Adapting guitar playing for ex-special forces guy who lost finger

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Adapting guitar playing for ex-special forces guy who lost finger

Postby Matthew Lau » Mon Nov 20, 2017 12:53 pm

Hey MIMF,

One of my patients (ex-special forces combat medic) recently lost the distal half of his left middle finger this past month.
While he had the finger cosmetically reconstructed (with part of his wrist bone and grafted flesh), it's effectively nonfunctional.
He's a bit frustrated, since he can't play guitar anymore (he's been an avid player for 14 years, likes punk, rock, and blues).

Do you guys have any recommendations?

I was thinking of getting him a guitar slide, but wasn't sure which one works.
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Re: Adapting guitar playing for ex-special forces guy who lost finger

Postby Craig Bumgarner » Mon Nov 20, 2017 2:54 pm

I don't have any direct advise though the slide idea sound promising. My thought was to have him read the Django Reinhardt story. Django lost the use of his 3rd and 4th finger on his left hand from a severe burn early in his career. Everyone thought his career was over but he adapted his playing to his badly damaged hand and became the most popular jazz musician in Europe from 1935 to 1945. He is considered by many to be the first great jazz guitar soloist and is certainly one of the greatest guitarist ever. Hopefully your patient will find inspiration in this and find a way.

Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend by Michael Dregni is excellent. The Django Reinhardt Biography by Charles Delaunay is also quite good, especially because Delauney was the closest thing Django had to a manager and promoter and was with the man for many years.
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Re: Adapting guitar playing for ex-special forces guy who lost finger

Postby Bob Gramann » Mon Nov 20, 2017 4:00 pm

Richie Havens played in open tunings fretting with his thumb as well as his fingers. One performer that I know of relearned guitar left-handed after his left hand (his fretting hand) was damaged in a blast.

Over the years, I’ve played with several different slides. I tend to favor those with enough mass to hold steady against the vibrating strings. After that, fit is important. I’ve yet to meet the perfect slide.

In the end, the music you want to play leads you to do what you have to do to play it.
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Re: Adapting guitar playing for ex-special forces guy who lost finger

Postby Randy Roberts » Mon Nov 20, 2017 10:19 pm

Get him Django: the Life and Music, and get him some examples of his playing. What better way to show your support, and could end up being really inspirational.
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Re: Adapting guitar playing for ex-special forces guy who lost finger

Postby Matthew Lau » Tue Feb 20, 2018 3:49 pm

Thanks for the tip.

I placed an order for the book.
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Re: Adapting guitar playing for ex-special forces guy who lost finger

Postby Jim McConkey » Tue Feb 20, 2018 5:22 pm

If your friend has time to travel, an east coast summer music camp might be of interest: http://www.commongroundonthehill.org/index.html
They have a special program for veterans, and even scholarships to enable them to attend, and s/he would find a lot of camaraderie and support from fellow veterans, in addition to a bewildering array of classes on various instruments, folk arts, and social justice. Common Ground is great for anyone, but they reach out to veterans.
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Re: Adapting guitar playing for ex-special forces guy who lost finger

Postby Bob Francis » Tue Mar 20, 2018 6:24 pm

Jim McConkey wrote:If your friend has time to travel, an east coast summer music camp might be of interest: http://www.commongroundonthehill.org/index.html
They have a special program for veterans, and even scholarships to enable them to attend, and s/he would find a lot of camaraderie and support from fellow veterans, in addition to a bewildering array of classes on various instruments, folk arts, and social justice. Common Ground is great for anyone, but they reach out to veterans.


What a great idea.
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