Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Braille Music

Music can be, and is, written in braille. Braille music looks and feels nothing like its printed counterpart. Because a blind musician's fingers are used to read music, as well as to play the instrument, he/she must memorize the entire score in order to play it efficiently.

When music is written in braille, first the "right hand" is presented for a bar, then the "left." A two-character symbol indicates whether the material that follows is for the right or left hand.

Rests, whole, half, quarter, and eighth notes can be expressed in braille, however, there are times when more than one braille character (cell) is required to give all the information that belongs to a given note. Despite this fact, anything expressed in regular staff notation can be expressed in braille.

Two good books about teaching braille music are:

How to Read Braille Music, by Bettye Krolick, which is available from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped; and

Who's Afraid of Braille Music
By Richard Taesch and William McCann

A Short Introduction and Resource Handbook for Parents, Teachers and Students

Are you a teacher or parent of a blind student who has an interest or need to learn to read braille music? Want to help, but feeling a bit anxious or unprepared to do so?

Are you, yourself a blind musician who wants to know more about how music looks in braille? Have people warned you that it's "so hard"?

Then "Who's Afraid of Braille Music?" is for you! Find out how sensible Louis Braille's system for music really is. Learn to read, write, play and sing music in braille.

For more information, click this link to visit Dancing Dots for a full description of the book:

Finding braille music has become easier with the advent of the Internet. Here are some links to braille music transcription products, software and individuals who offer braille music transcription services.

1. American Printing House for the Blind Louis Database: The APH Louis Database is a database of accessible materials for people who are blind or visually impaired. The Louis search engine can guide you to braille music reference books, scores and instructional recordings.

2. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped: The NLS, a department of the Library of Congress, has a Music Program repository that contains music scores in braille and large print, textbooks, and recorded voice instruction for voice, piano, organ and other instruments. You will also find a list of individual braille music transcribers across the United States (current as of 1997) who can be contacted for additional information.

3. BrailleM: The Braille Music List. BrailleM is an email list where individuals with an interest in braille music can share ideas, sources for finding braille music, and find assistance with difficult passages and formats. To subscribe to the list, visit the site and follow the instructions.

4. Optek Systems is an Australian company that manufactures a braille music transcription software program called Toccata and PictureBraille: The Windows-based programs can be ordered from the site or by contacting the company at: PO Box 277, Rydalmere, NSW 1701, Australia, or by calling (+612) 9891-6600.

5. Opus Technologies: Opus Technologies specializes in developing and selling braille music reference materials. Braille music reference books, sheet music and instruction manuals are available for purchase at the company's website or by contacting them directly at: 13333 Thunderhead Street, San Diego, CA 92129-2329, USA, (858) 538-9401 or by email at

6. Dancing Dots: Dancing Dots offers a braille music transcription software called Goodfeel. Goodfeel can automatically convert several kinds of music files to braille. You can download a free Goodfeel demo at the website. For more information, contact Dancing Dots at: 1754 Quarry Lane, PO Box 927, Valley Forge, PA 19482, USA, Phone 610-783-6692 or email at
The National Federation of the Blind has a web page devoted to braille music resources, as well as a braille music video:

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