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Hello, I have seen a lot of people using the system termed ABC for playing tunes. 

As I can read music adequately, and enough to get by.. I do not use the method; but I wonder if someone can explain how it actually works, it looks quite much complicated to me than reading music notation?

Not a criticism, it's just curiosity!

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While abc can be read by humans, that’s not really what it’s for. Its primary value is in expressing all the information you would need to create a printed page of music using nothing but a manageable amount of ASCII  text. Back in the 1990s, when the abc Music Notation Protocol was developed, email was new and you couldn’t attach files to it, so if you wanted to send somebody an email with music information in it without bogging down the system with too many kilobytes of text, abc was the way to do it.

 

Even now, a generation later, it is a very efficient way of storing musical information in a format that is easily constructed, edited and communicated.

 

See if these videos help you understand how to use it.

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Some people can read it back directly, but for most it is a means of creating musical notation on a computer, and sharing files.  I think most people use one of the free software programmes such as ABCExplorer or ABC Navigator which will convert ABC text to musical notation as you write, and can play back the tune.  You can also transpose.

 

ABC was designed with folk music in mind, and for writing out a simple unharmonised melody I find it far quicker and easier to use ABC than a more sophisticated score writer.  Once you know the syntax you can use it to jot down a tune on any scrap of paper, or using any text editor on a computer.

 

It has become the standard format for storing folk music electronically and there are a considerable number of tune resources online. If you are looking for notation for a folk tune, in particular one from Britain Ireland or America, the chances are there's an ABC version already online.

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Thanks for this information; now I know what it is all about.. because I have heard people mention it so often, and I thought it literally meant easy to use as ABC! But seems more complicated! I have heard of the ASCII text file things in computers etc.. but I shall stick to my usual method of hand writing  music; but I am so grateful to have it explained.

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34 minutes ago, SIMON GABRIELOW said:

but I shall stick to my usual method of hand writing  music

One more advantage abc has over handwritten music (not that I’m trying to convince you to change) is proofreading. Since the earliest days of notated music, mistakes have found their way into published scores. As you handwrite a score you might miscount ledger lines or forget to notate an accidental, etc. The masters did it all the time and perhaps you have as well.

 

If you do your work in abc you can listen to the computer play it back for you so you can hear the mistakes before they are ground in stone. In addition, anyone reading your music in the future (be they musician or editor, and reading from a computer printed score or abc notation) will never have to wonder if that note head is meant to be on a line or in the adjacent space.

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, David Barnert said:

[1] While abc can be read by humans, that’s not really what it’s for...

 

[2] Even now, a generation later, it is a very efficient way of storing musical information in a format that is easily constructed, edited and communicated. (my emphasis)

 

[3] See if these videos help you understand how to use it.

[1] Absolutement, mon general! After 5-6 years, I can read a little ABC - though I don't go out of my way to do it.

In a way, it's only to be 'expected' - once you become a little familiar with the language, you can translate it

directly into the required result - up to a point...

 

[2] I did a few simple tests 3-4 years ago. lilypond scripts are something like 2.5-5 times more verbose

than the equivalent ABC script. MuseScore scripts are ~10x larger than the equivalent ABC script (and they

aren't directly readable).

 

So yeah, ABC cuts it, I think - certainly, it does for me...

 

[3] My main point - see if these simple tutorials also do the job. I started with these, and still refer back to

them 5-6 years down the road...

 

 

Edited by lachenal74693
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The choice is really between writing music out by hand or using a score writer.  It's no different from writing text - most people use longhand for some things and a word processor for others.  Of course if you are only writing music for your own use then by hand may be sufficient, but using a computer has some advantages.  ABC is just a simple score writer which uses ordinary text, so has the added advantage of being easy to read even without a computer.

 

When you use a score writer you get a properly engraved score, which you can play back to check for errors and easily edit or transpose.  It is easy to organise your files of music and sort them  in different ways.  You can print tune sets or incipits.  You can also easily share a tune with others (even on forums which don't allow attachments), and they can then use it how they please. I can't read music well enough to play from, so if someone sends me notation the first thing I have to do is copy it into a score writer so I can play it back. 

