What are alternatives to playing guitar if you can't hold your fingers down properly?
I have always wanted to play acoustic guitar and tried in my 30s. My fingers simply can't hold down the strings. Even as a sign language interpreter, I have trouble make the "w"; my thumb cannot hold down the little finger without the other fingers bending. I do think it's some kind of neurological anomoly rather than something tha would improve with exercise. So, if something is basically wrong with my fingers, where does that leave me with playing guitar? If I try to hold down 3 strings at a time, I can't. I just would like to play a few songs around a camp fire. Ideas?
Well, it's a little unclear whether your difficulty fretting the strings comes from the amount of finger strength required to apply pressure, or if the problem lies in the coordination and stretching associated with forming chord shapes.
In either case, I have a few ideas you might consider.
First, if your problem has to do with the finger-strength issue, this is common when beginning guitar and almost everybody goes through it. There are various finger-exercising implements available--even some that are specific to guitar-related hand movements. Investing in these and using them regularly, as well as practicing as often as possible, will strengthen your hands like you never thought possible. It just takes time and tenacity.
Another thing you could try if finger strength is the problem is switching to a lighter gauge of strings. Many beginners fail to realize the variety of sizes that are available to them, and just stick with whatever size came on their instrument. You can always go to thinner strings. Go to an instrument store and tell them you're looking for .08s or .09s (for an electric guitar) or .09s or .10s (on an acoustic). These are VERY light strings, and will be much easier to fret.
If, on the other hand, finger coordination/hand mobility is the source of your issue, I would suggest that you tune your guitar differently. Standard tuning (EADGBe) is called "standard" for a reason, but that doesn't mean you don't have other options. Open E, G, or A tunings allow you to play major chords just strumming across the strings without fretting any notes--and if you can bar (or simultaneously fret all six strings) across one fret, you're playing another major chord!
For example, if you're tuned to Open E (E-B-E-G♯-B-e), strumming the open strings plays an E major chord. Holding down all the strings at the 5th fret produces an A major chord, and doing the same at the 7th fret will result in a B major chord. Strum these three chords in various combinations, and you can play a pretty fair number of songs right away.
I hope this information helps! Good luck, and keep us posted!
WOW! This is EXCELLENT! Thank you so much. I think you should make a hub of this if you haven't already! I think I understand what you mean about tuning. Is there a book of songs in maybe one key (tee hee)
Glad to be of service, Billie. It's difficult for me to recommend these techniques too strongly because it might mean short-changing you in terms of building strength and dexterity, but maybe you just need to ease in gradually. These ideas may help.
It took me months to learn and condition my fingers to be able to properly fret the strings. I tried to learn the guitar three or four times and kept giving up, thinking that it couldn't be that hard and that I must be doing something wrong. Eventually I stuck with it and the sounds and chords gradually improved. Many of the finger positions will feel very unnatural and maybe even painful until your muscles adapt. Hope this helps.
Practice practice practice. Even with a neurological anomaly, it can be worked through. You'd be surprised how the body adapts.
I have a friend who was injured badly in the war, his arm was severed. They reattached his arm and the nerves surgically. Today, he has full use of his hand, almost as if it had never happened. The body heals and repairs itself continually. It may not seem like such but nerves, just like muscles, can be conditioned and repaired. It's only really the big major nerve systems like your spinal cord that see permanent damage.
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