Teaching a left handed student

Present them with the two options, outline the consequences of either option, and let them make the decision.

I'm a lefty and play righty because socializing and making music with other musicians is more important to me than adhering to the notion of an optimal setup.

For me, leading with the right hand was infinitely more difficult than the limb interdependence required to play a right handed kit.

I also play right handed guitar and switch hit, but cannot for the life of me throw a ball right handed or use a right handed hockey stick.
A lot depends on how "lefty" the student is. I am a lefty, but do most things the way a right handed person does - exceptions are eating, writing, using scissors, or throwing a ball. If you have two kits where you teach, perhaps you could observe the student in both set ups.
 

Stitch Kaboodle

Senior Member
As a leftie who first learned on a right handed kit I found making the switch was the best thing I could have done. There were advantages to playing right handed, strenghtening weaker hand, increased coordination etc. but it never felt totally natural to lead with the right. Most fills would start on the left hand too.

After less than a year, switching to a proper mirror image left handed set up meant I could copy my favourite drummers more easily as the sharing kits predicament was never going to be a major stumbling block anyway.
 

jazzin'

Silver Member
Yeah, I've always switched kits around to left handed. Doesn't take long at all. In my old teaching studio I had enough room for two kits, so I had one of them set up lefty as I had about five lefty students. I just played the lefty kit with my other students obviously.

I really don't like the argument that making a lefty play righty will create a better, more ambidextrous drummer. Why don't righties play lefty if that's the case? I can't see the people saying that ever making their right handed students play left handed. If that was the case, and it makes better drummers, why wouldn't they do that? It's a cop out and comes across to me as an excuse for the teacher to stay in their comfort zone rather than help the student achieve their goals in the easiest, most natural way possible.

I have had a few lefty students come over having learned right handed and I found you can often see them wanting to lead with their left hand for fills (or they just naturally do) and it was just obvious they naturally wanted to go with their left hand. So I would give them a shot at playing the lefty kit for a bit and they always preferred it and made the switch. Their left foot was nearly always as coordinated as their right foot immediately on switching too, or very soon after, which again shows that there seems to be an obvious natural preference and coordination that would be an advantage to them.

I think of it like this...How would I have felt being made to learn on a left handed kit? Would I been more comfortable on a left handed or right handed kit? A tiny inconvenience to myself seems worth it to set up a good drummer for life. There will always be exceptions, as Todd pointed out, but I think that most left handed players would prefer to do it lefty, just as most righties prefer to do it right handed.
 
Yeah, I've always switched kits around to left handed. Doesn't take long at all. In my old teaching studio I had enough room for two kits, so I had one of them set up lefty as I had about five lefty students. I just played the lefty kit with my other students obviously.

I really don't like the argument that making a lefty play righty will create a better, more ambidextrous drummer. Why don't righties play lefty if that's the case? I can't see the people saying that ever making their right handed students play left handed. If that was the case, and it makes better drummers, why wouldn't they do that? It's a cop out and comes across to me as an excuse for the teacher to stay in their comfort zone rather than help the student achieve their goals in the easiest, most natural way possible.

I have had a few lefty students come over having learned right handed and I found you can often see them wanting to lead with their left hand for fills (or they just naturally do) and it was just obvious they naturally wanted to go with their left hand. So I would give them a shot at playing the lefty kit for a bit and they always preferred it and made the switch. Their left foot was nearly always as coordinated as their right foot immediately on switching too, or very soon after, which again shows that there seems to be an obvious natural preference and coordination that would be an advantage to them.

I think of it like this...How would I have felt being made to learn on a left handed kit? Would I been more comfortable on a left handed or right handed kit? A tiny inconvenience to myself seems worth it to set up a good drummer for life. There will always be exceptions, as Todd pointed out, but I think that most left handed players would prefer to do it lefty, just as most righties prefer to do it right handed.
Thank you for this. I will heed these words and start moving things around next time I get a lefty.
 

jazzin'

Silver Member
Thank you for this. I will heed these words and start moving things around next time I get a lefty.
That's great! Glad to have helped a little in whatever way possible. Hope it works out for you and all your students.

