so):

    Interesting to see how differently I played it even just a year ago.
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  15. I couldn’t believe it when I found this thread because it’s the exact same question I’ve been asking myself. And I’m glad to see that the thread is active again.

    I have played left-handed guitar and bass for decades (with strings strung lefty) but I’ve also taught myself how to play bass lefty but with strings strung right-handed. I’m getting to be reasonably good at it but not as good as when I play with strings strung lefty.

    Currently I’m having an Ergo EUB made for me and I can’t decide which way to have the strings strung! I’m not sure it makes as much of a difference on an EUB, but I’d like to get a real upright at some point too, so I’m seeing the EUB as a dry run for that.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2018
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  16. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    A standard acoustic double bass has a bass bar and a sound post which have to be in the correct area determined by how the instrument is going to be strung. There may be other structural considerations that also have to be made. So when you do take the plunge into a double bass, you'll need to have made your decision.

    You may also want to consult with a double bass instructor before making the final decision, as there are other procedural, social and of course monitary considerations related to that decision too.
    LeftyStrings likes this.
  17. Ryanetics


    Apr 7, 2017
    @LeftyStrings: Glad this thread might be of some help! For what I wanted to play (see my original post), I would not change my decision. I don't want to be locked in to having to play only a left handed strung upright (again see OP). After a year and a half or so, I actually think that I could go back and forth between lefty or righty strung on the upright, and play equally well. Haven't tested that theory yet though. But that is to say, I don't think my decision has yet locked me in to anything that I can't undo if I decided to get more serious about technique and need to play the upright strung the "correct" way.

    As to what @dhergert said, coming at it with the intention of having a full left-handed acoustic upright bass would indeed require some forethought. My luthier said that playing a right handed bass lefty shouldn't make a difference at all -- plucking the opposite direction from the sound post was my consideration there.
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  18. Actually, it seems that there must be two Talk Bass threads about this issue because the other day I read a post by a lefty who argued that lefties should play lefty double-basses with lefty stringing and who then posted a stunning YouTube video of himself playing a movement from one of the Bach Cello Suites on his custom left-handed double bass.

    Update: Ok, it was a thread from 2014. Here it is:

    Does anyone play a regular upright left handed?

    The OP inquired about the same question, which is then discussed in the thread. I am especially surprised to see two threads about this issue!

    “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.”
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2018
  19. I was going to post the link to this thread to the other thread about this topic so that they could be aware that it’s being discussed over here too, but I was prevented from doing so by this message:

    “You have insufficient privileges to reply here.”

    I’m fairly new to Talk Bass, but can someone explain what this foolishness is? Do I need to learn the secret handshake before I can post to that thread?
  20. lurk

    lurk Supporting Member

    Dec 2, 2009
    Earl May was a very good NY area bassist who played and recorded with some big names - Billy Taylor and Herbie Mann off the top of my head - and did quite a bit of commercial work too - at least a couple of Broadway shows. He would pick up your "normal" bass and play it left handed, which always seemed a little freaky. Some idiomatic bassistic stuff would come out odd - right hand rakes would go from a low note to a higher note, for example. Double stops were very clear with a normal right hand stroke - no need to turn the hand around and use the thumb. He had great time and intonation and played beautiful lines.
    LeftyStrings likes this.

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