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


    XVII. STRING INSTRUMENTS (Table 17) A. General Signs 17-1. The music for string instruments is brailled using all of the previous signs that apply. 17-2. Because of the lack of standardization in print symbols for strings, positions, barrŽs, harmonics and other features, it is essential that the transcriber have a thorough knowledge of string music, preferably as a performer. 17-3. Some countries use clef signs as a prefix for all instrumental music. When clef signs are used, they determine the direction for intervals and in-accords. The C clef reads downward for viola and upward for violoncello and bass. In the absence of clef signs a note should be included. The form used in Example 17-3 may be helpful. Example 17-3. 17-4. The G clef with a little Ň8Ó below, sometimes used for plucked instruments, indicates that the notes sound one octave lower than printed, but the music is transcribed at the printed pitch.

    Signs from Table 17 A.

    1st string 5th string

    2nd string 6th string

    3rd string 7th string

    4th string

    17-5. In print, strings are indicated with roman numerals, arabic numbers or letters. A note should be included stating the method used in print. When word-letter combinations such as "sul G" appear, they should be transcribed as they are in print.

    17-6. An octave mark is not required for the next note after a string sign.

    17-7. Lines of continuation are shown by the principle of doubling; only the second character of the sign is written twice.

    Example 17-7.

    Signs from Table 17 B.

    1st position/fret 7th position/fret

    2nd position/fret 8th position/fret

    3rd position/fret 9th position/fret

    4th position/fret 10th position/fret

    5th position/fret Half position

    6th position/fret

    Glissando or shift to a new position

    Beginning of shift line

    End of shift line

    17-8. Position/fret signs usually follow string signs and precede bowing or plectrum signs. The word ŇpositionÓ is used for instruments that have a smooth fingerboard, and the word ŇfretÓ is used for instruments that have frets on the fingerboard.

    17-9. In print, position or fret signs usually are roman numerals or arabic numbers. A note should be included to describe the type of print marking used.

    17-10. The next note after the position or fret sign must have an octave mark.

    17-11. A line of continuation following a position sign is shown with two dot 3s, ''. The sign for the end of this line follows the last note affected and is not used if another position sign follows immediately.

    Example 17-11.

    17-12. For the fingering of bowed and plucked instruments, see Chapter VIII, Fingering. Part B contains signs and examples.

    17-13. Shifting lines are commonly found in guitar music and occasionally in bowed string music. They look like glissandos in print and in braille, but unless the word or abbreviation for glissando is present, the slanting lines indicate shifting to another fret or position. The sign is placed between the notes affected. If the word ŇglissandoÓ or an abbreviation appears in print, it should be included in braille. 17-14. When intervening notes appear, it may be necessary to indicate the beginning and the end of the shift using the signs above. Always use the standard sign when possible. Example (a) illustrates the standard shift, and Example (b) illustrates the need for and the use of the beginning and ending signs.

    Example 17-14


    17-15. The sign for glissando is placed after the first of the two notes affected. If a slur is also printed, the slur sign precedes the glissando sign. If the word or abbreviation for glissando appears in print, it should also appear in braille.

    Signs from Table 17 D.

    Natural harmonic or open string

    Artificial harmonic

    17-16. Natural and artificial harmonics are identified by print shape. The sign for artificial harmonic is used for diamond-shaped notes; the sign for natural harmonic is used when a round note that is not an open string has a zero above it.

    17-17. The sign for natural harmonic follows the note; the artificial-harmonic sign precedes the note and is separated from it only by an octave mark and/or an accidental. Words or abbreviations such as "art. arm." are always included as word text.

    17-18. When fingering is given for a natural harmonic, the fingering precedes the harmonic sign.

    Example 17-18.

    17-19. The signs for artificial and natural harmonics may be doubled for a series of more than three notes or intervals. The artificial harmonic sign is doubled as

    17-20. The following three examples illustrate harmonics and other features of string music. In Example 17-20, for guitar, the abbreviation "harm" is shown with a bracket to indicate which notes are harmonics. In braille, the line of continuation is used. Another bracket, with a roman numeral, shows that the hand should remain in third position, so a second line of continuation is used. Circled arabic numbers indicate string signs.

    Example 17-20.

    17-21. In Example 17-21, diamond-shaped notes are shown in addition to the print abbreviation, so the sign for artificial harmonic is used along with the abbreviation and its line of continuation. In this guitar example, the print has circled letters that contain names of strings, e.g., G, B, and E. The transcriber must understand all string instruments to know that G is 3rd string in guitar music, 4th string in violin music, 3rd string in viola music, etc. The bar line sign is useful in complex string music.

    Example 17-21.

