Alternate Playing Techniques for Wrist or Hand Injuries

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Disclaimer: Neither Musicians Unite nor the author is responsible for any damage or injury in regards to these playing tips. These tips are ideas in regards to the author’s own situation and should not be considered as actual medical advice. Every individual and injury is different, and we hope the ideas presented here will present a dialog between the musician and his or her own physician.

Hello everyone, it is great to be back here at M.U. Back in October, I had a very quick and debilitating accident to my right wrist. I completely tore my scapho lunate ligament and also injured my TFCC ligament. While I’ll spare the medical details, bending my right wrist up or down and turning it is very painful as those two bones move up and down.

I write commercially licensed music under a few music libraries and I found out from a few doctors that this would not heal on its own, and if I did not get this operated on, it would get much worse. That operation, is still pending (hopefully mid December.. happy holidays!), and the operation, like all operations is not 100% that it will fix the issue. These tips are more towards guitar, but may be applied to the banjo or ukulele or maybe give other instrument options for the injured player to pursue.

Until I get operated on I need to keep my wrist straight and luckily there is no issues with my fingers or thumb. One option that I came up with is to replace my acoustic guitar strings with nylon ball end strings. While some people think that nylon strings with the ball end are for classical guitars they are actually for acoustic guitars with standard bridge pins. These were originally made when folk guitars were out that had no truss rods in the necks. It will take longer for new strings to stretch and also you may need to adjust your truss rod relief a bit more for a slight downwards curve as nylon strings have more “play” than steel strings. So if you hear fret buzzing, do this. Remember, YouTube has great videos in regards to setting your truss rod, or you can have a local music store do it all for $50.00 or less.

The benefit is less tension so easier to press on the fretting hand and easier to strum, even strumming with the “bare thumb only”. Also fingerpicking with bare fingers is way easier. This is also easier to switch to than buying a new classical guitar that has a wider neck that a standard acoustic guitar.

Also in addition to this, the baritone ukulele standard tuning and string configuration is set to the same highest four strings of the acoustic guitar (D,G,B and E). The baritone ukulele commonly has metal wound around silk or nylon strings for the D and G strings and two fluorocarbon or nylon strings for the B and E strings. The baritone ukulele, even though smaller than an acoustic guitar, is very easy to press down the strings to fret as the nylon strings have less tension and it is easier to finger pick it and to strum it using the thumb only. Also baritone ukuleles are relatively inexpensive online from anywhere from $52.00 to $89.00 dollars.

If you still want to pursue steel string electric or acoustic guitar if you have limited wrist and or finger movement with your strumming hand try playing with a thumb pick. If you have issues with your fingers or wrist on your fretting hand raise the electric or acoustic guitar bridge saddle(s) and try to play with a slide if possible.

Another idea is to play a lap steel guitar with a tone bar. Even though lap steel guitars can be expensive, sometimes you can find inexpensive brands for close to $100.00. These ideas for playing may not be 100% the same as hammering on the guitar strings, but it’s better than giving up altogether. There also may be a new found interest in playing a similar instrument; for example, in my research for this article I found that David Gilmore from Pink Floyd used the lap steel guitar on many songs. (Check out the solo at the end of the song “High Hopes”).

Again, check with your doctor in regards to these ideas above, and please check out my accompanying video above. Happy Holidays to everyone!!

-Thomas Rawding - MU Columnist

*Thomas Rawding (AKA: Mr.Tom) is an multi-instrumentalist, singer and a registered songwriter currently under BMI, Inc. He has been playing and recording music for more than 20 years and continues to write and record songs in South Carolina, for both retail sale and commercial licensing.

Tom's Music on Songtradr
Tom's Music on Luck Stock
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