Daily Archives: April 18, 2017

Braille-Friendly Banjo Tab

You may have noticed that the lick of the day now includes a link to a braille-friendly version.

So what is Braille-friendly banjo tab?

Years ago Rudd from the Netherlands contacted me asking for help because he could not use the tab files I was posting with my workshops.

As you already know, tab – or tabulature – is an alternative to musical notation that is useful for learning folk instruments. Where musical notation tells a musician what notes to play, tab gives the musician specific instructions – literally, “put your finger here and strike this string.”

Ruud send me a tab sample that he made. It used the note name of the string mashed together with the fret number that reminded me of a system a North Carolina picker used back in the 60’s or 70’s. That system used the string number with the fret number written in superscript.

I took what Ruud sent me, combined that idea with the earlier system from North Carolina and – true to the folk process – combined them into something new. You can learn how  to use the system Rudd and I developed in this document:

How to read braille tab

It worked pretty well. Tab is so visual that it was challenging to convert it into something that works on braille displays and screen readers.

Word got out and people got excited. I started using the tab system in the Daily Frail podcast and my students started transcribing my work into the braille-friendly format.

The How and the Tao of Old Time Banjo

Calloused Ears

We did radio interviews and got written up in a few magazines.

Then the banjo forum crowd got jealous and went on the offensive. I was getting all kinds of crazy hate letters and the forums were insulting visually impaired students for using tab when – well, you know the old moronic fable about blind people having magic hearing? The banjo forum idiots went there.

Amy and I were trying to make a home together and I was getting sick, so I shut down my web site and took a break. The project faded away.

Anyway, here I am, making a comeback and a fresh start. I will be using the notation system for the Lick of the Day and other workshops.

While we developed this system for frailing banjo it could easily be adapted for other instruments.

Here are a couple of songs my students transcribed years ago: