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Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity

19 Sep 20 - 09:36 PM (#4072526)
Subject: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Naemanson

Three years ago I had a stroke that affected my right side. A few years ago I had a carpal tunnel release on my left arm. I'd waited too long on the carpal tunnel release and the nerve was damaged beyond hope.

I have two working fingers, index and middle, as well as my thumb on my left hand. My right hand is clumsy and slow. Typing is a pain and I spend as much time correcting typos and typing.

Result: I cannot play my guitars, or my pennywhistle, and my efforts to learn the violin are done.

But I want to play music. I'm thinking of getting a mountain dulcimer. With what manual dexterity I have left do you think I can make that work? Can you suggest another instrument?


20 Sep 20 - 01:18 AM (#4072533)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Zhenya

Your thread caught my eye as I've been dealing the last year or so with increasing arthritis in both hands. I have a particular problem with loss of flexibility in my left index finger, making it difficult to play my fiddle and guitar as a I used to. I happen to have a mountain dulcimer as well, although I've only ever noodled around with that, and don't play it extensively. I can still play that, because I hold it on my lap with my hands coming from above, so no need to bend my left index finger.

From your description, it sounds like you could probably manage well with your left hand, in terms of fingering chords or single notes on the dulcimer. I can't tell, based on your description of your right hand how much you could do. Do you feel strumming with either your hand or a pick would be comfortable for you? Is there any possibility of trying out a dulcimer before buying to see how you do?


20 Sep 20 - 02:39 AM (#4072534)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: The Sandman

harmonica


20 Sep 20 - 04:42 AM (#4072544)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Black belt caterpillar wrestler

Tabor pipe?

Robin


20 Sep 20 - 05:06 AM (#4072546)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Jack Campin

Tabor pipe (txistu, galoubet) should work - even further in that direction is the tilinkó, which only needs one finger and you can play it lying flat on your back.


20 Sep 20 - 05:09 AM (#4072548)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Jack Campin

Or the didgeridoo? No hands.


20 Sep 20 - 08:05 AM (#4072564)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Stilly River Sage

My father's arthritis became so advanced in his hands that he was unable to play and gradually sold of the newer "good" instruments, keeping only his first guitar (with an extensive song list taped on the back), and sang unaccompanied.


20 Sep 20 - 08:09 AM (#4072566)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Dave Hanson

Bodhran, oh sorry it's not a musical instrument.

Dave H


20 Sep 20 - 08:58 AM (#4072572)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Jack Campin

If you still have adequate strength in your right arm, the Indian harmonium might work, played left-handed.


20 Sep 20 - 09:20 AM (#4072574)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: gillymor

There are some alternatives that I've used when I've had problems with my left hand that required surgery, trigger finger release and an arthroplasty on the thumb joint.
If you can swing your right arm in time, maybe more from the elbow than you're used to, you might have luck with your guitar in open tunings (I used mostly D when I was having problems but also G and A) and played chords with one finger and even learned some slide. I imagine you could do the same with a uke which might be easier to play.


20 Sep 20 - 10:39 AM (#4072579)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: GUEST,Ray

Sounds like you need something strung left handed which requires minimal right hand input. Unless you want to sound like Jerry Douglas, you could try Dobro. Other than that it’s probably down to something you can blow. Can you buy a left handed trumpet?


20 Sep 20 - 11:30 AM (#4072581)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Roger the Skiffler

I hesitate to suggest kazoo....
RtS


20 Sep 20 - 11:33 AM (#4072582)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Roger the Skiffler

Actually, I have seen a one-armed guitarist who played with open tuning and slide and the instrument was bolted to a table, worked for the blues.
RtS


20 Sep 20 - 01:16 PM (#4072588)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: GUEST,Don Meixner

I play guitar and banjo with reattached fingers. The injury happened 30 years ago and the soft tissue damage to my hand was significant and remains so today. I used an autoharp for physical therapy after reconstruction surgery and hours of gross motor therapy on my left hand. This was all well known to me. I had a similar surgery and therapy on my right wrist 5 years to the day before. So I had been through this twice.

I was able to play when all this was done. I couldn't play the same as before but I could play.

In my professional life working with people with disabilities I often suggested Autoharps and lap dulcimers as therapy instruments. I would with you based on your description. Autoharps can be played in many styles. Check out videos of Kilby Snow. I might also suggest a Hawaiian guitar strung for left hand and tuned to an open chord.

Good luck.

Don


20 Sep 20 - 03:50 PM (#4072601)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: GUEST,Grishka

French horn may work, or even "natural" horn.


