Audible Tuner For The Blind

[Lain Sharp] modified this guitar tuner so it can be used by his blind friend. In the picture above you can make out a small white project box that houses the additional electronics. Inside is another battery and an ATmega168 providing a connection for an earphone. The AVR chip connects to each LED on the tuner and converts the visual tuning meter to an audio cue. Check out the demonstration clip after the break to see how it works.

Now if we could just figure out how to get our strings in tune with our built-in keyboard.


17 thoughts on “Audible Tuner For The Blind

  1. A tuning fork is more accurate, easier to use and faster to use, especially for blind people who have better hearing than normal people. In that sense it’s not really an improvement…

    …but hey, it’s a hack! =)

  2. Aren’t blind people already better listeners? I have a friend who is blind and he can identify DTMF tones. I would think a blind person who plays an instrument would be able to tell if their instrument is in tune without a tuner at all.

  3. Unless they have perfect pitch (which is a born trait, not learned) they still need a reference. You can learn to come close, but if you’re playing with others and you aren’t quite in tune it sounds ugly.

    Also, this is really overly complicated. As a non-blind guitarist myself, I much prefer a tuner which generates a tone I can match strings to – rather than LEDs telling me I’m off pitch.

  4. It may be true that blind people have better hearing capabilities, but for tuning an instrument without any help, you’d need to be able to hear what is called perfect pitch, i.e. you’d know yourself that your E string is off by 50 cent because you just know how an E sounds.

    Musicians, and probably also the blind, are more capable of hearing tonal differences, but perfect pitch is a very rare capability. So, well-trained musicians (and probably blind) can tune with a tuning fork very accurately, but without a reference tone, you can only tune your instrument’s strings relative to each other, but not absolutely.

    Also note that there are many situations where tuning with tuning forks or other audible reference tones is inconvenient or impossible, e.g. while on stage or in other loud environments or when the sound your instrument produces should not be audible for others (like when playing live and re-tuning between songs).

    Just like I tune with my amp on mute, this device allows a blind person to tune with an earbud. This is really a great hack!

    I also like the way the feedback is implemented with faster/slower beeps and high/low tones. Reminds me of “strobe” tuners…

    1. Great point! I was waiting for someone to point that out. I’m a rhythm guitarist & also blind. I can tune with a tuning fork or pitch pipe alone in my room but if I go out of tune onstage with my band it’s difficult to get back in tune. Part of the problem is crowd noise & the other part is my bandmates continuing to talk into mics or doodling around on their instruments. If they go out of tune onstage they have either an onboard tuner on their guitar or can clamp 1 on the headstock & see the led display to get in tune quickly. Being blind, this doesn’t help me a bit, so everyone else has to shut up long enough for me to hear my guitar while I tune. Add to this the pressure of getting in tune fast so we can start the next song & it gets stressful. Plus, it takes time away from drinking a beer in between songs! lol

      1. I agree. I am blind and thinking that folks who are blind have this super hearing power to hear pitches and tones, is not true for me or other people who are blind. Also, in a noisy environment the “Talking Tuner” I use on my iPhone is useless due to the external interference. I would love to have a tuner like this for my banjo and guitar. Does anyone know if these tuners are available to the public for sale?

  5. I prefer to tune my guitars against a pitch fork, pipe, or a fixed tone from a generator. With a little practice, you can hear the harmonic between the string and the other source, and get the pitch under 1Hz different.

    As for tuning a guitar to stay tuned with a keyboard, you won’t. A synth has just intonation for any key, and unless you retune the guitar at the bridge it is going to be really hard to get it to match at all notes, all the time. Add in the dynamic pressure of your finger on the fret and, well, it gets complex.

  6. I can ‘hear’ a close-to-perfect A in my head and pair it up with my A string and go from there w/ harmonics. However, if you’re still figuring things out or if you’re setting up intonation or need to be perfectly accurate for some reason, tuners save the day.

  7. There are already factory produced tuners that have audio cues. On mine, if you play a note, it senses what note you’re close to and will play back the correct tone.

  8. I also play guitar and I agree with the others that I like tuning to a reference tone. Still, I know someone who plays guitar, better than I, who doesn’t tune well without using a typical tuner which shows the pitch offset. It’s strange, but he just doesn’t hear the interference.
    I imagine there are still some blind people, despite the cliched enhanced hearing, who would prefer tuning with something like a traditional electronic guitar tuner.
    I applaud hackers like Lain Sharp and Ben Heck who work at helping disabled people. I saw a deaf dancer recently, and thought of a device that would place multiple vibrating motors on the person’s body to help them perceive a song’s rhythm. I don’t know if I’ll get around to making it, so if anyone likes the idea, go ahead.

  9. I have been blind since I was born and though I had fairly good sight up until I was 15; I don’t have that much sight now. I am learning how to play the guitar and the talking tuner app that I have gotten by talking paws, does not do what it should do. So, this has really slowed down my playing.
    I’m still searching for a audible tuner for someone that is blind. Should I try a pitch pipe?

    1. I too use the talking tuner on the iPhone. It is good but lacks the capability of providing accurate tuning info in a noisy environment. I too am looking for a tuner for my banjo and guitar. I was hoping someone would adapt a tuner so it would provide audible feedback instead of the visual display. I am still looking.

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