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I have been lately delving into instrument learning now that I can afford some gear and lessons I am seriously thinking into dedicating into it.

The thing is I only have one seeing eye - the right eye. And to make matters worse (In my little to no knowledge opinion) I am right handed, which makes me having to look at what I am doing a little bit harder (at least when i compare it to my sports experience).

My question is: Is this a serious issue or am I making a huge deal out of it?

Prior to any musical related people's advice, I am pondering Violin (and cello by that matter but my local musical school does not teach it), Guitar (more bass oriented) and the Piano.

I am mostly asking this because it can be a serious investment for a disappointment if I find that the obstacles are bigger than my motivation.

EDIT:

I want to thank you all for your answer and I'll definitely try to learn an instrument!

  • Telling us the instruments you had in mind might allow us to come up with some more detailed thoughts... – topo morto May 3 '18 at 11:53
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    @topomorto added them to my question – OneEyedBandit May 3 '18 at 11:57
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    Helmut Walcha, one of the great organists, was blind. You have nothing to fear from a little piano. – replete May 3 '18 at 12:18
  • as other have said here, when you play, you don't really look at what your hands do; you'll discover very quickly that it's muscle memory and tactile feedback more than anything else. Most of the time you just glance if there is a break because you want to make sure you hands are at the right place when you start, but after that every movement you do is mostly relative to the position you were at a moment ago. I'd even say that the moment you start to look at your fingers and think is usually the moment you will make a mistake when you play. – Thomas May 4 '18 at 15:06
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The type of music you intend to play and whether single or in ensemble/band has an influence, but in general sight is important for (in increasing order):

  • Monitoring, what your hands do. This is a bad idea anyway on most instruments (exception may be keyboard/organ setting buttons), since muscle memory or perception of fingers is preferred.
  • Decode the score. Ensuring, that you have a proper lamp in adverse lighting conditions should cover this. If you are the type of person only needing the score when learning a new piece, or prefer to improvize, the importance is drastically reduced.
  • Optical part of synchronization with your playing partners, important e.g. to start together. This can be addressed either by restricting to small ensembles or to ones with a conductor.

So summarized: It should not be much of a problem and definitely no reason for not attempting it.

  • For monitoring: don't forget that most wind instruments do not require the user to see watch the instrument. Trumpet, sax, clarinet, etc. – Anonymous Penguin May 4 '18 at 3:29
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Honestly don’t think it’s a big problem. Lots of musicians out there who are blind. Even some musicians out there who are deaf! I think there’s one guy in South America who learned to play guitar with his feet. Django Reinhardt only had 3 usable fingers in his fretting hand.

Drums may be a little tricky since seeing out of one eye throws off your depth perception, but I can’t imagine anything else giving you Earth-shattering trouble. Remember, some guy learned to play guitar with his feet because he had no arms.

With his FEET.

  • Thank you for your answer, I know I make it sound like it's a huge deal but there are a ton of cases that make it sound like nothing when compared to that kind of people. Regarding the drums that has been my issue my whole life (depth) and the prices and the busy work threw me off. – OneEyedBandit May 3 '18 at 12:05
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    Did Django have that many usable fingers? And let's not forget the Def Leppard drummer! – Tim May 3 '18 at 12:07
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    Drums are obnoxiously expensive. But, if a deaf marimbist can become world class by feeling the music vibrate through her feet, you could probably get in there if you stuck with it long enough. – jjmusicnotes May 3 '18 at 12:09
  • @Tim - I forget if it was 2 or 3 fingers he had. I want to say 2 now. Also, yes, absolutely! – jjmusicnotes May 3 '18 at 12:10
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    If you're thinking of Eveline Glennie, she plays a heck of a lot more than marimba. – Tim May 3 '18 at 12:13
3

Why being right-handed could be seen as problematic, I don't understand. Probably 85% of the world's population has the same 'problem'!

There are lots of instruments that don't get looked at much while being played - trumpet and sax come to mind. Piano probably benefits from using both eyes, although many players have no eyesight at all, and it doesn't stop them. Stevie Wonder comes immediately to mind.

You need to consider which instruments inspire you, their sound, the kind of music you like played by them, and so on. You may or may not want to use music, but having one working eye isn't going to be much more of a challenge than having two. Guitar will need an eye on the fretting hand at least initially, but again, many good players are blind.

Just decide what you like, read other answers here, talk to people in music shops and schools. Talk to music teachers of all instruments, and go for it !

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    Thank you for the inspiring words. They are really motivating. The right hand 'thing' I was thinking on a possible guitar scenario where my nose gets in the way and I have to look directly into the guitar's arm to know where my left hand is. – OneEyedBandit May 3 '18 at 11:52
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    I wouldn’t worry about that - everybody turns their head to look at their hands when they’re playing anyway. – jjmusicnotes May 3 '18 at 11:56
  • Youi could always consider playing a guitar left-handed. There are many good reasons why this is advantageous, which have been covered in other answers on this site. – Tim May 3 '18 at 12:06
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YMMV but when learning a stringed instrument like guitar, a good teacher will help you build muscle memory with your fingers quickly. I'm not sure if you want to play very jazz-y pieces, but if you're content playing cowboy chords with blues scales I don't forsee your vision being a major impediment. Frankly, with guitar chords you don't even really need to look at the neck that much.

