2001 Conference Proceedings

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Tools for the Blind Music Professional, Student and Hobbyist: A Review of Technologies that Work!

William R. McCann
Dancing Dots Braille Music Technology, L.P.
PO Box 927
Valley Forge, PA 19482-0927
Tel: 610-783-6692
FAX: 610-783-6732
Email: info@dancingdots.com 
WWW: www.dancingdots.com

Anyone who is blind who studies music has numerous challenges to meet. Three of the most notable are: to become literate in music braille, to obtain music materials In a timely way, and to express his own musical ideas in conventional staff notation for sighted players. In this presentation I will briefly describe and demonstrate a number of educational resources and music technologies that offer solutions that work. Unless noted to the contrary, all of the items described below are available directly from Dancing Dots.

Tools for Literacy

New Braille Music Curriculum

Dancing Dots will publish a new curriculum on braille music designed for the mainstream teacher or music educator. The course carefully sequenced phases of learning that start with basic musicianship and lead to braille music reading and writing. The sighted teacher and blind student meet on the common ground of playing and singing music and learn to associate those sounds with their expression in braille.


Tack-tiles(r) are small rectangular blocks which show braille symbols as large raised dots and also show the corresponding print symbol for that braille character. The blocks snap on to a board much like Lego toys. There is a set for English, Spanish, French, math, computer braille and music braille. Each set contains 320 Tack-tiles, 4 large boards and 4 smaller boards for students.

How to Read Braille Music

An excellent introduction to music braille written by Bettye Krolick, an internationally recognized authority in the field. This text is written on a fifth-grade reading level and available in print, braille and CD-ROM.

Tools for Timely Production of Music Materials

The GOODFEEL® Braille Music Translator

Dancing Dots has been a pioneer in the area of automatic braille music transcription since 1992. At this writing people in twenty-one countries are using GOODFEEL to produce music materials quickly and accurately. The sighted user of GOODFEEL need not know anything about music braille. Sighted copyists can use music scanning programs and the Lime notation editor (see below) to prepare files for GOODFEEL to automatically transcribe into music braille. Blind users can also use GOODFEEL. Most of our blind customers use Cakewalk (see below) to prepare files for GOODFEEL.

Music Scanning Programs

SharpEye and SmartScore analyze a scanned image of a piece of sheet music and converts it to a music file which can be passed to Lime or Cakewalk or other mainstream music software programs for further editing and printing. SmartScore has an integrated playback feature and SharpEye can call the Windows Media Player so that blind and sighted users can audition the results of scanning before exporting the file.

Music Editors

Music editors are like word processors for music. Users can input, edit and print out their arrangements and compositions.
Lime is mainstream music software designed for and by sighted musicians. However, we have worked closely with Lime's developers to allow GOODFEEL to import and transcribe Lime's notation files. Lime allows displays a "Launch GOODFEEL" menu item on machines where GOODFEEL is installed.

Lime is not usable by a blind person. However, Cakewalk is!

Tools for Musical Self-expression

Cakewalk and CakeTalking

Cakewalk is mainstream music software which converts your PC into a recording studio. Each instrumental part is recorded on its own track and can be assigned its own sound. In addition, some tracks can be assigned to record acoustic audio such as a vocal or instrumental performance. All these sounds can be blended together to make a sound recording.

Cakewalk also has a very useful notation feature. This feature is especially handy to blind arrangers and composers since their musical ideas can be easily converted to printed notation for sighted players to perform.

CakeTalking customizes the JAWS for Windows screen reader to work seamlessly with Cakewalk. CakeTalking comes with hundreds of pages of tutorials written primarily for the blind user and multi-level online help.

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