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I used to play piano for hours a day out of enjoyment. I won't try to express the level of satisfaction, peace and enjoyment it brought to me, because frankly I don't think it's possible to do so. I can only trust that others who relate can know of what I'm speaking.

I had an unfortunate accident at work (a construction shop) and ran both my middle and pointer finger on my left hand through a table saw.

The surgeon, a talented hand specialist, was able to basket weave my middle finger back together, and it once again resembles a finger (to the slightly worrying surprise of the surgeon). I've undergone some physical therapy and have regained nearly all functionality with that finger. My pointer finger is the issue. The saw removed the bone after the third knuckle, so the surgeon removed the rest. I still have the knuckle, a very small amount of bone and quite a lot of scar tissue on the end of my finger. Where a finger nail would normally start, my finger ends.

I am now having the following issues:

  • The scar tissue is enough that my pointer finger no longer fits between the black keys and is relegated to playing the lower, wider portion of the white keys. This is very problematic at times, and I have no idea how to adapt to this.
  • While I have only lost a little more than 1/2" of the end of my finger, it has made a massive difference on my ability to play. I am a much worse pianist, and that "connection" I used to feel with the piano is mostly gone. It is difficult for me emotionally and mentally to feel like I have lost the ability to express myself.

Does anyone have any advice or suggestions on how to deal with either of the above issues?

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    You might want to read about Russ Conway, who had a similar misfortune, albeit his r.h. ring finger – Tim Mar 6 at 7:37
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    I am sorry that happened. Reminds me of Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath and Django Reinhardt. You may need to go back in your development and try new approaches. Since your body is different you will "feel" different but if you keep trying, over time a new connection will develop. – ggcg Mar 6 at 17:32
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    What kind of repertoire/style do you play? Anything where the LH is ad lib and open to a new approach? – Michael Curtis Mar 6 at 18:00
  • Nothing worth of an answer I think, but have you considered switching to the organ? A lot of organ music is easier on the LH thanks to the pedal playing the bass, and a digital home organ is not super-expensive, even a reasonably good one. – yo' Mar 9 at 16:42
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Unfortunately, I cannot suggest specific techniques to help your playing, but there are a few things I can suggest.

!) There are some physical therapists that specialize in working with musicians. Although your problem is not a musical injury, because it affects your playing you may want to try and find one of these PTs. They may be able to suggest things a PT without that specialty may not know.

2) Speak to your surgeon or a plastic surgeon to see if anything can be done about the scar tissue. It may be possible to make your finger tip smaller. These doctors may also have other ideas. Perhaps there is a prosthetic fingertip that you could place over the end of your finger for playing. It still would be a different feel, but with the right help I'm sure you could relearn how to play with it just like people relearn how to walk with prosthetic legs.

3) You may want to talk with a mental health therapist as well. This is a serious issue that you are facing, and very real. It is a type of grief and a major transition, and it is about a change in a relationship (the one you have with your piano.) A counselor will be able to help you work through it as you find a new way of doing things. If you can find one who has experience working with musicians, all the better.

Please be gentle and patient with yourself. This does not seem like a small obstacle that you can figure out yourself (or just over the internet with strangers.) You need some professional assistance to help you navigate this.

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You have to be intuitive, at the moment I understand that you're in a state of uncertainty and doubt, however, the majority of answers you will receive on here, you'll know yourself, because hardly any of these people will have cutoff a finger and been a pianist at the same time, therefore, they won't understand your situation anymore than you do. Remember that your skills won't degrade and just because you don't have a finger doesn't mean you can't play as well as you once did. What you have now is (however much you may not look at it in this way) a completely unique perspective on playing the piano. Learn to forgive yourself, and start playing. Don't worry how to play because most people aren't going to be able to answer that. Play and you'll realise your new situation has given you a virtuous pavement to create completely unthought of music. Practice without looking to the past and you'll soon find your connection will restore and your playing will inspire people more than before. You are at the bottom, but at the same time, have your own world to fiddle with. You'll play in a way that manifests different harmony, structure and accompaniment. Use it to your advantage. The best for you on your journey!

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