Braille-friendly banjo tab

Those who are visually impaired have access to many great books via the braille system of reading. When it comes to music instruction though, they are pretty well delegated to learning by ear. While learning by ear has many advantages, the use of tablature has become accepted for beginners. The visually impaired mostly miss the ease of using tab because there hasn’t been a real effective way to represent tab in a way that can be used by those who can’t see.

At the instigation, and with the help, of a visually impaired banjo player from the Netherlands, Patrick Costello has recently developed a system of tablature to be used by the visually impaired.

The system looks as though it is intended to be used with a screen reader. Several others around the globe have already taken up the system and sent in tunes arranged with this new format. If you are, or know someone who is, visually impaired, you might want to keep an eye on this post. Currently there are about 10 banjo tunes tabbed with this system.

It seems this idea should work for the other instruments equally well.

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  • Thanks for posting this story! I am a teacher of the visually impaired in NC (teaching art) and a musician. I try to expose the kids (grades k-12)to bluegrass as much as possible since music educators rarely know much about bluegrass (no offense to music educators, blame the music ed. training programs outside TN and KY). This V.I. friendly tab is designed to be used with a screen reader or hand held reader. Screen readers synthesize print into audio and hand held readers essentially take a picture of any hard copy document (menus, books, and now VI friendly tab) and translate it into audio. There is braille music notation based on the system developed by Louis Braille but a lot of people who are visually impaired do not use braille. This population may use large print because they have good residual vision or audio methods as mentioned above. Since many bluegrass musicians do not know formal music notation, this addition to the music world deserves a great big salute. Incidentally,this system could also be written in braille using braille transcribing software or a good old fashioned braille writer. Thank you Patrick Costello for taking the time to develop Mr. Ruud’s idea. It’s your generosity that keeps people who are visually impaired out there trying new things. This is often a forgotten population.
    Keep on the sunny side,
    Alice Zincone
    Durham, NC

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