Music Service and Materials

The Music Section of the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS), Library of Congress, has expanded its initial collection—authorized by Congress in 1962—to be the largest music collection of its kind in the world, with more than 25,000 titles including braille and large-print scores and recorded instructional materials about music and musicians. Music-related magazines in audio and braille are also available.

Any person eligible for NLS service is also eligible for NLS music services. While patrons receive most NLS services through the network of cooperating libraries, NLS music materials circulate directly to patrons from the NLS headquarters in Washington, DC.

All music materials may be received via postage-free mail, and many digital audio and electronic braille (ebraille) materials are available for download via the BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) website or mobile app. Machines needed to use the audio cartridges are provided to eligible users without charge. Musical recordings intended solely for listening pleasure are not included in the music collection, as they are available from public libraries.

How to Request Music Service

Patrons already registered with a cooperating network library should contact the NLS Music Section directly either via phone (800-424-8567 ext. 2) or via email ([email protected]). Eligible individuals who are not yet registered with a network library can receive more information by calling 888-NLS-READ (888-657-7323) or visiting the Apply for NLS Service page.

Though phone and email are the most efficient means of contact, the Music Section may also be contacted by mail at:

Music Section
The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20542

The Collection

The special-format music collection consists of more than 25,000 audio, braille, and large-print music scores, texts, and other instructional materials.

The collection materials range in levels from beginning to advanced and can be searched online through the NLS Catalog. To search the NLS Catalog for items in the Music collection, open the Advanced Search or Keyword Search page then select Add Limits and choose Music Score or Music Talking Book under Type of Material. Many, although not all, braille and recorded works are available for immediate download via BARD. All large-print materials must be delivered by postal mail.

Some materials are purchased from or donated by national and international sources. Other items are selected and produced in audio and braille formats by NLS with the permission of composers, authors, and publishers. Some titles are developed solely for the NLS program.

Braille

Braille titles make up the largest portion of the collection. These include braille music transcriptions of the standard eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century repertoire for most instruments, with emphasis on piano, vocal, and choral music. The braille collection also includes earlier and later classical music, popular music, textbooks, librettos, and music instruction books.

Large Print

Large-print music, which is produced with a minimum 14-point type size and a 1-inch staff size, is available for voice, piano, and other instruments. The large-print collection also includes books about music, librettos, biographies of popular and classical musicians, general music histories, and some music reference works.

Recordings

A variety of audio recordings are available. Subjects include music theory and appreciation; interviews and master classes, opera lectures, and history; and biographical sketches of pop, jazz, and classical musicians with examples of their art. Many recorded titles are devoted to instruction in playing various instruments (e.g., guitar, piano, organ, and recorder), as well as songs for those instruments.

Magazines

Six music magazines are available by direct-mail subscription to registered users. Subscriptions may be obtained through the local cooperating library or the NLS Music Section. Several are also available via download from BARD. The magazines are:

  • Braille Music Magazine, a monthly British publication containing articles and criticism from British classical music magazines. Hard-copy embossed issues are mailed to all subscribers.
  • Contemporary Sound Track: A Review of Pop, Jazz, Rock, and Country, a bimonthly NLS-compiled sampler of articles from national magazines. It is available to subscribers on cartridge and on BARD.
  • Musical Mainstream, an NLS-compiled sampler from national magazines. It contains current articles on classical music and music education. The quarterly publication is available in braille, ebraille, and audio. Audio is available to subscribers on cartridge and on BARD.
  • Popular Music Lead Sheets, an NLS-compiled collection of melodies, lyrics, and chords to popular songs ranging from oldies to recent hits. Published quarterly in braille, it is available on BARD.
  • Quarterly Music Magazine, a single issue of a complete music magazine chosen from among commercial popular and classical offerings. This audio publication is available to subscribers on cartridge and on BARD.
  • Sound and Vision, a monthly publication containing articles and reviews of music recordings and information about technological equipment. It is available to subscribers on cartridge and on BARD.

NLS Music Notes

The Music Section has a blog on the Library of Congress website called NLS Music Notes. The blog highlights the NLS music collection, presents newly added titles, profiles musicians who are blind or visually impaired, and features braille music transcribers and their work, along with a variety of related music topics and activities. New posts appear every Thursday.

Other Publications Available from the Music Section

The Music Section has produced a number of catalogs listing available material, which can be requested along with other Music Section publications. Most are also available by download, as described below, and links are provided when available directly online. Many of these materials can also be requested in hard-copy formats by contacting the Music Section.

Catalogs

Holiday Music

Organ Braille Scores

Piano Braille Scores

Violin Braille Scores

Instructional Audio

Music Appreciation Audio

Large-Print Scores

Publications on Reading Braille Music

Publications on Special Topics and Materials

Braille Music Course Materials from Hadley

These four courses developed by the Hadley Institute are intended for adults who wish to learn braille music for themselves, to support braille music learners, and possibly pursue further training in teaching braille music or transcribing print music into braille. The courses are available in downloadable braille in BRF or in large print (LPM) in PDF from links below. The braille and audio course materials are also available to download from the Music Collection on BARD in BRM or DBM.

Braille Music Basics

Braille Music Reading

Braille Music Reading: Keyboard Music

Braille Music Reading: Vocal Music

Publications Available Elsewhere

Other Music Resources at the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress shares a great variety of music resources in print, manuscript, multimedia and recorded formats. For more information, consult the Performing Arts Division and its Digital Collections, or submit your questions via the “Ask a Librarian: Performing Arts” site. You may also enjoy streaming videos of recorded events and concerts presented by the Library of Congress.

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