John E. Walker is an amateur guitarist who lives in Billings, Montana. Here, he talks about how his love of playing classical guitar was derailed by a nerve problem.
I’ve been suffering from ulnar nerve issues in my right forearm for many years. In the mid-1990s, I put down the electric guitar after many years of being obsessed with it and decided I was ready to commit myself fully to the classical guitar. I would spend my days working at the computer as a computer tech/network admin, and four to six hours every evening working on my two hours of standard classical guitar repertoire. I played this repertoire at various weddings and churches for a couple of years and wanted to become the best player I could become.
However, my hopes and dreams were eventually dashed, as I began to experience numbness from my right elbow, down to my ring and pinky fingers. I tried moving my mouse hand from my right hand to my left—which I still do to this day—but it didn’t alleviate the numbness. I eventually saw a specialist, but the stretches he gave me weren’t enough to combat my growing issue. So, I reluctantly put down the classical guitar and went back to playing electric guitar in country and rock bands. I have always been able to do that because solid-body guitars are thinner, and I usually stand while playing. I believe that my long days of computer work, combined with nights sitting hunched over my classical guitar, with my forearm resting on the lower bout, all combined to create a perfect storm for my ulnar nerve.
Fast forward 20 years… I can now play acoustic guitar again in moderation (and have been gigging my solo acoustic material on and off for several years). I spend more time working on my “flamenco-jazz” stuff these days than classical pieces. But I love it all and want to do it all again. Only this time I am aware that I have to remember not to over-do things. Maybe one day, after I’ve retired from my computer-related job, I can go back to spending hours every day playing the classical guitar.