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  1. 6/8 time
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  3. Abc notation
  4. Accidental
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  6. B (note)
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  40. Italian musical terms used in English
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  102. Thirty-second note
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  105. Time unit box system (TUBS)
  106. Tongan music notation
  107. Triple metre
  108. Tuplet
  109. Unfigured bass
  110. Virtual music score
  111. Vocal score
  112. Whole note
  113. Znamennoe singing


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Abc notation

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The correct title of this article is abc notation. The initial letter is shown capitalized due to technical restrictions.

abc, developed by Chris Walshaw, is a language designed to notate music—tunes and lyrics—in ASCII format. It was originally designed for folk and traditional tunes of Western European origin (commonly English, Irish and Scottish) which can be written on one stave in standard staff notation.

Although it has since been extended in the draft standard to support the notation of complete, classical music scores with multiple voices and clefs, abc remains, at its heart, entirely human readable and playable.

abc Software

Since its introduction at the end of 1991, abc has become very popular. Programs on many operating systems including Windows, Macintosh, and Unix and Linux, as well as Palm and PocketPC, use abc as an input and/or output format. There are programs that produce printed sheet music, search and analyze tunes in databases, or output them as a Midi or Wav files for audio playback. Abc notation software is available under various licenses, both commercial and open source.

The early abc programs made use of the tools of the day, such as TeX and MusicTeX. Since then, other conversion tools, especially abc2ps and its successors in tandem with Ghostscript, have become more common on microcomputers. Web-based variations of these programs exist that display and play tunes using input forms. A unique feature of abc notation is the ability to manage tunebooks as well as individual tunes. Many thousands of abc tunes are freely available and searchable on the web (see link to Tune Finder below).

Newer programs with intuitive graphical user interfaces (GUIs), some written for a specific operating system and others running across platforms using Java, allow users to interactively edit and display music in staff notation rather than having to input instructions at the command line. There are also applications that convert abc notation to and from other music notation systems such as LilyPond, MusicXML, and others.

abc Notation Overview

Simple tunes have the common elements of the following example, the Irish jig, Paddy O'Rafferty.

X:1T:Paddy O'RaffertyC:Trad.L:1/8M:6/8K:D|:dff cee|def gfe|dff cee|dfe dBA|  dff cee|def gfe|faf gfe|1 dfe dBA:|2 dfe dcB|||:~A3 ~B3|gfe fdB|AFA B2c|dfe dcB|  ~A3 ~B3|efe efg|faf gfe|1 dfe dcB:|2 dfe dBA|||:fAA eAA|def gfe|fAA eAA|dfe dBA|  fAA eAA|def gfe|faf gfe|dfe dBA:|

The lines starting with an uppercase letter and a colon are part of the header and describe Index, Title, Composer, default note Length, Meter, and Key. The remaining lines describe the notes. A number after a note multiplies the duration (default 1/8 for 6/8 time, or as specified in the L: field).

Barlines are specified with the vertical bar |, while repeats and first and second endings are signified with |: (forward repeat), :| (backward repeat), |1 and :|2 respectively.

In Irish music, the ~ denotes an ornament known as a turn, the playing of which varies depending on the instrument used.

The above abc setting has been set to staff notation.

Paddy O'Rafferty

History of ABC

  • December 1993 abcmtex released - the first application for engraving abc
  • February 1996 abc2ps released - allowing direct creation of PostScript, without the intermediate steps of MusicTeX/TeX
  • January 1997 v1.6.1 of abcmtex released - believed to be the version on which the first version of the ABC standard is based
  • March 1998 abcm2ps announced based on abc2ps source but adding multi-voice and multi-staff capability
  • April 1999 anouncement of plans of updated ABC standard
  • May 2000 v1.7.6 of the ABC Standard released as a draft
  • August 2003 v2.0 of the ABC Standard released as a draft

Collaborative abc

A new direction for abc notation is in collaborative editing and composing environments. There are several examples of Wikis that have been adapted to display abc in staff notation.

  • AbcWiki, a PHP plug-in implementation running on phpWiki.
  • MusicWiki, a Python plugin implementation for MoinMoin.
  • AbcMusic for displaying abc notation in PmWiki.
  • abc plugin for displaying abc notation in DokuWiki.

External links

  • The official abc musical notation home page
  • John Chamber's ABC Tune finder
  • Abc Tutorial by Steve Mansfield
  • ABC Convert-A-Matic
  • ABC Project at SourceForge
  • ABC Plus Project at SourceForge
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