Blind Guitarists

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
khayes
Posts: 1130
Joined: Fri Sep 22, 2006 7:29 pm
Location: Middle Tennessee

Blind Guitarists

Postby khayes » Thu Jan 12, 2017 3:50 am

I have recently enjoyed seeing videos of Ioana Gandrabur. No less impressive is her biography - numerous guitar prizes, 4 music degrees, speaks 6 languages. My question is...how do blind people learn their music? Is there some software that converts the printed page into something they can 'read'? Are there braille transcibers? The question came to me while watching her play 'Skye Boat Song'.
Ken

User avatar
Jim Davidson
Posts: 245
Joined: Tue Jan 27, 2015 6:23 am
Location: Boston, MA

Re: Blind Guitarists

Postby Jim Davidson » Thu Jan 12, 2017 4:59 am

Blindness varies in severity. Tarrega was essentially blind, but could still read and write music.

For people who are totally blind, many learn by ear, and I've heard braille sheet music does exist.
2015 Alan Chapman Test Friederich CD/CO
2009 Cervantes Concert Milenia SP/PE

Pat Dodson
Posts: 2731
Joined: Sun Dec 28, 2014 11:32 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Blind Guitarists

Postby Pat Dodson » Thu Jan 12, 2017 10:01 am

My limited knowledge of this subject comes from having a wife who heads up an educational advisory service for blind children and who does a little music teaching with the occasional pupil.

Braille music is very complicated and takes up a great deal of space and is read only slowly. Single lines are complex enough what with bar lines, dynamic markings etc and part writing and chords are especially complicated. In some cases a single bar can take up a whole somewhat larger than A4 sized embossed sheet.

I tried to link here to the very good account of Braille music given by Britain's RNIB but the link won't link. Instead if you goggle RNIB Braille Music it comes up at or very near the top and then it does work.

As that article says, there are Braille software packages which can transcribe from either scanned normal scores or from sound files. However, because of the limitations of scanning and software and of the complexities of Braille music code it is often necessary to have a sighted person, familiar with the code and the blind musician's needs, check and where necessary adjust the output. Braille transcription is also done by people and is then more tailored to needs but of course is rather costly.

As, for most instruments (piano and singing are partial exceptions) Braille music cannot be read while it is being played :shock: it is necessary for a blind musician to learn the piece by heart. This can be time consuming and many blind musicians prefer to learn and memorise by ear. Where a blind player is part of an ensemble they often need much more preparation time and understanding and support over seemingly simple things like "let's return to bar 33 and play that A sharp with..."

The following video is very dry but very good, if you stick with it, at describing the complexities, drawbacks but very real benefits of Braille music.


Youtube


Beyond that here is a more entertaining and uplifting video made in Denmark, but in English, showing three keyboard players who depend upon Braille music.


Youtube

2handband
Posts: 948
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2015 7:31 pm

Re: Blind Guitarists

Postby 2handband » Thu Jan 12, 2017 2:14 pm

I don't know about classical musicians, but tons of blind blues fingerpickers recorded in the 20s and 30s. These guys couldn't make a living the traditional way, and playing guitar would at least keep some change in their pocket. Some of them were outstanding players, and they did it entirely by ear. Blind Blake, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Boy Fuller, Reverend Gary Davis, and Blind Willie McTell are a few examples.

Pat Dodson
Posts: 2731
Joined: Sun Dec 28, 2014 11:32 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Blind Guitarists

Postby Pat Dodson » Thu Jan 12, 2017 3:31 pm

One of my favourite blues-rock guitarists was Jeff Healey. There's a great video of him playing with Stevie Ray Vaughn. Both much missed.

José Feliciano's still with us and a pretty useful guitarist too.

Nowt to do with Braille music but hey.

2handband
Posts: 948
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2015 7:31 pm

Re: Blind Guitarists

Postby 2handband » Thu Jan 12, 2017 3:52 pm

Pat Dodson wrote:One of my favourite blues-rock guitarists was Jeff Healey. There's a great video of him playing with Stevie Ray Vaughn. Both much missed.

José Feliciano's still with us and a pretty useful guitarist too.

Nowt to do with Braille music but hey.


No, but I think it's worth mentioning because it highlights what I think is a weakness in classical guitar pedagogy. Most blind players play by ear. It's my contention that EVERY serious musician should be able to learn music by ear.

khayes
Posts: 1130
Joined: Fri Sep 22, 2006 7:29 pm
Location: Middle Tennessee

Re: Blind Guitarists

Postby khayes » Thu Jan 12, 2017 4:26 pm

I'm fully aware of players like Feliciano (my hero in my teens) and other blind players. I'm just amazed what Gandrabur has achieved in the area of CG. She plays Russell's "Skye Boat Song" note for note, with all the fingerings correct, using the entire range of the fretboard, the 19th fret harmonics - it's all perfect. I just don't understand how someone could learn all of that by ear. And this is only one example in her video list. She has lots of other pieces, equally or more difficult. It seems like she would have to be exposed to the actual music in some manner at some point.
Ken

chiral3
Posts: 1644
Joined: Mon Sep 19, 2011 7:08 pm
Location: Philadelphia Area, PA / New York.

Re: Blind Guitarists

Postby chiral3 » Thu Jan 12, 2017 4:38 pm

Pat Dodson wrote:One of my favourite blues-rock guitarists was Jeff Healey. There's a great video of him playing with Stevie Ray Vaughn. Both much missed.

José Feliciano's still with us and a pretty useful guitarist too.

Nowt to do with Braille music but hey.


