What is the real use of ABC notation?

What is the real use of ABC notation?

Please pardon my ignorance. but what is the real use of ABC notation?

My Yahoo.com session group provides both sheet music and ABC notation for new tunes. When I download the ABC it appears to be British MI5 code from World War II. I went to www.abcnotation.com and came away more confused.

If it is use to play a tune, it appears as though one would be through Part A and half way into Part B reading sheet music then trying to decipher all that MI 5 code.

Help me out here and don’t ask "Which door did you come in".

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

It’s for people who can’t read sheet music and know how the tune goes but needs a little help finding the right notes every once in a while.

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

I find it handy to write out tunes, transpose etc and then convert to the dots for reading. they can also be ‘played’ by a machine ;ie midi …if your reading isnt so good .Its also usefull for writing tunes on my phone too… easy to write ABC in a note…

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

Its good to enable you to carry 1000+ tunes in you iPhone and view them as manuscript or ABC or listen to a midi play back as a memory jogger.

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

goldfrog, whats the simplest way to put 1000 tunes on my iphone?

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

Way back in the early days of the internet, it was really hard to share pictures, let alone audio clips.
Computers and connections were very slow. Sending an ABC was quick and easy, whereas jpegs of sheet music was slow and difficult if possible at all.
ABC notation was a useful way to send and share tunes. You could type out the tune on any computer (or typewriter for that matter) without needing special musical characters.
Since then there have been programs developed to translate ABC into audio and sheet music.
Now it’s simply another way of notating tunes. Sort of a sheet music shorthand.

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

[*Please pardon my ignorance. but what is the real use of ABC notation?*]

Portability, and versatility, I think. Apart from that, I don’t see it as having much use (apart from for those who learned to read it, in addition to (or instead of) standard notation.

The versatility of it imo comes out when you load it into something like Harmony Assistant. ABC in, then standard notation, graphic, tab, xml out.

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

So it is a special code with each character, line and number having a standardized meaning controlled by www.abcnotation.com perhaps. With available visual readers and computer programs for transposing the MI 5 codes into sheet music. As the Arty Johnson character use to say on Laugh In, "Very interesting".

Is the transposing software available in Mac format?

Thank you.

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

[*Is the transposing software available in Mac format?*]

Yes, it is.

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

Simpler, easier to write, edit and share than full-grown scores. Image you’d need an online version of Sibelius or something to add settings to the tune db. Also, with ABC you can quickly pen a few variation-snippets into the comments section etc.

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

A chairde! Greetings

In no way denigrating CCS’s question and the helpful replies, the best way to cary 1000+ tunes is in the computer between the ears; then you don’t need to carry anything more than your instrument.

All the best

Brian x

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

gam: The wiki website was very helpful. I now have a full understanding of the notation. What confused me was the use of numbers in the notation - note length and the changing Part A endings.

Thanks, I now which door I can exit by.

This is great site when people take the time to read the question and answer directly. I know I sometimes I try to add too much humor to my replies.

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

You don’t actually need MI5 or an enigma machine to decode it.
The "title block" has the name, time sig, key, and "normal note"
The letters are the notes and numbers are how long you play them.
It assumes you’ll know which notes to sharp, but otherwise pretty easy.

It’s great for people like me who never learned how to read music.

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

Barfly was great, but doesn’t work with modern OSX versions, because they have dumped the old CarbonLib PPC libraries ever since Lion (OSX 10.7)

There are some other alternatives, but I still keep an old laptop running 10.6 just for BarFly.

https://thesession.org/discussions/27934

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

EasyABC is a very good, but not perfect, replacement for Barfly. There are a couple of little issues with the current version that are annoying but not impossible. I’ve a fixed version I think I could share if someone needs it (works on Mac, but not on PC). PM me if you wish.

Why is ABC useful? 1) A quick and simple way to jot down tunes (it actually precedes the internet). 2) A simple efficient way to share tunes that allows the recipient to modify things as they wish (transposition, chord changes, add words etc. etc.) 3) Quick access to what the abcnotation.com site now says is 380,000 pieces of music including those that are here (there are many duplicates but still….). 4) When you need dots (which can be very important in some situations though arguable in ITM) you can get them quickly. 5) Plenty of freely available software to manipulate the abc in a variety of ways. 6) Some folks actually play quite fluently from it (though not me…)

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

@ Briantheflute. The drawback (although not for you obviously) is that when your dependants go through your belongings after overcoming their grief at your demise, they won’t find any tunes. :)
On a more serious note (pun), some of my favourite possessions are a few manuscript books that belonged to my grandfather. Maybe an Iphone wouldn’t have the same ring (another one); but at least the tune collection could be useful.

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Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

<quote>
goldfrog, whats the simplest way to put 1000 tunes on my iphone?
# Posted by Will Evans 10 hours ago.
</quote>

I use TuneBook

http://www.jhlabs.com/tunebook/

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

Hi gam

Thank you for such a generous and, most genuinely understood, response. I note exactly your comment and situation and can only wish that I had similar; special treasures, especially at moments when certain dates come around…one can only imagine, never know the close connection that such could bring to you, and many others.

