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International Council on English Braille (ICEB)
Braille Music


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Braille Music Resources Updated to UEB

The ICEB Music Committee has compiled a list of resources to teach braille music that are revised to incorporate UEB. Transcription practices in terms of layout and formatting differ between countries, therefore these guidelines are also included.

Australia

Braille Music-Australian Addendum
Compiled by The Australian Braille Authority Music Subcommittee
Available for free download in Word or braille format from the ABA Music page.

Read, sing and play [music (braille)]: a graded course in braille music by Ian Cooper
Fourth Edition published by Glenn Publications, Mitaggong, NSW, c1994
ISBN 0949390380 (braille ed); 0646193368 (print ed)
A printed teacher's handbook and braille edition, designed for music teachers with no knowledge of braille music who wish to help their blind students learn the braille music code.
Available from Vision Australia Library

A survivor's guide to braille music notation by Helen Merrin
Published by Vision Australia.
Student's guide and teacher's guide.

Dictating music by Roma Dix
Second Edition, published May 2010, Mittagong NSW Australia
Instruction manual designed for a sighted person to learn how to dictate music to a friend in order for them to transcribe it into braille.
Available for free download as a scanned PDF: Dictating music

New Zealand

Focus on Braille Music by Lisette Wesseling
For Students/Teachers.

Training Manual - Drills and Manual
A booklet for students, compiled using extracts from "Introduction to Braille Music Transcription" by Mary Turner De Garmo, Second Edition.

United Kingdom

Braille Music For Beginners For The Piano by Joan Partridge
Available for order from RNIB.

First steps in music theory by Eric Taylor.
Published by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, London 2004.
ISBN 1860960901
A step by step presentation of the basic facts of music theory. Numerous music examples support a grade-by-grade guide to the ABRSM theory of music syllabus grades 1-5.
For copies, please contact RNIB's Helpline at helpline@rnib.org.uk

Braille Music and Unified English Braille (B017)
Published by the UK Association for Accessible Formats(UKAAF)
This guidance summarises and clarifies the impact of the implementation of Unified English braille on music braille transcription.
Available for free download in PDF, Word file or embossable braille from the UKAAF Music page.

U.S.A.

Music Braille Code 2015, developed under the sponsorship of the Braille Authority of North America
Published by The Braille Authority of North America.
ISBN: 978-0-9859473-6-1 (Print); 978-0-9859473-7-8 (Braille)
Available for purchase from the American Printing House for the Blind. Email info@aph.org and cite catalog number 7-09651-01.

Technology in Braille Music Production and Distribution

One of the music committee charges is to monitor technology developments in each country and how it has aided braille music transcription and production. We hope this summary enables organisations to explore technology to increase music production and timely distribution of scores.

Australia

Although the majority of our music is still transcribed manually, the Goodfeel Braille Music Translation software is used to convert much of our piano music. We find that elementary piano music is more easily transcribed by hand to insert repeated sections manually, however more complex music is scanned with photoscore, edited in Sibelius and then translated by Goodfeel before it is proofread in Duxbury. Vision Australia has an online catalogue from which library members may download scores or request hard copies.

New Zealand

New Zealand frequently uses the SharpEye/Lime/Goodfeel suite of programs as an aid to transcriptions. We do a quick check of the scanning/recognition output, and correct any basic notation errors in Sharp Eye before using Goodfeel for the conversion to braille. This is copied into the braille document and used as a skeleton to which we add the detail by six-key entry.

Our transcriptions are archived as electronic files so that they can be reproduced if necessary. The music is embossed, single-sided, on standard-size braille paper. If required, double-sided or A4 pages can be produced. In addition, some requesters like to receive an electronic brf file of the transcription so that it can be displayed on a portable device, or edited.

We are often asked to use a "soft cover" on our volumes of choral transcriptions, as opposed to the standard shiny hard covers. This makes it easier to fold the pages back at the hinge, and also to hold the volume against the body.

