Feeling the Music: The Differences Between Braille Music and Print Music 

As a music teacher, working with visually impaired students can be a unique and rewarding experience. To better understand and support these students, it’s essential to recognize the differences between braille and printed music scores. By delving into the nuances of braille music notation, teachers can develop more effective teaching strategies for their visually impaired students.

Braille Music Reading Limitations
The most significant difference between braille and printed music is that braille readers can only process small sections at a time, unlike sighted musicians who can easily scan an entire score. This constraint can make finding specific parts of a piece more time-consuming. However, braille music includes bar numbers to facilitate referencing sections, as well as repeat signs and da capo markings, just like printed scores.

Memorization and Rote Teaching
Given the limited scope of braille music reading, visually impaired pianists must memorize their pieces. This challenging task demands learning every note, fingering, and articulation. While time-saving techniques can be employed, it is often more efficient for teachers to focus on what students have already learned or teach additional sections by rote. This method takes advantage of the students’ exceptional auditory skills, making learning a more enjoyable experience.

Octave Markings in Braille Music
In braille music, there are no clef symbols like the treble or bass clefs found in printed scores. Instead, octave markings are used to indicate pitch. Familiarity with these markings is crucial for teachers to effectively communicate with their visually impaired students.

Hand-crossings and Complex Compositions
When transcribing piano music into braille, it is common to assume that notes below middle C are played with the left hand, while those above middle C are played with the right hand. This assumption can make hand-crossings difficult for blind musicians to interpret. Teachers may need to assist students in determining which hand plays specific notes, especially in complex late Romantic and 20th-century compositions.

Key Signatures in Braille Music
Another notable distinction is that braille music lacks the order of sharps and flats displayed at the beginning of a printed score. Braille music only indicates the number of sharps or flats in a key, so visually impaired musicians must learn the circle of fifths early on out of necessity. Teachers should be prepared to reinforce this knowledge throughout their lessons.

By understanding the key differences between braille and printed music, teachers can develop more effective strategies for instructing visually impaired students. This knowledge enables educators to create a supportive and engaging learning environment, empowering students to explore their musical talents and achieve their full potential.

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Stephanie Mitchell is a passionate musician who loves classical music. She plays piano and also sings in her church choir and the Melbourne Synphonth chorus. Stephanie also works as a freelance writing providing web content and copywriting.

2 thoughts on “Feeling the Music: The Differences Between Braille Music and Print Music ”

  1. Wow! I really enjoy reading about what you do. As a fellow bling person, I have to tell you about a device I use in school, my day to day life and even reading your blog. Its calld MyReader and it is by a company called OrCam and it helps you read from any surface at any time.

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