Today, this very date, also would be one for me, not so much musically, but likewise that there might be something there as a personal belonging.

All the best

Brian x

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

As has been mentioned, it actually predated The Internet and is a handy short hand way to note down tunes.

I can write it but I would rarely use to it "read" a tune as it’s very easy to transpose to standard notation via numerous very cheap or even free programs.

It’s also a very cheap and easy way to compile simple sheet music without purchasing expensive software. For our kind of music, all we really need is the "top" or "treble clef" melody part of a score in most cases.

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

It’s a modern version of the sol-fa taught in some schools in the 19th and early 20th century - especially in Scotland. Sol-fa saves the fag of ruling lines and it uses less paper than a stave. Paper was expensive. In school you could write it on the blackboard and on your lttle slate with your slate pencil. You could note down your tunes in tiny notebooks. Publishers used it because you could type-set sol-fa with ordinary lettering and produce, for instance, cheap hymn books which showed the melody line above the words.

ABC was developed to send the melody lines of tunes by email in plain text at a time when sending pictures of staves was unthinkable. You can store hundreds of ABC tunes in one text file. It also has most of the advantages of sol-fa when used on paper. I used to note the names of my tunes and then the first few bars by hand in ABC in a notebook as a prompt for those moments when everything goes black. More recently I have had to go back to conventional notation because my partner refuses to learn ABC and it is a lot more effort.

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

The economy of ABC code is much less important now than it was than in was in the days of slow dialup internet.

However, it still offers huge advantages. For those who don’t read music and want to hear a rough outline of a tune, there’s plenty of freeware/shareware software out there (for all platforms) that will convert ABC code to midi (as has been pointed out above).

More importantly, sheet music supplied as gif, jpg, pdf or whatever cannot easily be edited. ABC code can easily be edited without the benefit of special software - perhaps to modify the melody or maybe to to add chord settings or whatever. And if you want to produce sheet music from the edited ABC, there’s plenty of freeware/shareware software (for all platforms) out there that will do that for you as well.

Sure, ABC code seems strange when you first encounter it, and you need to get through a bit of a pain barrier to understand it. But it’s not that difficult - a couple of hours should be enough to master the basics.

Long live ABC!

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

I just regard ABC as a non-proprietary tune storage format from which you can produce sheet music. I can read it, but there’s generally no need to. The advantage of keeping ABC as opposed to PDF files, JPEGs or whatever is that it uses less space and you can easily search and modify the music using a simple text editor. Wrong key? Just transpose it with some ABC software. Notes too small for your failing eyesight? Just reconvert it to sheet music with a bigger note scaling. Need to display a whole set of tunes at once? Just concatenate the ABC text. Want to identify a tune you heard in the session last night? Just search for the fragment of ABC of the few notes you can remember. You can’t do all that stuff with sheet music.

I also might add a personal problem: Thousands of tunes in your head slowly mutating without your knowledge? Check out the ABC for them once a year :-)

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

Yep, just imagine O’Neill’s 1850 Tunes, hand-crafted and leather bound, collector’s limited edition, in ABC format.

Then scanning each page with OCR software, mincing it through another abc-to-notation convertor, and finally printing it all out, page by page, hole-punching it, and storing in a big ring binder that keeps falling off the music stand :)

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

I find it ideal for jotting down a sequence of notes as quickly as possible on a scrap of paper with a biro, when for sundry reasons I want to do this before I forget them. I should imagine it’s just as useful for doing this on a mobile or equivalent gadget.

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

That sounds reasonable, Jim! :-D

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

Oh good grief!!!!!

1) The only similarity between ABC and sol-fa is that they write out things using letters. The rhythmic things are completely different, and so are most of the other things. ABC attempts to come close to the names of the notes. Tonic sol-fa uses the do-re-mi syllables (and a hugely complex way of modulating from key to key). That said, the do both provide a means to notate without staff notation, but I hardly think that allows one to imply they are analogues.

2) Words fail me in attempting to respond sensibly to Worldfiddler’s post above. I desparately hope it was intended as humor. The smiley seems to say so. Let’s leave it at that.

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

I heard a tune on a recording and had to listen to it again and again because it was such a good tune. The notation for this tune was not available on this site, so last night I decided I needed to learn ABC notation to add it here. Following a link from back discussions on this site, thanks ceolachan and others, I found this site which easily taught me what it all means:

http://www.lesession.co.uk/abc/abc_notation.

And this morning I learned how to write in ABC and successfully submitted my first tune, The Shropshire Miner, here, all in about 2 hours. Now I can store it in standard notation anywhere I like electronically, all you can share it and I can print it off to remind me how it starts if I want to.

Apart from these excellent uses, it will be a really handy skill for capturing musical ideas when only a pen and scrap of paper are handy.

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

Thank you very much 6keys, yes, that’s the one! Tried to cut & paste & must have missed a bit!

Re: What is the real use of ABC notation?

Remember this first appeared in the early days of the internet when modems were very slow and so it was easy to transmit/download a tune in a short time as the text files are very small.

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