Notation Accuracy

Notation Accuracy

Does it bother anyone else that the notation for some of the tunes is incorrect as far as the bar lines are concerned? It often makes the tune come out "crooked" at the end and puts the downbeat in the wrong place. It appears that in the notation system used here, first beat of the measure starts with the very first note, which in many cases is incorrect because many pieces have pick-up notes. I can still figure out the music, but it just sort of bugs me that it is incorrect. Am I being too particular? I always thought if someone were going to take the time and trouble to print music that is might as well be done right.

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Examples….?

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It’s got nothing to do with the notation system here. It’s down to the accuracy of the original abc notation, however that is generated - whether by hand, or as a result of a standard music notation program’s abc mincer.

I find that, in most cases, the notation for the tunes on here is is fine, but there are some tunes where it is a little bit inaccurate, and there’s always the odd real donkey that pops up now and again.

It’s really down to the notational skill of the person who is submitting the tune, to get it right, before and after mincing.

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Why does inaccuracy, in something which is approximate, bother you ?

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Feel free to add additional settings with adjusted bar lines.

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"Feel free to add additional settings with adjusted bar lines."

Better still, try getting in touch with whoever submitted the original setting and politely suggest correcting the errors.

"Why does inaccuracy, in something which is approximate, bother you ?"

I know the question directed at me, but: ‘Approximate’ and ‘incorrect’ are not the same. Ideally, when we write out a tune in staff notation, we do so in the knowledge that it is only an approximate respresentation of the tune, but we use the notation in such a way that, if someone comes to it ‘cold’, so to speak, they will be able to play the tune in a way that is, at least, *recogniseable*. Incorrect (I prefer this word to ‘inaccurate’ in this case) placement of bar lines shifts the fundamental accents in the tune, alters its overall structure and, sffectively, turns it into a different tune (and the chances are, one that doesn’t make much musical sense).

So that’s why it bothers me.

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I’ve seen some horrid transcriptions written out by musicians who are excellent players of the music, and not only in the Irish music genre. And tune booklets written by people who presumably feel they are qualified to write a tune book that contain a myriad of mistakes. Numerous transcriptions of mixolydian tunes written with an Ionian key signature and accidentals used for what is a flattened 7th in an Ionian mode but a non accidentalised note if the correct key signature was used is but one common example.On a recent post I noted that an editor of a book had left out first and second time endings, making the tune a 34 bar jig, compounded by an incorrect key signature, but with the correct notes using accidentals! I have a book here that has all its polkas written in 4/4 time with crotchets everywhere. No wonder I can’t dance a polka!!!! The ability to transcribe well is a separate, albeit closely related, skill to playing music. A misunderstanding of modes can often be a cause of poor transcriptions. As for anacrusis bar(pick up note) mistakes, I think a number of these can be put down to not understanding the finer points of the various music transcription software programmes available. On the software I use you have to set the anacrusis bar to the time value of that bar but set the displayed time signature separately, then in the next bar set the normal time signature but not display it. Quite logical once you’ve figured it out but easy to make an error. One fiddler whom I admire greatly once gave me his arrangement of a tune with all the "right"notes, but with the stems of the notes the wrong way around.
Ah but it’s the thought that counts………..

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Those who want to submit tunes who are not secure in their notation skills really ought to seek out someone who is secure to help them. In fact, even those who think they are good at it ought to pass their work past another who is good at it. I’ve seen everything Tony describes and other worse things in the transcriptions here and elsewhere. Notated versions of the tunes provide a scant enough outline of what goes on when they are good. No point in providing a starting point that is already cluttered with questionable notation.

Now, in fairness, there are lots of folks providing tunes here that are very good at what they do, and after a bit I think most of us can figure out who they are. So, OP, I think you need to look around out here and learn whose transcriptions to use and whose to ignore. Most of the tunes, though not all, can be found at other sites too, so one can often find another version that satisfies if what is here is a mess. Or, as another suggested, contact the submitter and politely suggest a notation change or provide your own version.

Finally, that business of polkas: There’s lots of disagreement about the "proper" way to notate them. I like to keep the notes crochets and quavers and avoid semi-quavers, and most often write them in cut time. Sometimes in 2/4 or 4/4. Not everyone will agree. But the point is, keep the notes crochets and quavers, and get the downbeats in the right places…at least for me.

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It can be a "problem" with mazurkas, which often are notated as if the first couple of notes are leading in to the tune proper starting on an emphasised beat at the beginning of the bar. (The pattern is actually emphasising the second beat and the "pick up" notes are actually part of the tune on the first beat)

But you can spot this pretty easily and, once you know it’s a mazurka, make sense of how it’s written. It’s just another facet of the fact that transcriptions are only approximations and it’s best to find recordings of a tune being played

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I’m with Jeremy on this — if it bothers you that a tune is ‘incorrect’, simply submit your version with an explanatory note. I’d rather have a bad version as none at all; and as long as there is enough information for me to recreate a version that suits the way I want to play it, I would be happy to find it here as a reference.