2

Maybe see if there is a Suzuki teacher in your area - based on a foundation of listening to the music and playing what you hear, rather than reading the score, the Suzuki method would seem to be ideal in your situation (Reading is not ignored, it's just delayed until the music is there).

There are Violin, Cello, Piano, Guitar, Flute and other courses (Mandolin is under development in Italy :)) available, although you may be restricted by what teachers live in your area. Depending on where you are there should be a national or local Suzuki Association, otherwise you can start from www.internationalsuzuki.org/regional_associations.htm.

As the parent of a Suzuki Violin student now in his 9th(?) year of learning, I wholeheartedly recommend the program.

Also: as a blind guitarist, Jose Feliciano comes to mind...

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You shouldn't have any problem with the piano and the cello.

As for the guitar, you can try to play it standing with a loose strap, punk-rock style, you will still see the whole guitar neck even only with your right eye. Anyway, when you'll get better at it, you won't even need to look at your hands anymore, except at the very start of a song for positionning.

I won't give any advice for the violin as I could never handle that instrument well.

2

Playing an instrument is mostly about muscle memory. As you learn to play, you will map certain sounds to certain movements using this muscle memory. The main thing you'll be missing is depth perception and peripheral vision.

Depth perception is unlikely to be a problem. Many instruments require your hands to be in a fixed position (wind instruments come to mind), and your eye will be on the sheet music. Other instruments do require displacing your hands, but this will be mostly baked into your muscle memory. Furthermore, their layout is fixed and you only need to look quickly for large jumps (e.g. on a piano). Depth perception for such instruments is not required. It may even be an advantage - my attempts at playing my girlfriend's harp were hampered by trying to look at the strings and getting cross-eyed and headached.

Peripheral vision can be a problem, in that you may have some more trouble switching from looking to the sheet music and to your instrument. Personally, I never learned to fluently read sheet music, and yet became a rather good musician, with the added advantage that I can impress at parties because I play every piece from memory. Also, you are free to place your sheet music wherever you want, so you can certainly adjust for this (I've seen professional players spread the piece out in front of them on the floor).

I've never seen left- or right-handedness as a problem in playing an instrument. I'm left-handed to a fault, but play piano easier with my right hand.

My advice is thus to completely ignore your visual impairment, and grasp this opportunity to play whatever instrument appeals the most! This is actually a hobby where visual impairment is a very small factor.

0

If you are mainly interested in having fun and don't want to get into sheet music, my suggestion would be to get a keyboard with a range of sounds (including a rock organ) then listen to old R&B. Play along, working with only the right hand at first. Figure out the key note for each measure and play along. As you keep repeating this you can then add a second note to make a simple chord, and play along with this. You can then add a third note. At this point, listen to the key note for each measure that is being played by the keyboardist or the bassist and add this.

Two songs I recommend: First is I'm a Man (Spencer Davis Group with Steveie Winwood on organ). The organ is simple, ballsy and fun. Following the method described above, you can pick it up quickly. The second song (which is more complex but which is still based on a very simple progression) is Green Onions (Booker T. and the MGs). With Green Onions, start with the left hand. The thing with Green Onions is that the right hand has notes that walk down while the left hand walks upwards.

When it comes to having fun, just take the above two songs and noodle around with your right hand to figure out the scale. Base it on the chords you worked out and add a sharp or flat now and then. Add a repeating sequence on the left hand and before long you will have something to show for it.

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    This hardly addresses the OP's question - it could refer to any beginner. – Tim May 4 '18 at 6:30
  • Certainly. The key point is that if he is blind with the left eye and apparently right-handed, a stringed instrument would be more difficult than a keyboard, which has a key arrangement that does not vary between hands, which makes it far easier to find one's place by feel than on a guitar. Being visually impaired, he can get up on the instrument aurally much faster than with something like a guitar. As he is essentially a beginner, this response addresses both issues. – Furutan May 5 '18 at 6:51
  • I'm disagreeing again. As a guitarist, I've just checked. Without moving one's head, looking at the fingerboard, there's actually a slightly better view of fingertips on frets using the right eye, although it's quite possible to move one's head to create a better view anyway. As a pianist, I'm not going to search for notes by feel - I expect you mean the 2/3 pattern of black keys. Only playing on whites, as a beginner would, there's no mileage there. That apart, looking with one eye, whichever, is no great problem. – Tim May 5 '18 at 6:59
  • Thanks for your thoughts. Nothing was said about white keys. It's just as easy to find a C# by feel as a C. As for the guitar being easier to see, If I could close my left eye and see my left hand playing a basic chord without turning my head, that would be unexpected. I don't play the keyboard entirely by feel (to a great extent I do) but I'm not visually impaired. None of this is a big deal. At it's most basic level, the suggestion is to start with keyboards and, if reading music is unlikely, it can be easy to learn to play by ear if you start with something fun and simple. – Furutan May 5 '18 at 7:13
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    When I close my left eye I can't see anything to the left of my nose. This is not worth pursuing. – Furutan May 6 '18 at 10:45

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