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Possible To Play Using One Finger On Left Hand?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by marco_e, Jan 16, 2006.

  1. marco_e


    Jan 16, 2006
    Nova Scotia
    I was born with my left hand cut off at the wrist. I can't really play very many instruments, seeing as how it would be nearly impossible. This may seem like a very weird question, but I was wondering if it's possible to play the double bass using my left wrist. I understand that the bass is played one string at a time, does this mean that it only takes one finger on a string to play a note? And, without a thumb on the left hand to support the bass, would the bass fall over if only supported by my body (or perhaps some sort of stand)? I decided I need to talk to some actual bass players to figure some of these thoughts I'm having out, as an upside-down guitar is the only thing I've had to sort of test my thoughts. I know even if I could handle playing some bass, I wouldn't be very good but I don't really care. Right now I'm just trying to figure out if playing the double bass is physically possible at all.

    Thanks to anyone who gives me some opinions or knowledge on the subject. Any questions anyone has, I'll answer.
  2. Chrix


    Apr 9, 2004
    First off, I want to say that I think it's great that you're willing to work on such a demanding instrument considering your situation. That being said, I think that it might be able to work, however any virtuosity or speed might be out of the question. Although, since you stated that being very good is not necessarily a goal of yours, you might be able to do simple, relatively slow moving work on the bass. As far as mechanics go, bass is not only a single-string-at-a-time instrument. Double stops, chords, etc. are par for the course. But the actual process of pushing down the strings in the right places might not be completely impossible.

    Now if you're just looking to make music and any instrument could do, I would recommend something like the trumpet, maybe trombone, possibly even drums or even voice. But if the double bass is truly a dream of yours, I say try and get ahold of one and see how things work out. Best of luck!
  3. marco_e


    Jan 16, 2006
    Nova Scotia
    I'm trying to get into the city to a music store that has one and play around with one.

    The thing is, I know I could make any instrument on the planet make a sound, heck even the guitar. It's just how good I could get that's really the limiting factor.

    Oh, and I'm into anything from bluegrass to phish and if I could play a bit of bass, it would be a jamming-with-friends thing not a try-to-learn-bach thing.
  4. bpclark


    Apr 30, 2003
    West Central, OH
    I commend you for your attitude. I think it can probably be done, but maybe I've got another suggestion for you. You don't mention anything about your right hand so I will assume it is uninjured? How about playing bass left-handed? That way you can have full control of the fingering process. You could probably rig up something so you can pluck with the left wrist. I don't think bowing would be out of the question with a little creativity.

    And as far as holding the bass, if you use a chair then you can balance it with your legs and not have to worry the thumb issue.
  5. mpoppitt


    Mar 28, 2005
    Austin Texas
    I saw a rockabilly band here in Austin called the Flametrick Subs, and their upright player didn't have a left hand! He rocked it, and never missed a beat.

    Sometimes the best musicians achieve their greatness by the discipline that is required to overcome a percieved limitation. Guitar great Django Reinhardt's mangled hand comes to mind, as well as all the great blind blues guitarists.

    I say go for it!
  6. mpoppitt


    Mar 28, 2005
    Austin Texas
  7. ToR-Tu-Ra


    Oct 15, 2005
    Mexico City
    What the... That cat plays better with one hand than I do with two :crying:

    I think the bottom line here's GO FOR IT!!!

    You may want to give more thought to playing left handed, sounds like a good idea to me.
  8. marco_e


    Jan 16, 2006
    Nova Scotia
    That's almost excactly the situation I'm in... That's really very cool, maybe I should try and get in touch with him. Thanks a ton guys.

    Oh and, I thought about playing lefty, but where my hand was cut off at the wrist, it woul dbe very difficult for me to pluck.
  9. philly


    Nov 20, 2004

    where are you man?
    If your close I'd certainly let you mess around on my bass to get a feel for it.

  10. bannedwit


    May 9, 2005
    Buffalo, NY
  11. marco_e


    Jan 16, 2006
    Nova Scotia
    Thanks for the offer man, but I'm in Nova Scotia.

    After seeing that left demarco guy I think I'm going to give this a shot. I think if I put my mind to it, I may be able to play half decent double bass :)

    Thanks for the help.
  12. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    This thread demonstrates the best that the internet has to offer. Bringing hope and possibility to another. Excellent.

    Best of luck on your playing marco.
  13. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Damn... what a neat thread. And the lyrics to The Flametrick Subs' "Life Sucking Voodoo Women" are hilarious...

    marco_e: Go for it!
  14. mister_k


    Jul 27, 2004
    Los Angeles
    My cousin was born with an arm that only goes a little past the elbow, and there's nothing that cat can't do. Go find a bass, and spit in the eye of anyone that doubts you.

    By the by,
    thanks Poppit, I was trying to remember where I had seen this situation before.

  15. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Someone mentioned Django Reinhardt who fully capable guiterists immulate, but never equal 50 years later.

    Also, Horace Parlan is considered one of the best hard bop pianists on record, not the best disabled pianist. Polio limited him to the use of only a few fingers on each hand, but I can't hear it.

    So, I'm certainly not going to tell you that you can't do it. I'll opine to you that I don't think I could do it, but I agree with everyone who has challenged you to take up the fight. I worry a lot about my hands and think often what would happen if something happenned to one of them and I usually think about trumpet during those times. It's the only (to my knowledge) one handed instrument and it's a really hip instrument. For whatever that's worth.

    I'll tell you that if you choose doublebass and start your journey, you'll have a fan club and support network here. And ditto, if you happen to be near Seattle, you're welcome to try it out on my bass.

  16. Farin


    Oct 19, 2004
    Akron, Ohio
    I think I speak for everyone when I say, that video was freakin amazing.
    Go for it dude, don't let anyone tell ya you can't, except for your mom when your practicing at 3am (this freaquently happens to me) haha!
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I've never seen anybody play bass like this - but I just wanted to mention that I have seen a very good Jazz Trombonist, who is in a similar position to yourself...

    Trombone doesn't require any keying of valves and really only requires the right hand to move the slide - might be another idea ....?
  18. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    I was thinking the same can be done for slide guitar. There's not alot of slide jazz guitarists around but Wil Bernard comes to mind. He used play in T.J. Kirk and has his own band here in SF.
  19. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I saw a guy locally play bebop on pedal steel guitar and it was wicked.
  20. marco_e


    Jan 16, 2006
    Nova Scotia
    So, I think I'm either going to the local music shop, or seeing if my music teacher at school has a db and would take some time to let my try it out. I'm going to give this a shot. Heck, I can play x-box, type 50 words a minute, ride a bike, and do almost whatever else I put my mind to. There are a lot of things I can do that noone believed I'd be able to, so I might have a shot.

    If anyone has some input, what are the specific problems I'm most likely going to face with trying to play?

    Also, I've considered other instruments such as steel guitar and trumpet, but I really really like the db. Playing has been sort of a dream of mine for awhile now.