When I started playing the clarinet in 5th grade, it was like the heavens parted in my brain – I became exponentially better at math within the year, not to mention falling in love with playing. The reeds, the cork wax, the delicate scales, I was obsessed (and 3rd chair). When I broke my neck, realizing my fingers were going to be paralyzed too, it was a sad sad day (especially when my Mom sold it at one of her garage sales).
But I gotta say, saying goodbye to my love of music was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done after my injury. Maybe in my wildest dreams, jerry-rigging a clarinet (to work for my quad hands) would maybe work, but not all instruments are impossible to adapt. Take for example what Robb Madison, a T8 paraplegic, has come up with to still use his drumset. I’ve seen some expensive drum mods, but this, almost anyone can do.
Since Robb can no longer activate the bass drum with his leg, he devised a way to hold three drumsticks to mimic the bass drum sound. He holds one stick in his left hand and two sticks (one with a larger rubber end) in his right. When he drums with his right hand, he applies the sticks to his drums just so, making sure they make contact with the drum separately (so you can distinctively hear the bass sound). And he’s also created several other smart drum stick variations to make up for his diminished mobility, including creating a drumstick with cymbals built into it.
And if you thought it was impossible for a quad of any level to effectively play a guitar, you gotta watch this video from blues master Tom Doughty, a C7 quad from the UK. He’s mastered the skill of “lap strumming,“ where you set your guitar on your lap and play.
And wow, watching him is so impressive, he hits so many notes (!) and his voice – absolutely beautiful. Who would’ve thought all of this instrument playing is possible despite paralysis? There are all kinds of adapted musical instruments!
What kind of adapted musical instruments have you played? Do you created your own adapted musical instruments?
Watch the videos