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Thread: Learning to play with one less finger

  1. #1
    Struggle Monkey B381's Avatar
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    Default Learning to play with one less finger

    Last Sunday was a bad day at work for me. Went to work with all 10 fingers functioning...came home with 9 functioning. Interesting thing is I can play, just having to find a few different ways which is a benefit if you think about it.

    "Mallet finger and locked knuckle joint" - projected heal time 8 to 12 weeks IF no surgery needed to reattach the tendon which I find out this week.

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    "It doesn't matter how much you invest in your instrument until you invest in you and your ability..."

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  2. #2

    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    Ouch! Hope it heals fully and quickly for you.
    A few years ago I sliced the tip of my left index finger to the bone. Hurt like hell and required stitches. Couldn't use it to play for about 6 weeks. I got creative and it really helped me to develop my pinky strength.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    1. So sorry.
    2. One *fewer* finger - you can literally count 'em. So it cannot be less.
    3. Now that I'm - allegedly - done being an (_*_)... I hope you get better soon!
    4. Grammar Nazis... there's one in every crowd. Why does it have to be *my* turn, ever time, Lord? Why? :D

  4. #4

    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    Even if full function is not regained you can still learn to play well. Work arounds can be learned. I lost the ends off my left hand pinkie and ring finger in 1995, shortening them by one knuckle in a woodworking accident. Django was a great inspiration to me.

    Keep up hope and hopefully you can have a full recovery. But even if not the music is still there and you can still play it. Good luck.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    Not mandolin-specifically:

    Piano's my bread-and-butter instrument years ago I broke my right-hand pinky, but had to keep working. I developed the ability to play octaves with my thumb and ring finger, and that technique has stayed with me I still play black-key octaves this way.

    Every time a door closes...

  6. #6
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    https://youtu.be/vVsC4UNYOHM

    ^^^ Best wishes in your healing. In the meantime let this fellow inspire you.
    ...

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  8. #7
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    Sorry to hear you're going through this.

    Here's an example of handling this kind of situation, maybe it will help...

    = = = = =

    I'm 65, played banjo for about 50 years and mandolin on and off during that period, going serious with it again about 8 years ago; I'm also actively playing double bass, 2 years in. Among other things, I have a history of RA problems in my lower back, knees and hips, which I've been putting up with.

    This winter for the first time I'm experiencing RA in my hands. Swelling in the mornings, and at least at this time, seemingly permanent trigger fingers in my left thumb and right ring finger. The left trigger thumb in particular is the fulcrum for the closed barre chord-melodic style playing that I do on mandolin and banjo. The right hand ring trigger finger would normally tuck under the hand when I play banjo, a position that I can no longer take.

    It's taken about a month, but I've worked out how to deal with these new issues:
    • First I'm taking Ibuprofen each morning to ease the RA swelling, taking off one day each week to avoid long term issues.
    • Second, for the left trigger thumb, I'm wearing a prescribed brace, keeping the thumb in playing position so that I can remove the brace and play on an instrument neck anytime. This leaves me with limited movement other than that, but it also leaves the thumb pain free unless I take off the brace and press for extended movement through the trigger.
    • Third, for the right ring trigger finger, I'm learning how to play banjo with that finger extended. For mandolin and double bass it is fine that way.


    My plan is to continue in this direction unless and until such a time that the triggers either go away, which they might during the summer heat, or I have no option but surgery... Surgery for trigger fingers can result in nerve damage, so I'll avoid it as long as possible.

    = = = = =

    Having gone through this, my take is that the most important thing is to have a realistic plan. Figure out how to get as much functionality as possible, for as long as possible, without causing further damage or unnecessary pain. Discuss and work this out with your healthcare provider. It takes time, but once you have the plan, it's a lot easier to move forward.
    -- Don

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  10. #8
    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    I can sympathize, having had a similar injury about 10 years ago to my right ring finger. I ended up with that finger in a metal splint for 6 weeks, with essentially complete healing, but had to play a beater mandolin during that time because I'd scrape up the top with the end of the splint. Expect some edema of the finger if the splint wrap is too tight and pay attention - if your finger tip is turning blue or numb the splint needs to be loosened. One of my picking buddies had a similar injury of his right "social" finger and the urgent care PA used the wrong sized splint & wrapped it too tight initially. By the time he'd seen a hand specialist and got a revised splint it took 10 weeks total to heal & his finger is stiff 6 weeks after splint removal. Doesn't help his fingerpicking or lap slide playing.

  11. #9
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    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    first one, now two How long can this go on?

  12. #10

    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    Quote Originally Posted by mojocaster View Post
    1. So sorry.
    2. One *fewer* finger - you can literally count 'em. So it cannot be less.
    3. Now that I'm - allegedly - done being an (_*_)... I hope you get better soon!
    4. Grammar Nazis... there's one in every crowd. Why does it have to be *my* turn, ever time, Lord? Why? :D
    OP still has the same number of fingers, but one is of lesser value, so "lesser" is correct.