21 Sep 20 - 03:50 AM (#4072636)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: The Sandman

a five string banjo plated left handed,using thumb melody style thumb and index finger of left hand use open g tuning, to start then try sawmill dgdgcd using your good fingers on left hand. but as i said earlier harmonica or even one row button accordion or two row just playing treble side


21 Sep 20 - 03:53 AM (#4072637)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: GUEST,Ray

Thinking again, how about a musical saw?


21 Sep 20 - 05:05 AM (#4072644)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Jack Campin

The saw requires simultaneous strength and precise coordination for both arms. Too demanding for anybody recovering from a stroke.


21 Sep 20 - 05:36 AM (#4072647)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Roger the Skiffler

I couldn't remember the name of the guy I saw (injured in car accident) but if you look on Youtube there are quite a few one-armed guitarists and some tutorials.
RtS


21 Sep 20 - 10:33 AM (#4072658)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Stilly River Sage

We have a regular post-stroke contributor on the Facebook page, Marc Nerenberg has talked about it over the months. Here he is on Facebook. He's Mzee Simba on Mudcat, though he hasn't posted there in years.


21 Sep 20 - 11:07 AM (#4072664)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: leeneia

Washboard. I am not being facetious; washboard is fun to play.


21 Sep 20 - 12:06 PM (#4072668)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: CupOfTea

Dear Naemanson,

I sympathize with your frustration, as arthritis has started making some of the things I play too painful, and I can see more limitations very likely. I play Autoharp, and if you've trouble with arm strength, an autoharp is a very heavy instrument. (I can't pick it up with one of my hands, though I can play most of it's range)

I don't play it myself, but mountain dulcimer sounds a good option.

Another instrument I've recommended to friends with compromised hand grip is the soprano bowed psaltery. You need to be able to hold it with one hand while moving the other arm, holding the bow with a moderate grip. There usual psaltery shape is a thin isosceles triangle, with the notes set up so that the right side corresponds to the white piano keys, and the left, the black. A variation I've seen is having it turned on it's side, with the pins on either side of the thin edge, making it easier to reach & also had been set up on a tripod, so holding it was not necessary. This guy: Waynie Psaltery I've jokingly called it the fiddle for autoharp players, but you had mentioned fiddle as one thing you'd miss.
Whatever works for you, I wish you good fortune making music. (And shame on the person snarking about bodhrans not being an instrument - THAT is something that takes GREAT dexterity!)

Joanne in Cleveland


21 Sep 20 - 01:10 PM (#4072674)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Bill D

I thought I replied yesterday... but..*shrug*.
I agree with Don Meixner... for a dulcimer, the left hand is more important, as fretting takes a bit more control, whereas strumming can be done gently and with various types of picks. I also play autoharp and the same general advice applies there. In many ways, autoharp is a bit easier, as chording is done by button. Tuning one can be more tedious than playing one.... but if you have clip-on digital and a good ear, it's pretty routine.

Good luck...


21 Sep 20 - 07:39 PM (#4072706)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Naemanson

A note on my right hand dexterity. I have a few sets of bones. I used to be pretty good with them but last time I tried it was unsuccessful.

My forte is my voice so anything that needs mouth space is out.

I hadn't considered Autoharp because it seemed like the strumming hand use was rather intricate. I'll check the videos when my wife finishes teaching online. Thanks Don.

CupOfTea, I’ve thought of bowed psaltery. A Velcro band around my left wrist should hold it in place. I’ve heard they are difficult to keep in tune. Any suggestions? BTW, I was just starting to figure out how to play fiddle so I won’t miss it as much as the others.

Bill D and Don Meixner: You both suggest playing the mountain dulcimer with the left hand doing the chording. But my left hand is more severely affected than the right. The right hand is slow and clumsy. The left only has two more or less dependable fingers. Can I get a dulcimer set up so the right can do the chording?

Thanks for all the suggestions, even the bodhran snark.


21 Sep 20 - 07:48 PM (#4072708)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Tattie Bogle

I took the bodhran comment as bait and wasn't going to fall for it, but since others have now mentioned it, yes, you do need full command of both hands to play it, and - surprise, surprise, DH, - you CAN get a tune out of it!
But I do hope you find something you can play, Naemanson: the dulcimer has a lovely sound, so hope you can find a way to play it.


21 Sep 20 - 08:22 PM (#4072716)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Bill D

My idea was based on those two fingers having the 'strength' to play a simple melody on one string while the other strings were just drones. If not... then yes, some dulcimers have slots cut so that it can be strung either way.
I still feel an autoharp has more ways to strum.... it was originally a parlor instrument set on a table and strummed very simply with chord changes. Thus, accompanying voice is not very demanding. Only you can know what works best.


