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Disabled guitarist invents plastic and leather finger tip covers to play the guitar

Shared by Ana Duarte on 2017-04-12 18:25

About the solution

Tony is the Black Sabbath band guitarist, and by the time he had the accident, he considered quitting, as at the hospital he was told he would never play again. But a friend showed him a Django Reinhardt record and encouraged him not to give up.

After attempting to learn to play right-handed, Tony strung his guitars with extra-light strings (using banjo strings, which were a lighter gauge than even the lightest guitar-strings of the time) and wore plastic covers over the two damaged fingers. He down-tuned his strings to ease playing and bending.

The musician made the plastic covers himself, by melting plastic liquid-soap bottles into a ball and then using a soldering iron to make holes into this ball, putting his fingers in while the plastic was still soft enough to be shaped. He then trimmed and sanded away the excess plastic to leave himself with two thimbles, which he then covered with leather, to provide better grip on the strings.

 "Melted it down, got a hot soldering iron and shaped it like a finger", he recalled. Then he cut sections from a leather jacket to cover his new homemade prosthetic.

“He said: ‘Well, this guy plays with two fingers.’ And that really inspired me to do it,” explained the guitarist, who’d eventually begin experimenting with prosthetic tips — making the initial version out of metal. “I tried different materials, and then at the end of the day, I came up with a leather that would grip the string. It was very primitive, but it worked”, the inventor explained.

Tony was ranked number 25 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".

“It became a burden. Some people say it helped me invent the kind of music I play, but I don’t know whether it did. It’s just something I’ve had to learn to live with. It affects your playing style; you can’t feel the strings, and there are certain chords I can’t play. Right at the beginning I was told by doctors: “You won’t be playing guitar.” But I believed I could do it, and I did”, Tony stated.

Adapted from: http://bit.ly/2ozoqVa

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About the author

Tony Iommi, born in UK, in 1948, is a guitarist who lost the tips of the middle and ring finger of his right hand, while working at a factory, when he was 17. Because he wanted to keep playing guitar. He came up with a solution by creating plastic and leather finger tip covers inspired by Django Reinhardt, a musician who also lost two fingers but found a way to keep playing the guitar.

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