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
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
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!
Sales + Marketing
A left-handed Boehm from the Viento