I frequently create my own accessible copies of music for band, where I play clarinet. I don’t use any specific music software, and instead choose to use Microsoft Publisher, a desktop publishing program that comes with Microsoft Office. Here are my ten tips for making sheet music accessible using Microsoft Publisher. If Publisher is not available, PowerPoint is a great alternative- just set the template size to whatever size is needed.
I require that my music be enlarged equivalent to size 24 font, which is what is listed in my disability services file. I also request music be on colored paper, preferably yellow, but that does not always happen.
Scanning in music
Many of my band directors have made music available digitally in PDF format for students who wished to use it. This benefits all students, since they can easily practice or annotate as needed. If PDF copies are not available, scan in music at the highest quality possible in PNG format.
Use the snipping/crop tool
When I’m creating horizontal pages, I divide the original music page into halves or thirds, depending how detailed it is. I use the cropping tool in Publisher or the snipping/screenshot tool built into my computer.
Choose a template size
For horizontal music, I use 8.5 x 11 or 11 x 14 template sizes. For vertical music, I use 11 x 14 or 11 x 17 template sizes. And for any digital music I read on my iPad, I use 8 x 10.
I frequently use the contrast filter to make my images sharper and easy to see. This works well for music with very little to no artifacting- no wrinkles on the page, stray marks, etc.
Draw accents larger
I use the freeform shape tool to increase the size of accents and similar markings and make them darker. I also will extend crescendo and decrescendo marks so they are slightly farther.
Color is always great
One of my friends will color code note names and note length by adding colored lines and dots to the notes themselves using the shape tool. I love doing this for digital music as it decreases wrong notes. As for page color, I make the white color transparent on the music image and tint the background of the document as needed.
Write dynamics in large text
For tempos and dynamics, I write the words in large print- 24 pt Arial font, to be precise. I started doing this because mezzo-piano and mezzo-forte looked very similar to me, and those mean very different things!
Number and label pages
For each page, I write the number and song title somewhere on the page, so that I don’t flip pages and start playing measures out of order, or start playing a new song entirely- both things that have happened.
Digital or paper music?
For concert settings, I like to use digital music in these accessible formats, because I find it easier to flick my finger across the screen than to change pages. However, for pep/athletic band, I use paper music because I wear dark sunglasses and a hat, so it’s more difficult to focus on a screen.
I love band and cannot imagine life without it. Playing clarinet is a feeling unlike any other, and I’m glad that I’m able to create my own accessible music and play alongside my peers.