1. Welcome to 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 tasks 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:

2. Group members

A large range of expertise lies within the MSA group.

James Bowden

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 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
I studied music at King’s College, Cambridge after being educated exclusively in braille at schools for blind students. I 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. I am a former chair of the Visually Impaired Musicians’ Association. I am a singer and teach braille music, which of course involves teaching the theory of music.

James Hitchin, representing Higher Education

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

Daniel Spreadbury

Anne Wilkins

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.

Vacancy, British Dyslexia Association representative

Sally-Anne Zimmermann is the subject lead for Music. She has been Music Adviser at the Royal National Institute of Blind People  since 1994.

3. Task groups

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

B017 Braille Music and Unified English Braille, PDF
B017 Braille Music and Unified English Braille, DOCX File
B017 Braille Music and Unified English Braille, embossable braille 38C x 27L

The UKAAF minimum standards documents are free to download in doc, docx 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

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 through available resources

Other standards materials

The current braille music code is the New International Manual of Braille Music Notation.

The music group have released a worldwide listing of organisations producing and loaning Braille music.

A worldwide listing of organisations producing and loaning Braille music

3B Dyslexia

UKAAF MSA works with the music committee of British Dyslexia Association (BDA). See

3C Modified Stave Notation

Current publication

Modified Stave Notation (second edition) describes what MSN is and how to vary individual symbols and general layout to produce consistently formatted scores.

B016 UKAAF Modified Stave Notation May 2017 DOCX

Currently 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.

RNIB library hold an MSN collection. See

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.

Lime Aloud 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.

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.

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!

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.

Talking Tab

Standard guitar tab uses blocks of six lines (one for  each string) with numbers represent frets. A standard screen read 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.

This website will convert Guitar Pro tab files into text is screen reader friendly or could be embossed in braille.

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.

3E Digital Developments


4 Events

4A Upcoming

20 October 2018 Music and Dyslexia, Morley College , London –

4B Past events

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

James Bowden is currently Braille Technology Officer at RNIB. He has background in programming, writing the accessible MIDI sequencing QWS. He is involved in various braille, musical and accessibility projects.