Visually impaired musicians can learn to play music by following Braille music. Like the more common Braille system for reading developed for people with blindness, this type of Braille code includes a six-point format of raised Braille cells for musicians to follow. Each symbol is given its own specific musical notation that is separate from the values used for the Braille reading cells.
Each arrangement of Braille music cells resembles a domino. Instead of being inverted, however, each small circle is raised to create a small bump for fingers to follow. In addition to musical notes, octave marks and specific musical terminology and instructions are also noted in Braille with this system. Users of musical Braille, for example, may encounter cells representing words such as triplet, staccato, or mezzo-forte. This allows them to play, write, or read music as well as the specific instructions for how to play a song.
Louis Braille, who created the reading system, taught students to play music. A pianist, he was determined to help people with blindness be able to not just read, but to also read music. People who learn to read Braille music can also use the system to write their own songs. Braille developed the musical system of Braille based not upon the traditional notes that many musicians and singers are used to following, but on the musical scale of sounds. The note C, for example, was provided with a set of cells signifying D, for "do", which is the first musical tone.
Many books and online tutorials are available for students who wish to learn more about Braille music. These may be especially helpful for music teachers who wish to engage their visually impaired students but are unsure about how to do so. A number of options are also available for teachers, musicians, and other interested persons to translate sheet music directly into Braille for others to enjoy. These are available as computer software programs or through national service organizations, such as the National Braille Association. When teachers or caregivers help students learn musical Braille, they normally do so with the help of a visual Braille guide.
People interested in Braille music may also learn more through organizations for people with special needs and the arts. Resources are also available from schools for the visually impaired. Correspondence courses are sometimes available through these and other resources as well.