1. Welcome to the Music Subject Area
In October 2012, the UKAAF Board approved the formation of a Music Subject Area (MSA) to examine and make recommendations for the production of music notation in both hard copy and electronically, covering Braille music, modified Braille music, Modified Stave Notation, large print music and Talking Scores. The group meets virtually usually three times a year to review the work of task groups tackling specific areas and to set the next steps. The group has also organised and contributed to conferences and exhibitions. MSA has published several guidance documents.
Seven of the current eleven MSA members were founder members, endeavouring to secure both continuity and change.
To contact UKAAF MSA directly please email: Sally Zimmermann
2. Group members
A large range of expertise lies within the MSA group.
James Bowden is currently the Braille Technology Officer at RNIB. He is also a pianist. He has a background in programming, writing the screen reader accessible MIDI sequencer QWS. He is involved in various braille, musical and accessibility projects.
Roger Firman (Vice-Chair) has been a member of the group since 2012 and leads the work on braille music. He represents UKAAF and ICEB (International Council on English Braille) internationally on matters relating to music and is a co-opted member of UKAAF’s Board. Professionally, he runs a business converting printed music into braille music notation.
Clare Gailans studied music at King’s College, Cambridge after being educated exclusively in braille at schools for blind students. She then worked for many years as a braille music transcriber and proof-reader, serving for ten years on the RNIB Music Sub-Committee, and for a time on earlier incarnations of the UKAAF Music Subject Area. She is a former chair of the Visually Impaired Musicians’ Association. She is also a singer and teacher of braille music, which involves teaching the theory of music.
James Hitchins, representing Higher Education, is currently Head of Student Services and Accessibility at Trinity Laban, London.
Liz Horobin studied music at Edinburgh University and the Welsh College of Music and Drama, and worked for many years as a piano teacher and accompanist. She has worked in the British Dyslexia Association since 2010 as project director and has now taken up the role of head of open and onsite training.
Peter Marchant, pianist and developer of software and hardware projects related to music. To assist him with seeing music, he developed software to enlarge music/lyrics and scroll with a pedal. This lead to his current involvement with software for Talking Scores, making them interactive, analytical and customisable, plus adding voice control to make them more of a conversation.
James Risdon was the Music Officer at RNIB for nearly ten years and has been a member of the UKAAF Subject Area since its inception. In September 2017 he took up the post of Access Coordinator at ABRSM where he is responsible for ensuring reasonable adjustments for candidates with a wide range of specific needs. James is also a recorder player with a repertoire spanning the middle ages to several commissions.
Daniel Spreadbury is Product Marketing Manager for Dorico at Steinberg. He has worked in the field of music notation software for 20 years, and is also currently one of the three co-chairs of the W3C Music Notation Community Group charged with the creation of the successor format to MusicXML, in which accessibility concerns play a role.
Anne Wilkins is a soprano based in Wales. She gained her FTCL and ARCM in singing performance whilst at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. She has won the Lieder Competition at the National Eisteddfod of Wales twice. Anne teaches singing and piano, is passionate about encouraging music literacy through braille music and is the administrator of a chamber orchestra.
Melanie Wren is Lead Transcription Executive for music at RNIB, having studied music theory and recorder at primary school, continuing her studies at secondary with clarinet and piano and majoring in music in a combined arts degree. She has been a music transcriber for RNIB for over 20 years, producing braille music in all formats.
Sally-Anne Zimmermann is the subject lead for Music. She has been Music Adviser at the Royal National Institute of Blind People since 1994. She is a Qualified Teacher of the Visually Impaired and has a Master’s Degree in Music Education.
3. Music Subject Area (MSA) work
In this section there are links to guidelines and other documents written by the MSA, along with general information and links to external resources. This is arranged according to the task groups.
MSA regularly contributes articles to UKAAF’s magazine “Format Matters.”
The UKAAF minimum standards documents are free to download in doc, docx, and PDF formats and are listed below. To obtain an electronic version, simply select the UKAAF document you wish to access and you will then be taken to the UKAAF download page where you can download it.
Hardcopy versions of UKAAF’s documents in print, large print, synthetic audio and braille are available to purchase (14 day delivery). UKAAF members benefit from being able to purchase these at a reduced rate. To enquire about purchasing accessible format versions please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
3A Braille music
Current UKAAF documents
B017 Braille Music and Unified English Braille
This guidance summarises and clarifies the impact of the implementation of Unified English braille on music braille transcription
UKAAF Braille Music Podcast series
The “Journey through braille music” is a six-part podcast series describing the history, development and uses of braille music. The podcast series is presented by Sandra Gayer who is a soprano singer, a broadcast presenter and a braille music teacher. Alongside Sandra, the series features guest speakers James Risdon, Access Coordinator for ABRSM, James Bowden an organist and pianist, Clare Gailans, a singer who uses braille music and is also a braille music proof reader and Melanie Wren who is the Lead Transcription Executive for Music at RNIB:
- Episode one (opens in new window): This episode discusses the history and background of braille and music.
- Episode two (opens in new window): The second episode considers music for single line instruments.
- Episode three (opens in new window): Vocal music is the theme of this episode.
- Episode four (opens in new window): The focus of episode four is keyboard music.
- Episode five (opens in new window): More advanced topics are considered in the penultimate episode.
