Sunday, November 29, 2009

Guitarist Marc Playle: "I really enjoyed playing, so I kept on going"

I'm sure you'll be as impressed as I am, after you watch this guy play.

Simply inspirational.

Before you read on, let me point out that Marc was born with his condition (as pointed out in this 2008 TV interview). There's a point I'd like to make, later.

First, about the young man.

About Marc Playle
Marc's playing skills are easily on par with the pros. His musical compositions are also very nicely done. I know this as a guitarist, though my skills are nowhere near Marc's.

From Marc's MySpace page:
Marc Playle was born in South Shields, England, UK on September 26th 1985. He first took an interest in playing guitar at the age of 14 when he and his friend Daniel were bored in the long summer holidays.

He converted half of his garage into a “studio” where he used to jam with his friends. Having a missing left forearm meant he had to experiment to figure out the best way he could be able to play guitar. After many ideas such as taping guitar picks to his arm and using socks and things he came up with the idea for a “player” which is a cast of his arm that was then made from acrylic resin. It has lots of features that enable him to do most techniques on the electric guitar such as: a cut out for palm muting and pinch harmonics, a part of a guitar pick for picking and a cut out of a leather belt used for tapping.

Once he had a winning way of playing guitar, he then played in a few local bands he started with friends from school.

Customised Equipment
You'd probably instantly notice Marc's prosthetic. What's less obvious, perhaps to non-guitarists, is that he's picking with his left (prosthetic) and fretting with his right hand. The conventional way is to fret with the left, i.e. pressing down notes on the guitar neck/ fret board, and pick with the right.

Anything non-conventional means there are more obstacles. For instance, the mass-market books and publications on guitar Chords, tablatures, and fretboard techniques are mostly written for the conventional 'right-handed' player.

I noticed Marc's guitar has been customised too. Apart from it being a 'left-handed guitar', the pickup selector switch has been moved to the top of the guitar body to allow him to manipate it with use his upper-arm. Normally it's placed along side the volume and tone knobs at the bottom of the body.

Those are interesting adjustments, I thought.

And there's more.

Adjustments: Mind and Body
It's not just modifications to the equipment but also creative ways to get things done.

Like this video where he's picking with his fretting finger (pressing the strings and also picking with his last finger), in sync with his prosthetic pick, to get that (I think) arpeggio-like effect. Normally you'd use the thumb and fingers on the picking hand to get that sound, not with the fretting hand.

But what about those who lose their ability, rather than learn a new one?
Here's where the earlier point I made, about Marc being born with his condition, comes in.

Confession: for what my musical and artistic abilities are worth, I have ever wondered how I would react if I lose the use of my fingers or arm. Or my hearing or sight. Anything that would drastically hamper my current ability to write, paint and make music.

"Just re-learn", one might say. But it's one thing to say "re-learn". Putting that into practice may be harder. Perhaps the frustration would be more for someone who have experienced what it was like before.

As I learned from this video that Marc was born with his condition. Unlike those who lost their ability to do things, Marc may have an advantage in that regards.

Or so I thought.

But I think Marc might have shared an insight to what really matters.

The Real Secret?
When the TV host wanted to know if Marc had doubts or some deep-seated determination. Marc's reply was simply, "I really enjoyed playing, so I kept on going.":

My earlier post was about abilities before disabilities.

Looking through Marc Playle's MySpace, website, videos, it's apparent to me he's not (pun unintended) playing up sympathies for his lack of a left forearm. He's letting his abilities do the talking instead.

Or in his case, the playing.

"I really enjoyed playing, so I kept on going."

Thanks, Marc. You've taught me something.


  1. Really enjoyed this piece. I love the guitar and he plays wonderfully. Very inspirational.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Dan. Not only is Marc a great guitarist, he also seems an unpretentious sort of bloke. Inspirational indeed.


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