University of Edinburgh

Music Performing, Creating and Listening

Presented on Wednesday 5 March 2008

Higher / Intermediate 1 and Intermediate 2 Music
Adaptations for pupils with VI

Louisa Morley, Royal Blind School Music Department


  • Enlarged music is not good with most VI as the pupils find scanning across and down the page very difficult.
  • Enlarged letter names are good but loses notation aspect which is important for pupils studying at this level.
  • Enlarged pring / musical notation will probably need to be enlarged to a higher level than normal reading print as it will be on a music stand and hot held as close to the eye as normal reading.
  • Aurally; by demonstrating and getting pupils to copy, phrase by phrase, until they have committed the piece to memory. This is a good method but without any memory aid, the pupils cannot progress much further without having one to one attention from teacher. This becomes increasingly difficult in a larger class of pupils with VI.
  • Use of 'locators'. Blue tack can be placed on keyboard, piano, tuned percussion notes, to act as markers so that pupils can feel their way slightly more easily.
  • Braille musical notation is extremely complex to learn and has limitations as pupils cannot read braille with their finers and play their instrument at the same time. Worth learning braille music though if pupils are likely to study music at University level.


  • Use of Cubanese-computer program, where pupils can record up to 16 tracts of music, selecting instruments and recording them on top of one another.
  • This has limitations. Keyboard shortcuts are available but for selecting instruments, the mouse function is required so pupils without enough vision cannot move the mouse to the correct place and click on the correct instrument.

VI computer programs

JAWS - Jaws is a screen reader. When the mouse or cursor is moved onto a particular item on the screen, Jaws will read out the item. There is still a navigation issue as pupils do not know where to move the cursor to find what they need. Usually they just go through everything on the screen until Jaws reads out the name of the file they are looking for!

Supernova - is a screen enlarger that can magnify the invention (or any other work) to the required size. It can also change colours and contrasts for pupils who have difficulties with viewing certain colours or reading text on a particular colour background.

Composing on an Instrument

For some pupils, using the computer is too intrusive and becomes more of an obstacle than a tool. For these pupils, we encourage them to compose freely on their strongest instrument. We then record or notate their work, so that they can add bass part / drums / counter melody to it.


For the listening course at Intermediate and Higher, there is a huge amount of information to be remembered.

We teach our listening course in the following modules:

  • Scottish music
  • Jazz/Blues and world music
  • History of music
  • Instruments and instrumental groups
  • Music theory

For each module we give the pupils a CD with the concepts described, followed by a nusical example of each. This seems to work well.

In addition to the aural tools, pupils also get braille or enlarged print books for each module. In the examination, pupils will be required to recognize foreign musical terms and also Gaelic words so it is important that they know how the words are spelt.

Bookport and Braille note

Some of the pupils use a bookport to help them remember information. A bookport is a small audio recorder. Microsoft Word files can be pasted onto it and the machine reads them out.

Braille note is a small laptop computer with a screen that displays braille. Pupils can type their own braille notes during the lesson. They can then have these notes read back to them by the machine or they can get the machine to emboss the notes in braille for them to have a hard copy.

Adapted listening papers for SQA examinations

For all papers for VI pupils, a musically literate scribe is required to write in the answers to questions involving musical notation. Some pupils have the papers enlarged or written in braille. Others will struggle with this so will require a reader for the entire paper.

For questions involving musical notation

The questions are the most difficult for pupils with VI to answer. The question often involves filling in melody notes or a missing rhythm. One method is to ask pupils to say the note names / values of the missing section. However, as the correct answer is often a repetition of what has gone before, pupils without vision are at a disadvantage as they cannot see which notes / values are written previously. Therefore we decided that this method was not working to our pupils' advantage.

After discussion with the SQA, we now have the questions adapted to that pupils have to sing the missing notes or clap the missing rhythm. The scribe then writes in what the pupil has sung/clapped. This seems to result in pupils with VI performing better in these questions.