 

Like anything there is a learning curve, but it's not that difficult to grasp the basics and there are online references to help with the more advanced features.  

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, hjcjones said:

 It's no different from writing text...

 

yes and no... there is nothing incorrect about what you write; however, the important (semantic?) difference between text and music (the "contents" of what is being written) is that texts are for the ear (through listening) AND for the eyes (through reading), whereas music is exclusively for the ear*. Thus, any musical notation is a crutch that attempts to "freeze music on another medium for later playback."

 

I believe that there is no inherent advantage of one crutch over the other; they are all targetted a different aspects of the playback process (for example, all of the "standard notations" and their variations bear a visual relationship between pitch and position on the staff which - I postulate - make it inherently easier to visualize music within the mind's eye. On the other hand, MIDI and abc - which is sort of twins separated at birth - make it much easier to render music electronically, transport it, transpose it and so on.)

 

Possibly within one or two more generations, standard musical notation will be but an exhibition piece in the museum of cultural history, with digital storage being the state of the art. That would very likely yield neither better than worse music than the last several hundred years, but certainly a very different way to approach music and musical learning.

 

*(Of course, a nicely and diligently laid out score (in any notation) also has an inherent aesthetical value, but I darestate that this value does in no way relate to the value of the original piece of art and its reception.)

 

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If you were to plot log of frequency of pitch (notes) vs. time you would get something that looks like the position of notes on a musical staff, except for sharps and flats.  That's why you have the visual similarity.

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8 minutes ago, RAc said:

yes and no... there is nothing incorrect about what you write; however, the important (semantic?) difference between text and music (the "contents" of what is being written) is that texts are for the ear (through listening) AND for the eyes (through reading), whereas music is exclusively for the ear*. Thus, any musical notation is a crutch that attempts to "freeze music on another medium for later playback."

I entirely disagree. Text is a means of communicating intellectual ideas, which can be read aloud or silently.  Music notation is a means of communicating musical ideas - it can be played or sung, but a skilled musician can read a score and "hear" the music in their head  - eyes, not ears.  

 

Besides, we are talking about how the script itself (text or music) is created.  You can use pen and paper, or a computer.  Both have their place, both have advantages and disadvantages.

 

I also disagree that music notation will become redundant because music can be stored digitally.  Listening is a poor way to learn a complex piece of music.  It is fine for folk tunes, which are short and usually simple melodies, but not for a symphony.  No doubt that notation will increasingly come to be stored in an electronic format, as is already happening, and perhaps displayed on a screen rather than printed on paper, but for a musician it will always be the most efficient way of communicating music for them to play.

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I use ABC as it means I can carry my main ABC file with its 875 tunes on my phone and thus be able to show the manuscript, play a midi version of the tune or, in my case, play directly from the ABCs. The thought of carrying around sufficient paper to do this and not have the ability to search by name/key/time sig whilst sat in a pub makes ABC seem a good solution.

Additionally there are around 690,000 tunes already transcribed (albeit with varying accuracy) available on the net and easily searched for.

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I've had a similar question all the time, that is I've never seen anyone in Europe and United States use the numbered musical notation that is common in China and Japan, which looks like:

05486A2E-E3AD-4815-A8CA-766CD96A9F20.thumb.gif.dc0113bdb3777217420f05aceaf15764.gif
The interesting thing about this kind of notation is that it does not represent the exact notes, but the relationship between each note regards to the key clarified at the beginning. For example in this piece, it clarified it’s in Eb major, then the 1 is going to be Eb, 2 is F, 3 is G and so on.

 

This kind of score is widely used for traditional woodwind and string instruments in China and Japan, and sometimes also for harmonicas. I guess it may be because it is similar to the musical notation used in ancient east Asia.

 

But actually I didn’t ever used it. I start to learn music with accordion which the scores are usually way too complicated to be recorded by this kind of notation.

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Thanks to everyone for adding to my basic query about ABC.

