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Testimony of an injured player: inspiration for beginners

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Jan 18, 2020 - 1:00:06 PM
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33 posts since 3/23/2018

Thank you group. I'm learning a lot.

Some of you know I suffered a stroke ~2-1/2 yrs ago. Prior to that I was a hack finger-picker/strummer/slide on an old flat-top. I have small hands and never really achieved what I wanted, and didn't progress.

During stroke re-hab you learn a lot about NEUROPLASTICITY. It's the brain's way of making new circuits around damaged areas. It's a real, physical process. After a few months of physical therapy, I began to "feel" and recognize real progress. The PTs watch and take notes and measure your stuff, you can see it in those numbers.

I guess I have ~20-25% strength and dexterity in my fretting hand and ~ 80% in my right. I modified my flat top with a nut extension and tried it on my lap with Shubb PS2. I was stifled, couldn't use the bar well and my right-hand technique was shot.

BUT, with a better instrument (rec'd Jan 7), I've practiced a lot more. Again, I FELT the increase in my right-hand abilities while practicing, in real time. I swear it has to do with neuroplasticity, new brain connections made and working, and affirmed. The left hand is working better too.

The point I want to make is that neuroplasticity happens whether or not you have injury. The brain is like a muscle and responds to workouts, practice and repetition, and challenge. I attest to it.

I'm not going to start my own record label or anything, but hey ...

Jan 18, 2020 - 1:06:56 PM

cb56

USA

299 posts since 3/26/2013

Cool story. Glad you are healing. Every time we make an advancement in our playing we prove that to be true.
Neither will I start a record company or even be considered any good, but there is something to be said about doing something just for the love of it.
It has to be a healthy thing don't you think?

Edited by - cb56 on 01/18/2020 13:07:40

Jan 18, 2020 - 2:56:26 PM

307 posts since 9/9/2016

Great ! And a spur for us to try more/ harder .

It is not uncommon to hear from lap style players , of doing so because of an injury . ( I didn't switch per se , but deliberately took up lap style from scratch because of a hand injury .)

One of the occasional players at the sat morning jam has a degenerative nerve condition ( who's name momentarily escapes me ) . He can no longer handle a tone bar , but still plays lap style with one of those " easy chord " plastic button gadgets .

Jan 18, 2020 - 6:50:12 PM

301 posts since 8/24/2013

I enjoyed your story. You might want to read about Billy Hew Lin. He was an amazing Hawaiian steel guitar player.

Jan 18, 2020 - 9:10:58 PM

LukeF

USA

45 posts since 9/28/2019

Thanks for sharing your inspirational story, John. Don't give up.

Jan 18, 2020 - 10:57:36 PM

33 posts since 3/23/2018

Kind people, I wasn't trying to paint a tale of whoa and inspiration. What I really meant to impart is the brain's response to practice, repetition, repetition, and repetition. Like body builders work muscles. I think my progress was so noticeable to me because I was digging out of a deficit, like I'm on the early, steep portion of an asymptomatic curve that flattens out as it approaches proficiency. If you hit a plateau, persevere. Our brains will respond and the curve will steepen again. Then challenge it again.

Like Antsy McClain says, "We're all on the same road, just different mile markers".

Jan 19, 2020 - 5:47:26 AM

vnugent

USA

99 posts since 10/24/2016

John, I echo your comments about repetition and perseverance. Years ago I was a rather unskilled right-handed guitar player; I could strum some chords and play some songs. 15 years ago I had a table saw accident which severed all the fingers on my left hand --- approximately 75% amputated. Surgery re-attached the five fingers, but they were fused in a position as if you were holding a grapefruit; needless to say, my guitar fretting days were over. 5 years ago I thought I might be able to play a dobro and bought a cheap one; I soon found that I couldn't hold the bar properly let alone flatten my hand behind the bar. I brought my guitar to the local guitar shop and had him change it to a left-handed set-up, figuring my left hand was better suited to picking. It took me two years to train my brain and hands, but practice and repetition pay off. I play in a country-western band and ourchased my second Beard guitar. To paraphrase you comment about the plateau, "If you hit a wall, figure out a way to get around or over it." ADVANTAGE: Online lessons look like mirror images. DISADVANTAGE: No guitar shop or booth ever has a left-handed model for me to play. I've met only other other left-handed player.

Jan 19, 2020 - 6:00:25 AM

451 posts since 1/29/2013

You make very interesting points John and I believe I understand exactly what you're getting at. 
 

I wonder how much of the neuroplasticity rewire involved in playing a musical instrument crosses over and is firing for other more common tasks required for daily living. I'd much rather practice an instrument as opposed to spending time in a PT setting if I were a stroke victim. That is, after I got done feeling sorry for myself.

i hadn't ever made the comparison of neuroplasticity to improving as a player but it makes sense. I've always enjoyed the challenge of improving and I do because I spend the time at it and always keep attempting and then conquering more difficult pieces.

Your point to newer players is to not get discouraged, your brain will wire or program itself to accomplish the task at hand. Right?

Jan 19, 2020 - 6:41:43 AM

MC5C

Canada

249 posts since 4/22/2015

Thanks for your inspiring note. I broke my neck in September, with resulting nerve damage to my left arm and hand. Kind of like what I'm told severe carpal tunnel feels like, but no handy day surgery for a fix. I switched to playing bottleneck on my Dobro, but I am slowly getting used to the pain of fretting and playing past it, on my spanish style guitars. I'm only five months in, but doc said what I have in six months is probably what I'm going to get.

Jan 20, 2020 - 7:34:35 PM

301 posts since 8/24/2013

Billy Hew Lin had to overcome the loss of his left hand in order to learn to play the steel guitar. He was very popular in Hawaii's music seen. This thread of testimonials is so inspirational.

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