Tag Archives: MuseScore

MuseScore Accessibility Demo

Tomorrow I will be doing a live streaming video demonstration of MuseScore’s accessibility features (both current and “coming soon”) as part of my MuseScore Cafe series:

I’ll have a special guest with me as we go over how to use keyboard shortcuts and a screenreader to read and write sheet music in standard notation.

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Updates – Summer 2019

I haven’t given this blog as much attention as I would have liked, as other projects have demanded their attention lately. But I am coming back to this now and would like to tell you about some of what is happening.

First, on a personal note, I (Marc Sabatella) am preparing to begin work with a blind student this fall and will use it as an opportunity to assess the current state of tools first-hand. I am also in a position where if I can find funding (e.g., grants), I will be able to make the time this year to work on accessibility close to full time. So I would very much appreciate any leads.

Second, regarding MuseScore: we have been continuing to make incremental progress, and once some pending changes are completed, merged into the main code, and released, I think we will finally be able to say we have an accessible music notation program (possible as soon as this fall). Here is a post on the MuseScore forum: https://musescore.org/en/node/292383.

There are a few other Braille tools that have been in development for a while that I would like to highlight here.

Toby Rush’s Braille Music Notator is now open source. This unique web-based tool allows blind and sighted users alike to read and write Braille music in BRF format. In the realm of conversion from MusicXML, Haipeng Hu continues to work on an ambitious framework for a Braille conversion tool he calls BrailleOrch. Meanwhile the music21 programming system – which is also open source – continues to make progress, both as a music representation system in general and with respect to its Braille support in particular.

MuseScore 2.0 Beta 1 released, with accessible score reading support

As I related in a previous article, we have been working on making MuseScore accessible.  It is a large project as MuseScore was never designed with accessibility in mind, and the Qt framework used by MuseScore has a number of issues that make it difficult to produce fully accessible applications of any complexity.  Plus of course, simply deciding how to present standard music notation in an accessible way is a difficult problem in itself.

However, as of yesterday, the MuseScore 2.0 Beta 1 release is available, and the first round of accessibility support is in!  It has been tested with NVDA on Windows and works well with that.  There are mixed reports using Jaws, VoiceOver (Mac), and Orca (Linux).  We have Andrei Tuicu – a Romanian student working through the Google Summer of Code – to thank for the new accessibility features.  I (Marc Sabatella) served as his mentor for the project.

So far, all that is fully accessible is score reading functionality – the ability to load a score and navigate through it while hearing the contents of the score read aloud.  The basic menu commands should be self-explanatory, although there are still some glitches with how the menus read due to what appear to be Qt issues.  It seems no worse than many other programs, though.  You can also use the File / Export menu to convert to other formats, hit Space to listen to play back, or hit Tab to access the program toolbar.

With a score loaded, the right and left cursor keys move forward and backwards through the score a note at a time, and the screenreader should read the notes aloud (pitch, duration, etc).  In addition, when using the cursor keys with Ctrl+Alt+Shift, it will move not just note by note, but will also include the clefs, key signatures, time signatures, and barlines.  Information about articulations, dynamic markings, lyrics, and so forth are read along with the notes they are attached to.

The MuseScore team welcomes feedback on the new accessibility of MuseScore 2.0 Beta 1.  The best way to do that is to post a thread to their Technology Preview forum.

We all realize, of course, the score reading is only part of the battle.  Next up will be to make score creation and editing accessible.  Actually, it is partially accessible already, but many important markings – key signatures – will be difficult or impossible to create.  Still, when MuseScore first starts up, there is a blank 32-bar score already loaded (key of C, 4/4) and you should be able to start typing in notes at least.  Press “N” to enter note input mode, then select a duration using the number keys on your keyboard (3-7 are sixteenth note through whole note), then type a letter name for pitch.  There is of course a lot more to note entry than this, and again, only some of it will work without use of the mouse, but that should get you started and give you an idea of the potential.

Google Summer of Code

I’ve been very busy lately helping with the MuseScore 2.0 release, which is moving along but still not what I’d call “imminent”.  So not much activity on the accessibility front I’m afraid.

However, one bit of news to report: the annual Google Summer of Code is now accepting applications for mentoring organizations.  At some point, I could imagine establishing the Accessible Music Notation Project itself as a candidate, but knowing what I know about the process, I can safely say we’re nowhere near ready.  On the other hand, MuseScore successfully participated last year, and is applying again this year.  I have contributed an accessbility proposal that I hope a student chooses if MuseScore is accepted as mentoring organization:

http://musescore.org/en/developers-handbook/google-summer-code/ideas-2014#Accessibility-for-Visually-Impaired-Musicians

The basic idea if it all works out is that student would be paid by Google to work on this project.  Doing everything required to make MuseScore fully accessible is beyond the scope of what one student could get done in one summer, but I do think there couldf be some significant impact.  So I hope MuseScore is accepted and that a student selects this proposal to work on!

If anyone else interested in issues of accessibility and music notation would like to apply to become a mentoring organization, you have until February 14 to get your application in.  Students interested in getting paid to do this work, applications are accepted starting March 10.

Here is the site for the Google Summer of Code:

https://www.google-melange.com/gsoc/homepage/google/gsoc2014