Bridges Resource Library Crossing Bridges Together: Secondary Transition In the Field, A Reading Room For Educators

Meeting Braille Music Needs

Updated as of May 28, 2024.

Scenario: Student cannot visually access music notation, even when that notation is enlarged.

Strategy: Advocate for access to music notation for all students, including braille readers

Why is it important to read music?

Beginning in elementary school, sighted students learn and use print musical notation, and this is done for a reason—because interaction with musical text is important for musicians at all levels. Providing text-based musical notation allows individuals to read, interact with, and write musical notation.

Independent access to music notation is akin to independent access to literary text and mathematical text. Just as listening to books and math problems is qualitatively different from reading books and math problems, listening to music is qualitatively different from reading music. Additionally consider this: Everyone with typical hearing has access to audiobooks, oral math problems, and performed music. If that were sufficient, there would be no need for written words, numbers, or music.

Therefore, access to written music notation provides blind/low vision individuals with access to written music notation – just as sighted individuals have access to print music notation. Without the tactile access to music notation that Music Braille provides, blind/low vision individuals would be limited to only enlarged print notation or would have no means of efficiently and independently reading, interacting with, or writing musical notation.

What about learning by ear?

Many individuals believe that individuals with blindness or low vision are naturally talented in music and, therefore, should rely on “learning by ear” – without any musical text. Of course, this is a myth:

  • Blindness and low vision do not magically create musical talent.
  • Even talented and successful musicians who are sighted use and/or interact with musical text/musical notation.
  • Music notation allows individuals to engage in a common musical audition requirement: Sight-reading. Without access to music notation (and the ability to understand it), a musician cannot fully and effectively participate in many auditions.
  • Remember, no one gives “extra credit” to musicians who cannot read music. Musical talent is enhanced by the ability to read music – that’s why most sighted musicians use music notation early and often.

Strategy: Advocate for instruction in Music Braille

What is Music Braille/Braille Music?

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.

Music Braille uses the same six dots used in both literary braille and Nemeth Code, so there are cell dot formations in Music Braille that are identical to those in literary braille and Nemeth Code. As with those two codes, the MEANING behind the cell dot formations is based on the code in which the cell is located.

For example, the cell composed of dots 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 has a distinct meaning in each code:

  • In literary braille, a cell with dots 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 is the contracted sign for the word “with”
  • In Nemeth Code, a cell with dots 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 is the sign for a closing parenthesis “)“
  • In Music Braille, a cell with dots 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 is the whole note “A” (or “ti” in solfege)

Also, please check out Braille Bug (from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH)) which provides a great introduction to Music Braille on its eponymous web page.

More about Louis Braille’s Music Braille Code

Luckily, we have a solution. As noted in Classic FM’s article “Braille music notation: what does it look like, how does it work and who invented it?” Louis Braille invented Music Braille in 1829. Note: this was not just a passing interest for Louis Braille; he was a professional music teacher. Thus, it is not surprising that the Music Braille code braille-reading musicians use today has changed little in almost two hundred years.

Scenario: I don’t know Music Braille. Also, I already don’t have enough time in my schedule to teach everything I need to, and my student’s schedule is also full.

Strategy: Order APH’s “Feel the Beat” Music Braille Curriculum

Don’t wait!

From APH: “The lessons in this curriculum teach Music Braille Code, and focus on reading, playing, and memorizing measures through the use of a soprano recorder. The ability to “play music by ear” is an asset, but is only one part of playing music. As part of braille literacy, braille readers should be introduced to braille music at the same time that their sighted peers begin reading music in print (usually around third or fourth grade).”

Begin early!

We at the Bridges Technical Assistance Center encourage teachers to begin introducing Music Braille earlier than fourth grade. Even though most formal instruction in print music notation begins in third or fourth grade, most sighted students encounter musical notation in kindergarten and beyond. We know all too well about the power of incidental learning, especially in reading. Please consider incidental exposure to brailled music notation whenever sighted peers have access to incidental exposure to print music notation.

Strategy: Reach out to us at the Bridges Helpdesk: We have contacts with and would love to connect us with talented Music Braille instructors.

Our Accessible web form


Text: Send to: (410) 357-1546

Voice mail: Call (410) 357-1546, leave a voice mail message, and we will return your call

Strategy: Access braille music materials and tools

Find out more in the Bridges Resource Library Accessible Music Tools entry.

Contact the Bridges Helpdesk for More Information

Our Accessible web form


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.

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