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Thread: Workarounds for physical challenges?

  1. #1
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    Nov 2014
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    Default Workarounds for physical challenges?

    I'm curious, how many of you have physical challenges or limitations that you have to work around in order to play, and how do you do it?

    For example, I suffered a severe laceration on my left forearm just below the elbow nearly necessitating the removal of the limb at the elbow. Median and ulnar nerves were severed along with with muscles, veins, etc. The doc said I'd never move the hand or have feeling in in again. At the time, I was playing guitar for a living, so it was quite a blow.

    In the intervening years, I struggled and worked to regain some movement, about 20%. I can play bass well enough to gig regularly (I'm no Victor Wooten, but can play in time and in key), still play slide guitar, and since (re)discovering the uke about a year ago have been working on playing chords on it (something very difficult on the guitar).

    I do not have the ability to spread the fingers on my left hand very well, but can anchor a finger or two and use the wrist to fake the movement. The hard part though is being unable to really feel the strings. Lacking that tactile feedback, it seems to take a lot more repetitions to get the muscle memory really ingrained.

    I have to say, playing the ukulele has been the best therapy yet. My bass playing has improved a bunch in the last year (especially after discovering the ubass - I can actually reach more than 2 frets on it without a position shift).

    So in short...

    Issue - inability to spread fingers.
    Workaround - anchoring finger(s) and using wrist movement.
    I too, have nothing of value to add to this thread...

  2. #2
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    Default

    Daft question, but have you considered learning to play left (or right) handed? I realise you wouldn't have as much mobility for picking, but fretting would obviously be easier.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Big Kahuna View Post
    Daft question, but have you considered learning to play left (or right) handed? I realise you wouldn't have as much mobility for picking, but fretting would obviously be easier.
    Tried it. I actually have a lefty Strat copy. I find the operations performed by the picking hand more complex and require more tactile feedback.
    I too, have nothing of value to add to this thread...

  4. #4
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    I am sorry to hear about what happened to you.

    How about investigating alternative tunings to make chording less of a chore. Maybe specializing in slide which only requires one digit's use?

  5. #5
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    i had an old injury to the knuckle of my left hand ring finger flare up quite badly last year, it hurt to bend the joint, it hurt a LOT if it got knocked! and it made regular chord playing difficult. i didn't realise at first what the problem was, i was afraid it might be tendonitis, i decided straight away to rest the joint until i could check with my doc, but after a day or two (so addicted!) i was REALLY missing playing uke. i tuned my ukes to open tuning - gceg for soprano etc, dgbd for baritone, ie. dropping the highest sounding string two frets' worth. it meant i could play major chords just by simple barring with just my index finger - open is C chord on the soprano etc, 2nd fret is D etc etc, open on the bari is G, 2nd fret gives A etc etc on the bari. i stuck just to simple barring, and just major chords, obviously that limited my choice of songs but not as much as i feared - i take part in the seasons here on UU, weekly song challenges, and yes there were songs i could not pick for each weekly theme, but there were lots that i could, i didn't feel it messed too much with my mojo! on the contrary once my doc told me it was an old break playing up, and not a tendon problem, and i could go back to regular chording as soon as it was comfortable, i still go back to the simple barring method now and again, just for fun! it's good to know i can do that any time the finger plays up again, but even when it's fine, i sometimes choose to play that way, if a song is all major chords. it's a way of playing that sounds particularly good if i am amplifying the uke and adding lots of fuzz, it's really rock-y!

    this fix might be too basic - in many ways - for you, it might be more of a fix than you need, but it might be useful when you wanna just relax and play for fun and not be struggling and stretching, you can focus on the song and rhythm etc and just having a good time, and not worry about fretting at all really! when i first started playing that way i found the constant barring a bit tiring but i reckon the required gripping muscles soon strengthened up - and that might be a useful thing for you too?
    Last edited by bird's eye view of my ukelele; 09-15-2015 at 12:42 PM.
    lynda

    doth mother know you weareth her drapes?

  6. #6
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    Nov 2014
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    Quote Originally Posted by CactusWren View Post
    How about investigating alternative tunings to make chording less of a chore. Maybe specializing in slide which only requires one digit's use?
    Not sure about specializing, but I do play Dobro, lap steel and CBG.

