New International Manual
of Braille Music Notation



  • Preface
  • Compiler's Notes

  • Purpose and General Principles
  • Basic Signs
  • Clefs
  • Accidentals
  • Rhythmic Groups
  • Chords
  • Slurs and Ties
  • Tremelos
  • Fingering
  • Bar Lines and Repeats
  • Nuances
  • Ornaments
  • Theory
  • Modern Notation

  • General Organization
  • Key& Time Signatures
  • Rhythmic Groups
  • Chords
  • Slurs and Ties
  • Tremelos
  • Fingering
  • Bar Lines and Repeats
  • Nuances
  • Ornaments
  • Theory
  • Modern Notation

  • General Organization
  • Keyboard Music
  • Vocal Music
  • String Instruments
  • Wind and Percussion Instruments
  • Accordian
  • Instrumental Scores

  • Authorities for this work
  • National Signs of 16 Countries
  • Index of Signs in Standard Braille Order
  • Tables of Signs

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


    (Table 5)

    A. Intervals

    Signs from Table 5 A.

      Second         Sixth

      Third         Seventh

      Fourth         Octave


    5-1. "In chords in which the notes are of equal value, one note only is written. The others are indicated by their intervals from that note--soprano, alto, violin, viola, right hand for piano, organ and harp--the upper note is written and the lower notes are expressed by descending intervals.

    "In the lower series--tenor, bass, violoncello, and left hand for piano, organ and harp--the lowest note is written and the others are expressed by ascending intervals."

    Musical Notation for the Blind, British and foreign Blind Assoc., London, 1888
    5-2. The quotation above, from the document known as the "Cologne Key", established the directions for reading and writing intervals; and the meeting itself established the tradition of the international work that continues today.

    Signs from Table 15 A.

      Right hand part

      Left hand part

    Example 5-2


    5-3. Intervals larger than an octave are written with the same series of signs plus an appropriate octave mark. A ninth is shown with the interval of a 2nd in the new octave, a tenth is a third in the new octave, ect.

    Example 5-3

    5-4. A prime or unison is written by preceding the sign for an octave interval with the octave mark showing it is sounded at the same pitch as the note itself.

    Example 5-4.

    5-5. If more than one interval follows the written note, no octave mark is necessary unless two adjacent intervals are an octave or more apart.

    Example 5-5.

    5-6. When written notes of chords are dotted, the dots are placed immediately after the notes as in Examples 5-3 and 5-5. Intervals have the same value as written notes.

    5-7. The melodic intervals of the written notes determine whether or not an octave mark is necessary before each chord.

    Example 5-7.

    5-8. If there are more than 3 identical intervals in a row, they may be doubled. The interval sign is written twice after the first note. The following notes of that series are written without intervals, and the series is closed by writing its interval or intervals once after the last note. An accidental before any doubled interval except an octave makes it necessary to interrupt the series. Example 5-8. (a)

    Example 5-8.

    5-9. In a passage of doubled octaves the doubling need not be interrupted by the occurrence of accidentals at the interval of an octave. In some countries, accidentals are not included before an octave interval, only before the written note of an octave. Other countries mark all accidentals as they appear in print.

    Example 5-9.

    5-10. A change of clef within a part or voice should not cause a change to the direction in which intervals are written.

    B. In-accords

    Signs from Table 5 B.

      Full-measure in-accord

      Part-measure in-accord

      Measure division for part-measure in-accord

    5-11. When all of the harmonic parts do not change at the same time, they are shown by dividing the measure into voices of like value and presenting two or more sections of the measure "in-accord" or "with" each other. When the entire measure is divided, the full-measure in-accord is used.

    5-12. The octave mark must be shown for the first note after an in-accord and at the beginning of the next measure, whether or not that measure contains an in-accord.

    5-13. The order in which the parts are written is the same as the direction of intervals. In treble parts the top voice is written first; in bass parts the bottom voice is written first. Example 5-13.



    5-14. In some formats intervals may be doubled in an in-accord part, and the doubling may be carried over into the same voice of succeeding measures as long as the same number of voices continues.

    Example 5-14.

    5-15. Accidentals in one voice do not carry over to the in-accord part. Most countries feel they must be re-marked in the other part and preceded by dot 5 to indicate the accidental does not appear in the print copy.

    Example 5-15.

    5-16. Rests must occasionally be added to an in-accord part. These also should be preceded by dot 5.

    Example 5-16.

    5-17. If only part of a measure needs an in-accord, the part-measure in-accord sign is used along with a sign to show which section of the measure is affected by the in-accord.

    5-18. As with the full-measure in-accord sign, the first note following either of these signs must have an octave mark. If the in-accord occurs at the end of the measure, the first note of the next measure also must have an octave mark.

    Example 5-18.

    5-19. As with the full-measure in-accord, accidentals or rests must be re-marked (and preceded by dot 5) if they occur in another in-accord voice.

    5-20. Some measures may require more than two in-accord parts.

    Example 5-20.

    5-21. Full- and part-measure in-accords may be used in the same measure.

    Example 5-21.

    C. Moving-notes

    5-22. Another way of showing interval changes that do not occur in all parts at the same time is through the use of moving-note signs. Signs from Table 5 C.

      Moving-note sign for one interval

      Moving-note sign for two or more intervals

    5-23. When two, or at most three, notes of equal value move below or above a longer note, they can be written as intervals separated by dot 6.

    5-24. In the following example the first two intervals represent half notes and the remaining intervals represent quarter notes.

    Example 5-24.

    5-25. The moving-note sign can also be used when two or more intervals move together in a similar manner, but in this case dots 5-6 are substituted for dot 6.

    Example 5-25.

    5-26. The use of octave marks in the moving part is governed by the rules for intervals, par. 1-10. Compare (a) and (b) below.

    Example 5-26.

    5-27. When an accidental modifies a moving note, the appropriate moving-note sign precedes the accidental as in Example 5-26(a).

    5-28. The moving-note sign may be useful to vocal conductors. When there are complications of fingering, phrasing, and nuances, it becomes unsuitable for instrumental and keyboard music.

    5-29. Tone clusters are discussed under Chapter XIII, Modern Notation.

    D. Stem signs

    5-30. An additional stem placed on a note or chord may indicate a prime or unison (Example 5-4), one voice that becomes an in-accord (Example 5-20) or a note to be held while a rhythmic pattern continues. In the last case, when an in-accord is not satisfactory, stem signs are used to indicate value. When a note has two stems of different value, the smaller value is written as a note, and the larger value is written as a stem sign.

    Signs from Table 5 D.

          Whole "stem"
          Half stem
          Quarter stem
          8th stem
          16th stem
          32nd stem

    5-31. Stem signs are placed after the notes to which they belong and may not be separated from them by the music hyphen. These signs may be dotted in the same way as written notes, and they may be modified by slurs, ties and nuances.

    Example 5-31.

    Developed by
    Shodor logoThe Shodor Education Foundation, Inc.

    Copyright © 1999 the
    North Carolina Central University
    and the Governor Morehead School for the Blind

    Copyright © 1999 The Shodor Education Foundation, Inc.