I have what has evolved into a fairly regularly scheduled beginner and intermediate guitar group. I had a friend come join us three sessions ago. I sent a guitar home with him, but I saw no significant change between sessions. He is an older gentleman and was not having much success, but he seemed to love trying. He really enjoys our picking circle that we typically do for an hour or more after the lesson. Whenever I worked with him, his hands were quite shaky and he seemed to lack the hand strength required to fret a note. I initially chalked it up to (hopefully) a combination of age and nervousness and thought I’d see if he progressed. Last night, I wanted to spend some one on one time with him, so we split off while the rest of the group worked on a few things. We got to talking about his challenges and he told me that he has Parkinson’s disease. In short, even fretting a single note does not look like it will likely happen with regularity. I didn’t share the assessment of the previous sentence, but you could tell he was losing hope about being able to make music with the guitar.
He’s a great guy. He’s a VietNam vet with a big heart, and he really seems to want to make music. I pondered what I could do for him. I did some reading, and it seems most approaches for such situations involve keyboards. It seemed that he wanted to specifically play guitar, so a keyboard didn’t seem like an ideal choice. I saw where someone had prototyped a single string guitar with essentially a sliding capo. Closer, but still it didn’t feel like the right fit. Then I came up with this: What about playing slide or maybe even dobro? I am not thinking of playing like Jerry Douglas, but rather, just being able to strum some major chords. I am going to initially just tune the guitar to an open D tuning and try a glass slide (I might go to a D5 tuning if he wants to try it for a while). I don’t know, but I suspect he may have better success playing in his lap as opposed to an upright position. If this seems like a potentially workable way for him to make some music, I suspect I’ll be on the hunt for a “beater” resonator. I called him this morning to tell him I had something I wanted to try. He was excited. It’s a busy weekend, so I suspect we’ll get together next week and see if it’s a possibility.
Any suggestions? Any thoughts? Anything would be appreciated. I haven’t worked with those who are significantly physically impaired in music before, so this is unknown territory for me.
Thanks in advance,