As easy as ABC?

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Peter Duggan
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As easy as ABC?

Post by Peter Duggan »

So perhaps it's 'the text-based music notation system and the de facto standard for folk and traditional music' (quoting abcnotation.com), but I can't say it's ever attracted me before when it's just no way readable/writable like staff notation for anyone fluent in the latter. But guess I can see its value as an interchange format and thought I'd maybe better give it a go if I'm going to hang around here! So I've set two of the tunes from my signature link, run them through the staff notation rendering thingies at folkinfo.org and concertina.net to check for mistakes, am sticking them up here for folk to try and might well add the ABC to my site if it's useful. So please go ahead and play them, gig them (would be nice to hear how things go if you do!), ignore them or whatever, but please also remember they're mine and ask before reproducing them anywhere else (if I want to see them somewhere like The Session, I'll put them there myself!). For anyone interested, the MP3s on my site were taken from an early/mid-1990s recording I made of both tunes as a set, with The Boat that Sailed Backwards played three times (on Sweetheart D flute), An Tilleadh gu Colla twice (on Overton G whistle) and the latter also doubled by the accompanying piano. But I'd love to hear a good fiddler take on that reel because it's always stuck me as a natural fiddle tune...

X:1
T:The Boat that Sailed Backwards
C:Peter Duggan
F:http://www.petestack.com/music/audio/boatback.mp3
H:Composed November 1992.
I:http://www.petestack.com/music/petestuf ... recordings
M:9/8
R:Slip Jig
L:1/8
K:G
"D7"D2e dAB cAF|"G"D2G GBG FGA|"D7"D2e dAB cde|"Bm"fed "Em"cBA "A"GFE|
"D7"D2e dAB cAF|"G"D2G GBG FGA|"D7"Dfe dAB cBA|"G"GAG FGA G3|
"Em"B2a gef gfe|"B7"f2B f2g agf|"Em"e2a gef gfe|"B7"f2B- Bfg agf|
"C"e2a gef gfe|"G"def gdB GFE|"D7"Dfe dAB cBA|"G"GAG FGA G3|]

X:2
T:An Tilleadh gu Colla
C:Peter Duggan
F:http://www.petestack.com/music/audio/tilleadh.mp3
H:Composed October 1991, revised March 1992.
I:http://www.petestack.com/music/petestuf ... recordings
M:C|
R:Reel
L:1/8
K:G
B2A|:"G"GDB,D "D7"A,CB,A,|"G"G,2 "D7"(3A,B,C "G"B,G,B,D|"Em"GG,"D"FG, "C"EG,"G"DG,|"Am"CB,"A7"A,G, "D7"A,B2c|
"G"dBGB "C"cGEG|"G"BGDG "F"AC(3=FGA|"G"DADG "D7"DFDA|1 "G"G/2G/2GAF GB2A:|2 "G"G/2G/2GAF GABc|
"G"dBGB "C"cGEG|"G"BGDc- "C"cGEG|"G"BAGA "A7"FAEA|"D7"Dd2c BAGF|
"G"GABG "C"cGEG|"G"BGDG "F"AC(3=FGA|"G"DADG "D7"DFDA|"G"G/2G/2GAF GABc|
"G"dBGB "C"cGEG|"G"BGDc- "C"cGEG|"G"BAGA "A7"FAEA|"D7"D/2D/2DFD ADdc|
"G"BGDB, "D7"A,CB,A,|"G"G,A,B,G, "Cm"CA,B,C|"G"DADG "D7"DFDA|"G"G/2G/2GAF G|]
And we in dreams behold the Hebrides.

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Re: As easy as ABC?

Post by MTGuru »

Peter Duggan wrote:it's just no way readable/writable like staff notation for anyone fluent in the latter.
As someone who considers himself a native speaker of Staff :-), I'd say you're simply putting the wrong twist on it.

Don't think of ABC as a way to represent music. Think of it as a way to represent staff notation. There's a subtle difference.

