Monday, June 28, 2010

The left-handed Piano

As a left-hander, I have an early hands-on experience with the concept of chirality, or handedness: It can be quite difficult to cut a piece of paper with the left hand using standard scissors; the blades usually do not close precisely, resulting in a frayed cut. And of course, scissors with modern, "ergonomically-formed" handles cannot be used with the left hand in the first place.

There is a small niche market for all kinds of chiral partners of standard right-handed everyday products and tools: left-handed scissors, left-handed can-openers, left-handed pencil sharpeners. However, I do not utilize any of them, and use standard instruments with the right hand instead.

Today, I heard on the radio about something really amazing on the market on left-handed products: There are left-handed pianos!

Invented by Geza Loso, musician, piano teacher, left-hander and father of three left-handed kids, they are exact mirror images of usual pianos, with the pitch rising from the right to the left. As Geza Loso explains on his website: For the first time left-handed people receive a real chance to learn how to play the piano on an adequate instrument. Left-handed people would basically use their right hand to accompany and the skilled hand to handle the main functions of a piano-play, to play the melody. This is very decisive for every artistic interpretation.

The left-handed piano will be distributed by the Leipzig piano-manufacturing company Blüthner. Chief executive Christian Blüthner doesn't expect a big commercial success, but thinks that the left-handed piano demonstrates his company's inventiveness. And I am wondering if my career with the piano may have have been longer than a couple of lessons if the instrument would have been left-handed.


Steven Colyer said...

My brother is also left-handed and took 10 guitar lessons at age 13, from which he taught himself the piano. He's quite good on both instruments, yet he plays both in the normal configuration, as opposed to say Jimi Hendrix and Paul McCartney, who reversed their guitars' strings to accommodate their southpaw ways.

They've had left handed guitars for years (but not when McCartney started, hence his choice of his now-iconic Hofner viola-shaped bass). I'm really surprised this is the first time a left-handed piano has been produced.

So, what's next on your agenda, Stefan? New piano lessons?

Uncle Al said...

U(1)xSU(2)xSU(3) Where is the chiral symmetry breaking?

Bee said...

Too bad that the arrangements of keys on the piano is not left-right symmetric, otherwise one could just switch an electric keyboard from left- to right-handed. Now I'm wondering how it would sound if one just played a song left-right inverted?

Steven Colyer said...

U(1)xSU(2)xSU(3) Where is the chiral symmetry breaking?

At U(1) x SU(2) x SU(3) x SU(4)Spin(6) ?

Just kidding. I don't know. I must say though that like Al I thought this was going to be an article about Chirality based on the title, but it turned out to be an unexpected something else, and pleasantly so.

I don't know Bee, it would probably sound horrible though.

Savvas said...

At least computer keyboards and mice are adjustable :)


PS I was born a left-handed as well, but I learned (the hard way, ouch!) from my grandmother to be ambidextrous.

Javier said...

I find too unnecessary to construct an actual hardware left handed piano.

It would be a lot easier to make a left handed sampled piano. I mean, if you have a sampler (nowadays that mostly means a software sampler like gigasampler or kontakt) you just can get the samples of some commercialy multisampled piano (as for example the gigapiano, or any of the multigiga sampled pianos for the kontakt sampler) and rearrange the individual samples in opposite order. To play it you would use a regular master keyboard with weighted keys, an that's all.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Stefan,

Interesting as I myself am one of those people who were born not hand decided, which has one favour different hands dependant on the task. With writing it is with my right hand while swinging a bat or golf club left, There are symptoms attached to this, one of which is having a stammer when you are very young which you grow out of rather quickly as you make your choices. Anyway it would be curious to know if a right hander could then play Ravel’s Left Handed Concerto more easily with such a piano:-)



Georg said...

Hello Stefan,
why not lay flat on top of the piano
"face down"?
Of course then one can't open the top lid of the piano,
but that could be accomodated by drilling some holes into the bottom...

stefan said...

Too bad that the arrangements of keys on the piano is not left-right symmetric, otherwise one could just switch an electric keyboard from left- to right-handed.

Hm, good point... but thinking about this... the standard piano keyboard actually is left/right symmetric modulo a translation by two white keys, isn't it? That is, the switching would keep fixed one of the "d" keys.

So, for electronic pianos, a software solution should be easy?

Now I'm wondering how it would sound if one just played a song left-right inverted?

Sounds like an interesting experiment ;-)

Cheers, Stefan

Luke said...

I've never even realised that the piano is backwards for us lefties! And I play the guitar left-handed and took piano lessons for quite some time. The more you know.

Bee said...

Dear Stefan,

Yes! After I had written the comment I turned off the computer thinking but when I make a shift in addition it will reproduce the original keys. Was wondering who'd notice it :-) So then, why build a left handed piano when you can just push a button on a keyboard? Best,


Steven Colyer said...

In Boy Scouts, at campouts around the evening bonfire, we learned the intimate details of how to use the little known device known as a "left-handed smoke shifter". Of course, the southpaws among us operated it most efficiently.

Bee said...

Lefties Cry Discrimination Over iPhone’s Faulty Antenna :-)

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

So southpaws and iphones are not compatible as they don’t conform with the left handed rule . This then is more serious then simply annoying ten percent of the populous as they are risking pissing off nature:-)



volume said...

I am a father of a left-handed son. I enjoy playing piano. I wrote a midi-conversion program to solve this problem. ( using Delphi and MidiCom3 by invert the data1 to be 124-data1 ). It's much cheaper to make your own Midi-converted electric piano, I think.
The big question is that will my son follow his old-man's command.

Welcome any suggestion about that.
( I am happy to share the program to anyone interested ).

Mark Hobley said...

I wanted to be a keyboard player from an early age. I gave up the piano because it was right handed by design. It is a pity that Casio do not build a reverse for left handed use facility on their keyboards. I am sure this would only be a minor modifcation to their chip design, and would make their keyboards more appealing to left handed people. (I think losing a couple of notes from the top end, but gain a couple of lower notes in reverse mode is a fair sacrifice to make the keyboard playable left handed). I planned to butcher an electronic keyboard but never found one with a wiring loom that I could manipulate. I've never really had much money, so a two manual electronic organ was never within my reach, and even if one was, I didn't know whether the lower left keyboard could be shifted up for melody playing, whilst the upper right keyboard does the bass notes. Many years have now passed for me, but it is great news that left handed pianos are now being made. The Bluthner piano company have a site here in the United Kindom, so it may be possible to order one (if I can get the cash together). I'd still like to see Casio modify their product ranges for left handed use though.

Phillip Helbig said...

When I lived in Ahrensburg, I used to live a couple of houses down from Axel Zwingenberger, probably the greatest living boogie-woogie piano player. He is left-handed. As a boogie-woogie player, a normal piano is ideal for him. (Perhaps the fact that he is left-handed contributed to him specializing in boogie woogie and not some other style.)

I once saw a flute player with a left-handed flute at a concert in Hamburg, playing with an Irish-folk band from Manchester. Of course, many people play the flute and are left-handed, but they usually play a "normal" flute.
I assume he was left-handed but you never know.

Anthony Whittaker said...

Errmm..... I think you'll find the left handed piano was invented by Christopher Seed first!