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Problems playing guitar

HazelBro

New member
Dec 3, 2020
3
0
My husband with early onset Alzheimer's (now aged 66) used to play electric rhythm guitar in an amateur band. He loves rock music such as that by the Rolling Stones and Dire Straights. However, he is now finding it hard how to remember how to play chords.

He can pick out single notes to play along with a music track by ear, but it's so frustrating for him. I wrongly thought his muscle memory of chords would stick around for a long time. I cannot help much on the chord-playing.

Does anyone have tips or experience on how to approach this? Playing music has been a source of great enjoyment for almost twenty years (he was a relatively late starter). It would be great to find some way of prolonging the activity for as long as possible.

This is my first post on Talking Point. I'm hoping there is someone out there who may have ideas on how I can help. Thank you.
 

Banjomansmate

Registered User
Jan 13, 2019
4,075
0
Dorset
Sadly it was the ability to play stringed instruments that went quite early on with The Banjoman, the one thing I expected him to retain as he had been playing for over 50 years. I knew he was forgetting words of songs and then started losing the tunes despite rehearsing them every day ( disconcerting when he launched into a different introduction chord progression when you are about to sing on stage) but it was when one of his students told me he couldn’t tune his banjo that I finally realised just how quickly he was deteriorating! So, I’m sorry but I don’t know of anything to help you and your husband.

I was just answering @Bunpoots .
 

canary

Registered User
Feb 25, 2014
18,433
0
South coast
It is always sad when they lose the ability that they were once so good at.
With OH it was mathematics. Once he could do long division, simultaneous equations and square roots down to 3 decimal places all in his head. Now he struggles to count back from 100 in sevens
 

HazelBro

New member
Dec 3, 2020
3
0
Thanks @Banjomansmate , @canary and @Bunpoots .That's very helpful to have your replies. I really didn't expect anyone to pick up on this. All I think we can do is write down the shrinking repertoire of 'do-able' songs, to remind OH what he can still play along to.

It makes me feel sad, but less alone, knowing that it has happened to others. On the brighter side, at least I've now learnt how to tune a guitar!
 

Jaded'n'faded

Registered User
Jan 23, 2019
3,190
0
High Peak
Just wondering if something simpler would work - I'm thinking of a ukelele. The chords are very simple - often just one finger so it's an easy thing to play.

Of course, you'd have to put up with the awful plinky-plink of a ukelele and I don't think I could! To me they are always a bit George Formby but my daughter plays pop songs and sings to hers which sounds quite good. (OK she's my daughter so I have to say that. It's still plinky-plink Leaning on a Lampost to me!)
 

Banjomansmate

Registered User
Jan 13, 2019
4,075
0
Dorset
The OP’s husband would need to learn all new chords, so probably not a good idea, although I have a collection of sing along song sheets with picture chords that I made for The Banjoman’s ukulele teaching sessions that were then used at the monthly ukulele evenings we ran at his local pub!
Together we did all sorts of music with him playing ukulele.
@Jaded'n'faded I expect your daughter knows this famous one? We used to do it together and it was the last song at my Banjoman’s funeral.
I’ve posted this tribute to George Harrison version because you cannot see the complete “Concert for George” version any more.
 

HazelBro

New member
Dec 3, 2020
3
0
Thanks @Banjomansmate, for these ideas. I am trying to learn the ukulele myself, as my "me time" activity! I thought it might help me understand OH's difficulties, too, although his taste in music is very different!
 

Polaris71

New member
Jan 28, 2022
1
0
I was really interested to find this post. My dad has dementia and for the past year or so I have been going round to play guitar with my dad every week. He's played for probably almost 60 years now and was the reason I started playing as well. He really enjoys our sessions but it is increasingly a struggle for him to hold the guitar, get his hand in the right place on the fretboard, and to hold down strings. We play the same 2 or 3 songs mainly (ones he's known and played for years and years) and it has been difficult to introduce new songs, even ones he knows well. I've also found it hard to find songs with chords that are easy enough to play and also clearly legible. I've tried different gauges of string to see if that helps him hold down strings but nothing much has helped so far. I'm keen to keep it going as long as possible though as he does enjoy it and its a precious link to something he always enjoyed.
 

Pots and Pans

Registered User
Jan 13, 2020
271
0
OH was not a great player but enjoyed it Gone now though can still play a bit of music on harmonica - lots of blues guitarists play this easily as it really is just picking out notes by ear which is musicality that isn't lost so rapidly as chord shapes/scales - and penny whistle. Things learned later in life get lost.
If your OH - or father @Polaris71 - was a good player and liked blues based rock one possibility might be to tune guitar to an E chord as can then use one finger to go up and down frets and get a reasonable 12 bar bluesy sound. Bottleneck blues/ slide with a finger piece? It's fairly easy to produce some nice sounds, acoustic or electric.
Sigh, so sad though to witness these losses. ..
 

Dunroamin

Registered User
May 5, 2019
257
0
UK
As a PWD i seem to have lost the ability to actually read music. I did manage a brief foray back into some Bach and Beethoven for a while, but I don't even seem to be able to play now. The keyboard just seems a mass of no meaning. Interestingly I can no longer touch type either and what used to be second nature without looking is no longer possible. My posts are all checked now and done with help.

Reading is becoming problematic with the ends of lines blurring. Posters who do not use paragraphs have to be ignored which is sad as they often have much to say.

More skills to add to the ****itbucket
 

Lawson58

Registered User
Aug 1, 2014
2,825
0
Victoria, Australia
As a PWD i seem to have lost the ability to actually read music. I did manage a brief foray back into some Bach and Beethoven for a while, but I don't even seem to be able to play now. The keyboard just seems a mass of no meaning. Interestingly I can no longer touch type either and what used to be second nature without looking is no longer possible. My posts are all checked now and done with help.

Reading is becoming problematic with the ends of lines blurring. Posters who do not use paragraphs have to be ignored which is sad as they often have much to say.

More skills to add to the ****itbucket
I dislike reading things without paragraphs too. You wouldn’t even think about reading a book if it wasn’t paragraphed. Not being pick, just practical.
 

purpledaffodil

Registered User
Dec 16, 2021
24
0
Sadly ability to play an instrument does seem an early thing to go. With hindsight I can see that my Mum abruptly stopping playing the violin about 4 or 5 years ago was probably a very early sign of dementia.

I would suggest focusing on other aspects of music he enjoys - listening to music, watching rock documentaries, going to gigs or open mike nights at the pub, singing along. Whatever it is that gives him pleasure in it that isn’t the frustration of not being able to do something that has come so naturally for so long
 

Shedrech

Volunteer Moderator
Dec 15, 2012
12,138
0
Yorkshire
Hello @Polaris71
Just to offer a warm welcome to DTP

It's great that you and your dad have such a connection through music

I'm not musical myself but am wondering whether someone such as your dad might keep sense of rhythm if not the ability to play the guitar and could beat a drum/bongos/tambourine/ maracas etc to your playing so you are still making music together

There's always the 'air guitar' to favourite tracks ?