That is, there's a one-to-one correspondence between every element of ABC and a corresponding element of staff notation. It's isomorphic. And it's not intended as an independent system, or as a substitute for Staff, but rather as a translation of staff notation to a different, text-friendly formalism. I'd go so far as to say that fluency in Staff is a prerequisite for fluent ABC. So people like yourself are the ideal practitioners.

ABC is effectively another text-based music rendering language, much like Lilypond, or MUP, or even MusicTeX. That it's easier than these others to learn and even, in a pinch, read directly is a testimony to Chris Walshaw's inspiration. I've taught Staff-fluent friends to write ABC in about 10 minutes, because they're not really learning anything new.

Oh, and I like yer chunes. :-)
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Re: As easy as ABC?

Post by DrPhill »

MTGuru wrote:............ I'd go so far as to say that fluency in Staff is a prerequisite for fluent ABC.
But a lack of fluency in Staff (why the capitalisation?) does not seem to hamper my ability to create ABC from Staff. In fact attempting such has forced me to learn about Staff.

And even I have noticed at least one difference (or maybe it is my ignorance showing): Staff may show two sharps, but ABC may be wrong if I just stick in D Major as the key.....
Phill

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Re: As easy as ABC?

Post by Mitch »

meh.

No mater how you paint a stick - he's still a bunch of wood and bark.

The art is to get the paint off.

If you leave a green stick alone, it will grow right outa the paint.

ABC .. dots .. all paint on the Mona Lisa's smile .. well I don't like dots .. looks too much like worm. .. worms are a problem.

Some species have ears.

SOme of them have hearts

Some of them learn to sing

paint em, draw dots on them.

Makes no difference in the end.

Whata ya wana be - a stick?
Or a picture of a stick??
All the best!

mitch
http://www.ozwhistles.com
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Re: As easy as ABC?

Post by MTGuru »

DrPhill wrote:But a lack of fluency in Staff (why the capitalisation?)
English, French, Spanish ... Staff. :wink:
DrPhill wrote:In fact attempting such has forced me to learn about Staff.
Exactly ... there you have it. The clever ruse worked, tricking you into learning standard notation!

Also keep in mind that ABC can do more than what is usually done to represent simple tunes. If you want to notate a 4-part chorale on grand staff with aligned lyrics, you really should know how it's supposed to look in standard notation.
DrPhill wrote:Staff may show two sharps, but ABC may be wrong if I just stick in D Major as the key.....
Not sure I understand that, Phill. Yes, K:DMajor in ABC should render 2 sharps on the staff.
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Re: As easy as ABC?

Post by hans »

Nice tunes Peter, thanks! Hope to learn the slip jig in time.
For whistle players at least the reel could do with transposition a fifth up, to make it readable and playable with D-whistle fingering (I can't read music written specific for G whistle).
Here it is, and shows another advantage of abc notation: easy transposition with software:

Code: Select all

K:D
f2e|:"D"dAFA "A7"EGFE|"D"D2 "A7"(3EFG "D"FDFA|"Bm"dD"A"cD "G"BD"D"AD|"Em"GF"E7"ED "A7"Ef2g|
"D"afdf "G"gdBd|"D"fdAd "C"eG(3=cde|"D"AeAd "A7"AcAe|1 "D"d/d/dec df2e:|2 "D"d/d/dec defg|
"D"afdf "G"gdBd|"D"fdAg- "G"gdBd|"D"fede "E7"ceBe|"A7"Aa2g fedc|
"D"defd "G"gdBd|"D"fdAd "C"eG(3=cde|"D"AeAd "A7"AcAe|"D"d/d/dec defg|
"D"afdf "G"gdBd|"D"fdAg- "G"gdBd|"D"fede "E7"ceBe|"A7"A/A/AcA eAag|
"D"fdAF "A7"EGFE|"D"DEFD "Gm"GEFG|"D"AeAd "A7"AcAe|"D"d/d/dec d|]

DrPhill wrote:And even I have noticed at least one difference (or maybe it is my ignorance showing): Staff may show two sharps, but ABC may be wrong if I just stick in D Major as the key.....
Well, yes, abc notation allows input of modes in the K (key) field, like E Dor. That is helpful for trad music.
MTGuru wrote:That is, there's a one-to-one correspondence between every element of ABC and a corresponding element of staff notation. It's isomorphic. And it's not intended as an independent system, or as a substitute for Staff, but rather as a translation of staff notation to a different, text-friendly formalism.
That is a bit stretched. There is no isomorphism. Abc notation does some things staff notation does not (like the K field, and all kinds of other fields), and staff notation can do a lot more than can be expressed with abc notation. But there is an attempt from abc notation to capture all the major elements of staff notation, limited for single staff (I know there are extensions which can handle multiple staffs).
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Re: As easy as ABC?

