As noted in the Bridges Resource Library’s Music Braille/Braille Music entry, Music Braille is a code designed to allow individuals to read music notation accurately, efficiently, and tactilely. In fact, Louis Braille (the man who developed the braille reading code) also created the Music Braille code. Here are some resources for translating print music notation into Music Braille.
Scanning print notation for translation to create a file capable of audio output with JAWS screen reader software
This product, Lime Aloud, requires JAWS for Windows screen reader software and comes with two additional software titles: (1) Lime notation editor and (2) SharpEye Music Reader for music OCR.
The Lime Aloud system also allows the blind/low vision musician to create new musical scores and print them using print musical notation. This student might not yet need this capability, but it is available.
Here is more information from the website:
“Preparing Accessible Scores
When you order Lime Aloud, you receive it together with the Lime notation editor and the SharpEye Music Reader music OCR software. Before you can study new material using Lime with Lime Aloud, it must be entered into Lime in one of three possible ways: scan print score using SharpEye, import the piece in the form of MusicXML exported from another notation editor such as Sibelius or Finale, or entered directly into Lime by typing and/or playing on a musical keyboard such as the Yamaha PSR-E433 below.
SharpEye is an excellent music-scanning software but sooner or later it will make scanning errors. At that point, we need the help of a sighted assistant since we blind musicians cannot see the original print score to determine how to correct the errors. Of course, if we could do that, we probably would not be scanning the music in the first place! That being said, I have often successfully scanned and learned previously unfamiliar pieces using SharpEye independently. That is, it made no errors so I could pass the results to Lime and study the piece by listening and transcribing it to braille music.
Importing MusicXML, which is an emerging standard for notation interchange, promises to be the alternative which will afford blind musicians the maximum level of independence. However, programs that export MusicXML and programs that import it (including Lime itself) still do occasionally make omissions or errors. That being said, I have successfully learned pieces by importing the MusicXML into Lime. But, if you want to be certain that every detail of the print score has been imported, you will need to have a sighted assistant compare the original to what Lime shows on screen and make any necessary corrections. These days, it is extremely rare that notes or rhythms will be incorrectly imported from MusicXML. However, certain other details such as rehearsal markers or finger numbers may still be literally lost in the translation.
Lime does allow you to enter notes, rhythms and all necessary related annotations by typing on your PC keyboard. Adding an electronic, musical keyboard to your workstation vastly improves the ease of entering notes and even allows you to use Lime’s Record Dialog to enter notes in tempo to a metronomic pulse.”
Scanning print notation for high-quality enlargement translation
Dancing Dots also offers a digital enlarged print solution with its product, LimeLighter. This product scans the print music and displays it as scrolling text at a user-controlled magnification level on a flat screen. The magnification can be quite large, and the user can control the speed of the scroll using a foot pedal.
We have tested the Lime Lighter, and we found the display crisp and the foot pedal scrolling wonderful. For blind/low vision students with a fair amount of functional vision, this is a great solution. However, just as magnification restricts visual field in other settings, students with a significant field loss may find magnification on the large screen limits their ability to efficiently access the print musical notes.
Scanning print notation for translation to create embossable Music Braille
A robust program that allows one to translate scanned print music into Music Braille is called “Goodfeel Braille Music Translator.” As noted on the website, “GOODFEEL4.0 Standard is actually a suite of software which includes GOODFEEL®, Lime, Lime Aloud and SharpEye 2.” Thus, in addition to creating embossable Braille output, this product may be used in combination with the JAWS screen reader and the included Lime software to create audio output as was referenced above.
These are the most efficient, effective means of creating musical notation that is accessible for blind/low vision individuals. While financial investment is certainly required, it is far, far less than the school’s current investment in its music programs (staff salaries, etc.). Moreover, school districts might be interested in pooling their resources to purchase translation software that they could share. We recommend GoodFeel so that both audio and Music Braille can be produced.
Contact the Bridges Helpdesk for More Information
- Our Accessible web form
- Email: Helpdesk@imagemd.org
- Text: Send to: (410) 357-1546
- Voice mail: Call (410) 357-1546, leave a voice mail message, and we will return your call
This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.
Updated as of September 17, 2023.