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I wonder if the OP is referring to the incomplete fragments of ABC from the comments that were converted to settings when Jeremy did his upgrade. They are easy to recognise as such by looking through the comments.

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Its a simple process to check an abc file for accuracy, by playing it back on midi using one of the freely available players. I don’t understand the need to have several "settings", most of which are rendered useless by inaccurate abc . Notational noodling I call it.

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They may be inaccurate, Backer, but they aren’t useless — there is often a lot of interesting stuff tucked away in the versions and comments. Perhaps ‘settings’ is the wrong word; but if two people play the tune in two different ways, there is nothing wrong with attempting to show what the difference is.

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"I’m with Jeremy on this — if it bothers you that a tune is ‘incorrect’, simply submit your version with an explanatory note."

We cannot assume that everyone will look at all the settings, let alone read the comments. I still think, if a setting is so bad that it is *misleading*, it would be better to track down the submitter and ask them to make the necessary corrections. Of course, members go AWOL, so it is not always possible, in which case we have to settle for adding a corrected setting.

"I’d rather have a bad version as none at all"

That entirely depends *how* bad. Something that is unmusical and undecipherable just clutters the webspace and possibly perpetuates cluelessness.

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"I wonder if the OP is referring to the incomplete fragments of ABC from the comments that were converted to settings when Jeremy did his upgrade. They are easy to recognise as such by looking through the comments."

Quite possibly.

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Part of me says "who cares?" because no Irish traditional whistle or flute or pipe music is written how it’s played anyhow. (As for the other instruments I have no idea.)

With those instruments, at least, it seems that there’s one group which includes good traditional players and another group which includes people who are familiar with staff notation, and there is no intersect between the two. Because of this, the traditional players don’t realise how incorrect the notation is, and the fluent staff notation writers don’t realise how untraditional the sheet music they produce is.

I actually spent some time, back when I was doing a lot of teaching (usually of Irish flute to "classical" players) coming up with ways to notate Irish flute music in such a way that a sightreader could read it and produce something at least in the neighborhood of how a trad player would play it… it’s difficult and you end up with a rather cluttered page of music.

There’s no point in doing this anyhow… the "classical" fluteplayer who is sightreading isn’t ever going to sound like a trad player, and trad players are merely using notation as an aide-memoire.

I prefer the Breandan Breathnach approach to notating Irish jigs and reels etc which uses generic symbols for rolls (or roll-like situations).

But one would think that people could at least get the bar-lines in the right places! When people are playing together at a session there’s a consensus of where the beat is, and you might as well write it that way.

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In amongst this ocean of acceptable inaccuracy, if there is some small percentage of data that is really inaccurate(incorrect), does it really matter?.

I think everyone at all levels can identify something that is incorrect, experienced people because they have the experience and beginners because that can’t make sense of it, in both cases people throw the parts that don’t make sense in the virtual bin.

"I know the question directed at me"
it was’t, but it does beg the question who are you ? and why would you think it was directed at you.

I agree with gam on this one
and I agree with Kenny, Examples?

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@Brenda Bowen Cox - I think that I understand where you’re coming from. FYI -

1) Whenever I submit an ABC tune transcription to session.org I make sure (when converted to dots) that it would add up to 32 bars (or 16, 40, 48, 64 bars etc. as the case may be). I think that most folks submitting tunes here do this.

2) Whenever possible, I also make sure that the "begin repeat" code is to the LEFT of any pickup/lead notes (anacrusis). So, when the ABC is rendered to midi there should be no missing beats (or extra beats) when listening to multiple reiterations. Sure, playing along to multiple reiterations of a computer-generated midi is not the ideal way to learn a trad tune. :-( Nonetheless, there are some folks who find this helpful. :-)

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"Does it bother anyone else that the notation for some of the tunes is incorrect as far as the bar lines are concerned?"
One way this can happen is if you are running a program like Sibelius. With Sibelius running, if I click on the midi box under a tune Sibelius will try to play the tune. To do this it translates the abc file into a score. Unfortunately Sibelius rewrites the score but with no pick up bars, so that any pick up notes become notes in the first bar and all bar lines are thus out by a quaver or two. It’s not the fault of the abc notation.

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I wonder what sort of tunes are at issue. Buried in the comments to a couple of mazurkas are longish discussions about the barring mazurkas and their relatives. It seems that often they are notated and played as Edgar Bolton says above but at other times they are played with the emphasis shifted (by people who I assume know what they are doing). I assume it is for different dances.