Post by DrPhill »

MTGuru wrote:
DrPhill wrote:Staff may show two sharps, but ABC may be wrong if I just stick in D Major as the key.....
Not sure I understand that, Phill. Yes, K:DMajor in ABC should render 2 sharps on the staff.
I know what I mean, but I need someone with better command of the language to explain that succinctly..........
hans wrote:
DrPhill wrote:And even I have noticed at least one difference (or maybe it is my ignorance showing): Staff may show two sharps, but ABC may be wrong if I just stick in D Major as the key.....
Well, yes, abc notation allows input of modes in the K (key) field, like E Dor. That is helpful for trad music.
....................thanks Hans.
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Re: As easy as ABC?

Post by MTGuru »

hans wrote:That is a bit stretched. There is no isomorphism.
Sure there is, semantically, though it's definitely a subset. Every feature (not token) of ABC maps unambiguously to a representation in standard notation. With a few exceptions such as the metadata fields like S:, Z: etc. - which do map to text annotations, but are usually not rendered. It really has to be so, because ABC is effectively a declarative programming language with defaults.

The K: field maps unambiguously to a key signature (and clef and staff). And instead of stating a key or mode you can enumerate sharps and flats if you like. For example "K:^f ^c ^g" instead of "K:AMajor".

In theory, I can't think of why ABC couldn't be extended to the whole of some definition of standard notation, given a large enough symbol set. It's how ABC has grown over the course of it's evolution.

Not being a mathematician, I can't say if it meets a strict algebraic test of isomorphism. But I think the concept of correspondence is helpful for Staffophones :-) to make sense of it.
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Re: As easy as ABC?

Post by hans »

MTGuru wrote:Not being a mathematician, I can't say if it meets a strict algebraic test of isomorphism. But I think the concept of correspondence is helpful for Staffophones :-) to make sense of it.
I agree, and I think we agree on our understanding of abc and staff notation and their relationship.
But mathematically (and isomorphism is principally a mathematical concept) isomorphism requires the mapping between the objects of two structures to go both ways, one needs to be able to map structure A to structure B and vice versa in order to call them isomorphic, i.e. of equal shape.
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Re: As easy as ABC?

Post by fearfaoin »

hans wrote:I agree, and I think we agree on our understanding of abc and staff notation and their relationship.
But mathematically (and isomorphism is principally a mathematical concept) isomorphism requires the mapping between the objects of two structures to go both ways, one needs to be able to map structure A to structure B and vice versa in order to call them isomorphic, i.e. of equal shape.
Are you implying that you can't map from staff
notation to ABC? Because you certainly can do
that.
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Re: As easy as ABC?

Post by Peter Duggan »

MTGuru wrote:As someone who considers himself a native speaker of Staff :-), I'd say you're simply putting the wrong twist on it.

Don't think of ABC as a way to represent music. Think of it as a way to represent staff notation. There's a subtle difference.
Yep, reckon I've got there in acknowledging 'its value as an interchange format'. But still have the impression there's folk here 'reading' (or at least able to work from) ABC and not staff?
Oh, and I like yer chunes. :-)
Thanks! :)
Stick wrote:No mater how you paint a stick - he's still a bunch of wood and bark.