22 Sep 20 - 04:03 AM (#4072738)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Roger the Skiffler

Leeneia, I didn't dare suggest washboard...
RtS


22 Sep 20 - 08:13 AM (#4072752)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: GUEST,Don Meixner

Naemanson,

Sure you can. It would be pretty easy. Remember that a Lap Dulcimer is traditionally played with a Noter. A dowel like slider that you move up and down the melody course of strings. Finger fretting on a Lap Dulcimer is a relatively modern technique.

Autoharps are heavy but there are many ways to support the instrument. I would remove chord bars rather that add them. A little more spacing between bars may be easier to play. But that would be learned by trial and error. And ultimately not really acceptable.

Keep trying, keep playing. Good luck

Don

(I have a good idea what your issues are. I can tell you honestly if I had to have my same injuries again and the only choice was which hand to damage, it would be my right. With my remaining facility I could hold a flat pick alright and frail a banjo but fretting the guitar is very difficult.)


22 Sep 20 - 01:06 PM (#4072772)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: GUEST,Ross

Boss DR5 is a great little machine

It has a keypad laid out like the notes on a guitar fretboard

You can play note and chord sequences with just two fingers

In lots of different instrument styles

And have various drum/bass etc backing


22 Sep 20 - 01:40 PM (#4072775)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: leeneia

Panpipes. You can take turns with vocals.


22 Sep 20 - 02:41 PM (#4072777)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: GUEST,AKS

How about having a go with
kantele? Does not need fretting, can be either plucked or strummed and several "sizes" available...

AKS


22 Sep 20 - 02:55 PM (#4072778)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: GUEST

Hammered dulcimer could work.


22 Sep 20 - 03:50 PM (#4072783)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Gurney

Naemanson, perhaps your locale might help. There is a chance that posters owning the suggested instruments might let you try theirs.


22 Sep 20 - 06:07 PM (#4072793)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: GUEST

Thanks for the suggestions. Gurney, my location does not have a lot of choices. Standard modern musical instruments like guitar, ukulele, drums,etc. The "traditional" instrument of Guam is the belembaotuyan (the y is pronounced like a j) . Look it up. It's unique to say the least.


22 Sep 20 - 07:12 PM (#4072795)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: leeneia

Mountain dulcimer has been mentioned. I play this instrument.

You might be able to play this if you tune it D-A-A, which is the arrangement with the easiest chords. I have two suggestions:

1) If you have limited funds, start asking people to lend you one. There's probably one sitting under a bed somewhere.

2) Meanwhile, start watching videos of people playing dulcimer, all tunings. See which fingers they use, how they move, how strong their hands need to be.

3) Get a book that covers DAA. It's easier, and it's also warmer and mellower. I like it.

You can search this on YouTube:

mountain dulcimer DAA

and get videos specific to that tuning.


23 Sep 20 - 12:35 AM (#4072821)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: leeneia

I had another idea. What about an instrument of such as a xylophone or marimba, which you strike with mallets? (I am not clear on which instrument is which in this group.)

Once upon a time somebody fished a xylophone out of a dumpster and gave it to me. It was a small instrument with wooden bars, intended for preschool education. Simple as it was, it gave me real pleasure to play it, especially late at night, when I couldn't sleep and everything was silent.


23 Sep 20 - 03:04 AM (#4072826)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Naemanson

Leeneia, I do have limited funds. And the chances of someone on Guam having a dulcimer in their closet is about as likely as finding a footpath on the ocean.

I'll have to bite the bullet and buy one. I've seen them online with a cutout allowing one to play it like a guitar. Have you played one? How does it work? Can you play one with a noter? How does one sound? Does the cutout affect the sound?


23 Sep 20 - 07:58 AM (#4072854)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Donuel

With a bit of imagination autoharp can produce a complexity without dexterity. With 8 chords one can do amazing diversity. One should look to percussion melodic instruments since the finess of strings may be too much to ask. My autoharp has stayed in tune for ages.
If budget allows an old YAMAHA SYTHISIZER PIANO has a learning curve but is like using google instead of a card catalog.


23 Sep 20 - 08:47 AM (#4072861)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: GUEST,Mark

Naemanson - when I saw Barry Dransfield playing in the Albion Band some 40 or more years ago, I'm fairly sure he played one of the "curvy" dulcimers in guitar hold.

I can't remember whether he used a noter, but as a guitarist I'd doubt you could get the noter pressed down well enough in that position, so I suspect he used his fingers, so he could put his thumb behind for the grip.

To use a noter, I think you'd find a lap or table-top position more satisfactory.


