First held in 1992, the Gardner's Trust Braille Music Literacy Award is an annual competition designed to encourage young students' use of braille music.

The tests are administered each year by the RNIB Music Advisory Service and sponsored by the Gardner's Trust for the Blind.

What does the test involve

Candidates receive a short piece of braille music and are given a set amount of time in which to prepare. There are two parts to the test:

  • to perform the piece from memory on their chosen instrument.
  • to read the piece out loud, listing all the symbols used in the piece.

Candidates may choose in which order they attempt these tasks. 

Who can enter

The tests are open to young people below the age of 19. Most candidates are entered by their braille music teacher or parent. Candidates may enter each level only once.

Reasons to enter

You will receive a full report which identifies what you did well as well as areas you might wish to work on. Having a record of your progress in this way can be useful for showing your music teacher, particularly when you change school or college. It is especially useful if you are thinking of taking GCSE and A-level music, or working past grade 5 on your instrument. Whether you want to sing in a choir, be a virtuoso tuba player or play in an ocarina quartet, being able to learn from braille will give you greater independence.

In addition, the winner(s) at each level receives a braille certificate and a financial prize of between £10 and £250.

Preparing for the test

For the full regulations and details of what is required at each of the five levels and advanced level, download the latest guidelines and specimen tests in braille or print (2018).

Once you have decided which level you will attempt, ensure that you are familiar with all the signs which could be included at that level. There are three specimen tests at each level, but you are welcome to create more of your own for practice purposes. Try giving yourself the set amount of time and prepare the test. Record your performance so that you can compare what you play with the music.

The examiner will be looking for an accurate and fluent performance with a clear sense of pulse, with attention to details such as articulation, dynamics and other musical directions.

Entries are invited by 1 May each year for tests during May, June and July.

Additional resources

A summary of the signs used in these tests are provided in the links below:

Further questions

If you have further questions, or would like to discuss the awards in more detail, please do contact us by email to [email protected] or by telephone on 0303 123 9999.