BRL: Braille through Remote Learning

Specialized Codes Course



Session Topics
  • Overview
  • Notes and rests
  • Time signatures
  • Key signatures

  • Writing Exercise

    Other Resources
  • Contact instructor
  • Send mail to class
  • Main BRL page
  • Contractions Lookup
  • Contractions List
  • Intro Braille course
  • Transcribers course

  • Music Braille I: Overview

    Welcome to music braille! Music braille represents a challenge beyond even other specialized codes such as mathematics! The complexity of most print music requires significant skills on the part of the transcriber, the most important being the willingness and ability to think through the transcription before sitting down at the brailler or computer.

    There are some who will argue that the braillist need not be able to read print music, but, like mathematics braille, the music braillist who has some abilities in music is clearly at an advantage. For those of you who do not have a background in music reading or music theory, we have provided a link to a glossary of musical terms that works to describe many important concepts. For example, an understanding of intervals is of critical importance to the music transcriber.

    Before getting into specifics, this reading works to point out some key generalizations about braille music:

    1. Unlike print music, braille music is not written on a staff .

    2. There are three "styles", or methods, of formatting braille music:

      • bar-over-bar
      • line-by-line
      • single line

      Each of these methods will be explained in detail in the appropriate sessions.

    3. Clef signs are generally omitted in braille, replaced by octave marks.

    4. There are specific formatting/layout rules for vocal, strings, percussion, winds, etc. that the braille music transcriber must learn.
    5. Bar lines between measures are indicated with a space.


    There are a number of resources available, in addition to these lessons, to help you with your learning of braille music. In an order of most useful (at least to me!), these resources are:
    How to Read Braille Music: An Introduction, by Bettye Krolick, available at Opus Technologies
    Primer of Braille Music, Edward Jenkins, American Printing House for the Blind
    An Introduction to Braille Music, Edward Godfrey, National Braille Association
    Handbook for Braille Music Transcribers, National Braille Association

    In addition, the New International Manual of Braille Music Notation, published by the Braille Music Subcommittee, World Blind Union is currently being prepared for publication on the Web through this site.

    As with the textbook code, the Braille Authority of North American (BANA) has recently (Fall 1998) approved changes in the braille music code. Most of the code is unchanged, but there are some changes. Several examples are listed below, and they will be re-stated in the appropriate sessions:

    1. No contractions should be used in music title pages
    2. Texts of songs, excepting songs and chants in hymnals and school materials for grades K-6, should be in grade 1 braille. When song texts are in grade 1 braille, all directions and indications of tempo and mood, and all transcriber notes should also be uncontracted.
    3. words that in braille are placed above the music line are to be enclosed between word signs. Parentheses that are not included in print must not be added in braille.
    4. all transcriber-added signs such as "understood" rests and accidentals must be preceded by a Dot 5. This practice has been optional in the past, but is now mandatory.

    As the new codebook is not yet available to the general public, we'll be making changes to all of the online music instructional materials as soon as a copy is available, so stay "tuned"!

    Developed by
    Shodor logoThe Shodor Education Foundation, Inc.
    in cooperation with the
    North Carolina Central University
    and the Governor Morehead School for the Blind

    Copyright © 1998