Missing fingers haven't stopped this guitarist

DO you notice anything missing in this picture?

Neither do a lot of people.

Michael Shanks is not that conscious of the missing fingers on his left hand, either.

"I war born this way," he said with a degree of nonchalance.

Despite having only a thumb on his left hand, Mr Shanks, 30, of Buderim has learned to play the guitar. And it is not the first instrument he had picked up, either.

"My mum was really musical. I learned the ukulele at seven and when I was 10, I learnt the trumpet," he said.

Mr Shanks gets around his digital challenge by playing left-handed, even though he is naturally right-handed, and wearing a pick on his thumb which he mainly uses to strum chords.

"I can do picking stuff as well but I'm limited in my ability what I can do a bit, but I usually do figure out a way to do stuff, to emulate what others are doing," he said.

Like many left-handed guitarists, Mr Shanks played for many years with an ordinary right-hand guitar simply switched over, and rated learning to play a left-handed guitar at 20 as his greatest challenge.

"It's like a leftie struggling. It was really hard and frustrating for a while because you're so used to doing what you're doing a different way. But guitarists are pretty adaptive," he said.

Missing four fingers did not stop Mr Shanks from completing a Bachelor of Music at Central Queensland University.

He is also in a band, Chasing the Jeffreys, a commercial rock outfit which has recorded two albums but is now in semi-hiatus with members scattered between Cairns, Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast.


Some people notice Michael Shanks' missing fingers, others do not.
Some people notice Michael Shanks' missing fingers, others do not. Warren Lynam

Mr Shanks includes Jeff Buckley, KT Tunstall and progressive '70s rock groups such as Pink Floyd and Genesis among his influences.

Although he has co-written songs with band members, he prefers to play.

"I think you've got to write dozens of terrible songs before you write a good one. I think I gave up after two," he said.

Mr Shanks was busking at the Fisherman Road markets on the weekend, enjoying the opportunity to play in front of people again for the first time in months.

Now close to completing a chef's apprenticeship, he said music was a hard business to make money out of but he would always play.

"It's just fun to play. It feels good."

Topics:  buderim guitar guitarist hand left-hand

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