Inkplate 6

Versatile, easy-to-use, Wi-Fi-enabled e-paper display

May 11, 2021

Project update 17 of 20

Field Report: Tabplate, an Inkplate-based E-paper Reader for Displaying Guitar Tablature.

by Douglas H

Welcome to Tabplate!

I undertook this project because sometimes I go camping or to a cottage with my guitar. Rather than packing a pile of books or having to predict in advance what I will feel like playing, I wanted a device that could store an unlimited amount of music. It also had to be readable in the sun, easy on the eyes, and the battery needed to last basically "forever" (without me remembering to turn it off). All of that pretty much means it would have to be an e-paper (a.k.a., e-ink) screen.

My first attempt was to adapt my Kobo e-reader. Unfortunately, this didn’t work well. Everything I tried was disastrous: PDFs, text files, rendering pictures into epubs — all were unplayable. And I’m not a professional musician so there’s no way I’m going to shell out thousands of dollars for a GVIDO.

Then I discovered the Inkplate 6, a recycled Kindle e-paper screen combined with an ESP32 processor. On a whim, I bought one from Crowd Supply. A lot of hacking later and the Tabplate was born!

Tabplate renders files in regular ASCII guitar tab format. I mostly tested it with classical tabs, which have some special conventions. The great thing about ASCII tabs is that they take so little space. You can store tons of them, even on the smallest SD card. The Tabplate software will render them into "nice looking" graphics.

Rendered tabulature

File Browser

Tabs are added to Ttabplate via ASCII-formatted tab files stored on an SD card. You can organize collections into different directories, so I created a file browser to navigate between directories.

File browser display

Foot pedal

The tab rendering screens let you go forward and backward by short-pressing the left and right touchpads. However, when you’re playing you don’t want to take your hands off the guitar to go press a button, so I wired up a foot-pedal using a cheap USB pedal-switch I found online.

You can find more pictures and code samples at the project site

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