These days you can download a guitar tab for virtually any song you want to learn online. Guitar tab databases like www.guitarprotabs.org house tremendous databases of guitar tabs online in a structured, standard format. If you want to learn a song, you can simply select from the millions of user-generated tabs online. However for the 285 million people worldwide with low vision, the existence of these tabs is of limited use since most guitar tab readers aren’t as accessible as they could be.
Lunar Tabs is a guitar tab reader built from the ground up to be designed with accessibility in mind. Lunar Tabs takes as input one of the electronic guitar tab files previously mentioned and generates a sequence of text instructions for playing the piece. Those instructions are then fed into a user’s screen reader. A person who is blind could use Lunar Tabs to learn any song they wanted by harnessing the giant tab libraries online.
Read on, to learn how to use the range of features included within Lunar Tabs.
Load Tab File
First, you must make sure you have the tab file downloaded for the song you want to play. For this manual, we’ll be using The Eagles’ Hotel California as an example. We downloaded the tab file to our Android device from this website: http://guitarprotabs.org/e/eagles_(the)/hotel_california_(2)_5859/
After downloading the tab file, open Lunar Tabs and press “Load Tab File”. This can be found in the top left corner, just under the title bar. After that, open the tab file from the location where you saved it.
If you are successful, there will be a voice that says “File successfully loaded. Choose an instrument track.” Now you are ready to begin!
Basic Features on Home Page
Here is an overview of all the navigation opens on the home page.
The top of the screen, running from the left corner to the right corner is the title bar. It displays the name of the song open in Lunar Tabs, as well as the measures currently being displayed. If you click on the far right of the title bar, a menu will arise to configure Settings and Options. We’ll discuss each of these later.
As mentioned above, just under the left corner is the “Load Tab File” button. This allows you to open a tab file. If you have a tab file already open, clicking this will replace the current song with the new one you select.
To the right of the Load Tab File button (and just under the right corner) is the “Choose Instrument Track” button. When you click here, a menu will arise listing each of the instrument tracks included on the particular tab file you have open. For our example tab file, there are 10 instrument tracks available. Each guitar part gets its own separate instrument track, and there aer separate tracks for the bass, percussion and even vocals. For this example, we’ll be selecting the track called “12-String Acoustic”.
At the very bottom right corner of the screen is the “Play Sample” button. Click on this to hear a sample played of the selected measures. If you’re using our Hotel California file tab and selected the “12-String Acoustic” instrument track, you should hear the first notes of Hotel California being played. If you’ve selected another song, you’ll hear a different sample. Don’t be concerned if you don’t hear anything! The instrument track you selected may happen to be on a rest measure, and so Lunar Tabs is playing, appropriately, a measure of silence.
In the bottom center of the screen are 4 directional navigation arrows. The “Down” arrow is at the very bottom of the screen. Just above that button, are the “Left” and “Right” arrows. Just above those is the “Up” arrow. You can use the “Down” and “Up” arrows to navigate from one note to the next within the selected measures. Pressing “Down” on the Hotel California tab leads Lunar Tabs to read “B minor chord, eight note” – which is how the song begins. To move from one measure to the next, use the “Left” and “Right” arrows.
At the very bottom left corner is the “Toggle Modes” button. This changes the way Lunar Tabs reads out individual notes, switching between “Chord Mode” and “String Mode”. By pressing it for Hotel California, the note “B minor chord, eighth note” becomes “7,9,9,7,7,7 eighth note.” These numbers tell you which frets to cover to play the note, moving from the bottom 6th string to the top 1st string. In this case, the 7th fret is covered for the bottom 6th string, the 9th fret is covered for the 5th string, and so on. (There is of course more than one way to play chords, so don’t let the app limit you in your musical experimentation!)
In the center of the screen, the list of notes for the selected measure is displayed. You can navigate the notes using this list, or by using the “Up” and “Down” arrows mentioned previously.
General Settings Menu
General Settings has 3 settings for you to control the overall app functionality.
“Set Tab Home Directory” allows you to change the folder where Lunar Tabs begins its navigation, when you press “Load Tab File”. If you keep all your tab files in one specific folder on your Android, you could use this setting to let Lunar Tabs know.
“Google Drive Integration” is a check mark setting. Let’s say you check the box. Then, when you click “Load Tab File,” Lunar Tabs will ask you if you would like to open a tab file from your Google Drive online directory or from your Android device’s local storage.
“Dynamic Volume Control” is another check box. By checking yes, Lunar Tabs will automatically adjust the volume setting for your Android device, once you open the app.
Hands-Free Settings Menu
There are 3 settings under Hands-Free Settings.
“Enable Stomp Mode” is the first setting. By enabling “Stomp Mode”, Lunar Tabs will navigate to the next playing instruction when it senses a nearby vibration, like a nearby stomp of the foot. This is a potentially handy setting, if you would like to set down your Android device and leave it alone, instead of putting down your guitar and picking it up each time you want to change the navigation. Be forewarned – be careful not to stomp on your phone!
“Calibrate Stomp Mode” opens a new menu which allows you to calibrate the sensitivity of Lunar Tabs’ vibration detector. By changing the Threshold in the bottom left corner, you can make Lunar Tabs more or less sensitive. You can also change the delay that Lunar Tabs will expect between stomps using the Delay option in the bottom center. When you are finished, press OK on the bottom right.
“Enable Midi Following” requires the attachment of a separate Midi device. If you have such a device, you can connect it to your guitar and to your Android. After enabling this setting, Lunar Tabs will be able to listen along as you play. When it detects that you have played the selected note, it will navigate forward and read the next note for you.
Playback Options Menu
There are 2 options under Playback Options.
“Set Playback Speed” opens a new menu that allows you to choose a playback speed. The higher the playback speed percentage you choose, the faster Lunar Tabs will play the selected measures when you press “Play Sample”.
“Play/Mute Tracks” opens a new menu that lists all the available instrument tracks in the song with a checkbox next to each. By default, only one instrument track is selected. Here you can select multiple instrument tracks, which will all play together when you press “Play Sample”. This is helpful when you would like to hear how different individual instruments come together to form the song as a whole.
Instruction Settings Menu
There are 2 settings under Instruction Settings.
“Set Section Increment” displays a menu that allows you to choose the measures which are displayed at one time. You can select 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 10 measures at a time. You can also select “Entire Tab at Once,” which will list all the measures in the entire song on the main page. This is useful if you want to hear the song played in its entirety.
Additionally, you can choose “Segment by Repetition”. With this option, Lunar Tabs displays one measure at a time. However, this option is unique in that Lunar Tabs removes all the duplicate measures. So each time, you navigate “Right,” the measure you reach will be a unique one. This is a helpful option to help you quickly select new measures to learn and practice, instead of having to scroll through rest measures or a measures you’ve already rehearsed.
Lastly, you can choose “Segment by Tab Sections”. If the tab file contains section breaks that indicate the chorus and individual verses, this selection will use those breaks to display it one verse at a time.
“Go to Section” opens up a menu that allows you to navigate to any point in the song. This is helpful for picking up a song where you left off or quickly navigating to a specific measure.