- Episode six(opens in new window): The final episode is a summary and talks about available resources
Other standards materials
The current international standard for the braille music code is the New International Manual of Braille Music Notation. There are variations to this in many countries and also in individual braille transcription services. New International Manual of Braille Music Notation
The music group have released a worldwide listing of organisations producing and loaning braille music. Compiler’s Notes contains details of organisations who loan or produce braille music. Each entry includes a link to the organisation’s website, contact details where available and brief notes about what is offered. A Worldwide Listing of Organisations Producing or Loaning Braille Music
UKAAF works closely with ICEB via both the ICEB Executive and its Music Committee. Importantly, there are also organisational links with the European Blind Union (EBU) through to the World Blind Union (WBU) with its World Braille Council (WBC). As braille music is international, it is vital to engage with countries and organisations on the world stage.
The group is currently articulating collated views on a DAISY project examining automated transcription from stave notation to braille music. Please see the articles in Format Matters Issues 29 and 30. The project’s progress is shown at Daisy Braille Music Project
UKAAF MSA works with the music committee of British Dyslexia Association (BDA). A research project comparing the marks obtained for the prepared and unprepared sections of graded music examinations for candidates declaring they had dyslexia is currently underway. Outcomes are anticipated to include description of teaching strategies that aid students who have dyslexia in their reading of stave notation.
UKAAF MSA gave two short presentations at BDA’s Music and Dyslexia conference at Morley College, London, in October 2018.
3C Modified Stave Notation
Modified Stave Notation (second edition) describes what MSN is and how to vary individual symbols and general layout to produce consistently formatted scores.
MuseScore is the free musical notation with the most flexible layout and settings to produce tailor made MSN. There are several tutorials on their website. MuseScore. RNIB library hold an MSN collection. See RNIB Library Recent work has been examining colour notations and also looking at the metadata used in transcriptions.
3D Talking Scores
An article about Talking Scores appears in Format Matters Issue 29.
A talking score is a spoken representation of the stave notation. These scores are produced in a format that aims to make understanding and learning the notation as easy as possible and they often include recordings of the music being played.
Talking Scores have been developed by various groups (in various countries) including the RNIB in the 1990s. The best way to describe music to make it easy to learn may vary depending on the complexity of a passage and on the preferences of each musician. Some recordings are quite bespoke, so producing a talking score manually is quite time consuming and not always a straightforward process – but work is being carried out to produce Talking Scores using software.
The production and use of Talking Scores is an area of ongoing research and development. We welcome your thoughts and feedback, as well as suggestions for any other projects we should mention.
Combines the Lime stave notation editor software with the screen reader JAWS, so that music can be composed, edited, played and described. Lime will import MusicXML files. The package comes with SharpEye Music Reader which allows sheet music to be scanned into the software. See Lime Aloud
This website converts MusicXML files into text describing the music which is ready to be spoken with a screen reader. It aims to automate the “scores on tape” that RNIB produced manually in the 1990s. The music (including dynamics and other detail surrounding the notes) is described a bar at a time, beat by beat, in phrase groups. There are headings for each bar/group of bars to aid navigation through the description. See Talking Scores
When a score is represented visually, the reader can choose which elements to read as he or she learns various elements of the music. When a score is read, it is linear and may contain information that is not currently wanted. For example, the reader may wish to learn the tune or just the lowest notes in the left hand of a piano piece. This software aims to address those difficulties by making the music, description and analysis very dynamic, allowing it to be controlled by voice. This makes the talking score more of a conversation! See Talking Sheet Music
IBOS MusicXML Reader is developed by the Danish Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired. It allows a MusicXML file to be played, a description output as text (for a screen reader) and output as braille. The music can contain multiple parts (instruments/tracks). Playback, text and braille each have their own selection of parts, for example, read the braille for the flute part whilst listening to the piano part. The braille and text descriptions have their own filters controlling what is extra information is included in the description, such as, octaves, rhythm, bar numbers. See IBOS MusicXML Reader
Standard guitar tab uses blocks of six lines (one for each string) with numbers representing frets. A standard screen reader will only read one line at a time, making it almost impossible to understand how what is played on one string relates to what is played on the other strings and how they fit together. See Talking Tab
This website will convert Guitar Pro tab files into text for a screen reader friendly or into braille which could be embossed.
Lunar Tabs: Intelligent Accessible Guitar Tab Reader
Lunar Tabs is an Android application (plus similar desktop version for Windows and Mac) which allows Guitar Pro tab files to be described by a screen reader. The Android version also includes a feature to find unique sections of the music so they only need to be learnt once. The app can be used hands free. Lunar Tabs
3E Digital Developments
The Orbit Reader 20 is portable and features 20 refreshable eight-dot braille cells. It offers reading books via SD card, simple note-taking, Bluetooth and USB connectivity. Orbit comes loaded with a braille music score Orbit Reader.
4A Upcoming events
28 and 29 May 2019 – DAISY Braille music Project meeting, Geneva.
4B Past events
20 October 2018 Music and Dyslexia, Morley College, London
16 March 2018 – demonstration of music braille on the Canute 360, developed by Bristol Braille Technology, which is described by the social enterprise as, ‘the world’s first viable multi-line refreshable braille e-reader: a “Kindle for blind people.”‘ A report is available at BBC In Touch
5 MSA document archive
G009 Modified Stave Notation
G009 UKAAF Modified Stave Notation meeting individual needs for large print music PDF
G009 UKAAF Modified Stave Notation meeting individual needs for large print music DOCX
G009 UKAAF Modified Stave Notation meeting individual needs for large print music DOC