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Abc Music Notation


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It is also important to note that a high proportion of tunes available on the Web in ABC are incorrectly notated. Or they load up OK in one ABC translator program but not another.

 

Yes, it is frustrating from my side of trying to provide abc and an abc converter too...

 

I believe, historically abc2win was the worst offender and many will recommend avoiding this program. That said, I believe a lot of abc found on the Internet was produced with it and the newer attempts at standards try to allow other programs to work with its non standard quirks.

 

Other problems came in with extensions and the abcplus project and abcmp2s. As far as I understand it there was no w: for aligned lyrics before and while there are later drafts, there still isn't an agreed standard for these items. My best guess is to consider abcm2ps which is actively developed as the guideline to our abc being to standard - ie. if that output is correct, we are likely to be to standard.

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It is also important to note that a high proportion of tunes available on the Web in ABC are incorrectly notated. Or they load up OK in one ABC translator program but not another.

 

I believe, historically abc2win was the worst offender and many will recommend avoiding this program.

Jon, was abcwin the first abc program?

 

Jeff

Edited by jmyersgoucheredu
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Guest Peter Laban

As far as I remember ABC WIN was at leas one of the first. I still use it and have no problems with it.

 

For clarity's sake it's maybe good to note that ABC notation as it's widely used and understood among Irish traditional musicians is not the same as the computer shorthand discussed here. I have seen some interesting miss communications resulting from not understanding the difference between the two.

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For clarity's sake it's maybe good to note that ABC notation as it's widely used and understood among Irish traditional musicians is not the same as the computer shorthand discussed here. I have seen some interesting miss communications resulting from not understanding the difference between the two.

 

I wasn't aware that there were two different things called abc orperhaps ABC. Could you elaborate on what the difference is?

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Guest Peter Laban

The shorthand used to write down (and exchange) tunes which is almost universally used in teaching Irish music is generally known as ABC in Ireland.

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The shorthand used to write down (and exchange) tunes which is almost universally used in teaching Irish music is generally known as ABC in Ireland.

Is it similar to the "ABC" notation(s) used to share musical data among computers (and their users), or is it radically different?

 

If similar, is it perhaps descended from the computer-oriented notation? Or did it perhaps spring up independently... possibly even at an earlier time?

 

(The basic idea is pretty obvious. I occasionally used note-name letters to write down music 40-50 years ago, but I never tried to develop it into a detailed and consistent "system". I suspect many others have done the same... before learning about "ABC notation", before personal computers, and quite likely even before the invention of the concertina.)

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Guest Peter Laban
The shorthand used to write down (and exchange) tunes which is almost universally used in teaching Irish music is generally known as ABC in Ireland.

Is it similar to the "ABC" notation(s) used to share musical data among computers (and their users), or is it radically different?

 

If similar, is it perhaps descended from the computer-oriented notation? Or did it perhaps spring up independently... possibly even at an earlier time?

 

 

ABC notation was long used before the invention of the internet. It's a pretty obvious simple system to write down tunes.

 

f0f4a85e.jpg

 

 

It uses the names of the notes ' to indicate the octave sometimes _ to indicate a cut or gracenote the usual half moon symbol to indicate a roll (or crann). Internet ABC uses the ~ to indicate the roll, for some reason or other. The half moon (fingernail clipping according to some)to induicate a more complex form of ornamentation was introduced by Breandan Breathnach and has come into common use since. Sometimes but not always, barlines liek those used in staff notation are used.

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ABC notation was long used before the invention of the internet. It's a pretty obvious simple system to write down tunes.

I have some Irish tune books written in that format:

- Frank Custy's Tutor

- Custy's Music Book

Yes, it is simple ,readable and space-saving ( 6 tunes in one page! ) .

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If similar, is it perhaps descended from the computer-oriented notation? Or did it perhaps spring up independently... possibly even at an earlier time?

The Irish notation I was not aware of has been explained but I think as well as this sort of approach being natural for pen and paper, a number of people independently realised that some form of note + duration text form could provide a method for computer music. Even I had a 1/2 hearted attempt using Turbo Pascal at some point.

 

As far as these computer formats go, the proprietary and pretty much (except the dt database is a big user) obsolete SongWrite format might be worth a mention. It's not too dissimilar to the computer abc. Here is an example:

 

N-Wild Rover

S-160

K-D

B-3/4

H-

M-:W-2 R-2 D-4 D-5 E-8 D-4 D-4 A-4 F-4 F-8 E-5 F-4 G-3_G-2 a-4 a-4 F-4 a-4 G-8 E-5 C-4 A-8 F-5 E-4 D-3_

L- I've been a wild ro-ver for man-y a year, I've spent all my mo-ney on whisk-ey and beer.

