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Old 05-26-2013, 10:26 PM   #1
kimjong7hrill
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Playing guitar without fingers?

For as long as I can remember I've wanted to play the guitar; the only catch is that I was born without fingers on both of my hands (however, I have four knuckles on my left hand where the thumb, middle, ring, and pinkie fingers would be) so I've been discouraged from attempting to learn.

I have a friend who plays guitar and he told me that standard tuning is pretty much out of the question for me, but he suggested that playing in open E or open G might be the way to go; however, I'm not really sure what either of those are. He also suggested that I try to learn to play with a slide and get a resonator guitar. After doing a little bit of research on playing slide I've learned that you need to mute unwanted strings with your strumming hand, which I may not be able to do with my right hand, but may be able to with my left hand that has the knuckles. Along those lines, I see that slide guitarists also use a lot of finger-picking. Again, that's definitely out of the question with my right hand but possibly doable with my left if I can get with an occupational therapist to design a contraption that can hold multiple picks on my knuckles. This leads me to the conclusion that I will have to get a left-handed guitar.

With that explanation out of the way I have a few questions for anyone familiar with slide guitars: are there any other finger placements that you need for the hand that holds the slide (i.e. do you need to mute strings with your slide hand as well), and is finger-picking necessary to play slide? Also, does anybody have any general recommendations for guitar techniques and tunings that I can take advantage of to make it easier for me to play the guitar? Thanks!
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Old 05-26-2013, 10:47 PM   #2
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I think you could certainly make "knuckle picks" for your picking hand. You do need to mute strings with the "fretting hand" when you play slide guitar, though I'm sure you could learn to do it with the side of your hand if your knuckles aren't enough. And if worse comes to worse, you could always do this:

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Old 05-27-2013, 05:45 PM   #3
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First off, your tenacity is pretty awesome. Django Reinhardt is considered one of the greatest guitarists to have lived, and was known as one of the fastest. Only has 2 fingers on his fretting hand. Tony Iomni lost 2 fingertips in an industrial accident and ironically his injury led to the Black Sabbath sound because he detuned his guitars to make them easier for him to play. The drummer for Def Leppard only has 1 arm.

Open tunings will be the easiest for you to begin with as your friend suggested. An open tuning means you tune the guitar so that if you strum it without fretting any notes it'll play a chord. The beauty of this (esp for you) is that you can lay something across all the strings, in your case a slide, and move up another fret and be able to play another chord. For example in open E if you just hit all the strings without fretting anything you'll play an E. Put the slide on the 1st fret and you'll have an F chord. 3rd fret a G chord.

Open tunings and a slide will get you all the major chords which make up a huge amount of songs. I think if you just took a regular guitar and placed it on your lap with something supporting the neck that'd work. Right/left handed guitars are shaped that way so people playing in the traditional position can play them easier. Since your not playing them in the traditional position I dont think it'll matter much if your playing righty or lefty guitar as long as the strings are in the right place. You can string up righty guitars for lefties and vice versa. The difference is just in the shape of the body.

The drummer for Def Leppard uses drum midi triggers to pull off drumrolls (and many other things) live with only 1 arm. A midi guitar may work well for you as well. I dont really know enough to start throwing ideas about it out, but google it and hopefully you'll see what I mean. You can hit 1 note and have it play a chord, stuff like that.

Hopefully you can fit something like these over your knuckles for picking. If not, they shouldnt be too hard to make something that does:
http://www.amazon.com/National-Fing.../dp/B002R2IUEW/

At first id just play songs with open chords so you dont need to mute any strings. But you may be able to do enough muting to get by with your picking hand if you want to do more than open chords. Articles that say you need to mute a certain way or play a certain way dont really apply to you since your going to be coming at this entire thing differently. A hand position thats painfull to us may feel totally natural to you since your holding everything differently.

If your in the US, check if your local state or community college has a music program and if so call em up and tell them what you want to do. US govt funded schools have programs to work with people with disabilities and may have some tips. You may need some sort of prosthetic or some other specialized thing built. They'll probably have worked with some places that do that sort of thing.

I dont check this forum alot, but ill try to remember to check back to see if you had any other questions. I really really hope this works out for you!

Last edited by mutex77 : 05-27-2013 at 05:49 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 05-28-2013, 09:45 PM   #4
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Thanks mutex77, you were really helpful man. Today I went to my local guitar shop and sat down with a woman who plays slide guitar and checked some resonators out. We came to the same conclusion that it would be best to play chords using the slide in an open tuning (there we used open G). We also decided that a contraption to hold the pick on my right hand will be the way to go and that when I want to learn more advanced slide techniques, I will probably want to get a similar thing that holds my left hand to the slide. This will allow me to isolate specific strings rather than putting the slide over all of them, so I have more control.

