Thank you Brian and Robin.
The technician and the artist
I do think that people tend to make sure they are fretting the right spots and can ignore the right hand, but I also think that people often stop thinking about the left hand prematurely once they've gotten the notes correct, when there are so many more artistic possibilities to be explored with it.
updated by @brian-g: 03/21/17 03:38:36PM
Yet, some say that the left side of the brain (which controls the right hand) is the logical side, while the left side is creative. This sounds like we should be fretting with our right hand and picking or strumming with our left.
I guess that can't be right, as musicians throughout the years have fretted with the left (creative) hand.
I think it's a two-handed sword. If the left hand does not get the right note(s) held for the correct amount of time (technical), the best strum/pick rhythm/pattern in the world can't make wrong notes sound good. But with good clean notes, the left hand can turn those notes into fabulous compositions (artistry). It takes both a technician and an artist to make a masterpiece of music.
Diana, truth be told, there is technique and artistry involved in both hands. But Bing's main point is certainly to emphasize the right hand. Too many players worry solely about where to put their (left-hand) fingers on the fretboard. But it is the right hand that determines how softly or loudly we play, whether the tone is delicate or forceful, whether we hit all the strings or just one or two, whether we play exactly on the beat or just ahead or behind it, whether we play things straight or "swing" a bit, whether we accent strums, skip strums, mute strums, whether we play a block chord or an arpeggio, etc.
And when we play in a group, if you make a mistake with your left hand it disappears as soon as the next note is played. But if your right-hand rhythm is off, then your mistakes continue throughout and you are likely to stand out.
I would suggest that the main difference between the great dulcimer players and the rest of us is their superior control of the right hand. Most of us can follow the tablature written by those folks, so our left hand goes where it is supposed to, but we don't sound as rich and expressive as they do because we have ignored our right hand as we've learned to play.
Dusty T., Northern California
"A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think."
-- Pete Seeger