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Guitar Therapy

Posted: Thu Feb 21, 2019 1:14 am
by amoviebuff
I met my long-term goal of retirement in August, 2013, after which, I assumed, I would have more time to play my guitars, among other leisure activities. Within a few months, however, I noticed that my guitar playing was not as crisp, with my fretwork sloppy, and my two hands not quite in sync. Other symptoms soon followed, including a tremor in my left hand. In the Spring of 2014—midway through my 60th year—I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD), a neurodegenerative, progressive disorder, with no cure—yet. (If nothing else, I nailed the timing, as 60 is the mean age for PD diagnosis!)

I was not going to take this “lying down”. I immediately looked into ways I could “fight back”, and subsequently joined Rock Steady Boxing, which provides intense non-contact boxing and other exercises that can reduce and even delay the symptoms of PD. I also took up Tai Chi, for improved balance. Both have benefitted me significantly. But I knew that one of my favorite pastimes—playing the guitar—had to have some potential for benefits, too. I just needed to find the right way to get some “guitar therapy” out of my guitar playing.

In the Spring of 2018, after more than 50 years of playing guitar, I decided I would take my first guitar “lessons”. But I wanted a very specific approach, as my main objective was for it to be therapeutic for my PD symptoms, with any improvement in my guitar skills merely a positive by-product. So, I put together a short narrative simply to help in selecting an instructor who would understand my goals and have the tools to help me. While contacting several instructors, it occurred to me that the Northwest Parkinson's Foundation might find my idea interesting, so I emailed the narrative to them. To my surprise, NWPF asked if they could publish my “essay”. I agreed, provided that they not use my name on the website (but could on personal inquiries). On June 1, 2018, “Guitar Therapy” appeared on their Community Blog (please read this linked article before continuing below; it’s only five paragraphs long!):

Almost immediately after publication, another Seattle-area guitarist who is also battling PD saw the blog and contacted me through NWPF. We have met and are in touch every few months on two areas of mutual interest. Also, since that time, I have been working under the tutelage of a very patient guitar instructor who is both a good music educator and who knows how a guitar can be used therapeutically. Like any other worthwhile therapy, it requires repetitive exercises, like musical key scales and chord progressions, which can be monotonous, but are crucial. I have been diligently working on these basics, with the instructor’s encouragement. My manual dexterity has gotten better as a result (oh, and he says my guitar playing has improved, too!). In fact, five years into PD, I’m doing well overall and can’t complain. I hope that anyone out there who’s facing one of life’s challenges will likewise be fortunate enough to find that even an unconventional “therapy” may help meet their needs.

Now, back to practice—again.....

Re: Guitar Therapy

Posted: Thu Feb 21, 2019 5:46 pm
by GattonFan
Very inspiring Don! Keep up the practice and therapies, and fight the good fight. Thoughts and prayers to you.

Re: Guitar Therapy

Posted: Fri Feb 22, 2019 9:39 pm
by Sarah93003
That is awesome Don. Thank you very much for sharing that.