The art is to get the paint off.
ABC .. dots .. all paint on the Mona Lisa's smile .. well I don't like dots ..
Interesting observations (so of course it's what they're describing that matters in the end), but dots work (very well) for music and I like them lots!
hans wrote:Nice tunes Peter, thanks! Hope to learn the slip jig in time.
More thanks! :)
Here it is, and shows another advantage of abc notation: easy transposition with software:
Granted, but not sure how that's any easier than transposition with staff notation software?
MTGuru wrote:The K: field maps unambiguously to a key signature (and clef and staff). And instead of stating a key or mode you can enumerate sharps and flats if you like. For example "K:^f ^c ^g" instead of "K:AMajor".
So good for those quirky Bartok key signatures (yes, I've tried)!
fearfaoin wrote:Are you implying that you can't map from staff
notation to ABC? Because you certainly can do
that.
Nope, he's saying it's not a completely two-way street. Which seems fair enough when you could imagine ABC getting pretty difficult to work with if (as MTGuru suggests) 'extended to the whole of some definition of standard notation'. So, while 'keep[ing] in mind that ABC can do more than what is usually done to represent simple tunes', it seems to have become this traditional music 'standard' by doing that easily and relatively legibly?
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Re: As easy as ABC?

Post by DrPhill »

MTGuru wrote:
DrPhill wrote:Staff may show two sharps, but ABC may be wrong if I just stick in D Major as the key.....
Not sure I understand that, Phill. Yes, K:DMajor in ABC should render 2 sharps on the staff.
I only mentioned that because I cannot look at a bit of Staff with two sharps and determine if it is D major or E Dorian (or one of the other modes). So for me there is not a one-to-one mapping. Edor and Dmaj in ABC both map to the same symbol (two sharps) in Staff. Now folks like MTG, Ben and Hans can tell just by the smell which mode it is in - which may mean that the information is there and I am just being ignorant, but I currently side with Hans that there is no isomorphism in the strict mathematical sense.

Not that that worries me. I can ask the forum and get a quick answer, and often an interesting thread into the bargain. And I do not reckon it makes much difference in reality (except, maybe, to the automatic chord generator thingy). I was just being a pedant, for a change. Practicing, as it were, for when I get really old.
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Re: As easy as ABC?

Post by MTGuru »

DrPhill wrote:I only mentioned that because I cannot look at a bit of Staff with two sharps and determine if it is D major or E Dorian (or one of the other modes).
Ah, understood. Yes, "D Major" unambiguously defines 2 sharps, while 2 sharps ambiguously represent a whole family of modes. But that's a problem not of ABC per se but of staff notation itself, which underspecifies modes (among other things) for historical reasons. Key signature is not the same as key (or mode), and staff notation is not isomorphic with respect to the musical concept of modes.
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Re: As easy as ABC?

Post by highwood »

... and just because it there is K: D in the ABC doesn't mean that it is D major !!??!
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Re: As easy as ABC?

Post by MTGuru »

highwood wrote:... and just because it there is K: D in the ABC doesn't mean that it is D major !!??!
Yes and no. :-) It should, if you're playing by the rules. And uppercase notes in the K: field default to major unless otherwise specified.

But if you want to bend things a bit ...

Say you want to hand a friend a piece of sheet music with 2 sharps in the key signature. You're going to code it in ABC, render it to staff notation, and hand the printed sheet music to your friend. They will never see the ABC.

Maybe the tune itself is in D major ... or B minor, or E dorian, or A mixolydian ... or any of the keys or modes with a key signature of 2 sharps. But the printed sheet music won't tell you what mode the music is in, only that there are 2 sharps. And you don't care either. Your only goal is the right key signature, 2 sharps.

So you write K:D and voilà, 2 sharps. The sheet music looks perfect.

Of course, if the tune really IS in E dorian, then technically speaking your ABC is wrong; you've written the wrong key/mode. But your software doesn't care a whit, and will give you the proper 2 sharps anyway.

So people sometimes get lazy about this, and just write K:D when they want 2 sharps regardless of the true mode. You see this sometimes in the session.org transcriptions. Or maybe you're genuinely not sure of the mode, only the sharps. So you write K:D as a kluge.

But if you play by the rules all tidy and proper, especially if the ABC itself will be viewed/shared, you'll code the tune's key/mode correctly. And you'll write K:D if and only if you really mean D major.
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