Hello, all! In my crusade to write about things guitarists can benefit from (things that have very little to do with actually playing guitar), I'd like to discuss something that comes up a lot when we are in our practice rooms: dexterity—dominance or cross-dominance.
These are big words for something simple: Am I right handed, left handed or both (ambidextrous)? Most humans have a dominant side. Typically, one out of 100 people is actually born ambidextrous. Many of the people we consider ambidextrous are actually left-handed people who were made to conform to a right-handed world.
Think of the final fight scene in Rocky, in which our champ, Rocky, a self-professed "southpaw" (left-handed fighter) goes till the very last round of the fight using right-handed technique, and then for the final moments surprises his opponent by switching to his natural left-handed style. It has long been believed that left-handed people are more creative because the right hemisphere of the brain is wired to left side of the body—and it also is closely related to creative and non-linear thinking. Outside-the-box stuff.
We could get into everything scientists have learned about neural and motor-control development in human behavior, but the bottom line is that it is, in fact, a learned behavior: repetitive movements our body simply tries to get better at to improve its own efficiency. Ever notice when you're learning something new, you get that beginner's luck thing? And when you slow it down, read through it a few times and get it, then you get that sophomore slump? That's because we all have a short-term and long-term muscle-control memory.
Much like RAM (Random Access Memory = quick bursts of short-term memory) and ROM (Read Only Memory = permanent) in the computer world, short-term memory uses a lot of thought or processing power (RAM), and the long-term one is where your body figures it's repeated any pattern enough over time to physically develop itself to permanently remember any repeated pattern (ROM). That's why you can still ride a bike after putting it in the shed for a season. So here's the challenge: For the next month, write a little note somewhere in your house, on your fridge, your cell phone, etc., that reminds you that you're tired of having a non-dominant hand—something that says, "I'm going to spend this morning as a lefty instead of a righty; I'm going to brush my teeth, comb my hair, open doors, type, etc. using only my left hand."
Tell your body that you want better muscle control with your non-dominant side. If lefties can develop to the point of being ambidextrous to conform to us righties, what's stopping the righties from developing more? Immediately, this whole concept should turn your head. You, too, can be more ambidextrous. If lefties have a reputation for being more creative because they access the right sides of their brain more by default, that alone should be a reason, wouldn't you think? Wouldn't you like to develop the ability to think outside the box more often?
Having a dominant side simply means there are more and better-developed telephone wires between your brain and an appendage. You built those wires and you can build more; you just have to send the message. The real goal here is to discover and expand upon your own ability to physically learn. If you have never done this kind of thing, it will seem impossible, but I'm telling you it isn't. It will take you a month of nagging yourself to hold a fork with your non-dominant hand to reach a comfort level, but it will be with you for your lifetime.
It took Rocky six weeks ... You will play better, but more than anything, you will THINK better and you will have a VERY vivid picture of how your body really learns something. I typed this entire article with my left hand, by the way, and then made the poor online editor at Guitar World fix all my mistakes!!! Until next time!
David Scott Rockower is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer and guitar teacher based out of the capital region of New York state. His newest original project, "The Duke Western," where he self-produces and performs all the instruments and engineers his own songs, has had success in its short life so far, having songs licensed to MTV, E! Networks, Tiptown Publishing, regional airplay and more. Projects Rockower has produced have been featured on PBS, Kia Motors, Paia Pictures and have recieved hours of airplay or web-play. He teaches around 30 guitar students per week, and performs more than 140 shows per year in different groups all over the Northeast. Check out thedukewestern.com for contact and more info!