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I used to use it a lot. It is very handy for composing and recording simple melodies. I never got beyond writing "single lines" rather than harmonies. Then I changed my computer and never got round to reinstalling all the software.

 

There are huge libraries of ABC folk tunes out there. I would regard them in the same way as the long lists of jokes you can find "out there": they give you the gist of it, but you'll learn to tell it in your own way. I learn tunes more or less melody first, then accompaniment, then decoration or adaptation. ABC is a good source of melodies.

 

If they are tunes that are played in your local session, you don't need the ABC library. If they are songs you find and bring to your local session, then the version you find on ABC (or adapt) will be the one your friends learn and accept. (At least, that's more or less how it works with songs!)

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Inspired by this thread, I went searching. If you go to the Tune-O-Tron, then the Convert-a-Matic, starting at the top left of this screen, you can play the following.

 

I have not used ABC for several years, and in the space of an hour or so I was able to relearn the basics, and write down the following. The software then shows the notes on a stave, and you can play it as a Midi file, all for free. The sinple ABC transcription isn't perfect, but has enough ties and dots to give the flavour of how I play it. Copy from X:1 down and paste it into the Convert-a-matic. This is one I wrote as a callow youth, 25 years ago, and rediscovered recently.

 

X: 1

T: News House Waltz

M:3/4

L:4

K:G

G2A |B3 | BAG |A2F | DGA | B2d | B>AG | A3- | AGA | B2d | B>AG | A2F | DGA | B>cB | AFA | G3 :: GAB | c3 | e3 | d>BG | A2>G/2A/2 | B3 | d2B | A3- | A>GA | B3 | d3 | B>AG | A2> G/2 A/2 | B>cB | AFA| G3- :|

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Inspired by this thread, I went searching. If you go to the Tune-O-Tron, then the Convert-a-Matic, starting at the top left of this screen, you can play the following.

 

I have not used ABC for several years, and in the space of an hour or so I was able to relearn the basics, and write down the following. The software then shows the notes on a stave, and you can play it as a Midi file, all for free. The sinple ABC transcription isn't perfect, but has enough ties and dots to give the flavour of how I play it. Copy from X:1 down and paste it into the Convert-a-matic. This is one I wrote as a callow youth, 25 years ago, and rediscovered recently.

 

X: 1

T: News House Waltz

M:3/4

L:4

K:G

G2A |B3 | BAG |A2F | DGA | B2d | B>AG | A3- | AGA | B2d | B>AG | A2F | DGA | B>cB | AFA | G3 :: GAB | c3 | e3 | d>BG | A2>G/2A/2 | B3 | d2B | A3- | A>GA | B3 | d3 | B>AG | A2> G/2 A/2 | B>cB | AFA| G3- :|

********************

You've given the note length "L" equal to "4".

I think that it should be "1/4" !?!?

 

regards

Jake

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[irish] ABC notation was long used before the invention of the internet. It's a pretty obvious simple system to write down tunes.

 

f0f4a85e.jpg

 

It uses the names of the notes ' to indicate the octave sometimes _ to indicate a cut or gracenote the usual half moon symbol to indicate a roll (or crann). Internet ABC uses the ~ to indicate the roll, for some reason or other. The half moon (fingernail clipping according to some)to induicate a more complex form of ornamentation was introduced by Breandan Breathnach and has come into common use since. Sometimes but not always, barlines like those used in staff notation are used.

It looks as if one significant difference between the two (computer & Irish) notations is that the Irish -- as I see it in Peter's example -- has a few symbols written underneath the note-name letters, while the computer-oriented notation is completely linear. This makes sense, because with a computer keyboard you enter characters one at a time, in a single, 1-dimensional ""string" (to a computer, the apparently 2-dimensional act of starting a new line is really just a special "character"), but with pen and paper you can move your pen at any time to any point on the 2-dimensional surface of the paper, and even move it 3-dimensionally to lift it off the paper and move it to a new location without making a mark in between.

 

I'm not sure how either one handles multi-part music, but I would suspect that at that level of complexity the two notations would be about as similar as bandoneon vs. anglo keyboards. :unsure:

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You've given the note length "L" equal to "4".

I think that it should be "1/4" !?!?

 

regards

Jake

 

And I omitted a speed value too. The tune plays at about the right speed in this form, but thanks. My point was mainly to demonstrate that the system is basically so simple you can learn it and apply it to a moderately long and complex tune in an hour or so.

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