Braille music becomes more accessible, with a little help from Sibelius

Lydia Machell of Prima Vista Braille Music Services

Today’s Guardian newspaper in the UK carries a story about the remarkable work of Lydia Machell of Prima Vista Braille Music Services. I’ve posted before about the quest that has consumed Lydia personally and professionally for the past several years, and now a couple of years on her work is approaching a critical mass, with major publishers and exam boards making their music available in Braille format thanks to the technology she has created.

At the heart of Lydia’s service is a Sibelius plug-in that extracts the musical meaning from a score and exports it as a text file that can then be output directly to a Braille embosser, effectively a printer for Braille text. The plug-in itself has taken years to write – Lydia describes it now as an “überplug-in” – but it is this technology that has made it possible to convert music quickly and easily from standard notation into Braille notation.

Before Lydia’s plug-in came along, music had to be laboriously transcribed into Braille, meaning that for most music publishers it was simply not commercially viable to make their music available in this way. Now that has all changed, and major publishers including Faber Music, Boosey and Hawkes and Schott are making select pieces available via Prima Vista. The Trinity Guildhall School of Music, which runs popular instrumental exams for students, is the first of the major exam boards to make its exam syllabus pieces available in this format.

The Guardian has also made a short, five minute film that shows the positive impact Braille music can have on the lives of blind and visually impaired musicians, embedded below.


  1. Peter Roos, San Francisco

    Wonderful story.

  2. Bob Zawalich

    “thank God for this innovation”!

    Way to go, Lydia!

  3. Robert Van Horne

    In 1983, while studying piano with George Shearing , I remember him mentioning to me that he was learning the piano score to “Porgy & Bess” using Braille. Similar to the young woman in the video, he said it was very frustrating for him using this method. Now I understand what he meant.

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