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MusicXML to Braille Music translation


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This paper presents the development of the Braille Music and MusicML Translation. The input can be from a keyboard instrument, a Braille music file or a MusicML file. It will also play music from the input file. The program runs on Microsoft Windows and provides a graphic user interface which works with the screen reader JAWS. This work will help the visually impaired and the sighted people in learning and teaching music.
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MusicXML to Braille Music Translation
Aphisada Inthasara, Ladawan Mipansaen, Pichaya Tandayya, Chatchai Jantaraprim and
Patimakorn Jantaraprim
Department of Computer Engineering, Prince of Songkla University, THAILAND
This paper presents the development of the Braille Music and
MusicML Translation. The input can be from a keyboard
instrument, a Braille music file or a MusicML file. It will also
play music from the input file. The program runs on Microsoft
Windows and provides a graphic user interface which works with
the screen reader JAWS.
This work will help the visually impaired and the sighted people
in learning and teaching music..
The visually impaired people communicate with one another by
perceiving sound and touching. Music is a relaxing way of
communication, entertainment and relaxation. However, it is easy
for the visually impaired people to learn and play music. Music
notation [1] is rather complex and are mostly collected in forms of
notation for sighted people. MusicXML is an extensible markup
language that allows collecting and playing music on the web [2].
This work focuses on translation from the MusicXML document
to Braille Math. The work also concerns getting input from a
electronic keyboard and playing notes following the MIDI format.
2.1 MusicXML Formats
MusicXML or Music Extensible Markup Language [2] provides
formats for music notation following the W3C. The important
parts of the music notation are step, octave and type. This three
parts are also used in the Music Instrument Digital Interface
(MIDI) standard [3-11].
2.2 NFBTRANS Program
The NFBTRANS program [12] is an open source written in C that
is developed by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) in the
United States. It can run on both Linux and Microsoft Windows
operating systems. It can translate English to Braille and Braille
to English in both grades (1 and 2). In addition, it supports Braille
text printing on embossers. The program is used in this work for
English and Braille translation capability. In this work, the
program is used for translating characters (grade 1).
2.3 Standard MIDI File Format
The Music Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) [3-11] is used as a
format for transmitting and exchanging sound signals. It can
collect music notes for songs.
2.4 Braille Computer Code
Braille Computer Code is a Braille system for being used on
computers. Thai Braille has rooted from English Braille [13].
2.5 XML Parser
XML Parser is a parser simply written in C++. It is small, easy to
use and flexible [14]. It supports several encodings including the
Thai font TIS-620. The parsing process starts from that the XML
parser loads a full xml file into memory. Then, it parses the file
and generates a tree structure representing the xml file. After that,
the data can be collected by traversing nodes in the tree. There are
3 parts of functions for extract data from the XML structure as
1. Start Tag is for extracting data from opening tags such as
Element name, Attribute, Attribute Value.
2. Text is for extracting data in between the opening tag and end
3. End Tag is for extracting data from end tags such as Element
Figure 1 shows the overview diagram of the software. There are
two modes to get input
Figure 1 Overview diagram of the software
In Mode 1, the program receives the musicXML input file to be
translated into a Braille Computer Code (BCC) file using the
NFBTRANS program and also creating a MIDI file (.midi) for
playing the song.
In Mode 2, the program receives the input file from a keyboard
instrument and then translates it into Braille Computer Code
(BCC) using the NFBTRANS program. It also creates MIDI files
(.midi extension) and plays the song [15-17].
There are main functions in the program.
1. MusicXML to Braille music translation
2. Music playing
Table 1. Table Structure of Music XML
Figure 2 Sequence Diagram for the translation
Figure 3 Sequence diagram for playing music
The MusicXML to Braille music translation is shown in Figure 2
and 3. The input MusicXML file will be parsed through Functions
XmlNodeRef(), parseToSetMember() and XmlParser [14]. The
information between tags will be checked if it is a note. Next, the
information will be translated into a Braille computer code using
the NFBTrans version 7.70.
In case of playing music from the input file, there are three tasks
to do this work.
1. get the data parsed from the MusicXML input file that can be
translated into Braille Computer Code (BCC)
2. categorize the data for the format of a MIDI file
3. translate the data into a MIDI file for playing
The Music XML format is shown in Figure 4 and described in
Table 1.
