Difference between left and right-handed pan flutes
You might have seen that pan flutes come in two different configurations: left and right-handed pan flutes. Customers frequently ask me about the difference between those two, so I want to address that question in this post.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, the length of each pipe determines the musical note that that pipe plays. This is the reason why there are smaller tubes and one side and longer tubes on the other side.
The traditional configuration of a pan flute is right-handed. This means that the longer tubes (lower notes) are at the right. In other words, the longer tubes are held with the musician’s right hand. It is important to note that his configuration is opposite to other musical instruments such as the piano or the harmonica, which have their lower tones at the left.
The left-handed is consistent with a piano/harmonica configuration. The longer tubes (lower tones) are at the left. The instrument's longer side is meant to be held with the musician’s left hand. Now, the question to address is how much of a difference does this makes.
The first aspect to consider is the weight. This might not be that relevant if you are playing a small pan flute, but if you play a twenty-five or more pipes pan flute, holding the pan flute with your dominant hand can make a difference. This is especially true when you practice or rehearse for long periods of time. The longer tubes are heavier; therefore, it is more comfortable to hold them with your dominant hand.
The second aspect is also related to the instrument’s weight. As I have mentioned in previous posts, you play accidentals in a pan flute by tilting it. This maneuver can be slightly more comfortable if the musician holds the pan flute with his dominant hand.
A third aspect is more particular to each person’s preference. If a musician has previous experience playing the harmonica or the piano, he might find it a bit confusing to play in a different orientation. Therefore, I have had many clients who are right-handed but who prefer left-handed pan flutes because they have experience playing the piano or the harmonica and they feel more comfortable with that configuration (lower tones at the left).
In my personal experience, I am right-handed, and I learned the pan flute with a right-handed instrument. At this point, I find playing a left-handed pan flute a bit disorienting because of how used I am to the right-handed configuration. However, it all depends on the musician’s preference.
I hope this post was helpful. If you have additional questions, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org