top of page

"Finally I can play with my heart" - Relearned to play the cello left-handed as an adult

Everything was easier - and the feeling! It's hard to describe, but now I could start playing with my heart instead of just my head.

Sabine Schmidt

Never play the wrong way around again

My name is Sabine Schmidt and I started to play the cello 9 years ago in my spare time. As a child and teenager I had learned the piano.

After one and a half years of cello lessons, my teacher, who was already 80 years old at the time, suggested that I try playing the lefty way, because he knew I was left-handed. He had been successful with a lefty viola student. That was my great luck!

First try out on a restrung cello

I had struggled for nine months to hold the bow right-handed without cramping my hand. We first restrung the right-handed cello so I could try it on the left. Poor cello, it sounded awful. But already after one or two playing sessions, I never wanted to play "the wrong way around" again - it was easier for me to execute the movements, everything came into a flow that had been lacking before or had to be laboriously worked out.

Finding a left-handed cello

The search for a left-handed cello was less hopeless than I thought, and I finally found a 'shelf warmer' - a luthier from Erlangen had made some individual left-handed instruments years before that didn't sell so well. That's how I ended up with my beautiful, honey-colored left-handed cello with, for me, a full, warm sound - and handmade in Germany, too, which was a great pleasure.

It's so much more fun!

Within about 8 weeks I was technically at the level of one and a half years of playing right-handed. Everything was easier for me - and the feeling! It's hard to describe, but now I could start to play with my heart instead of just my head. Learning a string instrument is still challenging, of course, and a lot of work. But it was less stressful for me to give pieces a sound, so it was much more fun and I can enjoy the music more. I have become a passionate lefty player and will never play anything the wrong way around again.

What others say

Before I decided to make the switch, I researched on the Internet what others had to say about it. The opinions there were unanimous that you wouldn't get into an orchestra left-handed, but that it would be worth it in terms of playing. At 44, I didn't feel I would ever reach a level to play in an orchestra, so I didn't think it was a big deal. Meanwhile, it turns out that it is also not true at all, orchestras today are much more open than one is led to believe.

My new teacher, to whom I changed this year, a professional cellist, was puzzled at first, she had never had a left-handed playing student before. But for lessons, it's actually quite practical when sitting opposite one another. In the small hobby ensembles I've played in so far, my left-handedness wasn't a problem at all, and in a somewhat larger ensemble I'll be playing in starting this year, it won't be either. When I read on Linksgespielt that orchestras are also opening up, it made me very happy, because I really believe that this can develop talents that wouldn't make it right-side up or wouldn't reach their full capabilities.

Looking back and forward

In retrospect, I am a bit sad that when I was a kid, no one even thought of playing the piano left-handed. The piano is a unique instrument, I have learned a lot and I am very happy that I can play it at a good amateur level, but in the end the final freedom to dive into a piece is missing. Again, I have to work extremely with my head. Learning by heart or playing freely was always very difficult for me. On the cello it's easier because you are not playing several notes or sequences at once, but the lateral correctness also helps, I think.

I would like to see both left-handed and right-handed people being able to decide for themselves today, and even more so in the future, which instrument they want to play and how. And that the assertion of some that there is no difference disappears from the world. Whoever believes this should be welcome to try to learn to write just as beautifully and quickly with their " weak" hand as with their strong hand! I have not managed this despite persistent attempts as a child - I had problems with smudging the ink with the left hand - (and therefore stayed with left-hand writing).

Sabine Schmidt playing her cello


More retraining stories on string instruments:

Photo credit: Alexander Englert


bottom of page