Hi, my name is Roger Firman and I am Chair of the UK Association for Accessible Formats, an Association whose mission is to make every document accessible. One of our groups is devoted to music covering a wide spectrum of activities.
I am also a musician whose main instrument is the classical organ.
How it began
Music was always part of family life, from radio and recordings, my sister played the piano too. I loved listening to classical music and the wide variety of works from different centuries featuring many instruments.
I attended a specialist school for blind children and was introduced to braille music around age seven. As I was learning the piano, the music was a vehicle for me to learn the pieces and gradually become more independent.
When you start learning something new you have to devote time and effort to acquiring skills and knowledge. This was certainly no different for me!
The great breakthrough is when you can turn what you read into actual music. Knowing what the signs mean is one thing but what is more crucial is being able to actually play a musical score.
How Braille music has impacted my life.
Braille music has been a daily aspect of my life for many years both as a musician and also as a producer of braille music in my business life.
Playing music does impact your well-being and I think many of us will have experienced this for ourselves during lockdown. There is so much evidence indicating how music plays an invaluable role in our mental health, we think of musicians in Ukraine at the present time who have given hope and lifted the spirits of many at a time of such tragedy.
Learning Braille music.
To effectively learn braille music, it is helpful to have a good grounding in literary braille.
You also have to put time aside for the task, acknowledging that learning music is a vehicle for you to gain independence and of course, you need to enjoy the challenge!
Seek help from other people along the road. Having these skills can be an effective way into finding new friends in, for instance, a choir or choral group. You can also participate in activities as a professional musician if that is the direction you take.
- UKAAF Music Subject Area – Braille music podcast series and manual of Braille music notation.
- The DAISY project, working to make braille music scores available to more blind musicians worldwide.
- Talking Scores – a spoken representation of stave notation.
- Lunar tabs – Accessible Guitar Tab Reader.
- The Amber Trust – Providing musical opportunities for blind and partially sighted children.
- RNIB Music Advisory Service – Supporting people with sight loss in any aspect of music-making from transcription services, reading music in accessible formats and loaning music.