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Argentina: 'I couldn't do what they were doing' – Federico Morgan about changing sides on the violin

Do you see yourself as left- or right-handed?

I wish I had been right-handed. They are the most. The world was designed by them.

How is the situation for left-handed people in Argentina in general? Are there many of them and are they allowed to write/live left-handed?

Argentina is quite open. We are allowed to write left-handed. In violin or string instruments we are still behind. When you are young your teacher will tell you where to place the violin. If you are left-handed he/she will switched your violin to the "normal" side.

Do you know other left-handed playing musicians in Argentina, is it a common thing there?

I met two left-handed violinists in Argentina. They where guitar players that also played the violin. It is not common in Argentina.

Have you always played the violin left-handed?

I started the 'normal' way for 5 years when I was 20 years old.

When did you change to left-handed playing and why? Please tell us more about this process and your approach. Which were the most difficult aspects?

I changed to left-handed playing when I was 25, after observing other musicians play. I could see how musicians were using their bodies to play and I noticed, I could not do what they were doing. I remembered I was much happier mimicking them like a left-handed player. I also noticed I could tell by observation when a violinist is left-handed but plays the ‘normal’ way. I was mainly self-taught. In the 90’ unfortunately we didn’t have the internet to get information and videos to learn. .

The most difficult aspect of changing to left-handed playing was my both hands: The right hand was impossible. My fingers didn’t go down like I was used to with my left-hand. I remember I couldn’t do a C sharp with my third finger in the G string. And my bow! I didn’t know, but I had the scaphoid bone [one of the carpal bones] broken in my left hand! I had pain all the time and I couldn’t maintain the grip in the different angles when crossing the strings. Doctors didn’t tell me it was broken. So for me the bow was a struggle. Then after 20 years of playing like this I came across a doctor who said: ‚Hey! You have a broken bone in your wrist!’ So this was very relieving for me. I thought ‚Wow! No wonder the violin was so difficult to play for me!’ I had a surgery a couple of years ago and now I feel so good. I can feel my bow! After 20 years of I don’t know what! So now I am relearning my bow and everything is going into place at last!!

Federico Morgan plays the violin left-handed in a dark place with green light

Have you faced any reservations or concerns from other people about learning your instruments left-handed? From where did you get support?

I had no support except from my family.

Did you have a role model in left-handed playing? Are you connected with other lefty players?

I love music and the violin. I love and admire many violinists and musicians. They are all right-handed players. Even some of them are left-handed musicians playing right-handed.

How did you come by your instruments? Are they custom-made?

The instrument I play I made myself. It took me 10 years cos I was traveling a lot and my luthier lessons were very slow. I also had two custom made left-handed violins from two well known Argentine luthiers. A week ago I asked Sofia Vettori if she could do a Bergonzi model for me, but she said she will NOT do a left-handed violin… So these things happen to me all the time which I’m accustomed to them.

What kind of music do you perform?

At the moment I am playing in a tango show in Argentina. But I love classical music, which is the one I play and study all the time.

Do you play in an orchestra? What are your experiences with playing left-handed there? Have there been any problems?

I played in many orchestras in Argentina. String orchestras, symphonic orchestras, string quartets, trios, duos etc. Some directors told me they became a bit dizzy with me going the other way. The problem in these orchestras is, that I am placed with the rest of the violins and I am facing the back of the theatre and not the audience. [for lefty solutions in orchestras click here]

Has your left-handed playing ever caused any funny or strange situations?

I played 5 times around Europe in well known theaters, also at the Jazz Festival of Montreal, the Lincoln Center Outdoors etc. And sometimes people come and approach me very surprised and one I remember, one in particular in Switzerland. He was very angry that I was playing the other way round.

Does playing left-handed present any advantages?

The only advantage I find is that in a duo with another violin or a viola we can play mirroring each other. The rest is all disadvantages. The one I suffer most is that I cannot try violins or play other violins.

You are initiating the ‚First International Left-Handed Orchestra‘. Please tell us more about your motivation and your plans.

I think left-handed musicians – specifically string instrument ones – have a hard life. They are the rare ones. If you play well to enter an orchestra and in the audition there is a right-handed one that plays the same as you. They will probably choose the right-handed player. Bows will move in the same way and aesthetically will look better. So you have to be outstanding as a left-handed player. Also, as violin is so difficult, you need a lot of time. You have to start young – and when you are young they usually place the violin the "normal" way and you struggle and quit, or manage to become a professional violinist playing the unnatural way. Once a violinist told me, it is better for left-handed players to play the violin the normal way cos you have your skill in the left… I thought: ‚Oh! Ok, why everybody does it the difficult way then!?’ I came with this idea of putting together the First International Left handed Orchestra. I think this will help other left-handed musicians that struggle entering orchestras. And also I think that in the future with new knowledge like the thesis by Krista Pyykönen – which you can download here – they will start to incorporate left-handed players from very young age. I want to contribute to our lefty cause!

Photo credit: personal




More left-handed side-changing and retraining stories (in German only so far):

Cellist Hans-Ludwig Becker (english translation)


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