9 July 2012

3 Ways I Worked on Guitar With a Broken Collar Bone

On Monday 4th of June I broke my collar bone. I was cycling to work in the morning as usual when I hit an obstacle and flew through the air over the handlebars. I landed on my left shoulder and rolled a little on the hard tarmac.

In the heat of the moment I thought I'd come out of it pretty well, a few cuts and bruises but I didn't imagine I'd broken anything. But a check up at the hospital revealed that my left collar bone was in fact broken.

The hospital sent me home with strapping around my shoulders and instructions not to do any sport or lift things. Four weeks of immobilisation lay before me.

I could do almost nothing. I had to rely on my family to run the house and even to wash me and tie my shoe laces. I had a go at playing guitar but quickly discovered how important a well-anchored shoulder is to playing. I had to resign myself to give up on guitar too.

It was a frustrating time, not playing guitar and not doing anything else all day was hard for me. But I found three musical activities that kept me working on my guitar skills and helped to sooth my frustrations.

1. Pick Out Melodies on a Piano

Right after my accident my right hand fingertips were pretty cut up and sore. But with my middle finger that had escaped without harm I could pick out little melodies on my son's piano.

I'd recently watched a film about Woodstock because my daughter studied it for a school project. So I tried to pick out Hendrix's star spangled banner that I'd seen Hendrix play by ear.

I don't think I actually got it right, but I had fun trying and I'm sure I learned in the process so I'll be a bit better next time I try to pick out a melody by ear.

2. Strumming and Picking Exercises

After a few days I thought to myself that I could work on my picking hand, I didn't need to move my left arm for that.

So I propped my guitar on my lap and worked on some strumming and picking exercises with my right hand. I did all that with open or muted strings and left my left arm in peace.

3. Playing Ukulele

About 10 days after my accident I caught sight of a ukulele in one of our cupboards. I immediately thought that I might be able to play its very short neck without moving my left arm about.

I was right, and I spent a happy hour strumming away songs on it. I repeated the experience regularly during the following weeks.

A couple of days ago I had a check up and my collar bone is healing nicely. I still can't hold my guitar strap over my shoulder, but I can start to play the guitar a bit again.

I'm thankful for that. But I'm also thankful that my experience taught me that no matter how improbable or difficult it seems, no matter what obstacles there are, I can always find a way to learn and develop my musical and guitar playing skills.

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Photo by starpause kid.


Jake Jenkins said...

Sorry to hear about your accident. That really sucks. Good to hear that you are sticking with the guitar practice.

Found your blog a couple weeks ago and have been digging through the archives. Lots of great stuff.

Thanks for the effort.


Anonymous said...

Get better! Love your blog by the way. Best tips ever.

Alex Flores said...

Really sorry about your accident. I agree, there's always a way to keep pursuing music, you definitely inspired me to never give up.

Dave Wentwort said...

Sorry to hear about your accident. I was researching on better ways to improve my posture while playing guitar because of a sore rotator cuff and realize that you did it with much worse. One thing I feel helps alot is to play in a more comfortable chair and take breaks after every few songs.

Unknown said...

Just broke mine (left one) today...the day before I move to France! I mostly play bass guitar...but have been learning the Bach cello suites on a ukulele tuned like a viola--so I was VERY happy to read about your success with the uke!

Unknown said...

Update on my own case: Pretty much back to normal now, and it never (after about two weeks) really interfered with my bass playing as long as I was careful not to put any weight on the left arm (meaning sit down to play instead of using the strap).

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