Left-Handed Flutes




We've grown accustomed to the modern flute being a right-handed only instrument, but it wasn't always so.  In earlier times, woodwinds - particularly recorders and oboes - were made ambidextrous.  The 6-hole renaissance flute was fundamentally ambidextrous, and iconography shows that it was used both ways.  The baroque one-key flute could be made left-handed simply by rotating the foot with its single key to the other side.  

It was only as more keys were added to the one-key flute that decisions had to be made, and the custom of pointing the flute out to the right took precedence.  None the less, people often came to the flute via an ambidextrous instrument and so were unwilling to have to start all over again.  Instrument makers were always willing to go out of their way to oblige, and so we have a small but interesting legacy of left-handed flutes.  We'll pop images of them up here as they come to hand.  

Richard Potter

Potter was a very significant maker in London from 1745 to 1823.  Most of his flutes were boxwood and ivory as seen below.  

Firth & Pond

Our first example comes from the US - a flute by New York makers Firth, Pond & Co.  The instrument is in a private collection in the UK.

The mark reads: Firth, Pond & Co/Franklin/New York.  Compare it to the otherwise rather similar right-handed 6-key instrument at Firth Pond & Co - New York Makers.

Clementi Nicholson's Improved

This fine example of a left-handed Nicholson's Improved appears on Tony Bingham's Old Musical Instruments website.  (Tony's signature piece of laminex background is a dead giveaway.)  Tony's site is always worth watching for interesting instruments and books about them:


Note the classic Nicholson trademarks - the narrow-waisted embouchure area, the combing on head and barrel, flattening around the RH holes, upturned Long F touch.  Serial No: 2558.  Thanks to Dave Migoya for spotting this one.

Left-handed Boehm flutes

And, how about this?  The tradition of making left-handed flutes didn't die out in the 19th century....

Dear Mr. McGee

I just came across your website and found this:  “If you have an image of a left-handed flute to add to this collection, please get in touch!”

Now, we at VIENTO not only have images of left-handed flutes, but we also sell such flutes.  We are the only flute company in the world to produce modern concert flutes for left-handers.  For pictures, videos and more information about our left-handed flutes, please check our website:


Best regards to down under!
Juergen Roos
Sales + Marketing

A left-handed Boehm from the Viento range.

If you have an image of a left-handed flute to add to this collection, please get in touch! 

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