Benefit to learning ABC?

Benefit to learning ABC?

Hello,

I’m a bass player new to the CBOM family of instruments, and thus new to treble clef. I’ve been mostly learning tunes by ear, but have also been using my OM as a vehicle for improving my treble clef sightreading. Obviously this speeds up my tune acquisition as well. Learning ABC would be another ball to keep in the air, and I’m wondering if others who know how to read music find that it adds anything to ‘following the dots’. As always, if this thread has already been done to death, please point me to prior discussions.

Happy new year!

Rhychawr Catsmeat (AKA Rhych, AKA Rich)

Re: Benefit to learning ABC?

To me, as a non-reader/user of ABC, the two advantages seem to be that you can write out a tune without stave paper, and you can input it into the tune database here.
Other than that, we have a perfectly good, and very subtle, system of music notation already. Why use/learn another ?
( Also, I’m an old fart and don’t want to learn anything new. )

Re: Benefit to learning ABC?

Hi Rhychawr

ABC has the advantage of being an extremely economical format - useful when the format was first devised, but much less relevant in the context of today’s hard drive storage and broadband transmission speeds.

The majority of traditional tunes available for download from this (and other) sites are available in abc format. However, if you don’t wish to learn to read this format, there is plenty of software around (some of it free) that will convert it to "dots" for you on the treble clef.

With regard to learning to write abc format, as Guernsey says, the only real personal advantage that you would gain would be the ability to submit tunes to this (and to other) sites that will only accept submissions in this format.

Many music score editors allow the import of abc files. This might be useful if you wanted to add a bass part to a tune. Instead of having to write out the whole score, you would only have to import the melody and then add the bass line manually - rather than having to write out the complete score.

Finally, learning the abc format is not difficult, especially if you already understand standard written music.

Re: Benefit to learning ABC?

"you can take abc ,go to concertina .net and get it transformed to proper music notation.
abc is crap. I … abhor abc."

Dick, er, I mean John, abc must indirectly provide value to you — if it didn’t, why would you have any need to convert the information it contains to conventional notation?

The advantages of abc for exchanging tunes (or tune snippets) in online forums and by email are obvious.

I read music fluently but learn and play ITM mostly by ear. abc allows me to scribble a few notes or phrases of a tune I hear at a session and want to learn, without having to draw out a staff or keep manuscript paper on hand.

I also keep a spreadsheet of tunes I’m working on — just the name, the key, and the first two measures in abc. This helps me associate the names with the tunes and reminds me of the tunes I need to practice.

Re: Benefit to learning ABC?

Someone on irtrad-l many years ago made the point that if you learn to read ABC you’ve got a very economical tool for jotting down and recalling tunes. I still find it more difficult to read than regular notes, but what the hell. I use it a lot for reviewing tunes while I’m riding the bus back and forth to work.

Maybe Dickjohn hasn’t learned to read it yet?

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Re: Benefit to learning ABC?

I don’t quite understand what’s the problem with learning ABC. It’s almost nothing more than writing down the notes. I can’t read the dots, but find that ABC is an easy and handy tool for recalling tunes.

Re: Benefit to learning ABC?

Thanks for all the input. It does seem to be an easy way to ‘jot down’ tunes quickly. I imagine that it also make for greater ease in ‘dictating’ a tune.

Cheers,
R

Re: Benefit to learning ABC?

ha ha ha, I just love that one. You want to dictate a tune to some one? ha ha. So you learn a way of abstracting the music into a stream of letters and numbers, instead of merely singing it to them. Ha ha bloody ha.

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Re: Benefit to learning ABC?

As someone who can both read dots (although not my natural first choice) and play by ear (which is), ABC is still a useful thing - for example, if you have some sort of pda device you can note down bits of music in that, or use ABC snippets saved in your machine to help you remember the first couple of bars of something. I was playing for a couple of hours in a restaurant recently and having a large number of tunes (first couple of bars) was really useful aide-memoire.

Re: Benefit to learning ABC?

Yes, Michael. It’s the oldest recording device known to man, and it works pretty well, especially when you get home and realize that the tune is sloshing around with a dozen others in your head and three or four pints, and you need something to help you get it out.

Re: Benefit to learning ABC?

Hey Llig, see if you can wrap your mind around this:

Someone new to the genre hears a tune he likes, is having trouble figuring it out, so he calls up a friend with a lot of experience and asks over the phone for the notes. His friend ‘dictates’ the tune to him in ABC. The newbie jots it down and proceeds to play the tune. Sheesh!

Re: Benefit to learning ABC?

Many workshop tutors who don’t read tadpoles use a form of ABC for classes, so if you want to go to workshops in Ireland, you’d better get used to it.

Re: Benefit to learning ABC?

I’d love to go to a ITM workshop in Ireland someday! I’ll bring along my flyrod and experience heaven on earth by fishing by day and playing tunes by night. Guess I’ll have to bring my ‘strathspey’rod.

Cheers!

Re: Benefit to learning ABC?

So … someone new to the genre hears a tune he likes, is having trouble figuring it out, so he calls up a friend with a lot of experience and asks over the phone for the notes. His friend ‘dictates’ the tune to him in ABC. The newbie jots it down and proceeds to play about 2% of the tune. "Sheesh", he says to himself, "How come I have all the notes, but it sounds all wrong?"

Diddley music is a complex structure of notes, half notes, rhythm and all sorts. It takes a lot of hard listening to get it. The information in the ABC is about 2% of what’s actually in the music. The problem though, is that that 2%, out of all of it, is the easiest bit to get. So if you are having trouble getting that particular 2% just by listening, what chance have you of getting the rest of it?

