# box notation

### box notation

I’d like to write a tune out for a friend who’s a box player, but she uses a kabbalistic notation system - all capital letters with ticks by some. Can anyone point me to a tutorial? Or explain the basics?

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She can’t explain her system?

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Yes, she is a languages teacher and has been marking homework.

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if she were here, she could explain it - but not in relation to staff notation or a piano keyboard. I just need to know which octave is which and where it changes

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I have seen that sort of thing in collections of tunes kept by Irish musicians. One version that I saw went like this: if it was in the “first octave” (ie bottom octave of either whistle or flute - and yes, I know they’re different, but not for tune recordng purposes they’re not) it would just be the note name itself; if the note had a ‘tick’ next to it, it was in the “second octave”. If you try that, does that make sense, airport?

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yes - thank you! some of the letters had 2 ticks though, so do you think the lowest octave would still be the note name itself? What’s the range of a B/C box?

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Hmmm … I don’t know. I’ve got one somewhere … past my bedtime now though … someone will come along and answer I feel sure.

Dots and the standard ABC system used on this site aren’t the only notation systems around for this music. In fact, as used by real-life, Irish musicians, I’d say, from what I’ve seen, that something like you’ve seen is more common, airport.

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B/C box has the normal D to b, plus a c’natural up at the top (c#, too, but I don’t know if I’ve ever used it) and goes down almost an octave below the standard range to an E, but most people don’t play down there a lot. If you type in some samples of the notation, maybe someone will be able to decipher it for you.

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This sounds like the notation used by Frank Custy to teach his students around Ennis in the 70’s and 80’s. I have a couple of his books at home, but they’re scant on a legend or lexicon to that definitely kabbalistic notation.

He taught Sharon Shannon and I presume Josephine Marsh, so it must have worked! It’s similar to ABC, but different. No direct translation that I know.

The box has about a 2 1/2 octave range from a bottom G or so below the flute D up to the upper c in the second octave. Depends on the instrument.

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So maybe something like:
F, G, A, B, C, D, E‘, F’, G‘, A’, B‘, C’, D‘, E’‘, F’‘, G’‘, A’‘, B’’, C"

Thanks for all your help - I don’t have any examples (sorry Jon) - guess I’ll just have to ask her

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I found an example - here’s part of it:
A‘F’#D‘F’# E‘D’BD’

the octave changes at C, and the low octave is marked by putting a mark that looks like a caret over the letter, so something like
A^ B^ C D E F G A B C‘ D’ E‘ F’ G‘ A’ B’ and I think the upper couple of notes are the ones with the double tick

is there a way to indicate length of notes? or triplets etc?

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I started on the accordion with the system you refer to, it was a support to learning by ear, it was always hand written so tripplets were represented by an arc covering the three notes, I can’t remember how duration was represented, I think it was done either by distance between the notes or it may have been by numbers, but seeing as we were learning by ear the duration was obvious.. I seem to remember the low notes like B as B, but I could be wrong..
I would give her the ABC version and she would probably learn ABC well enough after about 10 minutes, to learn any tune.

If you want to have a bit of fun, you could show here this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdCOoEe-nHI&feature=player_embedded

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You often see tunes written out like this in Ireland but the code seems to vary a bit from person to person. Often a - represents a longer note etc. so take Saddle the Pony, it’d be D GBA G-B D‘E’F‘ G’D’B GBA G-B AFD AFD etc. May this helps. Could the ^ be a sharpened note?

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I’ve used a system similar to Wounded Hussar’s.

D / GBA G_B / D‘E’F‘ G’D’B / GBA G_B / AFD AFD

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O.K. I’d have to look again & see how I used the notation. It was for whistle, so for tunes with C# & F#, or in D, it’s easy enough to just write out the letters. But I do remember sometimes using #s, but usually not. Just off the cuff I’d say “Saddle the Pony” could be written:
D / GBA G_B / D‘E’F‘# G’D’B / GBA G_B / AF#D AF#D
Sorry, I don’t remember doing anything for writing in C nats.

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Are the ticks for push-notes or something like that?
Or notes on the other row?

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Generally the ticks are for the higher octave. Also many don’t write out the sharps if they are natural to the key (pun) For example in D just write F, not F#, C not C#.

If you’re starting from scratch the abc notation, case sensitive for octave, is very nice.