Rock On! Being a Musician with a Limb Difference
by Amber Henson, on Jan 4, 2022
If you are interested in picking up an instrument as a new hobby, or returning to your old hobby playing music, you shouldn’t let your limb difference, no matter the level, stop you. Here are some examples of musicians getting back to their craft after an amputation, or in spite of their limb difference, to inspire you.
First up, we’ll start with the stars. Tommy Iommi, of Black Sabbath, lost the tips of two of his fingers in a steel mill accident at the age of 17. “’I was told you'll never play again," says the lead guitarist. ‘It was just unbelievable. I sat in the hospital with my hand in this bag and I thought that's it — I'm finished. But eventually I thought I'm not going to accept that. There must be a way I can play.’" Iommi wears a prosthesis you can easily see in this video to help him play. Jerry Garcia, of The Grateful Dead, had half of his middle finger chopped off as a child during a woodchopping accident. Rick Allen, from Def Leppard, is a well-known example of someone with a high-level amputation (at his shoulder) following a car accident, who overcame his amputation to become one of the greatest drummers of all time. In a 2021 interview, Allen was asked “If you were given the chance to go back and not have that happen, would you?” His answer: “[…] In many ways, I think it enabled me to grow in so many ways. It became a blessing, a responsibility, a responsibility to other people, to myself. And I think that has become a huge gift.”
You’ll note that the common theme with the above musicians (and there are more if you search for them) is that they continued to develop the craft that they loved regardless of their limb difference. During a musician’s prosthetic fitting we provide training to ensure excellent fit and function to enable our patient to play their instrument and continue to develop their skills.
We’ve fit several musicians over the years:
In Caleb’s video, you can watch him talk about how something as small as a fingertip amputation means that he holds his hand in a different way to play, creating pain in his wrist. These kinds of different use or overuse issues can be solved with a prosthetic device, which you can see Caleb don halfway through the video below.
In addition to Caleb, we have had other guitar players come to us for prostheses, who also talk about having to hold their hands in a different way. Here's Brian:
Robert F. is an example of someone who uses a thumb extender/protector to play guitar:
Robert S. plays the concertina (similar to an accordion). Here he is playing with the initial Point Design digits he was fitted with.
Additionally, there are options for drummers, which Nate demonstrates:
Here is Mason playing the piano using her passive devices:
If you can bring the talent and the practice, our clinical therapy specialists will bring their expertise in helping you learn how to use your device. We enjoy watching our patients realize that their prosthesis can not only get them back to work, but allow them to still participate in the hobbies they love — or, in the case of those new to an instrument or children, hobbies they’re just getting started with!
Do you have a limb difference and play an instrument? Tell us your experience in the comment section below. If you would like to learn more about how our Arm Dynamics prosthetists and therapists can fit you with a comfortable, functional prosthesis that helps you follow your passions in life, please contact us. Rock on!
For more information, see related Arm Dynamics articles here:
- How We Help Our Patients Learn to Use Their Prosthesis
- Getting Back to Work After an Upper Limb Amputation
- An Introduction to Activity-Specific Prostheses
- After an Amputation, How Can I Get Back to Feeling Like Myself?
- Finger and Partial Hand Devices in Action