Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

"re-learning" to play guitar after stroke

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by soul-o, Feb 14, 2016.

  1. soul-o

    soul-o Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 29, 2007
    As I mentioned in a previous thread, I had a stroke of the right parietal lobe on Jan. 6 that almost totally wiped out function in my fingers on my left hand. Here's an update that I thought some of you would find interesting- DEFINITELY not intended in a pity- party sort of way, just interesting. There may be something accidentally profound in here about not taking what we do for granted and appreciating what you can do on guitar in the moment, but mostly it's about the mental mechanics involved in playing. Maybe this info will help someone who is searching for it in the future.

    For my guitar playing friends; what does it mean to have a stroke that wipes out your left hand fingers and and have to "re-learn" guitar? I sincerely hope none of you ever find out, so let me tell you about it. When I first had the stroke, I simply could not make a pinching motion with my thumb and any of my fingers. However, I could move the fingers a little bit, just a half inch, very slow wiggle, but my neuro team saw that as very encouraging.
    It's hard to even believe since that point 5 weeks ago, I have gone from being unable to press down the strings- with my thumb completely lost as to it's role in playing guitar or bass- think about that for a second; trying to hold down a note with a rogue thumb not helping at all- to being able to play single notes on bass but not having any sense of linear motion or space. First, I got a little 5 note scale figure going on my Hofner bass with soft, tapewound strings, but my 3rd finger just did not know the amount of space between notes at all. Then, I got a major scale and I ran it very slowly (with a metronome) hundreds of times, moving up and down the neck. I did tons of chromatic runs, trying to play the notes cleanly and not have other fingers dragging or floppin over strings when not being used to fret a note. It was very discouraging and fatiguing. It is really hard to know what your fingers should be doing and watch them not do it. Over and over. It is a very strange feeling.

    A major moment was being able to snap my fingers on my left hand again, actually. That really showed me that it was starting to come back. The theme to the Addams Family has never meant so much to me before!

    The next thing, a few weeks ago, I was able to hold down a D chord on guitar. At first, my 3rd finger just lay flat and muted the high e string, but I spent hours staring at it and visualizing how to play it properly. It felt pretty glorious when I could get it to actually ring out. I may have done a celebratory windmill or two.
    I worked my way through all my open chords and then it was time to confront the moment we all remember from our youth: the dreaded F barre chord. You remember how hard it was the first time around? Truthfully, I started with a barre chord further up the neck where there was less tension. Once I got it, I couldn't move it or it would all just fall to pieces, so I worked on Kinks riffs- again very, very slowly- until it got a bit better. I'm still doing that. My last show before my stroke was opening up for Dave Davies who had a stroke 10 years ago that damaged his right hand. I think we could possibly join forces to make one really decent guitarist.

    Right now, I am starting to try to bend some notes. I don't have the strength or instinct to get them quite in tune just yet. My fingers have also forgotten how to do hammer ons and pull offs. I have been playing the weakest version of Funk 49 you've ever heard in your life! I am working on those things and second position minor chords. I have read a lot about the power of visualization and I go to sleep every night thinking about these things.

    On the bright side, I do see a little progress every day AND the stroke seems to have hit me right in the spot that knows how to play "Brown Eyed Girl"- or at least that's the way I am going to play it when I get back on my feet and somebody requests that one.

  2. blowtorch

    blowtorch Telefied Ad Free Member

    May 2, 2003
    Not the same thing at all, but some years back I had some severe bouts of neurapathy that robbed me of guitar playing ability. I couldn't work a doorknob, say nothing about play guitar. I've recovered most of my prior ability, but some of the dexterity and agilty is now gone. I've had to learn to adapt in nearly all the facets of my playing. And there are some things that I used to be able to do with ease, that I simply can't do at all anymore. Still, the PT advised I shouldn't even try to regain ability, that it would simply be very frustrating. Which of course absolutely determined me to regain as much facility as possible.

    Good luck and don't give up
    Lake Placid Blue likes this.

  3. bunny 7

    bunny 7 Tele-Holic

    Apr 14, 2012
    Louisville, Ky.
    Sorry to hear about your stroke, I'll look up the other thread.
    I didn't have a stroke, but several years ago I had a brain condition where signals didn't connect as normal. Fine one day, next day could barely walk and lot of back pain.
    Had hand function, but walking was difficult.
    Spent almost 2 years doing brain exercises involving eye movement and balance training along with neurological chiropractic treatment.

