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ABC notation experts needed


Pete Dunk
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I'm transcribing an old manuscript (again) and the tune I'm on at the moment has something in it that I've seen before but didn't understand. There are two lines of music, A and B sections. The A part ends with an odd repeat mark involving four dots, one in each space instead of the usual two in the middle spaces. The B music has a normal two dot repeat symbol. The thing that makes this different from the other occasions I've seen the four dot symbol is the written instructions above the music: The Minuet 4 times the last Tune twice (capitalisation as written in my transcription).

 

Silly me for not realising that the four dots meant 'play four times' through but there you are. My question is can I reproduce this symbol in an ABC file? I've asked the question on the abcnotation.com forum but I've had no reply after several days. Does anyone here have an answer? <_<

Edited by tallship
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Thanks Malcolm, I was inclined to discount that idea but your argument is valid in that the effect as far as musical theory goes is the same. The A only plays through twice in ABC though!

 

X:1

T:Cavendish Court or Look Sharp THO1.110

T:The Minuet 4 times the Last Tune twice

M:3/4

L:1/8

K:C

|:|:G4 g2|f>a d2d2|c>e A2A2|F>A D2D2|EGFAGB|A2^c2d2|fa A2^c2|d2 D4:|:|

M:2/4

L:1/16

|:Ggfe dcBA|G2G2 G4|DdcB AGFE|D2D2 D4|\

BdBG cecA|fdef g2g2|BdBG AcAF|G2G2 G4:|

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The A only plays through twice in ABC though!

Well, there's always the "quick but dirty" solution of writing that part out twice in succession and then giving that a normal repeat marking.

 

The problem with this Jim is the Village Music Project's ethos of remaining true to the written manuscript whenever possible. I don't pretend to be a scholar myself but I do know how to abide by rules laid down by the project managers. There does come a point however when we have to admit that ABC has limitations and we all have to live with them!

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Then put it on the Session.org - last time I did something like that, at least one person wasted no time at all in pointing out to me how the tune could be written more efficiently :lol:

 

Been there, done that; I also enjoy the massive arguments that break out on there when someone posts a tune under a particular name, someone else points out that the composer of the tune called it something completely different, and all Hell breaks loose ...

 

 

I encountered the same notation whilst doing the La Bourree transcription, and some kind person on here directed me to the |. .| notation.

 

That certainly generates the four dots on screen and also, IIRC, also generates the repeats in playback in abc2MIDI.

 

[ Edit: spelling of transcription, now available with an added c ]

Edited by Steve Mansfield
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Although it renders correctly on the score

 

Are you saying that you have a vertical line of four dots in the stave spaces and a thin/thick pair of bar lines at the end of the A part? Wow!, which software?

 

No, sorry, I wasn't clear - I meant it didn't get its knickers in a twist and fall over. It printed the double colons (and triple colons) correctly, although the associated player only did one repeat regardless of how many I told it to do.

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The problem with this Jim is the Village Music Project's ethos of remaining true to the written manuscript whenever possible.

Most abc software still implements the abc 1.6 standard (which was the standard from 1996 until just recently), which contained no way to do this.

The current standard is abc 2.1 which contains the following specification:

 

A dotted bar line can be notated by preceding it with a dot, e.g. .| - this may be useful for notating editorial bar lines in music with very long measures.

 

Note that the "dotted bar line" referred to above is not interpreted as any kind of repeat. So if you have software that adheres to the 2.1 standard, you can use ".|" to make the dotted bar line, followed or preceded by a regular or thick bar line ("|" or "[" or "]") to make it look like the written manuscript but then you will have to sort out the route in the headers ("P:A4B" not B2 because the written repeat handles that).

 

I do not have abc 2.1-compliant software, so I can't test it (it's possible that the software might balk at the "|.|" or ".||" construction). Note that 2.1 also contains:

 

Abc parsers should be quite liberal in recognizing bar lines. In the wild, bar lines may have any shape, using a sequence of | (thin bar line), [ or ] (thick bar line), and : (dots), e.g. |[| or [|::: .

 

This suggests that "|:: ... ::|" might be what you're looking for, but it doesn't look like the developers thought of it, so it might not be implemented reliably.

 

Here's what I am suggesting, the previous sentence not withstanding:

 

X:1
T:Cavendish Court or Look Sharp THO1.110
T:The Minuet 4 times the Last Tune twice
M:3/4
L:1/8
P:A4B
K:C
|.|G4 g2|f>a d2d2|c>e A2A2|F>A D2D2|EGFAGB|A2^c2d2|fa A2^c2|d2 D4.||
M:2/4
L:1/16
|:Ggfe dcBA|G2G2 G4|DdcB AGFE|D2D2 D4|\
BdBG cecA|fdef g2g2|BdBG AcAF|G2G2 G4:|

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I listen very carefully whenever David Barnert comments because previous experience has proven his expertise with ABC is great indeed. It has always been the case that David is an Apple Mac devotee and I for my sins am PC based and it is very often the case that never the twain shall meet! I have tried the |. syntax but to no avail I'm afraid, it neither generates the correct staff notation (which was the whole point to be honest) nor the correct midi playback which I wasn't bothered about anyway. I just have to accept that this particular staff notation is beyond the capability of ABC. :(

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I just have to accept that this particular staff notation is beyond the capability of ABC. :(

I'm not an ABC person, but it seems to me there are two factors/questions here:

  • From the various posts, I understand that there is now an ABC "standard", though some years ago there were simply various personal implementations, each with its own "advanced features", sometimes mutually incompatible. So, does the current standard include a notation that means "repeat to a total of four times"? If not, you're sort of out of luck... for now, at least. I would guess that there is a mechanism for requesting that such a notation be added to the standard, though even if it were added, there would almost certainly be a delay before it was added to the various ABC programs.
  • And that brings us to the second factor, which is that even with a standard, my impression is that not all ABC programs have fully implemented every detail of the standard. So maybe the standard already includes a notation for what you want to do, but not all (maybe even not any) of the existing programs have made a priority of implementing it? Then that makes a case for contacting the various implementers to request that they fix their programs.

