Exploring the Contribution of Visually Impaired Musicians to the Evolution of Spanish Guitar


Blind musicians have played a significant yet often overlooked role in shaping the evolution of Spanish guitar. Historically, Spain has witnessed a rich tradition of visually impaired musicians making remarkable contributions to its musical landscape.  

From as early as the 17th century, a substantial number of street musicians in Spain were blind, especially those involved in selling Pliegos de cordel. This phenomenon can be observed even before in the early iconography depicts vihuelas being played in liturgical configurations. Over the centuries, these blind musicians left indelible imprints on Spanish music. One notable example is Miguel de Fuenllana (1500-1579), a vihuela player and composer who, despite his blindness, emerged as a prominent figure in the sixteenth century. This historical backdrop indicates a long-standing cultural tradition wherein blind musicians thrived, inspiring parents of visually impaired children to nurture their musical talents as a suitable profession. 

The connection between the visually impaired and music was further strengthened through institutions established in the 19th century dedicated to educating blind children in Spain. The inherent link between touch and music is echoed in the very term “to play” in Spanish, “tocar,” which translates to “touch.” Blind guitarists played a pivotal role in developing Spanish guitar music techniques. For example, Antonio Jimenez Manjón (1866-1919), a blind guitarist, significantly influenced makers such as Torres and impacted iconic players like Llobet and Barrios. Even Tarrega’s early education was under the guidance of blind teachers, underscoring blind musicians’ profound influence on guitar education and technique. In the flamenco realm, figures like Francisco Giménez Belmonte, known as El Ciego de la Playa (1864-1925), demonstrated the integral role blind musicians played in shaping Spanish guitar music. 

The aim of this research project, is to explore how fundamental the contribution of visually impaired musicians was in the critical moment of the evolution of our instrument and how their contribution influenced the technique, the approach to music. The conference will be preceded by a short performance of musical pieces written by blind musicians. 


  • Series of lectures at universities and conservatories.
    • Next conferences: Guitar Foundation of America – Conference (17-22 June Fullerton (CA))
  • Series of videos on practice ‘rituals’ aimed at enhancing sensory substitution, suitable for both blind and sighted individuals.
  • Two guitars crafted in collaboration with Gabriele Lodi, designed to augment vibrotactile feedback and facilitate sensory cross-modal enhancement of listening through touch.
  • An article co-authored with Gabriele Lodi discussing the evolution of the Spanish guitar, particularly focusing on the contributions of visually impaired musicians.

Artistic Reseach

This research is closely linked to my artistic practice, where I explore sensory substitution through the creation of a series of ‘rituals’—practices designed to enhance tactile sensory perception. To achieve this, I am collaborating with Guitar Maker Gabriele Lodi to craft a series of instruments. These instruments are conceptualized to augment the vibrotactile feedback of the instrument and introduce impedances that can facilitate a sensory cross-modal enhancement of listening through touch.