23 Sep 20 - 10:38 AM (#4072874)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Stilly River Sage

You could always consider the theremin. No dexterity at all with that one! :)


23 Sep 20 - 12:28 PM (#4072891)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: leeneia

I have never played the dulcimer that resembles a guitar. I have tried using the noter and found it unsatisfactory - uncomfortable to hold and producing unpleasant tone. Over the years, I have gone to concerts, club meetings and festivals, and I have never seen anybody play a dulcimer with the noter. I think the noter is simply something for people who don't play the instrument to talk about.

There may not be a dulcimer under a bed in Guam, but somebody might know of one back home and could bring it in. Meanwhile, start watching videos.


23 Sep 20 - 12:54 PM (#4072894)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: GUEST,Don Meixner

Regards using a noter. I agree they are quaint and uncomfortable and would not be my first choice. However Jean Ritchie's dulcimer book, "The Dulcimer Book", Oak Publications 1963 discusses the Noter and explains technique. Google Using a noter and there are several videos that will show how they are navigated.

Lap dulcimer fret spaces correspond to the fret spacing on any guitar. The exception being the frets needed to make a dulcimer fully chromatic are not used or removed entirely. Think piano in the key of "C". no black Keys.

I have long thought a Tenor Guitar, even a six string, set up like a dulcimer only held as a guitar but played like a Dulcimer would be a good possibility for a person with some limitations. You would have to learn the possible tunings and what frets to avoid but that is a matter of using a good tuner and the simple marking of the frets.

Martin Guitars made just such a device I believe.

Don


23 Sep 20 - 07:55 PM (#4072930)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Mysha

Leeneia: The Marimba is the really big one; the Xylofoon is smaller and is sharper.

Don, could you play a Melodica horizontally from the tube mouth piece, but play it mostly one-handed nevertheless?

Bye
Mysha


23 Sep 20 - 09:46 PM (#4072940)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Pappy Fiddle

I modified a slide whistle. It had a shape like this:

O--===========> blow here

and I cut off the finger ring at the end and glued on another wire bent like this:

._______O
/    _ _ _ _
`--===========>

Finally I wrapped rubber bands around the tube so as to give some tactile indexes (shown as short lines).

On my screen this ASCII art is not working very well, copy and paste it into a text editor of some kind with fixed spacing font like Courier.

So instead of hunting for a note I can go right to it. I would guess you could play this. One hand holds the whistle tube steady and the other hand works the wire. I think I got the whistle at a dollar store maybe. It's actually a pretty cool instrument whether handicapped or not


24 Sep 20 - 07:13 AM (#4072971)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Naemanson

Pappy Fiddle, that slide whistle looks pretty good. Hope I ca find one here.

The only music store on the island has apparently not survived the pandemic. I drove by there the other day and the store was closed and the sign was gone.


24 Sep 20 - 12:09 PM (#4072997)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: GUEST,Don Meixner

Mysha,

I don't know. But I would tell you each persons disabilities need to be assessed. They will always be the same but different. I would take your question to a Physical (Physio) Therapist and get their take.. I know of an accordion player that uses a button box but only the left hand. Since he was learning it new it made no difference to him that he played it upside down. Concertina would be a different story I am sure.

Don


24 Sep 20 - 12:37 PM (#4072998)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Bill D

As a woodturner, I have been asked to make noters for a dulcimer maker. He suggests them for young folks and beginners... then shows them how chording can work if they want to go further. Noters.. and things like turkey quills for strumming.. were common practice for some of the old timers.

de gustibus etc...


26 Sep 20 - 10:40 PM (#4073274)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Naemanson

On the plus side I've found out that the only music store on the island is not gone. It has moved into a smaller cheaper location.


27 Sep 20 - 02:25 AM (#4073285)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: Jack Campin

Brian Blauch on Facebook posted this week about a garage sale find, a recorder for people with missing or damaged fingers. Very configurable. He'd be willing to part with it.


27 Sep 20 - 05:21 AM (#4073301)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: The Sandman

From: GUEST,Don Meixner - PM
Date: 24 Sep 20 - 12:09 PM

Mysha,

I don't know. But I would tell you each persons disabilities need to be assessed. They will always be the same but different. I would take your question to a Physical (Physio) Therapist and get their take.. I know of an accordion player that uses a button box but only the left hand. Since he was learning it new it made no difference to him that he played it upside down. Concertina would be a different story I am sure.

not necessarily a duet concertina melody could be played on right hand side, the guy in swan arcade only had one arm and used to play a duet


27 Sep 20 - 09:43 AM (#4073323)
Subject: RE: Tech: Musical instrument not needing dexterity
From: GUEST,Don Meixner

I am not familiar with a Duet. But it sounds like fun. My right hand would have no trouble but the left would be lost among the buttons. Thanks Sandman, now I have another instrument to moon over.

Don