Photo by Adrian Serrano
Q: I play the upright bass and I use my left had on the neck and my right hand to use my bow. I’m looking to play the bass guitar, but I can’t decide if I should play right handed because that’s my dominate hand or my left because you can really only use your left hand on the neck on the upright bass.
A: That’s an interesting question. I’m assuming that you are naturally left handed but learned the upright as a right hander.
I would say to simply, do what feels the most natural for you.
Another assumption is that since you are used to plucking with the right and fretting with the left, that would make the most sense regardless of what stringed instrument you are playing. It sounds like you primarily play with a bow but I imagine that you’ve at least explored pizzicato. Retraining your brain might be worth it in the long run if it feels more natural to you, but I have a feeling that you’ll feel more comfortable relating the electric bass to your already existing muscle memory.
You could certainly try it the other way around but you would be starting over again with regards to the muscle memory that you already have. Granted, the upright is a completely different instrument in many ways but your fretting hand already has some built in muscle memory and you are also used to visualizing the fretboard from the perspective of that hand.
My general rule of thumb is, “do what feels right as long as it isn’t harmful”. Works for life, too, I suppose. I’d suggest trying them both and you’ll likely have a good sense of which speaks to you.
This question isn’t one that brings a whole lot of deep thoughts out of me and, normally, I might respond personally because it might not warrant a long enough answer for the column. However, I immediately got curious and wanted to hear from all of you readers out there.
Here’s my question for readers, and this is for the left handed players out there. How many of you learned to play right handed? How many of you tried, at some point, to switch to left handed? Did it feel as awkward as it does to me when I try and play left handed? (I can barely play a major scale left handed). Or did it feel right in some way?
I’ve always wondered why the plucking hand is the dominant hand when it’s the left that typically required more dexterity. Is it because we need the power from our dominant hand?
Any ambidextrous players out there? I’d love to get a discussion going about this. I want to hear your experiences. Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.