Like you said, I could probably use an acoustic guitar and put it on my lap. I tried that first before looking into resonators. However, when I tried using a slide on an acoustic that I have in my home it sounded terrible and very rattled a lot. I would probably have to raise the strings to solve this problem but other people where I live use the guitar, so I'm looking into getting my own resonator (and already found an entry-level with good sound for a decent price).

Also, I recently found a video of a man who has no fingers and he plays the acoustic guitar very well (admittedly, I don't know enough about the guitar to determine how he has adapted), but the video at least gives me hope that I may be able to learn a few songs on the acoustic as well.



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Old 05-29-2013, 07:14 AM   #5
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trust me there are plenty of people out there that have full use of their bodies that will never play guitar as good as you if you have the desire to play it.

growing up i had a mate that only had 1 arm, his left stopped just after his elbow, and he could do everything the same if not better than anyone with 2 arms this includes beating me on the playstation.

humans seem to be very adaptable creatures seems the easier you have things the easier you take advantage of it.

apart from what has previously been said here.

my only suggestion would be to (if you havn't already) just grab a guitar and see what you can do with it. you said you have a friend that plays he can show you some stuff and help you out with it especially with the tunings.

good luck with it all mate
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Old 05-29-2013, 03:06 PM   #6
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Play some djent and chuggy metal riff stuff, its mostly done on one string anyway. I think its pretty likely you could play in dropped-d tuning and fret power chords and play quite a lot, if you like that sort of music. By the way, how go you type, pecking on a regular keyboard or do youehave some kind of cool input device?
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Old 05-29-2013, 03:14 PM   #7
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You might look into capos that can put a guitar in different tunings. That way you can change between minor and major tunings more easily. MIDI stuff can probably help you out a lot too. If you can pick some basic melodies you could probably record finger picking in pieces then operate touch pads with your feet, like a guitar/organ hybrid (Like do one pad of down beat eighth notes and another of up beats. Tap them to the beat to make an eighth note melody or something). You could probably come up with some really great stuff through such a different playing style. You might come across ways to make the guitar a more versatile instrument.
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Old 06-03-2013, 12:21 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by theogonia777
I think you could certainly make "knuckle picks" for your picking hand. You do need to mute strings with the "fretting hand" when you play slide guitar, though I'm sure you could learn to do it with the side of your hand if your knuckles aren't enough. And if worse comes to worse, you could always do this:




This is really amazing. Thanks for great sharing
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Old 06-05-2013, 11:33 PM   #9
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You should contact Lefty Williams. He might have some ideas for you. He's a great guy and a great guitar player, born with a right arm that ends just after the elbow.

Here's how he makes his picks, which may be close to what you need:
http://www.lefty-music.com/fr_howimakeapick.cfm
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Last edited by amakely : 06-05-2013 at 11:37 PM.
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Old 06-06-2013, 09:43 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kimjong7hrill
For as long as I can remember I've wanted to play the guitar; the only catch is that I was born without fingers on both of my hands (however, I have four knuckles on my left hand where the thumb, middle, ring, and pinkie fingers would be)


Hey man, A good friend of mine was severely burned in a house fire and while he was born with everything a person would expect, he lost all of his fingers due to amputations. He's only got knuckles like you. He's a wicked jazz drummer, and has contracts playing music for some of the original music for the TV shows on TLC, Fox, etc.

My point is: No fingers, no problem. If you want this, then you can do it!

Now what Ray does, is he uses some sticky goop on his drum stick to and wedges it between his first knuckles. He uses a rubber band as a safety-strap, just in case. He used to use an MMA type boxing glove and tie the stick in, but over the years, he adapted more and more.

You can likely rig up a hard glove of sorts with a notch to grip the pick. Something like a pirate hook, like you'd see in a movie, only with a slide/pic rather than the hook.
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Last edited by Kevin616 : 06-06-2013 at 09:45 AM.
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Old 06-06-2013, 04:27 PM   #11
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Thanks amakely, that link you provided lead me right to what I needed. Right now I'm just duct taping the pick on my hand, which is only a short-term fix. I recently bought an entry-level resonator guitar made by Gretsch and I'm doing various picking exercises. I also bought a Rob Ickes instructional Dobro DVD, but found that it's hard to translate his finger-picking to how I can play. I have good movement in my wrist on my right hand, but I won't be able to play multiple strings at one time. I might have to play guitar in the same manner as I type (hitting one key at a time, albeit fast).