None of which will be able to get you the result you want within the next week, unfortunately.

 

Meanwhile, the second point raises the possibility that even if there is an ABC notation (now or in the future) that works the way you desire both for translation to standard notation and for MIDI playback, it might work properly only in one or two ABC programs and definitely not in older versions, so that many users would not experience the right result even though you've used the right notation. Then again, that could be true of a number of "little used" notational conventions even now.

 

David and others, can you tell us whether all (or most) of the current ABC implementations do actually give the same result in all cases of translation to standard notation or MIDI? (Maybe it's already been said in prior discussions of ABC-vs.-standard notation, but I haven't yet read them all the way through.)

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I listen very carefully whenever David Barnert comments because previous experience has proven his expertise with ABC is great indeed.

Thank you. (Have we met?) While I have been using abc for 15 years or so, most of what I know about the latest standard (anything later than 1.6) I learned the day before yesterday while composing my previous post.

 

I have tried the |. syntax but to no avail I'm afraid, it neither generates the correct staff notation (which was the whole point to be honest) nor the correct midi playback which I wasn't bothered about anyway. I just have to accept that this particular staff notation is beyond the capability of ABC. :(

There is no mention of "|." . That would yield a bar line and the next note staccato (dot over the note). In abc 2.1, ".|" (dot then line) makes a "dotted bar line" which I assume is four dots aligned vertically in the spaces but is not really specified. The problem is finding software that implements abc 2.1. The page at http://abcnotation.com/software does not specify which package supports which version of abc, but a quick scan suggests that most (if not all) of them are based on abc 1.6, which has no support for a dotted bar line. Even if you found appropriate software, there is no guarantee that attempts to combine the dotted bar line with a regular bar line to make a four-dot repeat sign would display correctly (and it certainly wouldn't play correctly, since the dotted bar line is not interpreted as having anything to do with repeats). See my previous post. Added later: Also see below, where this entire line of thinking becomes unnecessary.

 

  • From the various posts, I understand that there is now an ABC "standard", though some years ago there were simply various personal implementations, each with its own "advanced features", sometimes mutually incompatible.

There have been standards since 1993. All through the abc 1.x years, software developers added "non-standard" features to the features that their software would accept, and they generally tended to agree with each other. These features became integrated into abc 2.x, but because 1.6 was the standard for so long and 2.x is so recent, most (if not all) of the software available handles 1.6 plus the non-standard additions.

 

So, does the current standard include a notation that means "repeat to a total of four times"? If not, you're sort of out of luck... for now, at least.

Even the old standard allowed specific description of the route in the headers. A two part piece (A, B) with the A part played 4 times and the B part twice would contain a line in the headers:

 

P:A4B2

 

Or you could change the B2 to B and include a repeat in the notation.

 

The new standard (2.1) includes this (which I didn't notice the other day):

 

By extension, |:: and ::| mean the start and end of a section that is to be repeated three times, and so on.

There is nothing in the standard that specifies how it should be displayed, but it is probably reasonable to assume for vertically aligned dots. I also assume that "repeated three times" means "played four times."

 

If the assumptions are correct, then this would be exactly what you (tallship) are looking for, and there is no need to mess with the ".|" construction. All you need is software that implements abc 2.1. Good luck. There appears to be no way to do what you're looking for (you can make it play right but not look right) in version 1.6, although you could always photoshop in a couple of extra dots to the graphical output of abc 1.6.

 

David and others, can you tell us whether all (or most) of the current ABC implementations do actually give the same result in all cases of translation to standard notation or MIDI? (Maybe it's already been said in prior discussions of ABC-vs.-standard notation, but I haven't yet read them all the way through.)

As I said earlier, I have very little familiarity with the modern (2.x) standard. I know that the guys who put it together tried very hard to make it backwards-compatible with 1.6, but I don't know that they were able to be entirely successful.

 

Edited for formatting, other minor change, and to add:

 

There is a difference between the abc protocol and abc software. The protocol is well-defined, but the guys who write the software that implements it can pick and choose what features their software includes (or might accidentally make features unworkable). Tallship needs to find out which version of abc his particular brand of software implements.

Edited by David Barnert
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Thank you. (Have we met?)

 

Sadly no, but you may remember us exchanging numerous emails a few years ago when you kindly proof-read and error trapped a number of my abc transcriptions of Alistair Anderson's Concertina Workshop tunebook. I'd almost finished it when Free Reed Records released a beautiful, updated PDF version of the original book as a free download from their website!

 

I've decided to use standard repeat marks and rely on the written instructions to guide the player, or the VMP may decide to edit the file to suit the requirements of the Project.

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