Many of them encounter joint problems in their hands or fingers. I even had one or two students who had parts of fingers missing from accidents. There are also many of them who wish that they had started playing guitar earlier in their lives. A couple of them have parents or siblings who play, and so some of them are starting to play to be able to either impress or to collaborate with their family members. I've been told by several of my students that they feel that starting to play guitar so late in life decreases their chances of being successful.
I began to play the guitar at age seventeen. I remember how tough it was to concentrate and focus, and how terrible the pain was in my fingers at night, when I went to bed after practicing my guitar that day. It seemed that the calluses hurt forever, but actually it wasn't long until the pain went away, and it wasn't so bad after all. But even after the physical pain left, there were so many mental bridges and walls that I had to cross over and break through in learning the guitar. It seemed that every successful step that I took carried along with it another obstacle to overcome. As I tell my students, there is a learning curve in which your guitar begins as your enemy, when playing is almost always a struggle, but eventually it gets to a point where your guitar becomes your lifelong companion and friend, and playing is a joy of your life.
While I cannot entirely relate to all of my students' situations, I would like to write a book that not only tells my success story, but also seek to find others (especially in their age group) that have overcome obstacles to learn to play the guitar. My favorite guitarist in the world, Phil Keaggy (www.philkeaggy.com) has a missing finger that he lost in an accident at age four. He, like famous Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia, has played guitar all of their lives with missing fingers, and it has not seemed to bother them in the least. However, I'm sure that they had to work at it and overcome some mental blocks to be able to get to this point.
There is also a guitar player who is a paraplegic, he has lost both of his arms, so he plays the guitar with his feet (no joke!) There are videos on YouTube showing him doing this, and while he cannot play in the same way as the above guitar players who are missing only one finger, he is quite still amazing to watch.
I would like to write a self-help book that would incorporate stories and testimonies of people from all age groups and walks of life, who overcame problems and disabilities to be able to play the guitar. I think that this would be a great encouragement to any guitar player, but especially beginning players. Perhaps this could also include a companion video (DVD) which would feature these players in interviews and also show them playing the guitar.
© 2014 Bob Wingate/GuiTarHeel Music