The Guitar4Blind Website project was started when Terry Hopwood-Jackson introduced himself to Bob Craypoe via e-mail. However, the idea behind the creation of the site was formed long before. In his own words, Terry can elaborate further.
The Project in Terry's Words:
However, I am totally blind but I can remember the basic chords. So I used the web to search out the songs I wanted to learn but came up against chords of which I had no idea how to play.
I looked at very many websites and though there were only a few which offered some chords written numerically, most just gave the chord names with visual diagrams.
There was and is one particularly very good site featuring one of my all-time heroes, Tim Buckley. Unfortunately all this site listed was the albums with each song and chord. That was it. So I took a chance and wrote to the web developer, Adrie Meijer, and asked if he could possibly write out a few chords numerically and he was nice enough to do so. Additionally, with another singer/songwriter I like too (Nick Drake). So this along with what I had gleaned from other sites, stood me in good stead to progress my guitar playing.
By this time, my knowledge of chord construction was slowly but steadily growing and I also learned about alternate tunings as well and I began to play more and more of the work of people to whom I thought I’d never even get close.
Then, earlier this year (2009), a character (Lol Robinson) from the novels
of one of my favourite authors – Phil Rickman – came “to life”; as it
I bought the CD – “Songs From Lucy’s Cottage” by Lol Robinson and Hazy Jane 2 – and I wrote to Phil asking if the songs and chords were available and he put me in touch with Allan.
I told Allan of my great delight with the songs and asked if he could provide the chords. This he did, but these were chord names and visual charts, so I asked him again if he could possibly transcribe at least one of the ten songs’ chords numerically and he was more than happy to do so. Eventually, he had written me the whole CD's chords in numeric format – for which I am eternally grateful.
This now, of course, spurred me on to find a dedicated website somewhere which had numeric chords and though I searched hundreds, I couldn’t find one.
But there was one guy who, although his chord diagrams were visual, wrote his explanations in a nice and friendly manner so I wrote to him and asked..... – over to you Bob!
The Project in Bob's Words:
I had already developed a method of teaching guitar chords by key and had written a guitar chord book that not only teaches the chords by key but also teaches some of the music theory behind chord construction. So I decided to take the method I had already developed for the book, combined it with the format used on my websites and translated all of the visual chord charts into a numeric format.
To be honest, the thought of doing a project like this had never occurred to me until I was approached by Terry. I have always had my sight and everybody I taught how to play guitar also had their sight. I had never even met in person anyone blind or visually impaired who actually played a musical instrument, let alone instructed any visually impaired person in how to play guitar. At least until now.
So I told Terry I'd do the project and I'd start on it as soon as I completed a project I was already working on. Of course, after I obligated myself, I started to wonder what I had just gotten myself into. I knew it would probably be a lengthy project with the development on my end and the testing on his. I also wasn't sure as to the profit potential of such a project. However, I'm not living in a total state of poverty so I could probably devote some time to a venture even if it is of questionable profit potential. I think it's more important that it be used by a significant number of people. It would be my little contribution to the world.
I had created a number of websites on the Internet and all were graphical in nature. This project would require a different approach. It would have to be easier to navigate than my graphically based sites and therefore rather plain in appearance. It was more about functionality. As a web developer, you'd kind of like to have an aesthetically pleasing graphical interface. Sometimes you go out of your way to do that as a matter of pride. So I kind of had to put some of my pride aside and just deal primarily with functionality.
I was not at all familiar with screen reading software the visually impaired use at all. So I have no idea as to what is going on at the other end where Terry was testing it. In a sense, I was flying blind. I would create a page, send Terry a link to it and he would test out every aspect of it. The Teaching method, the navigational aspects of the site and do typographical error checking. Terry would also check for the accuracy of the chord charts, grammatical errors and consistency in the format. If there was an if, and or but missing, he was sure to point it out. By the way, there were plenty of errors to point out.
The one aspect I really liked about the project was the fact that two guys from across the pond could collaborate. One guy in the States and the other in the Mother Country. I must say that Terry was very crucial achieving accuracy in the site. Let's just say that he spotted a lot of typos on my part. There were countless corrections and I suspect that Terry felt bad when sending me yet another list of needed corrections. I hope that he at least felt as if I had handled the news with grace and dignity.
Anyway, I just have to say that it was nice to work on a project with someone else for a change. I usually work alone, so it was a nice change of pace. I am happy that I said yes to the project and happy to have gotten to meet and know Terry. Sometimes you get a better feeling from completing a project that you worked with someone else on than you do upon the completion of a solo project. This was, without a doubt, one of those occasions. So Terry, let's hope that many visually impaired people get an opportunity to learn guitar chords by key as a result of our work.