Music for All with Open Source Software

I am embarrassed to admit that I have never in my life considered the struggle of blind musicians to find Braille music scores. I did not realize until last week that only about 1% of sheet music is available in an accessible format, but my friend Robert Douglass is hoping to change that with his Open Well-Tempered Clavier - Ba©h to Bach project on

To get a better idea of what the lack of Braille music scores means to an actual musician, see Eunah Choi's video below.

The Open Well-Tempered Clavier Kickstarter project began with the goal of creating a public domain score and recording of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, with the intention of making Bach's work, a cultural treasure, accessible to all without the burden of copyright. Along the way, Robert and the others behind this project discovered that full accessibility is a much greater challenge. While a public domain score and recording tears down a few walls, other walls remain for those can't see the score. To that end, the project's goal has now been extended to include a Braille version of the Bach score, and with enough funding, a means to convert tens of thousands of scores into Braille thanks to open source software.

The underlying issue is about creating a process whereby existing open source music tools can be made to work together properly, and then be used to generate Braille scores, as no open source tools yet exist for creating Braille music. The specific technical challenge will be to complete work on an open source Braille converter for the MusicXML format, which would then allow the 50,000 scores on, and any future additions, to be downloaded as a Braille file that is then readable with a Braille is a web service that facilitates creating, sharing, and storing sheet music using MuseScore's open source music notation software. As an interesting sidenote, MuseScore's popularity is on the rise compared to its proprietary equivalents (see the illustration of Google trends below), so score another point for team open source and for music educators as well.

While the initial funding goal of the Kickstarter project has been met, additional funding would allow for the additional software development necessary to take existing code from the Freedots project and, among other things, turn it into a viable and free web-service that would automatically convert MusicXML files to Braille. Read more about the technical challenges of this project at and please visit the Kickstarter site to learn all about the project.


Katherine Druckman is webmistress at You might find her chatting on the IRC channel or on Twitter.


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jacjasson's picture

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What do you get?

Robert Douglass's picture

Thanks Katherine for the great, personal, article. What can you get by backing our project, aside from good karma? How about a CD of Kimiko Ishizaka playing Bach? Or a braille embossed print of an original artwork, commissioned for this project? Or, best of all, the dedication of one of Bach's Preludes or Fugues, to someone you love, immortalizing your respect, and your support for this project.

Thanks to everyone for spreading the message about this project. Let's make it real - and fund it to the next level.

Humbly yours,

Robert Douglass