    17-22. In Example 17-22, the abbreviation "arm" and the sign for twelfth fret are both included, as in print, to indicate the harmonic. Fingering, string, and fret signs are all indicated with arabic numerals, so a knowledge of string instruments is again essential in order to determine the meaning of each number.

    Example 17-22.

    17-23. When resultants are printed for natural or artificial harmonics, they are written as small notes and placed in an in-accord. If two artificial harmonics are written as a chord, it is best to separate them with in-accords because the diamond-shaped notes do not produce the sound represented by the printed notes. The resultants may be written as chords, however.

    Example 17-23.

    Down bow Up bow 17-24. Bowing or plectrum signs usually follow string or positions signs. They may be doubled. If the phrasing slur, , is used, it generally precedes the bowing or plectrum sign. Example 17-24.

    17-25. On a bowed string instrument it is possible to play a three- or four-note chord, holding the top or bottom two notes longer than the others. When a single chord has notes of different values, in-accords are used as necessary.

    Example 17-25.

    17-26. When print indicates that the left hand should execute pizzicatos (usually with a plus sign), the standard left hand sign precedes all notes so marked. This sign may be doubled. Example 17-26 is music for the violin.

    Example 17-26.

    17-27. For scores with string instruments, see Examples 20-9 to 20-11.

    C. Plucked Instruments

    Signs from Table 17 C.

    Grand or full barrŽ

    Half or partial barrŽ

    Vertical bracket barrŽ

    17-28. BarrŽs are indicated two different ways in print notation: above the staff with capital letters alone or in combination with numbers or fractions that indicate whether the barrŽ is full or partial; (2) on the staff with vertical brackets placed before notes or chords. For (1), a note should be included to describe the print notation. For (2) the bracket barrŽ sign in braille indicates that a bracket appears in print.

    17-29. Full barrŽs are usually indicated above the staff with "C" or "B". Indications for partial barrŽs include the C or B with a slash through them, 1/2C, 1/2B, PB, MC, MB, etc.

    17-30. BarrŽ signs immediately precede fret signs. Fret signs must be followed by an octave mark.

    17-31. Example 17-31 shows a full barrŽ followed by the roman numeral for 5th position/fret and a line of continuation that ends when the next barrŽ and the roman numeral for third position/fret occur. Therefore, the end of the continuation line is not marked.

    Example 17-31.

    17-32. Example 17-32 shows a partial barrŽ with an ending to its line of continuation.

    Example 17-32.

    17-33. In example 17-33, a bracket barrŽ is printed vertically through the entire staff, showing that the barrŽ includes the initial notes of both in-accord parts. Therefore, it appears at the beginning of both in-accord parts in braille.

    Example 17-33.

    17-34. When the symbol for a barrŽ is not followed by a fret symbol, it should be followed by the first character of a fret sign (dots 3-4-5) in braille. In Example 17-34 there is no symbol for fret, so the single fret character is used in both of the in-accords affected by the bracket barrŽ.v Example 17-34.

    Signs from Table 17 D.

    Down stroke

    Up stroke

    Signs from Table 11.

    Arpeggio up

    Arpeggio down

    17-35. In some guitar music the print symbol for Ňdown strokeÓ is an arrow pointing up .The print symbol for ŇupstrokeÓ is an arrow pointing down. (Moving the hand down across the strings causes them to be plucked from lowest to highest.) In other publications an arrow pointing up is the print indication of an upstroke, and an arrow pointing down indicates a down stroke. Therefore, a note should describe the print marking.

    17-36. For Rasgueado (a special technique for the rapid strumming of chords both up and down), the arpeggio signs, rather than the stroke signs should be used. For an upward arrow, use the sign , and for the downward arrow use the sign . If arrows go in both directions use both signs, following the print. Include the word rasgueado (with its different spellings) or any abbrevation, as printed.

    Example 17-36.

    17-37. When Golpe (knock) is indicated, use the word or abbreviation according to print. When it is executed on a rest, the word or initial is placed before the rest. Otherwise, braille follows print placement, before or after a note, rasgueado or other feature.

    Example 17-37.

    17-38. A slur that does not end on a note or the Ňslur into nowhereÓ requires careful recognition by transcribers. Example 17-38 contains music for guitar in bass clef with the intervals reading up. The knowledgeable transcriber realizes that the first slur does not end on a note and that its interval is not to be tied to the half note. The special slur sign is placed after both notes of the chord. If a slur is an indication of ornamentation for guitar, this slur sign can be used.

    Example 17-38.

    17-39. Right-hand fingering for guitar is shown in Part B2 of Chapter VIII, Fingering: Signs from Table 8 B and in Paragraphs 8-10 & 8-11.

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    Copyright © 1999 The Shodor Education Foundation, Inc.