  13. #11
    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    Quote Originally Posted by David L View Post
    OP still has the same number of fingers, but one is of lesser value, so "lesser" is correct.
    "Learning to play without using the pinky" is the accurate phrase, as the finger is not available for use.

    A similar thing happened to me few years into mandolin emphasis, but fortunately after I had retired from orchestra playing. Fell of my bicycle at walking speed, but as I was surprised by the obstacle I hit, the fall was sudden and not managed. Pinky took the worst hit, and for several months I was playing with three left hand fingers, not able t use my pinky at all. This period did include some gigs, which I was able to play, although they were no fun.

    Pinky is almost normal now, a tiny bit shorter but not painful. Index finger is developing its own arthritic crookedness, so I am accommodating a couple of finger issues. Not bad at 68.
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  14. #12

    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    Quote Originally Posted by David L View Post
    OP still has the same number of fingers, but one is of lesser value, so "lesser" is correct.
    The point is that he's playing with one finger fewer than before. The injured finger is not of lesser value to the poor OP I'm sure, it is just (temporarily, we hope) less healthy than it was.

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  16. #13

    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    Quote Originally Posted by OldSausage View Post
    The point is that he's playing with one finger fewer than before. The injured finger is not of lesser value to the poor OP I'm sure, it is just (temporarily, we hope) less healthy than it was.
    It is of less MUSICAL value, which is what we are talking about.

  17. #14
    Struggle Monkey B381's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    Interesting thing is I'm getting some practice on my slides to get the higher frets the pinky used to do. Go to ortho Wednesday....hopefully good news..
    "It doesn't matter how much you invest in your instrument until you invest in you and your ability..."

    Kentucky KM-150
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    Registered User Joe Dodson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    Best wishes on a quick recovery. I'd think learning to compensate on mandolin would be easy compared with the challenge of mastering mathematics in base nine. Good luck on both!

  19. #16
    Struggle Monkey B381's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Dodson View Post
    Best wishes on a quick recovery. I'd think learning to compensate on mandolin would be easy compared with the challenge of mastering mathematics in base nine. Good luck on both!
    I can count to nine....
    "It doesn't matter how much you invest in your instrument until you invest in you and your ability..."

    Kentucky KM-150
    Eastman MD-404
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    Rover RM-75

  20. #17

    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    Quote Originally Posted by David L View Post
    It is of less MUSICAL value, which is what we are talking about.
    Are you okay? Happy to talk if something is upsetting you.

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  22. #18
    Spencer Sorenson Spencer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    Two of the best players I know here never use their little finger, so you should be ok. And of course there was Django Reinhardt with only two. I you want to bad enough, you'll make it work.

    Spencer

  23. #19
    Capt. E Capt. E's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    My little finger not only is short, but it bends in towards my ring finger. It has always been difficult for me to reach 4 finger chop chords, so I mostly get along just fine with three fingers. You do what you have to do.
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  24. #20
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    I know an excellent fiddler who can't use his index finger on his left hand. He uses the other three fingers quite well. Humans are quite adaptable. Hopefully your finger will be fine.
    Jim

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    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    Sorry to hear! I did the same thing to my right ring finger!Bent it backwards, mallet finger. Jan. 25th the day after getting a brand new Fender "Eric Johnson" semi-hollow stratocaster. That sucked! But at least it's my right and hasn't really slowed me, but for the freak'n brace. Long wait to see if it even heals right, but either way I'll get by. Good luck B381

  26. #22

    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    Quote Originally Posted by OldSausage View Post
    Are you okay? Happy to talk if something is upsetting you.
    I feel fine, thanks for asking. Were you really asking, or just being condescending?

  27. #23

    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    Quote Originally Posted by David L View Post
    I feel fine, thanks for asking. Were you really asking, or just being condescending?
    I really meant it. I should have DM'd you, sorry. I'm very happy to hear all is well.

  28. #24
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    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    Best wishes for full function return with your finger. Some years ago, one of my horses managed to dislocate my right thumb, makes holding a pick very difficult. Full function eventually returned, still looks really bad but I never planned to be a hand model! Hopefully you too will have a satisfactory outcome.

  29. #25
    Struggle Monkey B381's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning to play with one less finger

    Well...dang.

    Time to learn those alternative fingerings. Doc said the dreaded surgery word....8-12 weeks recovery time after that's done.

    Dang....
    "It doesn't matter how much you invest in your instrument until you invest in you and your ability..."

    Kentucky KM-150
    Eastman MD-404
    Eastman MD-305
    Morgan Monroe MFM-300 (passed on to a new player)
    Rover RM-75

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