    Quote Originally Posted by bird's eye view of my ukelele View Post
    i had an old injury to the knuckle of my left hand ring finger flare up quite badly last year, it hurt to bend the joint, it hurt a LOT if it got knocked! and it made regular chord playing difficult. i didn't realise at first what the problem was, i was afraid it might be tendonitis, i decided straight away to rest the joint until i could check with my doc, but after a day or two (so addicted!) i was REALLY missing playing uke. i tuned my ukes to open tuning - gceg for soprano etc, dgbd for baritone, ie. dropping the highest sounding string two frets' worth. it meant i could play major chords just by simple barring with just my index finger - open is C chord on the soprano etc, 2nd fret is D etc etc, open on the bari is G, 2nd fret gives A etc etc on the bari. i stuck just to simple barring, and just major chords, obviously that limited my choice of songs but not as much as i feared - i take part in the seasons here on UU, weekly song challenges, and yes there were songs i could not pick for each weekly theme, but there were lots that i could, i didn't feel it messed too much with my mojo! on the contrary once my doc told me it was an old break playing up, and not a tendon problem, and i could go back to regular chording as soon as it was comfortable, i still go back to the simple barring method now and again, just for fun! it's good to know i can do that any time the finger plays up again, but even when it's fine, i sometimes choose to play that way, if a song is all major chords. it's a way of playing that sounds particularly good if i am amplifying the uke and adding lots of fuzz, it's really rock-y!

    this fix might be too basic - in many ways - for you, it might be more of a fix than you need, but it might be useful when you wanna just relax and play for fun and not be struggling and stretching, you can focus on the song and rhythm etc and just having a good time, and not worry about fretting at all really! when i first started playing that way i found the constant barring a bit tiring but i reckon the required gripping muscles soon strengthened up - and that might be a useful thing for you too?
    Very cool that you didn't let it slow you down much! Did you ever determine what triggered the flareup? Did using the instruments in a different manner lead to anything new and exciting when you returned to 'normal' techniques?

  7. #7
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    May 2010
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    I lost the tip of my left index in a car accident six years ago (ALWAYS wear your seatbelt - it saved my live). The distal phalanghe was amputated, and I can barely bend the finger (BTW it annoys me that in the Bones TV series they always call these finger bones 'phalanxes', which are in fact either Greek battle formations or right-wing militias in the Spanish Civil War).

    Back to the question. Ukuleles are ergonomically more sensible than guitars: no crooked shoulders, no lifted left foot, no far reaches, no finger cutting strings. In my case, I can still use the index finger, but have to compensate for the lack of bending power by bringing my wrist forward. That works well for ukuleles and mandolins, but not so for guitars and basses, whereI have to either lower my shoulder or lift the guitar neck. Another ergonomical advandage of ukuleles: a lot more chord shapes that require only two or three fingers to sound full - not that I can't play with four fingers, but part of the challenge is to 'sound difficult, but play easily'.

  8. #8
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    Have you tried a prosthetic fingertip?

    I can think of one guy who's been using one successfully for several years...


  9. #9
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    I have congenital deformities in my hands and shoulders. Years ago I was learning to play guitars in the traditional position but I struggled very hard with it and eventually gave up for a number of years. My posture was horribly twisted back then when playing which didn't help.

    A few years ago I decided to give ukulele's a go and I had a hunch that trying a new posture may help and I was right. I now fret OVER the top of the fretboard, with the ukulele on my lap in a VERTICAL position. It works for me a treat. The most important thing the change did was to balance my spine.

    Anyway, what works for me won't necessarily work for you but the principle is, break away from convention and try something different.

    Here's me reviewing my Scott Wise ukulele. A few minutes in you can see me playing.



    Anthony

  10. #10
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    Nov 2014
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    Quote Originally Posted by ukulelekarcsi View Post
    I lost the tip of my left index in a car accident six years ago (ALWAYS wear your seatbelt - it saved my live). The distal phalanghe was amputated, and I can barely bend the finger (BTW it annoys me that in the Bones TV series they always call these finger bones 'phalanxes', which are in fact either Greek battle formations or right-wing militias in the Spanish Civil War).

    Back to the question. Ukuleles are ergonomically more sensible than guitars: no crooked shoulders, no lifted left foot, no far reaches, no finger cutting strings. In my case, I can still use the index finger, but have to compensate for the lack of bending power by bringing my wrist forward. That works well for ukuleles and mandolins, but not so for guitars and basses, whereI have to either lower my shoulder or lift the guitar neck. Another ergonomical advandage of ukuleles: a lot more chord shapes that require only two or three fingers to sound full - not that I can't play with four fingers, but part of the challenge is to 'sound difficult, but play easily'.
    So you pivot your wrist in lieu of bending the finger? Genius, a phalanx of kudos to you!
    I too, have nothing of value to add to this thread...

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