Music notation for the blind and the visually impaired musicians - (Touch-sensitive sheet music)

Posted on April 7, 2019
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In parallel to its alternative music notation, Dodeka developed innovative and touch-sensitive sheet music for the blind and visually impaired musicians. With Dodeka, the twelve notes of the scale have their dedicated place on the score, so it is possible to identify the notes simply by touching them.

Making sheet music accessible to bling and visually impaired musicians

Blind or visually impaired people very often have extremely well-developed hearing and sensory capacities.

Although they could very likely excel in music, they have great trouble in unlocking its secrets due to the fact that the traditional notation with its forgotten notes makes it very hard to identify the note to play.

For example, the melody for “Kumbaya”, when written in the D key in conventional notation requires two sharps, which are almost impossible to identify by touch as these are literally virtual notes.

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The issue for partially sighted musicians with conventional notation is that at some point or another they have to account for the forgotten notes (i.e. sharp and flat notes) and thus add new symbols, which in turn leads to more complexity.

So, if we want to make sheet music accessible to visually impaired musicians, we have to re-think and revamp the way music notation is written.

This is exactly what Dodeka music notation does. So, let's see how this alternative music notation can benefit blind and visually impaired musicians.

Touch-sensitive scores for blind and partially sighted musicians

Unlike Braille Music (which is based on conventional music notation), Dodeka writes music with twelve notes on a staff of four lines. In the Dodeka configuration, there are no more flat or sharp signs and every note keeps its position within the staff regardless of the octave. The principle is simpler and means that one can quickly identify what note to play or sing by simply feeling where the note is positioned according to the four lines of the staff. (For more information about how the Dodeka alternative notation works, please visit the Dodeka music notation page)

On these touch-sensitive scores, a “ladder zone” is placed at the beginning of the notation to indicate the key, the tempo, and/ or where the piece begins.

The C line, which is thicker, enables the musician to find the lines indicating the position of the notes. Thanks to Dodeka innovative way to mark note duration, the length of the rectangles (that is the visual representation of the note) makes it possible to literally “feel” the length of the notes.

This graphical and sensory notation enables blind and partially sighted people to visualise music in their minds, read sheet music easily, as well as even compose their own pieces in an intuitive manner by only using their hands.

On top, since those sheet music use the exact same principle of the Dodeka notation, sighted people can also read those sheet visually, which makes them very useful in classroom or band with both visually impaired and sighted musicians. No need for other sheet music.

Example: 3-D printing music scores

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The sheets are 3D-printed. The four-line staff and the notes are embossed, so as to make them touch sensitive. This way the musician can feel where the note is located vis-à-vis the four-line structure and thus know what note to play.

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Here's an example of a touch-sensitive score of popular song "Kumbaya" printed with a 3-D printer.

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The digital version used to print the sheet music, including captions of the touch elements.

More information

Do you want to try these touch-sensitive sheet music or simply want more information? Please reach out to us.


** We are currently working on the Dodeka Music Library project, which seeks to translate as many sheet music as possible into the Dodeka notation. Check out our progress and get early access to the first ever Dodeka music library. **

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