One handed guitar and bass players

There is a number of people that play guitar or bass guitar with just one hand. Here is an overview over whom I found in the World Wild Web. Obviously, both technique and equipment are modified to match the player's preferences and I am always interested in learning about, obviously, both.

In the meantime, I have

  • developed a 3D-printed guitar pick holder [link]
  • obtained images and permission to share a successful jazz guitarist's prosthetic arm details [link]

Bill Clements

He plays bass guitar one handed. His equipment (Marco Bass guitars featuring FretGroove) and technique appear to be available for purchase and by watching one can see how he plays his stuff.

John Denner

He is not playing just one handed but he uses one hand and - for his remaining arm - a special sleeve for picking and tapping. Allegedly he patented that (check this). There appears to be a DVD out that features his playing but so far, no further word about his equipment. Apparently, a DVD containing technical tips about sleeve and pick are in preparation (update / personal note, July 2009). He then appears to have been found impersonating rather than actually playing himself [link], using copyrighted materials.

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - One handed guitar and bass players; published June 24, 2009, 09:26; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=190.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1576193829, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - One handed guitar and bass players}}, month = {June},year = {2009}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=190}}


6 thoughts on “One handed guitar and bass players

  1. Where can I get a sleeve for the pick? My daughter is 10 years old and is missing her right hand right below the elbow, she would like to play the guitar and I am trying to find a special sleeve for the pick.

  2. Thanks for showing this. I had a stroke which left me with no fine motor function in my right hand, and using only a guitar and amp combo I've had issues with the volume of the three high strings while tapping. You've given me something else to think about, and some hope that I might get this to work.

  3. I have lost the use of my right side also due to a stroke. I play a sqire modified bass off the 12th fret. It still give me some volume issues , but it is easier to bend than the standard guitar. I am always trying new things, and I recently heard a one handed guitar player on youtube who is really amazing. Sorry for any errors ; the stroke gave me double vision.

  4. Hi, my husband had a stroke which left him paralyzed on his left side. He played both electric and stand up bass prior to the stroke, and I would like to find some way of bringing a bass to him that he might be able to play. He is also an accomplished pianist but to play bass lines with his right hand on a keyboard is not satisfying to him. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  5. Since then, I even developed a pick holder for my prosthetic hook.

    https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=7189

    More solutions here:

    https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?cat=133

    However it seems your husband faces different challenges.

    With your husband paralyzed on his LEFT side, he can most likely not use the fretboard of a (normal "right handed") guitar, and he cannot play the bass / lower key side of a piano. Either there is considerable recovery and improvement of the function of his left hand at least to a degree where some strings can be pressed down to change their pitch. Or he has to consider converting to left handed instruments.

    With "left handed" guitar, the fretboard is played with the right hand, and the strumming is either done with the (paralysed but minimally functional?) left hand. Or he only presses down the strings with his right hand, and pulls them off, without ANY use of his left hand.

    The exact reverse is done here: (use headphones or good speakers):

    http://www.swisswuff.ch/sounds/vesterbassndrum.mp3

    Here, I play the fretboard of my bass just with my left hand, with extensive hammer-on/pull-off and sliding, and no right hand / arm action whatsoever. It is also the technique that Bill Clements uses (which is how I got the idea to do that in the first place):

    https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=190

    To change to a left handed bass guitar or guitar, means a considerable work of re-training. But then, why not do it - a lot of conceptual and idea work that is clearly part of music instrument mastering will be there and help along once basic fingerings work better. It may take a few years to get as fluent as one was before but then, it is satisfying to do that at any rate.

    There is only one way, and that is to take on technical challenges head on. I first sold most of my guitars and road bike, thinking stuff would not work out any more - big mistake. Dreams do not go away (un) fortunately, and now my wife is totally into road bike riding, so I had no chance of suppressing that urge. It took me about 10 years (go figure) to unlock the full functional potential of road / race bike riding with a prosthetic arm, after a number of years trying with low efforts I upped the game last November / December and ... success. Hard works works when these things are concerned.

    https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=8196

    So all I can say is try these things, consider them. Ask your local guitar shop whether they have a left handed guitar to try out, and maybe talk to them and your husband goes there not just once but maybe a few times to get a feel for that, then start at an appropriate investment level ... hell, the first bike I modified for left handed use was a 100 USD 40 year old road bike, and it took me half a year to find the parts and get it done. Slow, very satisfying nevertheless. Then a first round of testing was good but not so glorious. And so next round, etc. after you expose yourself to so and so many options and aspects, you will invariably get better there.

    I must say that I already had extensive experience in hammer/pull E-guitar playing when I started to test one handed playing. So here is the technique shown in more detail by Bill Clements:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-QZrTo7VIM

    This is a track I recorded with pure left hand technique, on the fret board, NO right arm / strumming at all taking place:

    http://www.swisswuff.ch/sounds/lefthanded2.mp3

    So there is a clear way towards one handed play, even though I guess you want to go for amplified electric and not acoustic. You get a far better sustain than with the acoustic, and there are several options for effects (these devices one plugs between guitar / amplifier). Also, E-bass or guitar have the superb advantage that one can practice very well using head phones which helps if you dont want to make everyone else in the house crazy if all you want to do is obsess over a particular type of sequence or notes or whatever.

    Currently I am in need of a lot of practice with my "new" pick holder, and with more stuff anyway. Cannot practice too much.

    All the best, for your husband and you, all the fun in the world with instruments and trying to re-claim them,

  6. most of my left hand was amputated 10 years ago. i have a thumb that is partly fused, my baby finger was transplanted to where my index finger should go.thatfinger is fully fused. my hand looks and acts like a crab claw. i'm taking my first guitar lesson next week. i have a 3 string shovel guitar. if anyone has any ideas etc that may help please respond. thankyou robert

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