Hello everyone,

My name is Josh, and Ive always wanted to learn how to play the guitar. Before I invest in equipment and lessons; however, I would like to know if its worthwhile to pursue considering I had a severe hand injury 8 years ago. About my injury: In 2005 I got my left wrist cut by a grain auger severing my ulnar nerve. After several surgeries they were able to repair some of the nerve damage, and after two years of therapy I was able to regain a limited amount of motion in my fingers. I never did regain any motion in my pinky finger, and it was always in the way, so I had it amputated several years after the initial incident. As of right now, compared to my good hand, I can bend and flex my fingers fairly well, my grip is about 50%, I can only spread my fingers apart about 25%, and of course Im missing my pinky. I am right hand dominant, so therefore, I believe that would make my left (injured) hand the fret hand. Considering my limitations, I think I would have to learn to play left-handed. Is it extremely difficult to learn how to play with the non-dominant hand? Also, considering my injury, can I still use my left hand for picking? Any other suggestions or considerations? Sorry if Ive messed up on the terminology.


sounds like playing it using your left hand as the fretting hand is going to be a tough one, but it's all in muscle memory and practice... so theoretically if you practice enough playing like a leftie you will be able to learn! it just might take you longer because it's obviously not the hand you're used to using for everything... However your picking shouldn't be a problem with limited grip etc.. as long as you're comfortable holding a plectrum the majority of the movement should come from the wrist!
Yes, you can still play guitar. Look up Tony Iommi, if you don't know who he is. His fretting hand is missing much of several fingers and while it discouraged him at first, he also learned about another guitarist who made it with a similar disability and went on to play decades of guitar. Today and for many decades now, guitar players like me who have all our fingers are trying to sound like Iommi. His slow and deliberate style is more emotionally appealing to many of us than the fret-tapping wonders who play super fast. That just bores me. So don't think you need to be fast to be good.

Even if I had only one finger on my fretting hand I would tune my guitar to drop D and play Godsmack riffs all day. You might not know what that means just yet, but it means that you can make a lot of great stuff happen on an electric guitar with very little, as little as one good finger.

I can't speak to swapping hands, but I suspect that if I never played right handed it would have been just about as easy to learn to play left handed. That might be a great option for you.

If you're interested in electric guitar, use light strings: 8s or 9s. This will help if you have reduced strength in your fretting hand (unless you choose to swap hands). A lot of great players use very light strings and achieve a heavy tone with them.

Electric might be easier for you than acoustic, because it's usually easier to fret an electric. The strings are lighter, bend easier, and the sounds jump out easier.

In other words, there's a way for you to play guitar because there are so many adjustable variables. If something is giving you a hard time there's probably a way to do it that will work for you. Lighter strings if pressing on them is a problem, thinner neck on the guitar if stretching is a problem, and so on.

Good luck. I hope you do it. Thank God Iommi did too.
I definitely think it can be done. You have one fully functioning hand which in my opinion means it should be your fretting hand (therefore you'd be playing lefty). There's a guitar player on Youtube who plays the guitar and he doesn't even have a hand. He's also really really really good. Unfortunately i can't remember his name. Point is that there's people with much worse off hands who can play guitar very well. It might take a bit longer, but that doesn't matter one bit.
I very strongly think you will HAVE to play lefty though. It wont really make any difference seeing as you haven't started guitar yet. It will feel natural after a short time.
If your fretting hand is missing fingers that doesnt mean you cannot get good but there may be things that are simply impossible to do in a way they are usually done effectively. However if that hand has a perfectly working wrist it may be better to make it your picking hand and play lefty guitars. It will be pain in the ass at first before your brain rewires itself to do things the "wrong way" but i believe it will be more rewarding in the end because you dont have to find ways to go around your disabilities.

Buuut downside of lefties is that when you get a GAS attack about some beautiful guitar it will be dissapointing when you notice that they dont make left handed version of it...

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Last edited by MaaZeus at Dec 28, 2013,
Limited use of your hand and missing your pinky will make things harder, sure. But there's still no reason why you won't be able to play. Django Reinhardt only had use of his index and middle fingers on his left hand, but he's still regarded as being one of the greatest guitarists to ever live. Or as has already been mentioned, you could always play left handed. It might feel a little awkward at first, but not much more than if you were playing right handed.
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Junior's usually at least a little terse, but he knows his stuff. I've always read his posts in a grouchy grandfather voice, a grouchy grandfather with a huge stiffy for alternate picking.
Besides that, he's right this time. As usual.
Learning left handed may well be the sensible option, and whilst it may be a difficult road it's not impossible. Likewise you may not be able to play certain songs or certain things, but you'll certainly be able to "play the guitar", you just may need to do things a little differently.


Actually called Mark!

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if jimmy hendrix could play with his teeth then you can do it without a pinky...it will be a challenge but anything is possible man...perhaps dont buy an insanely expensive guitar or get a nylon string if your grip is bad in your left hand so you dont have to play as hard
I would suggest learning such that your hand with better/more fingers is doing the fretting. Realistically you don't need any fingers to pick with but being a guitarist lacking fretting capability is a major handicap.

So, this is more or less the only situation where I will say this but... learn left handed. Usually it's not worth the difficulties that come with doing so but I would definitely advise you to do that.
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Do it man! Don't ever think for a minute that you have limitations. I wanna see a youtube video of you rocking out like the dudes posted about someday. No excuses. Hard work and dedication will make it happen for you!

Good luck! Keep us posted.
I think if there's one thing you should gather from this thread it's this..

Learn left handed.