Yeah, Jeff Healey, RIP. He was also in one of the greatest movies ever made - Roadhouse. :roll:
A tree falls the way it leans. - The Lorax

2handband
Posts: 948
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2015 7:31 pm

Re: Blind Guitarists

Postby 2handband » Thu Jan 12, 2017 4:58 pm

khayes wrote:I'm fully aware of players like Feliciano (my hero in my teens) and other blind players. I'm just amazed what Gandrabur has achieved in the area of CG. She plays Russell's "Skye Boat Song" note for note, with all the fingerings correct, using the entire range of the fretboard, the 19th fret harmonics - it's all perfect. I just don't understand how someone could learn all of that by ear. And this is only one example in her video list. She has lots of other pieces, equally or more difficult. It seems like she would have to be exposed to the actual music in some manner at some point.


You'd be surprised. I actively avoid listening to recordings of CG pieces I'm planning to learn, because my ear is faster than my reading and I'm trying to improve my reading.

Lovemyguitar
Posts: 2867
Joined: Mon Oct 17, 2011 5:50 pm
Location: Canada

Re: Blind Guitarists

Postby Lovemyguitar » Thu Jan 12, 2017 5:05 pm

khayes wrote:...I'm just amazed what Gandrabur has achieved in the area of CG. She plays Russell's "Skye Boat Song" note for note, with all the fingerings correct, using the entire range of the fretboard, the 19th fret harmonics - it's all perfect. I just don't understand how someone could learn all of that by ear. And this is only one example in her video list. She has lots of other pieces, equally or more difficult. It seems like she would have to be exposed to the actual music in some manner at some point.

I don't know anything about this player, but it is quite probable that she had a teacher or teachers who were able to help her learn to play, to describe to her what to do, how the techniques work, etc.. I think it is unlikely that she just picked it all up purely "by ear" on her own, without some assistance. Of course, I could be wrong about her, but most classical musicians had teachers somewhere along the way to guide them, and there's no reason to think that she did not.

khayes
Posts: 1130
Joined: Fri Sep 22, 2006 7:29 pm
Location: Middle Tennessee

Re: Blind Guitarists

Postby khayes » Thu Jan 12, 2017 5:19 pm

Lovemyguitar wrote:
khayes wrote:...I'm just amazed what Gandrabur has achieved in the area of CG. She plays Russell's "Skye Boat Song" note for note, with all the fingerings correct, using the entire range of the fretboard, the 19th fret harmonics - it's all perfect. I just don't understand how someone could learn all of that by ear. And this is only one example in her video list. She has lots of other pieces, equally or more difficult. It seems like she would have to be exposed to the actual music in some manner at some point.

I don't know anything about this player, but it is quite probable that she had a teacher or teachers who were able to help her learn to play, to describe to her what to do, how the techniques work, etc.. I think it is unlikely that she just picked it all up purely "by ear" on her own, without some assistance. Of course, I could be wrong about her, but most classical musicians had teachers somewhere along the way to guide them, and there's no reason to think that she did not.

Agreed - further reading of her biography reveals she has studied with several well-known teachers and players, like Kappel, Ghiglia to name a few. Others have spoken highly of her ability to learn quickly and respond well to teaching.
Ken

Pat Dodson
Posts: 2731
Joined: Sun Dec 28, 2014 11:32 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Blind Guitarists

Postby Pat Dodson » Thu Jan 12, 2017 5:52 pm

From goggling and looking at her posts it is clear that Ioana Gandrabur does use Braille music. Indeed she has enquired about how she might access a Braille music library when she was giving a concert abroad.

khayes
Posts: 1130
Joined: Fri Sep 22, 2006 7:29 pm
Location: Middle Tennessee

Re: Blind Guitarists

Postby khayes » Thu Jan 12, 2017 6:47 pm

Pat Dodson wrote:From goggling and looking at her posts it is clear that Ioana Gandrabur does use Braille music. Indeed she has enquired about how she might access a Braille music library when she was giving a concert abroad.

Thanks Pat - I had not seen that. It still has to be quite a tedious effort!
Ken

User avatar
Guitar-ded
Posts: 1704
Joined: Fri Jul 10, 2009 5:32 pm
Location: BC Canada

Re: Blind Guitarists

Postby Guitar-ded » Thu Jan 12, 2017 7:29 pm

I used to know a blind guitar instructor in the UK. He could tell three rooms away if a note was off.
Quite a guy.
Getting better bit by bit, day by day.

User avatar
Contreras
Posts: 641
Joined: Sun Jun 15, 2014 12:13 am
Location: In the Wind

Re: Blind Guitarists

Postby Contreras » Thu Jan 12, 2017 9:10 pm

2handband wrote:
No, but I think it's worth mentioning because it highlights what I think is a weakness in classical guitar pedagogy. Most blind players play by ear. It's my contention that EVERY serious musician should be able to learn music by ear.


Good comment ... I don't really understand the 'tension' between playing by ear and sight reading. I do both, and I admit my reading could be better - I'm working on it. Playing by ear is an important part of the way I process music. But you hear of Greats (Menuhin, Williams) who are/were not so great by ear or improvising.
Any philosophy that can be put in a nutshell belongs in one.


Return to “Public Space”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Adrian Allan, Andrew Fryer, Digory Piper, doug, eno, gharazz, HNLim, Hotsoup, kloeten, LukeMarsden, MartenFalk, Pat Dodson, pogmoor, ragdoll serenade, sitnivez, Taylor 25, TC Bauer and 16 guests