Let us know how it goes ;)
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
I'm really neither for or against open handed playing, and
with that being said:

I'd love to hear a discussion between yourself and Claus Hessler :) :).
Claus would win-- he has a lot more invested in this than I do.

Hey, I went ahead and wrote a rebuttal to that thing. It boils down to: if handedness is so important, why are there so many good left-handed pianists?
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
I think which hand they write with is basically irrelevant to drumming. I'm left handed, and play right handed; I know one other professional who is right handed, but plays left handed. If they're a beginner, or near beginner, I have them play right-handed-- or I strongly recommend it, if they have an opinion/preference. I've have had good results with that, with zero/little adjustment period. I think teaching a beginner to play "open-handed" is malpractice-- that's a decision the student should make for himself once he's experienced enough to understand the issues involved.

If they're more than a year in, and are playing left handed, I go ahead and switch the drums around.
I tend to think this way as well. Right handed piano players don't get to forego difficult parts because they're written for the left hand and vice versa. For right handed string players the left hand does the very complex task of fretting/tuning. Don't even get me started on organists.
 
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Boomka

Platinum Member
Forcing a true lefty to go right (for a young enough student) can actually "shatter" the lateralization and even cause someone to have a permanent stutter. You have to be pretty extreme (studies here focus on lefties forced to write with the right) but it actually be a bad idea. For these drummers, a mirror image kit is generally best.
That may be true with writing, but in that case there's a language expression component that isn't involved in playing a musical instrument.

If it were so dangerous to force a person to use their opposite hand to drum with, you'd think more drummers would be stuttering away from having done our due diligence with Chapin's Advanced Studies or playing Syncopation with our left hands. Piano and guitar students would be similarly effected and I've never seen anyone make that association.
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
I really don't like the argument that making a lefty play righty will create a better, more ambidextrous drummer. Why don't righties play lefty if that's the case? I can't see the people saying that ever making their right handed students play left handed. If that was the case, and it makes better drummers, why wouldn't they do that? It's a cop out and comes across to me as an excuse for the teacher to stay in their comfort zone rather than help the student achieve their goals in the easiest, most natural way possible.
If I get the student from scratch, I'll sometimes try a left-handed set up with them to see how they get on if they're really struggling on a right-handed kit but that's not always the case and it's not always practicable as when, for instance, I'm teaching groups. If they've been on a right-handed kit for awhile, I stick with that usually. I had to play my father's left-handed kit as a righty (I used to move the ride cymbal but play with reversed feet) some of the time when I was young and I do think it helped my playing.
 
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Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
Everybody should play righty. Period. It's inconvenient to switch everything when sharing a kit, and left-handed kids play right-handed kits just fine. I'm pretty strongly left-handed, and I actually forced myself to learn right-hand lead when I got to college, just to balance out my hands.

Everybody should switch sides for a few minutes from time to time, just to shake things up, but right-handed kits are what we should all focus most of our energy on mastering.
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
I just feel open handed is good if there are quick change overs, or if a left handed player wants to jump in for a song on a gig real quick..

I'd like to sit up my second kit left and learn both right "open" handed and left handed over the next while to work on my weaker side.
 

Drumquake

Junior Member
I'm a lefty, and I've had dozens of students. So I've been in your situation a lot, only the other way around! What I do is to keep the kit right handed, and play open handed myself. I guess that should work well the other way to.

I started learning as a kid, and I'm glad I kept playing as a lefty. It's a real drag at jam sessions and so on--especially when the kit is miked--but overall, I feel it's been beneficial.
 

JK93510

New member
Reviving an old thread.
I'm mostly right handed but somewhat left footed. I'm ambidextrous. I played Lacrosse and Hockey left handed but can't throw a ball that way. I write right handed.
When I was about 14, I really badly wanted to learn to drum. I borrowed a friends drum set he wasn't using and set it up the way I had always seen which was right handed. I couldn't play ANYTHING! I knew I had rhythm and I could hear what I needed to do in my head but I couldn't get my appendages to work that way.
I closed my eyes and started just tapping my hands and feet to the music...WOW. I have to move the kick over here and the high hat here and BOOM! It all clicked. I can't play anything on a right handed kit but my right hand is much more coordinated then left.
I recently began drumming again mainly because at 52 I can't play guitar anymore because of arthritis and drumming doesn't hurt.
I very much considered switching to right and trying to overcome my coordination to become more independent with my appendages.
But that was brief.
The point is, don't force a right handed kit on someone. They will usually know when it is right...it was like a lightbulb for me ;)

