Braille Music Tools

There are a number of tools for creating and working with Braille music notation.  Our intent with this document is to provide an assessment of the strengths and weakness of each of them, but currently we have only brief synopses.  We welcome feedback from users of these systems so we can provide more useful information to other readers.

GOODFEEL

GOODFEEL is the most well-known and probably the most complete package for producing Braille music scores, consisting of the GOODFEEL translator itself as well as Lime notation software for direct computer entry of scores and SharpEye for scanning of printed scores.  These tools run on Windows and are usable by blind and sighted users alike.  Blind users can take advantage of the Lime Aloud scripts to make Lime more accessible.  An open issue is to improve the ability to automatically convert standard MusicXML files (produced by other notation programs like Finale, Sibelius, or MuseScore) into the Lime format used by GOODFEEL.

Braille Music Editor

The Braille Music Editor (BME) is a commercial product for Windows (?) that allows users to create Braille scores directly.  It can export to MusicXML, allowing easier interchange with other notation programs.

FreeDots

FreeDots is an open source program that can automatically convert notated music in the form of MusicXML files into Braille.  Automated conversion will likely never be as sophisticated as the results an expert can obtain using a program like GOODFEEL, but automation is nice in itself, and so is the fact that FreeDots is indeed free.  It is provided as a Windows installer or as Java source that should run on other platforms as well.  It is unknown to us how well it works or what its limitations are.

There is an online front end to this program that you can run without installing anything:

http://musicxml2braille.appspot.com/

Braille Music Compiler

Mario Lang, the developer of FreeDots, is currently working on a program called Braille Music Compiler designed to solve the opposite problem: how to get from Braille to standard notation.  This is still in the early stages, but appears to be quite promising.  His goal is to eventually produce a full-fledged editor that can import and export both Braille and MusicXML.  It is an ambitious project and he could use help, especially with the GUI aspect of things, so if you are programming skills, check it out and see if perhaps there is anything you can do here.

As of this writing (August 2013), Mario is in the process of moving his project to a new site, so if the previous link does not seem to be active, try the new one.

music21

music21 is not a single program but rather a programming toolkit that can be used to create utilities for working with musical scores.  A very basic program to convert MusicXML to Braille could be written in literally 5 minutes using music21, but it would presumably suffer the same sorts of limitations as other free automated programs like FreeDots.  It is possible a more sophisticated and potentially more interactive program could be built with more effort that would be a reasonable compromise between the simplicity and limitations of FreeDots on one hand and the complexity and expense of GOODFEEL on the other.

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