Depending on the rhythm flute players tend to breath in different places. I interpret the anacrusis as giving a hint which way is intended.

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@DonaldK. Not many trad musicians use Sibelius!

However, if you submit abc to session.org in the manner in which I described in my point (2) above, the resulting midi will play correctly through multiple iterations using Windows Media player (or equivalent software).

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@David50. Although most mazurkas are scored 3/4, some are written in 9/8 metre. Session.org doesn’t recognise this, and allows only 3/4 for mazurka transcriptions.

Although you’re not really supposed to include ABC headers within the body of an ABC transcription, if circumstances warrant it, it might be possible to submit a 9/8 mazurka by having M: 9/8 as the first line of your transcription (with the detail barred accordingly).

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Yes, Mix, but I don’t only play trad music. For my work I do a lot of guitar transcriptions and arrangements with several instruments as well as fiddle tunes. abc is fast for a single line melody but becomes really cumbersome for multi-line arrangements. A lot of the trad teachers I know also use Sibelius (Amy Geddes, Iain Fraser, Ian lowthian, etc.). When I started using Sibelius, it would take me half an hour to produce a pdf transcription of a tune. Now it takes about 5 minutes, the same as for abcs.
I don’t, as a general rule, listen to the midi files of the tunes on the session.org. I was just trying to find some explanation for Brenda’s experience with tunes with pick up notes and how they appeared in scores. As I understood it, every tune with an anacrusis got transcribed incorrectly with the pick up note(s) becoming part of the first full bar and all other notes shifted accordingly. I don’t have Windows Media player on my Mac. Maybe Brenda doesn’t either.

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""I know the question directed at me"
it was’t, but it does beg the question who are you ? and why would you think it was directed at you."

Sorry, Théirlandais - that should have read "I know the question *was not* directed at me".

Who am I? Why, I’m CreadurMawnOrganig. Yes, that’s right - THE CreadurMawnOrganig.

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DonaldK: "Yes, Mix, but I don’t only play trad music."

Fair enough. Although I was careful to say "not many" trad musicians!

And yes, I agree that ABC is cumbersome for multi-line arrangements.

"I don’t, as a general rule, listen to the midi files of the tunes on the session.org. I was just trying to find some explanation for Brenda’s experience with tunes with pick up notes and how they appeared in scores. As I understood it, every tune with an anacrusis got transcribed incorrectly with the pick up note(s) becoming part of the first full bar and all other notes shifted accordingly."

The midi files on session.org are auto-generated directly from the submitted ABC transcriptions The scores are also auto-generated from the ABC. It follows that any error in the transcription will be reflected both in the midi rendering and in the score.

I’m not familiar with Apple Macs - but presumably there must be software available for Macs that can play midi files?

Regarding Sibelius, I gather that it has no facility for directly importing .abc files. It least it didn’t the last time I looked at it. If that’s still the case, I think that they’re missing a trick. It shouldn’t be that difficult to implement it.

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"I’m not familiar with Apple Macs - but presumably there must be software available for Macs that can play midi files? Regarding Sibelius, I gather that it has no facility for directly importing .abc files."

But what Sibelius can do is take a (midi) sound file and generate a score from it, which you can then edit so that it sounds like a fiddle. However, if the tune has an anacrusis, you also need to edit the bar lines (which you can do).
Sibelius can do so much. But then at 40Gb you expect that. I’ve probably explored less than 1% of its capabilities.

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I still want to know what these tunes are that have wrong barlines - where are those examples? Or is this just chat over nothing?

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Ben Hall, I don’t think any of the tunes have wrong bar lines. This is a chat, I think, over the OP using software other than that intended, to produce scores from the abcs.

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Having said that I have come across a small number of tunes that have been transcribed with the anacrusis as part of the first bar.
Then there are also the retreat marches where the harmony often changes on the second beat of the bar.

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"I’m not familiar with Apple Macs - but presumably there must be software available for Macs that can play midi files? Regarding Sibelius, I gather that it has no facility for directly importing .abc files."

One the Mac:

1) Quicktime will play MIDI files, and can allow you to change the voice of the file (to violin or whatever). There are other free and/or inexpensive MIDI players too.

2) EasyABC will play abc files (as MIDI) without any fuss and will automatically produce good looking printed pages in pdf format.

3) Easy ABC will import MIDI files and create notation and will give you options about the pickup as I recall.

4) Finale will give you options to set a pickup when transcribing MIDI files I’m amazed that capability is not in Sibelius.

5) While I certainly would not recommend abc as the program of choice for producing extensive multipart music it works very successfully for simple harmony parts. There is a learning curve, and in some respects a worse one than with Sibelius of Finale (though in many respects it is simple).

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What ever happened to Brenda, the original poster? :-/ Ever curious, like Kenny, I too would like to see examples of what inspired this thread.