St Cecelia Guido

Historical musical instruments for blind musicians – St Cecilia Guido

Blind children can learn to play a musical instrument just as well and often even better than, sighted children provided the desire and interest is there. Blind children often have a strong sense of rhythm and musical sensation since their hearing is more in tuned with the world.

Of course the assumption should not be made that just because they are blind they should play a musical instrument. However if a child or an adult who is visually impaired decides that playing a musical instrument is something they would find beneficial, then by all means, there should be every consideration made just as you would for a sighted individual.

There are instruments which are better suited for the visually impaired than others. Most string instruments are a good musical instrument for the visually impaired because the strings can be easily felt in order, especially for the violin, viola, and cello.

The piano and woodwind musical instruments can also make very good choices for the visually impaired when learning to play a musical instrument. They are considered the easiest of the musical instruments to memorize tactilely and are fairly versatile in the musical arrangements they can be applied to playing. However, there is of course no restriction to the possibilities.

It is usually not necessary to find the visually impaired musical student a specially trained music teacher. A teacher that is creative and patient (which we would hope all music teachers are) should be able to help the visually impaired student feel the musical instrument of their choice in order to learn to play it competently. Musical instruments often are able to be handled by the visually impaired simply because their design and structure is quite unique from a tactile standpoint.

Children and adults from all walks of life should learn to play at least one musical instrument. Learning to play a musical instrument teaches so many skills at once that it can be difficult to find a downfall to learning to play a musical instrument regardless of who you are, where you come from, or what type of disability you may bring to the table. It should never be assumed that simply because an individual doesn’t see the world that they can’t fully participate in it. Learning to play a musical instrument is just one way of reaching out through the world and bringing the world as we know it to life.

Encouraging musical instruments for the blind makes a lot of musical sense because a visually impaired music student is not encumbered with notation and tablature. Instead, they learn through hearing, touching and the sensation of the vibrations coming from the instrument. That can lead to more “feel” in their musicality. They rely more on what sounds good than what the rules on a music sheet dictate. In the end, it’s what sounds good that matters in music.

By no means an exhaustive list, but there are many successful musicians with visual impairment including Jeff Healey (played the blind musician in roadhouse), Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Ronnie Milsap, and many country blues style artists such as Blind Willie McTell, Sonny Terry, and Blind Lemon Jefferson.

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