United Kingdom

In the UK, we use a range of approaches including direct manual six-key input, or automated transcription.

Often direct six-key entry is the most effective method, depending upon requirements. For the automated approach we use MuseScore and the Dancing Dots product GoodFeel, followed by manual editing and correction, to produce a final score.

The music transcribed is diverse from straightforward to extremely complex which supports customers in education, leisure and employment.

Increasingly, customers are requesting braille music scores as electronic files. However, experience tells us that embossing can cause issues of various kinds.

Braille music can also be purchased or loaned as hardcopy from producers.

For further information, please visit the UKAAF music page at www.ukaaf.org/music

Teaching and Learning of Braille Music

ICEB member countries are active in running programs and camps to teach braille music. We have collated several here however this information is by no means complete. We are interested to learn about other activities in the area of braille music that are conducted in your country. We hope to inspire the development of further programs in other member countries which do not currently run braille music programs.

Australia

Dot Power

Dot Power is a day-long immersive teaching program for children from preschool to year 3 whose primary reading medium is braille. Based on the Expanded Core Curriculum, Dot Power is designed to encourage students to get as much braille under their fingers as possible in one day.

Dot Power focuses on braille literacy, tactile graphicacy, concept development and communication skills. Each program is a collaboration between the teaching staff of the Statewide Vision Resource Centre, visiting teachers, school personnel and families, so they best meet the individual needs of the students who will be attending.

A typical day may include the use of braille and voice output technology, real objects and their tactual representations, peer tutoring, art, games, singing and more. Each day features a varying theme, and include such things as a postman delivering letters, pizza-making, the Paralympics and braille music. Students participate in group activities, while 1:1 assistance is provided as required. After each session, children, families and teachers are encouraged to take resources home to practice the skills introduced each time. Materials often include a CD with songs that focus on the skills being taught using music literacy to reinforce practical life skills.

Skill Power Workshops

The Statewide Vision Resource Centre offer hands-on Skill Power workshops (both face-to-face and online) for those who would like to learn more about specialist technology or other areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum including braille music. The workshops are conducted by our staff and/or by staff of partner organisations who are specialists. Braille music workshops for teachers are tailored to each group however we teach the basics of braille music along with resources to help the teachers include braille music for their braille reading student within the mainstream classroom setting.

Support Skills Program

The the Support Skills Program in Victoria is a specialised educational program for groups of eligible students in Years 4 to Year 10 who are blind or have low vision. Students are offered four to eight days per year of timetabled individualised or small-group instruction focused around the Expanded Core Curriculum. Subjects include Braille and braille music, maths, physical education, research skills and technology. The Support Skills Program provides a positive learning environment, which promotes inclusion while acknowledging the unique needs and learning styles of students who are blind or have low vision. It provides an opportunity for students to come together in positive association to learn, share and grow academically, socially and emotionally. The program runs on Fridays during school terms.

Braille music sessions include both group and individual instruction in the braille music code, introduction to print music, ensemble work, theory concepts including how to complete a theory examination paper, and instrument exploration. The aims of the music sessions are to promote inclusion in regular school music programs through skill, understanding and confidence, and to assess and identify areas where students may have missed information on notation or musical concepts due to their vision impairment. Students are also connected with blind music professionals to serve as role-models and are also kept informed of avenues to further their braille music such as the National Braille Music Camp.

In music sessions, students experience a range of musical instruments, whether they already play or not. They experiment with music technology needed to participate in the playing and sharing of modern media, as well as technologies used in the creation of contemporary music. These include Braille Music Editor,, braille displays and sound mixing and recording programs. Sessions are structured to support their instrument and level of study. Students gain practical application of the code very early on by sight-singing and sight-reading melodies at the piano.

