Braille Music FAQ

This is the official FAQ of BrailleM, the Braille Music List. The BrailleM Web Page, with information about the list, including how to subscribe and unsubscribe, is at

The FAQ is in very rudimentary form right now. Suggestions are welcomed. If you write them in a form similar to what's already here, I'll just cut and paste your suggestions into place (saves a lot of work!).

The FAQ is deliberately maintained in a form such that it can be copied and pasted into an email or text message and still retain reasonable formatting and usable WWW links.

The FAQ is posted occasionally to BrailleM and you can always find it at its web site:

If you don't have access to the World-wide Web, you can request a copy of the FAQ via email, by writing me: brent @

Last updated 2/2004.

[Q1A.] What books and materials are useful for learning braille music?

_Primer of Braille Music_ by Edward Jenkins (available in both print and braille versions from NLS--see below) goes through the braille code step-by-step. With a lot more examples and some reorganization, this could be a top-notch source. As it is, it is still one of the most useful and comprehensive sources.

_How to Read Braille Music_ by Bettye Krolick (available in print and braille from NLS) is brief but very helpful. It is written at about a 5th grade level.

_How to Read Braille Music_ can be ordered from in braille, print, and interactive CDRom editions. The CD-ROM lets the reader use a PC to access the complete text of the book, including all the examples in music and braille notation. Audio playback is available for each example, along with detailed listings which explain the meaning of every braille sign used in the example. Clicking a music notation symbol displays its corresponding braille sign, and clicking a braille sign displays what it means.

_The Dictionary of Braille Music Signs_ (available in print and braille from NLS) has a good bit of information on the various formats, how they developed, and how to tell them apart. The Dictionary also lists every possible braille music sign and every possible meaning for each sign, in encyclopedic fashion (a rather thick book--but indispensible for braille music users!).

Braille Music courses by Richard Taesch are published by Dancing Dots. Go to or contact Dancing Dots, 1754 Quarry Lane, P.O. Box 927, Valley Forge, PA 19482-0927, Voice: 610 783-6692, Fax: 610 783-6732.

"They Shall Have Music: A Manual for Instruction of Visually Handicapped Children in Playing Keyboard," self-published by Dorothy Dykema, 604 N. Allyn, Carbondale, Illinois 62901. This 90-page book costs only $6.00 including shipping. Send your checks directly to Dorothy. She said her book is aimed at teachers of the blind music student rather than at the blind themselves. She said it covers many of the different tools and methods that can be used to teach, mentions the limitations of ear training (she says it can't really be taught in a student who doesn't have the innate ability), and places high value on the braille music code. Though she originally published it in the mid-1980s, it sounds like it is still relevant. [Note: This book may be out of print now--2/2004.]

Dykema's book and a number of other resources mentioned above are available for order at

[Q1B.] I am sighted parent/teacher/assistant of a visually impaired person. How can I learn to read or transcribe braille music?

A sighted person can use any of the resources listed in Question 1--most are available in both print and braille versions. In many cases a student will use the braille version while the parent or teacher (who may be learning along with the student) uses a print version.

The instruction manual for learning braille music transcription is _Introduction to Braille Music Transcription_ by Mary DeGarmo. A person certified in literary braille may write or call the Braille Codes Section at NLS (see contact info below) and ask to enter the music course (no charge). NLS will send an application. NLS also provide the course materials: the DeGarmo and the official code book. The book is laid out in specific chapters that are used as lessons. After registering for the course, a person may do the first 16 lessons with another certified music transcriber, and this is usually faster than sending lessons in to NLS. Beyond lesson 17, lessons must be sent in to NLS.

Head of the music braille course is Sandra Kelly. If you call (1-800-424-8567) and talk to her, she can give advice and may have suggestions about whom to do the early lessons with - depending on where you live, perhaps.

People who are not certified can purchase the DeGarmo from APH and study on their own. The course is not difficult at the beginning stages. An interested vision teacher or vision aide in a school situation can quickly learn the notes, note values, etc. and be of great help to a beginning student in a school band, orchestra or chorus.

IMPORTANT NOTE! To work with the music code you should be able to read music easily, and you should have some knowledge of melodic and harmonic intervals. The more you know about music, the more successful you will be in that code.

[Q2.] Where can I get braille music courses or teaching materials?

The Hadley School for the Blind offers correspondence courses in braille music.

Hadley School for the Blind
700 Elm Street
Winnetka, IL 60093
Toll Free: 1-800-323-4238
FAX: 1-708-446-8153

A Braille Music course over the WWW, Braille through Remote Learning:

For many instruments (especially popular ones, like piano), some of the standard printed teaching methods are available in brailled versions. These methods can be ordered from the NLS or other regular sources for braille music (see Question 4, below).