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Re: Benefit to learning ABC?

Diddley music is like no other, then?

I would say that the trouble with the ‘initial 2%’ for me has always been inertia. i.e. getting things moving. Once the fingers are moving on the basic form of a tune, adding rhythmic and melodic variations seems to come easier. Thus, I submit that your premise is false. I also submit that the basic melody line of a tune is more than 2%, but that is another issue.

So, your recommendation is to forgo any written form and stick totally to learning tunes by ear, then? So far, I have been able to make that work for me with ITM most of the time.

That is not an unreasonable position, it is just different than how I’ve approached all other genres of music that I play. Whether I have been learning classical, jazz, folk, country, or bluegrass, I have personally always relied on a combination of visual and aural learning (read ‘hard listening’). In fact, when I was focusing on jazz, I would listen and transcribe bass solos to facilitate learning. That always helped me better understand where the soloist was going with the music.

But then I have other duties and obligations. Sometimes it is nice to cop out and follow the dots. I’ll tell you something shameful: I even enjoy myself when I’m struggling to get that lowly 2% of the tune! How’s that for a true Barclay’s?

Re: Benefit to learning ABC?

You might say it’s "just 2% of the tune" (I’m not sure how that percentage is calculated…), you might say it’s the easiest part of the tune - but it’s also the first thing you have to learn. You get that, you can usually figure out what else is going on, but if you don’t have the bones of the tune it’s hard to put the flesh on them.

Re: Benefit to learning ABC?

I’m new here. I take it llig is one of the resident ‘crusty curmudgeons’ of this board? The chap who remembers how great everything was before us punters showed up and spoiled it all?

Why engage in any critical thinking if you have an opinion, eh?

I agree with Jon. I’ve been trying to learn some Andy Irvine bits, but before I get the ‘Balkanized’ parts, I have to go back and learn the original simple melody lines (which I can usually do by ear, from another source recording). Then I can start attaching ornamentations from the recordings until I have a pretty fair representation. Sometimes I even write these down in standard notation. That helps me solidify it in my mind. However, I don’t think I could’ve done tat unless I had the basic melody first. If we’re talking percentages, that basic part feels more like 40% than 2%.

BTW - No offense to llig intended, I’m actually a bit of a curmudgeon myself.

Oops

"…could’ve done tat …"????

Sorry about the poor proofreading.

Re: Benefit to learning ABC?

I learned abc so I could follow the discussions on this website. :)

Then I discovered the converter on concertina.net and realized I could transcribe tunes myself and have them come out in lovely printed form, and that was very helpful. Much easier than writing out the notes on staff paper.

Crusty?

For my 1st year I thought * llig * was the name of someone from eastern Europe.
It never ceases to amaze me how relatively young the crusty crumudgeons (on this forum) tend to be. llig can be quite eloquent.
I hear there are great sessions every night of the week where he lives.

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Re: Benefit to learning ABC?

Very true kennedy.
Rhychawr, the "tunes" category has it’s own comment section. When members have a different take* on a tune they oftentimes type up the abcs for sake of discussion. Certain members, Dow … ceolacahn … Will cpt … are quite prolific.

*after the fact ~ once someone has posted a given tune.

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*

… oftentimes type in their version(s) in the comments.

the point of the 2% figure is not mathematical accuracy.
It is simply noting the most direct means of learning tradition music is aural (vs. visual)

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Re: Benefit to learning ABC?

Of course I’m not recommending forgoing any written form and sticking totally to learning tunes by ear … for everyone, for ever. I’m a pragmatist, and distrust anyone who isn’t.

The advise to forgo written forms of the tunes is directed towards those who are, "new to the genre". And specifically, those who are new to the genre but already familiar with other/s and already read musical notation.

Diddley music IS like no other.

This is very important. Musical notation is a useful tool for those familiar with the music, but for the unfamiliar, the letters, symbols, marks, conventions of written music represent different sounds. And when people who are unfamiliar with the music use any form of notation to help their learning/understanding of the music, it is confusing for them because they will automatically impose their own understandings of what the symbols represent.

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Re: Benefit to learning ABC?

Again, very helpful to me. Thanks for all the input. This last bit from llig is particularly helpful, and jives with my experience playing a variety of musical styles. Always nice to have clear, eloquent explanation of someone’s thinking (as opposed to a derisive snort).

If I lived near llig I’d go to those sessions, buy him a pint, and try to get him to teach me some tunes. Perhaps we’d even take in a Hearts match!

Re: Benefit to learning ABC?

I have to agree with you there, Michael - someone unfamiliar with the tunes will produce a pale parody if they just read off a page. But that’s true of any sort of music, even classical. So we come to some sort of agreement - it’s best to listen, but a written aide-memoire won’t do any irreparable harm.
(ahem, and as for crusty-old-fart-hood, I think I’ve got Michael beat, at least for time reading this board…)

Re: Benefit to ABC?

Best source for any tune is to hear someone play the tune.
All the same I keep coming to the site every day. Members discuss tunes. This is a vital part of passing on tunes.
Sessions are mostly for playing & craic.
thesession is mostly about wasting time!
With that in mind check out a few of the twists that take place when a tune gets submitted.
The tune is usually credited to Charlie Mulvihill (& gets his name). Father Kelly came up with the tune.
If someone who knows the tune could play it for you that would be grand. I should warn you ~ only at your own risk would you dare check out the comments.

Derry Craig Wood
(often known as ~ Mulvihill’s Reel)
January 29th 2004 by Will CPT
https://thesession.org/tunes/2449

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