    Doing better, but sometimes just forget songs I've played for almost 50 years. Have to stop and eventually it comes back.
    Just want to encourage you and pray you have a full recovery.
    Hang in there buddy, ya still got music in ya people want to hear.

  4. ac15

    ac15 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    May 9, 2005
    Thanks for the update Soul-o. It's a real testament to the love for music that you (and many of us) have. You're just gonna do it, no matter what!!!!
    elihu likes this.

  5. sir humphrey

    sir humphrey Friend of Leo's

    May 3, 2011
    That's a tough break. I had a friend who had the same, depped in his band for a while.

    He was never able to play the same again but he did a great job of making the most of the movement he had left and kept on playing.

    Best of luck to you.
    Bill likes this.

  6. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Nov 5, 2006
    Iowa City, IA
    I'm rooting for you real hard.
    Lake Placid Blue likes this.

  7. 1hoofer

    1hoofer Tele-Meister

    May 8, 2013
    Soul-o, no pity detected! Very interesting post, inspirational too. I would be interested in progress updates. My dentist had a near fatal stroke three years ago; he is back now and digging around in the root canals just like he used to. All the best for the future.

  8. String Tree

    String Tree Doctor of Teleocity

    Dec 8, 2010
    Up North

    You are getting straight-A's in the Balls-to-try class!

    Lake Placid Blue likes this.

  9. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 17, 2003
    Atlanta/Rome, Georgia, US
    Cool, soul-o, thanks for the progress report, and keep the faith!

  10. 1955

    1955 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 10, 2010
    Certain uncertainty

  11. dtermined2play

    dtermined2play Tele-Afflicted

    Apr 22, 2007
    Thanks for sharing your journey. I pray for full recovery and who knows you may come out of this better than you ever were.

  12. teleamp

    teleamp Poster Extraordinaire

    Oct 17, 2006
    Prairie Hill, Texas
    Learning to swallow again was more challenging to me. After two years it is my balance that I am still trying to regain.

    Never quit...

  13. telleutelleme

    telleutelleme Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Jan 15, 2010
    While yours is definitely more serious and difficult than mine was, I know the steps it takes and how rewarding each improvement is. In particular I remember how hard it was to snap my fingers and still have difficulty because the numbness remains in my middle finger. Not crisp snaps but can do. Keep pushing yourself and I am convinced that the muscle memory is there you just have to remind it. Keep up the great work you are doing!

  14. soul-o

    soul-o Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 29, 2007
    Thanks for all the good wishes, very helpful. The other side of this journey is learning to sing again, but that's a post for another time, perhaps. I am doing my best to keep my head on straight and maintain a positive attitude. Being someone who supports his family primarily by playing music, this is a worrisome time, but I also think it's a good opportunity to show my 10 year old son how to face adversity. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I take a deep breath and think of that.

  15. dented

    dented Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Apr 17, 2006
    Back at the Beach
    Thanks for sharing that. Keep up the work and you are doing what you can. Best wishes in getting the digits to work better.

  16. xland

    xland Tele-Meister

    Mar 26, 2015
    Central Illinois
    Keep working hard, soul-o. You seem incredibly determined, I'm rooting for you.

  17. Geoff738

    Geoff738 Poster Extraordinaire

    May 11, 2007
    Great to hear you're making what seems to me to be a lot of progress.

    Keep working on it, stay positive as best you can.

    Best wishes,

  18. Sparky6string

    Sparky6string Tele-Meister

    Aug 6, 2005
    Yes never quit, and believe in yourself. If you work for it you may be surprised how well it works out. There must be healing power in music for us too. A couple-3 years ago I managed to get a serious infection near my spine and I was hospitalized for a couple of weeks, losing a lot of muscle mass, and recovery went on for months afterward because of bone loss in my spine due to the infection.

    My gf brought me a guitar while I was still in the hospital and I was shocked at how much I had lost in that short time period. It depressed me but I knew I would continue and I did eventually get it all back and continued to advance. It might seem like we're piling on the hard times here but I'm certain we just want to remind you that it can be done. Stay strong.

  19. TeleTown

    TeleTown Friend of Leo's

    Oct 10, 2010
    Twangers Medows USA
    You treat this quest that your on as your own BOOT CAMP. Quiting is not an option. Carry on Sir!!

  20. rwsand

    rwsand Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 12, 2012
    Hyde Park NY
    I always look at things from the glass half full standpoint. Having to relearn is also a chance to unlearn. I recommend reading Zen Guitar for inspiration.
    Stringbanger likes this.

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