About Music: Accessing the NLS Music Section

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Many patrons of the Pennsylvania Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped know that they have access to the NLS Music Section, but I suspect that not all of our patrons with musical ambitions have tapped the resource. What does the music section provide? How does it work? Who will I talk to on the phone? Can I access the Music Section through BARD? If these questions have been leaving you hesitant about accessing the service, we’re here to provide some answers and demystify the Music Section.

What does the Music Section Provide?

The section provides braille, audio, and large print access to scores, music learning material, and music appreciation material to any patron of the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

If you’re interested in scores, you can find their catalog on BARD or call the music section to request a piece. The NLS Music Section has a braille publication called PMLS: Popular Music Lead Sheets that you can also search through on the internet or request over the phone.

In the materials about music, you’ll find that the section is not a “listener” library, it is more of a music “appreciation” service. If you’re looking for full length albums to listen to, you’ll have better luck with borrowing from your local public library. That being said, this section can provide you with extensive information about music. It will help you learn the history of music, how to distinguish different styles, and provide examples of different genres. Instead of providing you with a recording of an opera, the music section will provide you with a description about the opera.

How does it work? Who will I talk to on the phone?

The Music Section of the NLS has been providing material for musicians with visual impairments since 1962. The service works just like your state Library for the Blind. The Music Section has 6 Music Reader Advisors prepared to help you with the catalog. If you don’t get through when you call, leave a message and they will call you back as soon as possible. Some of the Music Reader Advisors also have visual impairments and are patrons of the service themselves. The most popular materials are for learning and playing guitar and piano. A patron can check out material for 3 months at a time. The music section has all of its physical material at the distribution center in Washington DC. Before they mail out a score of braille music, a braille reader in the library proofreads the piece to make sure it’s correct.

If you’d still like to learn more about the music section and their exciting features, you can check out their blog, Music Notes.

BARD and the Music Section

You can use BARD to download braille or audio. If you do not find a score in braille that you are looking for on BARD, you can call the Music Section and request that they scan the braille document to make it available.

On the Music Section’s home page in BARD, you’ll find a link to the PMLS: Popular Music Lead Sheets in braille. This leads you straight to the easy to read list of available braille scores, so you don’t have to search through all the different types of material they have available.

Get Started

Think you’re ready to test out the Music Section? Since here in Pittsburgh we’re the audio section for Pennsylvania, I’ve selected three audio titles that will help a beginner get from theory to instruction to learning a family favorite with audio for the piano.

You can start with theory:  DBM01304: Understanding the Language of Music: A Beginners Guide to Music, History, Theory, and Structure by Daniel Abrams

  • Using examples from classical and popular music, Daniel Abrams discusses modes, scales, chords, and the instruments of the orchestra. Includes a brief history of music, with analysis of styles and forms. For the person who would like to acquire a rudimentary knowledge of music history and theory.

And to get instruction from the beginning: DBM03374: Chord Style Piano Course by Bill Brown

  • Teaches how to play the piano without the use of music notation. Level 1.

And finally, the satisfaction of your efforts: DBM02414 Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Bill Brown

  • Bill Brown teaches how to play an easy arrangement of Somewhere Over the Rainbow on piano without using music notation.