# Learning braille music notation lessons

 3 - Quarters

## Are they letters or notes?

It is well known that at first sight a Braille score is not different from any other Braille text: words, mathematics etc. Combinations of dots are layed out in lines which form pages, not very distinct from one another in appearance. This is so because each of the 63 combinations of dots in a Braille cell represents a few different symbols, e.g. dot 1 can be the letter a, digit 1 (if preceded by the numeric sign) or finger 1 in music. It can also be a component of a compound symbol. All depends on the context.
So how can we tell whether a series of Braille signs is a fragment of a tune (a measure) and not a word?
Moreover, it is worth mentioning Braille music appears as a sequence of signs, thus resembling a series of letters forming words.

Open the examples using BMR or BME

Both are very similar; they are almost the same. They consist of a series of letters: defghijd. The only difference between 1.1 and 1.2 is that in 1.2 the letters are preceded by dot 5.
Now check whether either of the two files comprises notes.
How can you do it? Simply using the “Play” function that both programmes are equipped with. If you try to play 1.1, you will not be successful. The programme will not play any tune. If you listen to the description of elements in this example at any level of speech, you will hear “unknown” or, possibly, the combination of dots.

Now do the same with 1.2. This time by using the “play” function, you have been able to hear the C major scale. The only addditional symbol which differentiated between 1.1 and 1.2 i.e. dot 5 at the beginning of the line, made it possible to convert the letters to note The symbol preceding all the other symbols is the octave mark, in this case the fourth octave. As you can see it is the octave mark that is needed to qualify various Braille signs as notes at a given pitch. Unlike notes on the staff, the Braille notes do not necessarily ha e to bd provided with a key, they have to be preceded by the octave mark instead. Octave marks provide a kind of substitute for the spatial representation of notes. The above considerations and examples are certainly not meant to state that any sequence of Braille letters or other symbols preceded by an octave mark will become a music score. What we want to point out is that a sequence of Braille symbols (selected according to the international Braille music notation) has to bear an octave mark in order to be interpreted (whether by a person, or a computer programme) as notes at a determined pitch.

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