I also duct taped the slide to my hand (it's the type of slide that fits over a finger -- and it's brass and is a little concave toward the middle). I'm not sure I like the slide too much but functionally I can use it well enough with the duct tape holding it on. Now I can lift it up off of the strings when I don't need it.
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Old 06-07-2013, 06:21 PM   #12
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open tunings and a slide. if you can bar across an entire fret you get different open chords out of open tunings as well!
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Old 06-07-2013, 06:42 PM   #13
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i think you can do it man if you believe in yourself...just keep at it and NEVER give up. Good luck to you my friend
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Old 06-25-2013, 12:59 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kimjong7hrill
Thanks mutex77, you were really helpful man. Today I went to my local guitar shop and sat down with a woman who plays slide guitar and checked some resonators out. We came to the same conclusion that it would be best to play chords using the slide in an open tuning (there we used open G). We also decided that a contraption to hold the pick on my right hand will be the way to go and that when I want to learn more advanced slide techniques, I will probably want to get a similar thing that holds my left hand to the slide. This will allow me to isolate specific strings rather than putting the slide over all of them, so I have more control.

Like you said, I could probably use an acoustic guitar and put it on my lap. I tried that first before looking into resonators. However, when I tried using a slide on an acoustic that I have in my home it sounded terrible and very rattled a lot. I would probably have to raise the strings to solve this problem but other people where I live use the guitar, so I'm looking into getting my own resonator (and already found an entry-level with good sound for a decent price).

Also, I recently found a video of a man who has no fingers and he plays the acoustic guitar very well (admittedly, I don't know enough about the guitar to determine how he has adapted), but the video at least gives me hope that I may be able to learn a few songs on the acoustic as well.



There will be a lot of challenges along the way but like anything really worthwhile in life, it takes work and determination.


awesome
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Old 06-25-2013, 01:11 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kimjong7hrill
Thanks amakely, that link you provided lead me right to what I needed. Right now I'm just duct taping the pick on my hand, which is only a short-term fix. I recently bought an entry-level resonator guitar made by Gretsch and I'm doing various picking exercises. I also bought a Rob Ickes instructional Dobro DVD, but found that it's hard to translate his finger-picking to how I can play. I have good movement in my wrist on my right hand, but I won't be able to play multiple strings at one time. I might have to play guitar in the same manner as I type (hitting one key at a time, albeit fast).

I also duct taped the slide to my hand (it's the type of slide that fits over a finger -- and it's brass and is a little concave toward the middle). I'm not sure I like the slide too much but functionally I can use it well enough with the duct tape holding it on. Now I can lift it up off of the strings when I don't need it.


Next time I see someone say their hands are too small I'm going to direct them to this thread.

Keep at it man, don't let anything stop you!
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Old 07-01-2013, 05:29 AM   #16
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Hey man, this is a great story. I love people like you, very uplifting. I don't really have much to add. Just keep at it until you find something that works for you.

And, I may have missed it, but if you have no fingers, how'd you type so well?
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Old 07-01-2013, 09:34 AM   #17
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Dude, you're awesome.
There are incredible advancements in biomedical technology this decade. I'd say in no more than five years there will be complete working robotic hands with the reaction time on par with "natural" hands and fingers.
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Old 07-01-2013, 10:53 AM   #18
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Dude, you're awesome.
There are incredible advancements in biomedical technology this decade. I'd say in no more than five years there will be complete working robotic hands with the reaction time on par with "natural" hands and fingers.

In which case TS will rise to be our new guitar overlord.

Mad respect for you, sir.
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Old 07-21-2013, 09:03 AM   #19
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kim jong. i do not believe that you have thoroughly investigated all possible options, or stated all your inherent needs. i believe that the biggest unknown variable is your musical tastes, your desired style-sound. if you have dreamed for years about playing guitar, there MUST be a style in mind. most music lovers with the motiation to become musicians have some iconic artist or genera whey wish to emulate and innovate within...

slide guitar is more associated with country/southern rock and hawaiian/polynesian/miami stylings. as others have denoted, an open major tuning on a resonator acoustic with a slide would make minor chords an impossibility, and count music is rife with minor chords.

every major key necessitates 3 minor chords, the 2nd, 3rd and 6th chords would be unplayable, as they are the minors. every minor scale includes major chords, as well. instead of using a steel resonator guitar, it might be more fitting to use a steel pedal guitar, which would have foot and knee pedals to change the taught (and, pitch) of individual strings, so that an open major tuning could be changed to a minor, 2nd, 7th, sus, and such type chords on the fly.