and btw, I searched left handed drummers and found this thread because I felt it annoying that a Roland V-drumkit has no way to mount the drum module for a left handed setup. Even the wires barely have the slack if I mount it in a Tom position...
I also had to modify a double kick pedal quite extensively to make it work for Lefty. It's a rough world for a left handed drummer.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Forcing a true lefty to go right (for a young enough student) can actually "shatter" the lateralization and even cause someone to have a permanent stutter.
This used to be a theory, almost 100 years ago (the 1930s), but neuroscience has come a long way since then. Stutterers obviously suffer from a neurological issue, but it's most definitely not caused by hand-switching, forced or otherwise.

At the studio where I teach, there are seven drumsets, and we haven't ever switched any one of them in 11 years. I've taught many lefties, and all of them adapt rather well. There are two drumsets in the teaching rooms, side by side, and switching one around would be tricky, since space is limited. It really helps that the students get playing time within an ensemble, in a 2-hour rehearsal, in addition to their private lessons. This amount of playing experience is probably what helps them overcome their handedness. I don't have to "force" anyone -- I can just point to another drummer, who is left-handed but playing righty, as an example of what is possible, through practice and experience.

My lefty students spend more time learning to playing 8ths, 16ths, and triplets, in snare drum exercises and solos, while keeping time with the bass drum, at first. But that's about it. This struggle usually lasts about a year. And, of course, the righty students struggle to get their left hand technique together.

I have one student who is decidedly left-handed. He's older (mid forties), and has very, very little prior experience. He chose the right-handed approach. After two years, it's all coming together. We are careful to work out fills, first, as just a rhythm counted aloud, then as a snare drum exercise, and then apply a sticking that allows the fill to be voiced around the kit, if necessary. The part that takes the longest, is that first part: getting the rhythm counted accurately. And this has nothing to do with handedness.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
This is why I usually have three drumsets. Well, that and that if I only have big kits when I start a new job I quickly ask if I can buy a small one for the youngest students..

I don't really try to force anyone. We talk and try righty, lefty and open handed. I'm pretty comfortable in all of them myself, so it's easy to demonstrate. I talk a bit about the pros and cons of each and let them decide.

When it comes to trad grip my attitude is a bit different. Though I play mainly trad myself, I explain the whole thing to them and prefer to go matched unless they really want to learn trad.

It doesn't matter that much in the beginning. It's mainly about learning music, reading and the fundamentals of technique. Trying something for a coouple of weeks and changing one's mind a couple of weeks later is insignificant in relation to a whole life on the instrument.
 

HeavyDrums

Junior Member
My son is a lefty, 15, and just starting out. His teacher started him playing normal or righty. His argument was that when he gets to a jam session or has to use a house kit, they're going to be set up righty. The kid is doing just fine without playing lefty.
 
This is a great debate... im a drummer 30 years i can play anyway left right up side down but thats with years of practice, the key to remember is when your first starting and young its not easy so to add extra elements like left or right complicates it even further and can put a kid straight off, my son is 10 and just started lessons, i play right handed and he is left handed but more importantly left footed... the foot is more powerful than the hand, and for me i play dbl kik but a lot of the time i alternate feet because my legs wear out quicker than my arms when playing..
my opinion from myself and my sons playing is the dominate foot is what the kit should revolve around.. its not hard to change hand style as you learn rolls your arms tend to travel back n forth all over the kit anyway but the kit has to be in the right position for your foot to feel comfortable on the kik pedal Without the power and foot skill of your dominant leg it throws your timing and co ordination out.. ( very important things for a drummer)
After 30 years i can play a left handed or right handed style, but still to this day my right foot is way more accurate and powerful and has more stamina than my left.. so if your a dominant left footer id say your kit has to be set up for you to give the best opportunity to learn the best instrument in the world.........
 
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