Figure 4 MusicXML format
Figure 5 Music XML notation
Figure 5 compares the Music XML notation to normal music note
pattern as follows.
The first part (1) is to announce the id and part name, Music in
this case.
The second part (2) notes an octave key used. In this case, a Sol
key which starts from the second line of the 5 musical lines is
Element name Function
Score-partwise Root element
Identification Identify the detail of the song
Part-list Inform id and part name
Part Musical part
Measure Inform the order of notes
Attribute Inform the key used
Note Inform the notes used
The third part (3) informs the time signature used. In this case, it
is 4-4.
The forth part (4) informs the note used. In this case, it is Do in
the forth octave.
Figure 6 shows the use case diagram of the program. The user
interface has been designed so that the user can edit, translate and
display documents. The input can be Braille music or MIDI.
Figure 7 shows the graphic user interface of the program. The red
points 1-8 in Figure 8 are the interfaces that can be explained as
1) Select the instrument according to the MIDI standard.
2) Virual keyboard
3) Keypress data
4) Data sent from the keyboard informing alphabetical notes,
octaves and type.
5) Translated XML data
6) Braille music text
7) Buttons for translating from XML to Braille
8) Sound control panel
Figure 6 Use case diagram of the program
The translation steps are shown in Figure 8 (next page). In case of
translating an Music XML file, the XML Parser is used for
parsing tags and musical data before being translated into a
Braille music file.
The program gets a Music XML file or MIDI input from a MIDI
keyboard controller. The data from a keyboard will be checked in
terms of type of note, which octave, and duration of key pressed.
This information will be written in text files, i.e., Alphabetical,
Octave and Type (Figure 9) in order to help organizing the data
before being translated into a Music XML file.
Figure 7 User Interface
Figure 9 Files involved in translation
There are 2 types of input collection as follows.
• Input from a USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
After connecting a MIDI keyboard controller to a computer, the
program will check whether the keyboard driver is correct. If not,
the user can select a correct one from the list provided. This is
shown in Figure 10. The steps for checking notes are shown in
Figure 11. After a key is pressed, the data will be sent from the
MIDI keyboard controller to the connected computer. Then, the
program checks the step and octave, and looks up the note table.
• Input from a Music XML file
After loading a Music XML file, the user can check and edit the
file before translation. However, the user must know the exact
format of the Music XML in order to correctly edit the file.
Otherwise, the translation program may not translate it correctly.
Figure 8 Translation steps
Figure 10 Input collection from a USB MIDI keyboard
This work presents an application program that can translate
MusicXML documents into Braille Computer Code (BCC)
documents and play music from the input file. In order to do so,
an XML parser is used for parsing the information from the tags.
After being categorized, the parameters are used for translating
into a BCC format file by NFBTrans or playing the music
following the MIDI format. It can also get input from a MIDI
keyboard controller for translating to BCC. The program provides
a Graphic User Interface that works with the screen reader Jaws to
ease both the sighted and the visually impaired. The program
connects to the MIDI keyboard controller hiding the configuration
work. The delay in during play time is rather low. In summary, it
can collect input from the MIDI keyboard controller to build a
Music XML file as well as a MIDI file. It can also play MIDI
This work has been funded by National Electronics and Computer
Technology Center (NECTEC). The host university is Prince of
Songkla University, partly joined with Mahidol University and
the Thailand Association of the Blind.
[1] MUSIC LESSON II Theory Reference,
[2] MusicXML Definition,
[3] The MIDI File Format Spec,
[4] The MIDI-Compatible Part of MusicXML,
[5] Wrapper Library for Windows MIDI API,
[6] Note names, MIDI number and frequencies,
[7] The International MIDI association,“Standard MIDI-File
Spec. 1.1,” The International MIDI Association, Los
Angeles, USA
[8] MIDI,
[9] Improv How to: Basic MIDI Output,
[10] Virtual Midi Control Interface,
[11] MIDI Software,
[12] Nfbtrans version 7.70, Website by Nation Federation of the
Blind (NFB), http://
[13] Braille Music Code 1997 Table of Contents,
[14] Source code XML Parser,
[15] How to code a program that can play sound, http://
[16] How to play and record sounds,
[17] Sound in C++,
Figure 11 Steps for checking notes
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