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Thankfully learning to play the guitar again is good for me so I can better justify the sudden collection of guitars. The red guitar at right is the "Super Guitar" that I built that turned out to be a great rock instrument.
Click image to enlarge

Tuning the Brain with a Guitar

Thinking and coordination exercise

Text & photos by Tom Hintz

Posted – 2-22-2013

Soon after my early onset Alzheimer's diagnosis is heard that taking up a musical instrument was a good way to exercise the brain to combat the disease. That made a bunch of sense to me and also provided all of the excuse that I deemed necessary to buy the Fender Telecaster I had been coveting for years. A few days and a UPS delivery later and I was once again a musician – more or less.

I had played guitar in a working band for several years about 35 years ago but literally have not touched a guitar since then. I was hoping that previous experience would help now but all it did was make it clear that my hands had forgotten how to form chords. The good news here is that the brain exercise part of the guitar would not be diminished in the least by my prior experience.

Thought vs. Coordination

Early in my musical comeback I noticed that while my brain still knew how some chords were formed, getting my fingers to go to those positions with any consistency was going to take some work. This is where Alzheimer's gets frustrating for me. I am used to being able to just do things with a smaller learning curve than expected but these days considerably more effort is needed. I think that the extra effort is a good thing though since the point of this comeback is to work the brain and that is happening.

As is my habit taking up the guitar ignited my desire to have more so I launched GeezerGuitar.com as cover for those desires. That web site would give me an outlet for writing about the guitars and related equipment. Producing content for my web sites is also brain-intensive which I thought would extend the brain benefit I derived from re-learning the guitar.

The concentration necessary to get your fingers to the right places (left) at the right times works the brain in good ways. Between learning new chords and how to create background music (right) for NewWoodworker.com I am keeping my music mind on overdrive.
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One of my woodworking industry contacts suggested that I build a guitar kit they sold as a review. That sounded like a perfect way to meld my woodworking and guitar playing so the first of two

Building those kits unfortunately showed me that I might be able to build a really nice guitar for less money than buying a brand new really nice guitar. I should have known the less money part wouldn’t work out so well. I wound up investing $800 for the components but came away with a great Les Paul style guitar that made picking it up every day an enjoyable thing to do.

Now I have 4 guitars which proves Alzheimer's has done nothing to curtail my penchant for excess. The good side is having four to choose from means that I remain anxious to play one of them every day which means I am getting more of whatever therapeutic benefit is there.
Now about a year into my guitar-based brain workout it seems that my fingers and brain are working together better and I am regaining some of the skills I had before. I don’t know that I will ever regain all of my guitar playing skills back but that is not the point. Getting my brain to focus on the tasks of learning and playing guitar is. If that takes me farther than I was before, great but the real goal is to fight off the effects of Alzheimer's as best I can. The guitar is simply a tool in that fight though admittedly an enjoyable one. I am hoping that means that I will use it more even on days when things get more difficult. I am inspired to fight Alzheimer's but having a fun way to maintain that struggle can only help.

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