[Q3.] What schools teach braille music?

Southern Cal. Conservatory of Music has an active program teaching sight reading and braille music to college students. Richard Taesch (, a certified music transcriber, has set up the braille music program there. He has a great deal to offer blind students (including scholarships in some cases).

[Q4.] Where can I order braille music and materials?

The United States National Library Service (NLS) has a large library of braille music and they send it to visually impaired people in the U.S. free of charge:

National Library Service:
(800) 424-8567
(202) 707-5100
TTY: (202) 707-0744
FAX: (202)707-0712
Fact Sheet about NLS Music Services for Blind:

Notes about NLS's Web-BLND: The NLS's Web-BLND catalogue contains the holdings for many institutions. Some of these will be audio, and you can filter these out by selecting "Braille" from the list marked "Format".

Two cautions:

i) If you select "Music" from the list marked "Music", you'll probably end up filtering out a lot of music that would be useful for you.

ii) Most of the American Printing House for the Blind music listed in Web-BLND is no longer available for purchase, but is available on loan to clients of the NLS. Check the Louis site (see below) to find out if a given title from the APH is available for purchase.

National Braille Association has a collection (United States):
Call (716) 427-8260 to request a free catalog in print or on tape. Address is 3 Townline Circle, Rochester, NY 14623. FAX (716) 427-0263.

The Louis database of accessible materials (United States, for purchase) is available at:
Louis includes the American Printing House for the Blind and other braille music producing agencies.
The Canadian National Institute for the Blind is on the World-wide Web:
Overall web site:
Library catalog:

The MIRACLE catalogue is a unified catalog of braille music holdings in several major libraries in Europe:

Royal National Institute for the Blind, United Kingdom:

National Library for the Blind in the United Kingdom:

National Library for the Blind (NLB) in the United Kingdom has the world's largest collection of braille music (14,500 items) and is available free to anyone, worldwide. Further details and links to the online catalogue are on the NLB website at:

Resource for Germany:

Verein zur Förderung der Blindenbildung
26, blekstrasse, hannover (germany)
tel. +49-511-954650 fax +49-511-9546580

Resource for Netherlands:

SVB Studie- en vakbibliotheek voor visueel en andrszins gehandicapten
Molenpad 2 1016 Gm Amsterdam Netherlands, tel. +31-206266465
Fax +31-206208459

Resource for Brazil:

For braille music in Brazil, contact Zoilo Lara de Toledo at
Fundacao Dorina Nowill Para Cegos
Rua Dr. Dlogo de Faria, 558 - V. Clementina
04037 Sao Paulo
Most other countries have a similar service; it may take some searching to find it.

[Geoff Sinclair (sinclag @ CNIB.CA) contributed much of the information in this section.]

[Q5.] How can I get a certain piece of music transcribed into braille?

[Q5A.] Transcription services

National Braille Association has a transcription service, but it is very popular. Call to get an idea of waiting time before sending anything to them. Phone: (716) 427-8260 (other contact info above)

Dancing Dots has an "automated transcription service". Turnaround time is about three weeks. Visit to see the details.

There is a loose network of people who do braille music transcription work. You might be able to find a transcriber by word of mouth--ask friends who have used braille or braille music transcribers, or perhaps ask on the BrailleM email list (see Or contact the National Library Service (800-424-8567; other contact info above) and request their list of "Transcribers Willing to Braille For Others". People on that list are all NLS certified music transcribers.

[Q5B.] Transcription software

The GOODFEEL Braille Music Translator allows you to enter music into the Lime (a standard computer music notation program, available for both Windows and Macintosh), then use a set of utilities to convert it to a braille music file which can be printed on a braille printer. For more info see

E-mail:, 1754 Quarry Lane, PO Box 927, Valley Forge, PA 19482-0927, Tel: 610-783-6692,Fax: 610-783-6732

Toccata provides braille transcription from MIDI and NIF files. It incorporates a notation editor and sequencer and displays the translated braille indexed to the original score. For more info visit

The Braille Music KIT is a plug-in for Finale for Windows that allows the creation of braille music scores from Finale. It also does a number of other useful things. For more info see

[Q6.] How can I find someone in my area who knows braille music?

Call the National Library Service (800-424-8567; other contact info above) and request their list of "Transcribers Willing to Braille For Others". People on that list are all NLS certified music transcribers.

[Q7.] How can I get a specific question about braille music answered?

