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Playing Bass With A Missing Left Hand.

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by marco_e, Mar 2, 2006.

  1. marco_e


    Jan 16, 2006
    Nova Scotia
    This is sort of continued from a thread I made in the DB section of the site which can be found here http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=224049

    I was born missing my left hand (cut off above the wrist) and I'm interested in trying to learn to play the bass. I started off interested in the DB but since the BG has frets, I started to look at that a bit more seriously. The way I was thinking of trying was using my left wrist to push down the strings on the frets as anyone else would use their left hand, and pluck with my right hand. I can do this on an acoustic guitar, so I know the basic idea works. Of course this would slow me down a bit and put a limit on things I could do, but I'm willing for a challange. My question is, am I going to be limited to being a very poor bass player if I start, or with practise will it be possible to build up the speed and skill it takes to play some songs? I'm not looking to be great, but I don't see a point in trying if I won't ever be able to do anything.

    Input from all you bass players would be appreciated. Thanks.
  2. The Clap

    The Clap

    Jan 5, 2004
    Scottsdale, AZ
    Definitely! One of the best parts about playing the bass is that simple bass parts are often the most suitable for any given genre of music, and the real meat and potatoes of your job deals with rhythm and root notes, not wild melodies and far-out improvisation. Once you develop strong internal rhythm, you can drive a band without needing more than a few notes to pick from in, say, a rock, blues, or country context (among many other genres as well).

    So not being able to finger different notes with great speed on your left arm will not slow you down much, if at all, as a traditional bassist. As a virtuoso, that could be another story, but you should probably have an approach to music that is more about laying the foundation than grabbing the spotlight as a bassist anyhow. If you've got the rhythm and time to practice, there's NO reason you can't be a solid, creative, and interesting bass player! Good luck!
  3. You could always play a left handed bass and tap it like Bill Clements (the one armed bassist) does.
  4. I wouldn't expect not having a hand to be much of a handicap at all really. I'm not sure how well your wrist will callus up since wrists aren't made for manipulating things like fingers are, so you may want to wear something on it for protection, but you probably know your wrists better than I do.
  5. Justin K-ski

    Justin K-ski Supporting Member

    May 13, 2005
    I usually post on the URB side too, but I'm gonna chime in here. Have you ever though of playing left handed and using mostly hammer-ons with your fretting hand? You could use your plucking hand to hit strong notes and hammer-on solos. Left handed BGs are much easier to find than uprights.
  6. thats insane right there.

    that almost makes me want to start wrapping my right hand in something so i can't use it to force myself to develop good left hand technique.
  7. Minger


    Mar 15, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    Yeah, I'd think that hammers on may be your best shot.

    On the other hand, good luck man! Glad to see that you aren't stopped by something like this!
  8. You know, you might want to fret with something like a hook rather than trying to get your wrist in front of the neck, which makes for a pretty odd position when playing BG. I wonder if anyone makes fretting hooks.
  9. Sippy


    Aug 1, 2005
    Bill Clements is a KILLER bassist. JauqoIII-X knows him personally. you might want to contact him.
  10. gwx014


    Dec 22, 2005
    I think that might be a good way to go.


    Good luck with the Bass! :hyper: :bassist: :hyper: :bassist:
  11. Hi.

    I live near Orlando, and there was this phenominal guitarist that used to play downtown a few years back...he had one hand, and used a hook that was attached to where his wrist ended to pluck the strings... he used his only hand to fret the notes

    He sounded perfectly natural(listening, you couldn't tell he was using it) - no, phenominal!...I'd go that route if it was me...

    Welcome to Talkbass, and may you have the best of luck.:)
  12. Skel


    Jun 19, 2005
    Boulder, Colorado
    I think it's your attitude and level of intelligence that will make you a very good bassist, no matter how you end up doing it technically - you'll figure that out by trying different ways. Nothing can stop you, so move ahead with it. Not that this is very comparable, but Jimi Hendrix blew people away playing with his teeth.

  13. Skel


    Jun 19, 2005
    Boulder, Colorado
    Also, maybe you could start by removing the "A" string, and the "G" string. Then tune what would be the "D" string to "A" (or try actually using an "A" string gauge here in the "D" string position). This way you would have some good separation between the strings, which I think you would need for now. You could practice some blues walking patterns, etc. and probably build your momentum and confidence.

  14. I kind of like the simplicity of fretting with only one thing. For me, it would be a finger or a slide, but it's nice to not really worry about fingering in any case.
  15. Jimbo


    Dec 4, 2000
    Philadelphia, PA
    more power to you!

    i also think playing left handed may be the best, either using a lot of hammer ons or a hook to pluck with

    good luck!
  16. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    Seems like a good idea.
    At this point, it may even help to go fretless.
    More power to you !
  17. marco_e


    Jan 16, 2006
    Nova Scotia
    For playing left handed and hammering with my right hand or for playing right handed like I described?
  18. joeyzaza


    Dec 16, 2005
    Well, if I lost my left hand, I'd get a left handed bass, mute the open strings, and learn to play pure legato with my right hand, like bill clements. It's up to you, but that's what I'd suggest, since it would be a lot less limiting.
  19. My idea is... if you still have a functional wrist on your left hand (if not then it would work anyways, maybe just a little slower) you could get or even fabricate a prothesis that is designed in such manner that you have a pick attached to it. Permanent fixture of a pick.

    Then get a left-handed bass and start picking with the prothesis and have your right hand for your fretboard...

    I guess if you don't have a functionnal left wrist then it's gonna be pretty weird having to shake your entire arm from the elbow but mayb you should give it a try.

    EDIT - I also tought about one guy that's playing bass around here in Quebec, Canada... His name is Martin Deschamps... he's hell of a bassist bastard i say... Missing a leg and missing parts of his 2 arms........ that a great lesson of perseverence i'd say!

    He's the middle guy there, i gues i didn't have to say...

    Perseverence will paid off for him!