National Braille Music Camp

The National Braille Music Camp is held every year in July at Frensham Girls’ School in Mittagong, New South Wales. Around 30 to 40 braille reading students from around Australia between the ages of 9 to 18 come together to enjoy six days of singing, playing and learning braille music. This is a unique opportunity for blind children, not only because it is the largest gathering of braille music users in the country, but because they are all in integrated school settings during the year and can join with friends who are blind for one week of the year and in a place where braille is the norm and blind is the majority. We have also hosted students from New Zealand, Fiji, Malaysia, and Thailand. At music camp, both blind and sighted teachers work in partnership to deliver a wide variety of music programs, however the leadership of the camp is run by the blind and for the blind. Each day begins with a choir rehearsal. Students are taught by a conductor who is a braille reading musician, and everyone works from a braille score. They learn braille music in individually tailored music classes, form ensembles such as a jazz band, junior and senior choir or orchestra, and in the evenings we are treated to a concert where students can perform what they have learnt during the year or on camp. The final night of camp is the showcase concert which the students have worked towards all week. The camp choir performs as well as all the ensembles, and solo and small group items.

Because of this unique camp, lifelong friendships form across the country. In the past braille letters and tapes travelled Australia’s postal system, however now Facebook and WhatsApp provide real-time communication channels. Students who live in remote areas are able to learn from teachers via Facetime during the year if there is no braille music specialist in their area. The camp has been in existence for 34 years and with a strong compliment of younger musicians stepping up to direct ensembles and take the lead, we feel it is in safe hands.

Trans-Tasman Braille Music Retreat

The initial concept for the retreat was devised and promoted by Lisette Wesseling, a singer, braille music user and teacher, who sadly died three months before the inaugural retreat held in January 2017. At the first singing session, Music Director Ken Joblin led a time of reflection, recalling the life and inspiration of Lisette. SO far we have held two music retreats and are planning our third in January 2021.

The retreat organising committee is made up of a group of volunteers from New Zealand and Australia who are passionate about braille music and want to create an environment where adults can benefit just as much as children who attend braille music camps. Rehearsals are directed by braille music readers from Australia and New Zealand and accompaniment is provided by retreat participants.

During the year, the working group carefully selects a mixture of both sacred and secular choral repertoire which is transcribed in New Zealand. Braille scores and audio files are then sent to retreat participants prior to Christmas to allow for more efficient learning. Retreat participants are drawn from the Braille Music reading community around New Zealand and Australia. In 2019, 16 New Zealanders and 4 Australians attended, including four sighted singers with a particular Braille Music focus. Sighted members assist in the logistical side of the retreat but participate equally with the singing and playing. In our experience, the three and a half days together gave singers time to workshop music and deepen friendships, although most of us did not want the weekend to end!

The retreat began on the Thursday afternoon with registration, familiarisation with our surroundings and dinner for humans and guide dogs. Friday and Saturday saw singing and socialising and sessions included work in the evening. Often informal singing was enjoyed over a cup of tea after the day had ended. Saturday evening was set aside for mutual talent sharing in an in-house concert. This was an opportunity to share our unique musical gifts and often make music with people who only met over the past few days. Sunday morning was the final day of the retreat and spent recording our work for an audio memento.During our second retreat, most of the songs were recorded in the hallway of the administration building with two pieces recorded in what became known as the Swimming Pool Cathedral.

New Zealand

Individual Tuition

Learners in New Zealand access individual braille music support with a specialist teacher either in person, or via an online platform like SKYPE or FaceTime. Individual lessons may include instrument tuition, however the focus is on learning how to read and use braille in a musical way.

Music School

Music School is a group music programme held on a Saturday, once a month. Approximately 20 learners attend and engage in a range of music activities, designed to support vision specific learning needs. Classes include: music appreciation, dance, music braille, choir (including braille scores), acapella group, and band.

Immersion Courses

Immersion courses are short-term residential courses and are held periodically throughout the year. Learners attend from all over the country and stay at the National Campus in the residential facilities for 2–5 days. Programmes vary and offer support for specific learning areas or needs. Previous music courses have included: Senior Music (incorporating braille and performance), Performing Arts, and Music Technology.


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Page content last updated: February 25, 2020.