Now I know what it is.. but for me; I like writing the music down by Hand, as it's something I have done for decades now. It is like calligraphy, or lettering; a skill in its own right.

And by writing it down you get to know so much about musical form.

I like forming all the notes, and the symbols.

All I use is a light-fast artist drawing pen, ruler, pencil, paper.. that's my ABC for now.  And one more thing is needed also; a great deal of patience, and time. That is a rarity these days! But I don't mind at all.

 

 

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2 hours ago, LazyNetter said:

I've never seen anyone in Europe and United States use the numbered musical notation that is common in China and Japan... The interesting thing about this kind of notation is that it does not represent the exact notes, but the relationship between each note regards to the key clarified at the beginning. For example in this piece, it clarified it’s in Eb major, then the 1 is going to be Eb, 2 is F, 3 is G and so on.

 

We (the Americans and the Europeans) have an analogous system called “moveable Do.” Did you see “The Sound of Music”? The song, “Do Re Mi” outlines how the system associates each syllable (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do) with the degrees of the major scale. In the linked video, they’re singing in Bb (she’s playing chords in A on the guitar, so maybe the video transfer wasn’t at the correct speed) so Do is Bb, Re is C, etc. In other contexts, a “fixed Do” refers to a system where Do is always C. But I’m not aware of anybody who uses either of these systems in place of musical notation.

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, LazyNetter said:

I've had a similar question all the time, that is I've never seen anyone in Europe and United States use the numbered musical notation that is common in China and Japan...

Drifting a little off-topic, is that the 'Jianpu' system?

 

If the answer is yes, then there is apparently a feature in abc2svg which accommodates this notation. I'm

never going to use this notation though - this is just to make sure you know it's there, if you wanted to use it...

 

As far as I can see, abc2svg is supposed to be the 'replacement' for abcm2ps, but looking at the dialogues

on the ABC-Users mailing list, there do seem to be a number of problems with the software which are

a little off-putting.[1]

_______________

[1] Actually, I'm not going to be using abc2svg any time soon, as it seems to require that I connect to the internet to use it. I no longer connect my

'workhorse' machine to the internet, a policy I introduced last July, since when I've had completely trouble free usage - no automatic updates of

software or operating system which I don't want updating; no intrusive messages from manufacturers/software suppliers concerning stuff which is

none of their  business, etc. One of the best decisions I ever made...

Edited by lachenal74693
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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, Lester Bailey said:

I use ABC as it means I can carry my main ABC file with its 875 tunes on my phone...(and) have the ability to search by name/key/time sig whilst sat in a pub makes ABC seem a good solution.

I do exactly the same with my own ABC 'tune book', and use my own software to search for (and extract to a

separate ABC file), all tunes which match (just about) any search criterion I can think of. I use a 'notepad'

computer rather than a 'phone (because I need to run the software), but the principle is the same.

Edited by lachenal74693
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29 minutes ago, lachenal74693 said:

[1] Actually, I'm not going to be using abc2svg any time soon, as it seems to require that I connect to the internet to use it.

 

I don't think that's accurate. It's written in the Javascript language and can run inside a web browser window, but the code doesn't have to live on a remote web server. The docs also describe some ways to run it from a command line (like abcm2ps) using a Javascript interpreter like Node.js.

https://chiselapp.com/user/moinejf/repository/abc2svg/doc/trunk/README.md

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5 minutes ago, alex_holden said:

 

I don't think that's accurate. It's written in the Javascript language and can run inside a web browser window, but the code doesn't have to live on a remote web server. The docs also describe some ways to run it from a command line (like abcm2ps) using a Javascript interpreter like Node.js.

https://chiselapp.com/user/moinejf/repository/abc2svg/doc/trunk/README.md

Yes, you're absolutely right, but it looks like it's a non-trivial exercise to set things up to run the program 'locally'

('twas discussed a while back, I think?), and I simply don't have the time to investigate this further. When/if some

public spirited individual provides a download which works 'straight-out-of-the-box' I may look at it again, but I'm

too long in the tooth to want to start learning all sorts of new stuff ('lack of moral fibre', I guess)...

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