Friday, 21 April 2017

MS & Guitar?


  
Mal "in the bliss", playing with "Pengopuss" jazz quintet in late 2016... and my great amp.

When it comes to playing guitar with my MS, it's this 'adapting' thing... I just 'do it', simply because I've been playing for so many years, I think. Playing guitar is a challenge for me, let's admit it. But I can do it, albeit pretty clumsily. It's hard to describe, but it's like playing by rote... my brain tells my left-fingers how to co-ordinate and finger a chord/play a series of notes, but the fingers don't always land exactly where they're supposed to... from years of playing, my fingers kind-of automatically know where they should go! That's the 'playing by rote' bit, I think.

Thankfully, my left-hand (the chord/note fingering hand) doesn't feel too bad (most of the time), so I'm able to finger chords and notes reasonably OK (not as well as I'd wish, but well... it's this 'adapting' thing). It's my right picking hand that can be an effort most of the time - just holding the pick and trying to keep a steady 'feel' going can be a challenge. But I can do it (hell, I've been hacking my way thru things for such a long time, it's a good habit, I suppose!) - which makes me feel satisfied... just more of that subconscious adapting, I guess. I've always been a rhythm player for years, anyways - must just be subconscious habit, I thin?  (It's hard to explain the inexplicable).

Henry, our double-bass player, said to me once, "I don't know how you do it..." I had to honestly reply, "I don't know, either!" It's a bit of a mystery, really. I think it's just after playing for so many years, the chord shapes and rhythm strumming patterns just come almost automatically (albeit clumsily, somedays).


Hot humid conditions slowly render my playing hands totally numb and useless. I had this experience (a brand new experience, actually!) at a Pengopuss gig in March. Symptoms developed as the heat slowly increased during the afternoon indoors' gig. First set - fine. Second set - I had to sit down (I felt a little 'wobbly' on my feet), and my hands were starting to feel less co-operative, and I noticed it harder to play fluidly and consistently. Third set - I couldn't feel my fingers and hands at all! It was so frustrating - but there was nothing I could do! The chords and strumming was still coming (albeit automatically), but everything felt so sluggish for me, playing-wise.

I forgot to take my small fan, as part of my standard gig-bag. But I'm also thinking of adding some instant cooling packs as well - just in case it happens to me like that again, in the future. Maybe a small esky with some frozen ice packs wrapped in an old towel during breaks, as part of my gig-bag, also? Well, if needs be...

I am very thankful to my Pengopuss jazz cohorts, for allowing me the privilege of continuing to play with them. We had a few rehearsals, before we performed at a private function in Bathurst, the day before NYE (2016). Because the numbness was relatively less that night, I was able to (albeit awkwardly) play guitar - tho I had to gaffa-tape a pick to my right thumb, so I could play! I could barely feel the strings under my fingertips as I played, but it worked well for us all. Thanks guys... I honestly thought that it might be the very last time I ever perform live again!

It's frustrating that I have to miss the occasional jazz quintet rehearsal, simply due to hot weather making my hands feel like rubber! Makes it tough to hold - let alone play - guitar. I hate feeling as though I'm letting the other guys in Pengopuss down, but there's nothing I can do about it (which is equally frustrating).

Catch-22... the next day, my hands were comparatively fine. Go figure...


I think one of the most frustrating things for me, when it comes to playing guitar, is - in the weeks leading up to when my MS first kicked-in - I was actually playing probably the best I ever have! Things I was practising on at home in private was truly boundary-pushing for me as a player... really working on solos and different modes and new things for me - and feeling really refreshed as a player as a result. Now, I'm no shit-hot player (not at all)... I'm just an old hack who knows how to adapt when it comes to playing different styles, after doing it for years and years - that's the "playing by rote" thing. Unfortunately - all of that advancing-playing has ground to a shuddering halt now. Thanks, MS...


(21 April 2017) It's getting harder for me... not that anything physically has changed, I'm just finding it more and more awkward... to keep this pretence 'that I can play OK' up, I think... playing is really hard, and I'm finding it hard that I'm finding it hard, if that makes sense?

Blog post: Some questions answered about playing music, years' ago



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Peas be with ewe 
Mal

2 comments:

  1. I've played keyboards with MS for 20 years now. I have several times had to miss a gig due to MS flaring up in different ways. My band is flexible enough and they adjust the set list to leave out keyboard-centric songs. My most recent flare-up has both of my hands experiencing what feels essentially like peripheral neuropathy. I'm not playing. I would need to relearn with these hands the way they are. I feel like I have a decision point coming up about staying with the band. It feels pretty shitty, missing gigs. Might have to let it go and focus on other things that feed my soul. I remember one telling a former neurologist about the issues I had with it and his response was akin to 'boo-hoo, trrishie' :-)

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  2. I really appreciate your reply - thank you. I'm glad that is a "former" neurologist! What an @sshole!

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