You may have come across a couple of articles referring to a left-handed saxophone, or maybe you’re just curious about the topic.
Do left-handed saxes exist? Or are they just a myth?
The idea for a left-handed saxophone may come from the incredible popularity of the guitar, and the necessity of having a left-handed instrument. But the guitar functions completely differently. With guitar, one hand strums while the other hand frets.
With the saxophone, both hands work together to create a fingering for a single note.
By design, the saxophone is inherently ambidextrous. Both hands work together simultaneously. Each note is created by the coordination between different keys in each hand.
However, arguably the left hand works harder than the right. This is because the design of woodwind instruments requires the shortening or lengthening of the instrument (“tube”).
At the “top” of the instrument near the mouthpiece are the fundamental notes, because they have the greatest control of the whole range of the instrument. If you change the fundamental notes, you change any note after it.
On sax, flute, and clarinet, the left hand controls these fundamental pitches.
On saxophone specifically, the left hand has a lot more work to do. It is very common when learning saxophone to have issues controlling the left hand and keeping the wrist straight because the left hand has so much more work to do.
Can You Play the Sax with One Hand?
The notes in the left hand can be played without the right hand, but the notes in the right hand cannot be played without the left hand.
In this way, the saxophone is left hand dominant. You can get out some of the notes with just the left hand, but you will be severely limited in your range without the right hand.
Is There a Left-Handed Saxophone?
Saxophones, where the right and left hands are switched, is more of an urban legend. There are some pictures that claim to be left-handed saxophones, but usually, left-handed saxophones are just photographs that are reverse imaged.
Generally, they are thought not to exist. However, some people swear they have seen them.
Personally, I would put left-handed saxophones in the same category as the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot. Maybe they exist or have existed. But I have never seen one or heard of one existing.
There have been a number of saxophones over the years that have been designed for musicians with only one hand.
Most of these have been for musicians that suffered injuries or illnesses and could only play with one hand.
But these were custom-made saxophones designed for a specific person. They were not commonly available.
What Instruments Are Left-Handed? And Which Have Left-Handed Versions?
- Woodwinds lend themselves to be ambidextrous or left-hand dominant, while stringed instruments gravitate toward the right-handed.
- Pianos are inherently right-handed, but it makes musical sense because the bass generally has less movement.
- Brass instruments can be played with one hand if necessary, although benefit from both.
- Drums are generally ambidextrous, but right and left-handed drummers tend to position their drums differently.
- If we are talking about instruments that are commonly designed with left-handed versions, these would be stringed instruments.
If you are a beginning left-handed saxophone player, wondering if you need to get a “left-handed” model, rest assured that that idea most likely comes from guitar players and there is no reason to worry.
As a right-handed saxophonist, I can confirm that the left hand does more of the work when playing saxophone, and it has been very difficult for me to train my left hand to do the things I need it to do.
Author: Cooper White
- Cooper is a Multi-Instrumentalist, with vast knowledge and experience performing with Sax, Flute, Clarinet, Keyboard, and Blues Harmonica.
- With a Bachelor’s Degree from the Berklee College of Music in Boston and studies in Classical Performance at the Lionel Hampton School of Music, he has also more than 10 years of performing professionally, whether while road touring in the U.S. or playing on different cruise ships.
- He is also an entertainer with his shows, as well as a producer of his music and others. Whenever he is not performing, he teaches individual online classes. He mostly plays Jazz, Classical and Popular music.