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Brush up your braille music with the Gardner’s Trust Braille Music Literacy Awards 2023-24


Readers of braille music code, we’ve got an exciting announcement for you: the new season of the Gardner’s Trust Braille Music Literacy Awards is here! Also known as the GTLA, these awards are a fun, relaxed way to test your braille music skills and get some expert feedback that will help you take your studies to the next level (you may even win a prize!)

The competition has been sponsored by the Gardner’s Trust for the Blind and administered by the RNIB since 1992, to encourage more visually impaired musicians to use braille music. 

What’s involved?

The awards are open to musicians of all ages and there are 5 different levels to choose from, from Level 1 (beginners) to Level 5 (advanced). Each level has a range of challenges to help you hone your skills, including:

  • Reading: reading aloud a passage of braille music (Levels 1-3)
  • Performing “at sight”: reading a passage and tapping out the rhythm and singing or playing the melody.
  • Understanding: answering questions about a passage.
  • Writing: writing down a short passage read aloud by the examiner.
  • Memorisation: memorising a short passage and then playing it back (Levels 3-5)
  • Spot the difference: comparing a written passage to an audio recording (Levels 4-5)

You’ll get a bit of preparation time before each challenge, so that you can familiarise yourself with the music. You can choose which level you take – you can even repeat a level from a previous year if you like – and which instrument you’d like to play (including voice – the competition is open to singers too). There’s no entrance fee, and no need to travel long distances – the test can be arranged at a location and time that suits you.

What’s the best way to prepare?

The RNIB website has an information pack with more details about each level, including the sorts of questions you might be asked, the signs that might appear in the scores and practice tests. There’s even a handy new “Dictionary of Braille Music Signs” to refer to.

Once you’ve worked out which level is right for you, try practicing with the specimen tests. Some tips that might help you are:

  • Time yourself: Some of the tasks are timed, so it’s a good idea to practice with the time-limits.
  • Record: try recording yourself during the tests that involve performing or memorising, so that you can compare your performance to the music.
  • Think about all the symbols: remember to watch out for things like dynamics, expression, and articulation signs. Think beyond the melody and the rhythm. 
  • Get help: Ask your music teacher or a musical friend to help you practice.

What happens after the test?

Everyone who takes the test gets a certificate and a detailed feedback report. The report is designed to help you identify your strengths and areas for improvement. This is especially useful if you’re preparing A-Levels, GCSEs or graded music exams.

The GTLA isn’t an exam, so there are no “marks”, but there is a small cash prize for the best entrant at each level.

When do the tests happen?

Tests take place between October 2023 to November 2023. Feedback and certificates will be sent to all entrants in January 2024

This sounds great! How do I apply?

There’s an application form included with the information pack on the RNIB website. The pack includes braille ready format versions of all the documents, ready for you to emboss at home. Here’s the link: Gardner’s Trust Braille Music Literacy Awards | RNIB

If you’d like an embossed copy of the pack to be sent to you, contact the RNIB Helpline: 0303 123 9999

Or email the Music Advisory Service:

You can ask to be sent the whole pack or request the application form and information and tests for your level, free of charge. Don’t forget to ask for the Dictionary of Braille music signs for GTLA: Revised Edition 2022 – it’s very handy!

Once you’ve completed the form, send it back to RNIB. A member of the music team will get in touch to organise a time and place for your test.

Good luck!

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