steel pedal guitars are often very expensive, so, you only want to go that way if your desired genera can be accommodated thru slide techniques.

if you are only playing country/tropical slide because it seems easier, while actually wishing to perform rock, jazz blues or other seldomly-sliding styles, then, you have other options to consider, outside of a slide.

i see that the black sabbath guitar situation was mentioned; however, never really expounded upon. after black sabbath lost ozzy, an new rock innovator hit the scenes- eddie van halen. van halen was very partial to the original kramer electrics- particularly, the models with the innovative floyd rose free-floating tremelo bridge, to allow for octave + pitch bends, both down and up . in the 90's, the free floating bridge saw a new innovation, the on-the-fly drop d mechanism- to change the 6th string from e to d with a switch on the bridge, allowing for "power chords((1st/5th, 2 note chords, which could be used as major or minor chords, as they omit the 3rd note, which is a half step down from major to minor) to be played as 2 string bar (or knuckle) chord-( 2 strings held on the same fret, as opposed to using 2 fingers on 2 different frets. and, additionally, a 6 string major bar chord could be changed to a 6 string major chord with a 7th minor, which would suit the 2nd chord of the major scale, mix the feel up a bit.

of course, the same can be done by manually detuning the low e to a d, or, raising the a to a b#, as an open major tuning would do. the the significance of a 2 note power bar chord is that it can be used for both major and minor. if you were in open tuning, with the a raised to a b#, you could play major chords by barring all strings with your nuckle (or, some narrower string holder attached to your nucukle- like a slider, but to hold the strings to the frets, and not to substitute for frets- as with sliders) , and play the minor chords as 2 note power bar chords on the 5th and 6th strings. with the addition of the drop d bridge, you cold change the open 1/5th chord on the last 2 strings to a 1/4th or 1/6th power chord, with the low ea as the root, or a 1/3rd -1/5th power bar chord with with the 5th string as the root.

and, outside of a slide, there is a better contraption for your needs, an "e-bow". an e-bow is a magnetic device which vibrates the string it is held over, which would save you the hassle of individual string picking . it also is capable of many tones, otherwise impossible on guitar. an e-bow could be used with a slide, or a finger emulation attachment for fretted bar chords, alternating strings by moving the ebow across different strings , and allowing infinite sustain, impossible with a pick or finger picking. the real drawback to the e-bow is that it can only vibrate one string at a time ; however, it would require less accuracy than a pack attachment to vibrate the strings. i dont believe that the e-bow would be very suitable for bronze strings, it would necessitate steel strings, and would be best fitting with a electrified guitar/steel pedal guitar, with magnetic pick-ups

consider your intended musical style, and you may find yourself shopping for an electric, free float bridge guitar with the drop d mechanism, a steel pedal guitar or an e-bow, to compliment your slide technique, or attach a capo, or the like, to your nuckle, and use it for open tuning fretted bar chords

Last edited by menome : 07-21-2013 at 09:13 AM.
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Old 07-21-2013, 09:27 AM   #20
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open tuning and muic theory

about open tunings, the most common would be an e major open tuning. it deviates from standard tuning by raising the 5th(a) and 4th(d) strings by a step, and raising the 3rd(g) string by a 1/2 step.

a standard chord has a 1st 3rd and 5th notes (not strings), the 3rd is 2 steps higher than the 1st (root) note in a major chord, and 1 and 1/2 steps higher than the root note in a minor chord. generally a step is the same as 2 frets, and a 1/2 step is generally a single frets diff in pitch.

since the 6th, lowests string on a standrd guitar is an e, the 3rd would be a g and the 5th would be a bsharp(sharp, because a and b are only a 1/2 step apart in the major scale, this is because a major scale fits 7 notes within a 12 note octave. the 7th and 8th (1st root note- 2nd octave)notes in a major scale are also only a 1/2 step apart.

in minorr the 3rd note is only 1/2 step above the 2nd, as opposed to a full step above the 2nd note, and this 3rd flat note is the trademark of a minor chord. the 7th is also flattened a step, so that there is a 1/2 tep between 6th and 7th, and a whole step between the 7th and 8th(1st root octave up), thus, the drop d (full step down) of an open e major tuning would create a e major 7th minor chord, to create tension, or barred on the 2nd fret as a f#p chord, to fit the major scales 2nd chord major with the 7th minor , for a jazz or prog rock type chord.

you may want to study chord charts and music theory on this or other sites, to understand the benefits and downfalls of an open major or minor tuning, or to find the most suitable alternate tunings or suitable instrument/mechanisms.

Last edited by menome : 07-21-2013 at 09:42 AM. Reason: suggest chord chart
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