Making Music Accessible to Blind (and ALL) Students
You may wonder how blind people access music. Up until recently, for most, probably by ear.
However, there is a form of Braille for music, and it is extensive. Just like for mathematics, there are markup languages that allow music to be displayed in print and on the internet. MusicXML is to print music (music notation, with staff lines, clefs, notes with time values, rests, etc.) as html is to letters, words, paragraphs, and print formatting. MusicXML can also be converted into Braille Music Markup Language, or BMML. Open source music editors (like a word processor in which music can be composed) are available which can be used to convert music into MusicXML and BMML.
Here are some helpful links for MusicXML and BMML:
This site contains a very thorough explanation of MusicXML (this is the wave
of the future in music - you may want to introduce this to your sighted
This is part of the previous page. I included it because it has a discussion of
some of the software that can used in displaying music, including the Braille
Music Editor and Braille Music Markup Language (BMML).
This page is a service of Yokohama National University in Japan.It is a "Braille
Music Translation System" which allows the user to input music in MusicXML
format, and outputs the music as a .brl file. When the .brl file is opened in a
Braille word processor, like Duxbury 12.1, or Perky Duck, the music will be
displayed in Braille, and can then be embossed for the Braille-reading musician.
Perky Duck is a free Braille-transcription word processor that allows the user to
write Braille documents using the computer keyboard as a Brailler: keys f, d, s,
j, k, and l, and the space bar, correspond to the keys and space bar on an
actual Perkins Brailler.
This is a special project to make music more accessible to visually impaired
people. Under resources, there are several tutorials regarding how to read
This is an open source music editor that can be used to write music. Music
written in this editor can be exported as BMML, which can be copied and
pasted into an html text editor and displayed as a web page with Braille
characters. (I tried this out using a text editor called notepad ++, and was
successful displaying Braille music in a web browser window.)
This is an initiative by Michael Cuthbert (and others) of the MIT School of
Music and Theater Arts. Music21 is an application that uses the Python
programming language (with the Python Integrated Development Environment
- IDLE) to analyze music. This is very cool, for both sighted and blind musicians!
This is the "Bible" for Musical Braille.
I hope you find this helpful!