One way to get Braille Music questions answered is to join the Braille Music Email List (BrailleM) and ask your questions. A number of people on the list are real experts in braille music and they are always willing to help. Others on the list have various levels of experience in teaching and learning braille music so they can understand where you're coming from whether you are a beginner, an expert, or somewhere in between. The BrailleM list is generally quite low in traffic. Join the Braille Music Email List at

[Q7A.] Useful Reference books and briefly how to use them


[Q8.] What useful WWW references are there for braille music? has a list of the most common braille music symbols. has an online braille music course.

[Q9.] Where can I learn more about braille (as opposed to braille music) in general? has some nice online courses for learning braille.

An outline of the history of braille and and explanation of the basic symbols for braille text is at has a short history of braille and a list of basic braille symbols.

The American Foundation for the Blind has a variety of useful, general, resources at

A master list of blindness related email lists is at
This list is also available as a plain ASCII text file from

[Q10.] Where can I find braille fonts for my computer?

(Please note that "Braille Fonts" are only for the benefit of sighted people who wish to see a visual representation of the braille code on a computer screen.)

Theoretically TrueType fonts will work in either Windows or Macintosh. There are some issues of file format, however, although the underlying data is the same. If you know what you're doing, you should be able to get the Windows versions working in Macintosh and the reverse as well.

TrueType (Windows)

A catalog of online sources of braille (and other specialized) fonts:

Opus Technologies has a packet of 7 True Type braille fonts (some with print and braille together).

Opus Technologies
13333 Thunderhead St.
San Diego, CA 92129-2329
Phone/Fax: (619) 538-9401

[Q11.] Who Contributed to this FAQ?

FAQ Contributors: Brent Hugh, Bettye Krolick, Geoff Sinclair, Bill McCann, David Goldstein, members of the BrailleM email list and a number of others others (I hate to start mentioning names because I'm sure to forget somebody . . . ). Thanks to all contributors!

[Q12.] May I copy, forward, broadcast, or mirror this FAQ?

In short, yes. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License; visit for details.

[Q13.] Unformatted recent contributions

When I get new contributions I just dump them here in raw form. This allows much more frequent updates since I usually don't have time to mess around with formatting etc. Eventually, the info below with be organized and combined with the rest of the FAQ. In the meanwhile, you might find some gems in the rough.

As I have mentioned before on this list, I recommend the Tack-tiles for
Music as one teaching option which helps a sighted teacher (or a blind one
for that matter!) introduce music braille to students.  Another good
resource has been developed by Opus Technologies of San Diego.  They sell
a CD-ROM version of the international manual of braille music.  Contact
Sam Flores, president, at:

For more information on GOODFEEL or Tack-tiles see our web site (address


Bill McCann

Dancing Dots
Please visit our recently updated web site:

See January 2002 @Freedom Scientific Newsletter for more about our
technology and the people who use it:


1754 Quarry Lane
PO Box 927
Valley Forge, PA 19482-0927

Tel: 610-783-6692
Fax: 610-783-6732


Music Education Network for The Visually Impaired (MENVI) is headquartered at SCCM, and 
is a coalition of parents, educators, and students. Our Advisory Committee is comprised 
of blind musicians, educators, students, and administrators. There are over 60 members 
worldwide. MENVI exists for the benefit of blind students and musicians, and its profile 
and direction is essentially guided by them. 

There is no cost to join, but you must register officially. Once registered, a 
membership roster will be provided, and quarterly newsletters sent to you in print, 
braille, or e-mail. Advice and educational guidance in braille music skills are a free 
service of MENVI. 

Southern California Conservatory of Music has been located in California since 1972, and 
specializes in traditional conservatory music training and procedures. SCCM is one of 
few schools of music in the world offering on-site braille music production, training, 
and curriculum for blind students from early levels through college. Vocal, 
instrumental, composition, jazz and classic guitar studies, are among the academia. SCCM 
is the Los Angeles Headquarters for the Royal Conservatory of Music (Torronto) 
Examination Center.  

Richard Taesch, Director of the SCCM Braille Music Division, and associate Grant 
Horrocks, will present workshops on structuring of early braille music curriculum and 
music in education at the 1998 State conference of California Transcribers and Educators 
of The Visually Handicapped in March. Richard Taesch is Music Specialist for CTEVH.

For information re. SCCM, joining MENVI, or questions, contact:
	SCCM Braille Music Division
	8711 Sunland Blvd.
	Sun Valley, CA 91321
	Phone: 818-767-6554; Fax: 818-768-6242; e-mail:


1. David Goldstein, of the Music and Arts Center for the Handicapped, 600 
University Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06601 [Phone: (203) 366-3300] says that 
this institution has a braille music camp for young people grade 10 and