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Question: Do you know any sheet music resources for blind people, i.e. sheet music in braille notation? I don't seem to find any braille files in IMSLP (the Petrucci Library at http://www.imslp.org). Are there perhaps software that translate ordinary sheet music (in Finale format, for example) to braille?

Background story: Yesterday I made friends with this wonderful guy. He has been completely blind since he was six and he's graduating this year from the conservatory (Here's one of his performances.). He asked me if I could help him find notes in braille, because the only source he has is a man who transcribes by hand and charges a lot for that.

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3 Answers 3

Yes, this can be done.

I have no direct experience here, but there are several projects underway to translate musical pieces that are in the open-source MusicXML data format (which can be exported from music notation software such as Finale and Sibelius) into Braille sheet music.

There is a great deal of public-domain classical music available in MusicXML, Finale, or Sibelius formats at IMSPL.org and elsewhere, so if you have a method for converting those files into MusicXML and from that into Braille, that would be workable.

I routinely take scanned sheet music in PDF format and convert that to Sibelius format using Neuratron Photoscore's music OCR (optical character recognition) capability. This takes considerable time and knowledge, however, as the OCR scanning is prone to many errors that have to be corrected in Sibelius. Once I've done that, however, it's no trouble to export the Sibelius file as a MusicXML file, which could then be passed to a program that converts MusicXML to Braille.

All this presumes that the blind end-user has his own Braille paper printer, or a mechanical Braille computer peripheral reading device for the fingertips. I understand that those are very expensive.

A quick Google search revealed the following:

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There is an active Yahoo Group called Braille Music Chat: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/braille-music-chat/ When I was writing my Masters project (on braille music for blind musicians) I found this group very helpful and friendly, and there are lots of braille-reading musicians who contribute regularly to the discussions there.

The team at Steinberg are also doing some really good work with music formats, including braille: http://blog.steinberg.net/ - this is the ex-Sibelius software development team.

In the UK there is the RNIB library, which includes a large collection of braille music: http://www.rnib.org.uk/livingwithsightloss/reading/services/rnibnationallibrary/Pages/national_library_service.aspx

In the US, there is the NLS which offers an even wider range of braille music: http://www.loc.gov/nls/music/

Hope this helps!

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Welcome to our site, Matthew Skelton. –  Wheat Williams May 28 '13 at 15:35
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The Primer of Braille Music Notation, which is available through the National Library Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in the United States, is still a great way to begin learning braille music. Although Traditional in its approach, the practice and skill-building exercises are very reinforcing in developing knowledge of braille music notation.

Another resource providing links to braille music, and other resourceful links to musicians who may be blind or have low vision is the company Dancing Dots. Dancing Dots specializes in assistive technology to enable blind musicians create, edit, and convert music. This company also produces assistive technology for low vision musicians in accessing large print music. The following link will direct you to this resource page.

http://www.dancingdots.com/main/resources.htm

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