File: abc.txt

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This description of abc notation has been created for  those  who
do  not want to (or cannot) use the package ABC2MTeX but who wish
to  understand  the  notation.  It  has  been   generated   semi-
automatically  from  the  ABC2MTeX  userguide and so occasionally
refers to other parts of the package. In particular, it  mentions
the  document  index.tex, a guide to using ABC2MTeX for archiving
and  indexing  tunes,  and  to  the  example  files  English.abc,
Strspys.abc  and Reels.abc. It also refers to playabc, a separate
package for playing abc tunes  through  the  speaker  of  various
machines.  It is best read in conjunction with an introduction to
abc notation available by anonymous ftp from

        celtic.stanford.edu/pub/tunes/abc2mtex/INTRO.txt

or, if you have WWW access,

        http://celtic.stanford.edu/pub/tunes/abc2mtex/INTRO.html

Note that if you are intending to use  the  notation  solely  for
transcribing  tunes,  you  can  ignore most of description of the
information fields as all you really need are the  T  (title),  M
(meter),  K (key), and possibly L (default note length) fields. I
have included a full description however, for those who  wish  to
understand tunes transcribed by users of the package.

Finally, the notation can easily be  expanded  to  include  other
musical symbols. Please mail me with any suggestions.

        Chris Walshaw
        C.Walshaw@gre.ac.uk

-----------------------------------------------------------------

        The abc Notation System
        =======================

Each tune consists of a header and a body. The header,  which  is
composed of information fields, should start with an X (reference
number) field followed by a T (title) field and finish with  a  K
(key)  field.  The body of the tune in abc notation should follow
immediately after. Tunes are separated by blank lines.

  Information fields
  ==================

The  information  fields  are  used  to  notate  things  such  as
composer,  meter, etc. in fact anything that isn't music. Most of
the information fields are for use within a tune  header  but  in
addition  some  may be used in the tune body, or elsewhere in the
tune file. Those which are allowed elsewhere can be used  to  set
up  a  default  for  the whole or part of a file. For example, in
exactly the same way that tunebooks are organised, a  file  might
start  with  M:6/8 and R:Jigs, followed by some jigs, followed by
M:4/4 and R:Reels, followed by  some  reels.  Tunes  within  each
section then inherit the M: and R: fields automatically, although
they can be overridden inside a tune header.  Finally  note  that
any line beginning with a letter in the range A-Z and immediately
followed by a : is interpreted as a field (so that line like E:|,
which  could  be  regarded  as  an  E  followed by a right repeat
symbol, will cause an error).

By far the best way to find out how to use the fields is to  look
at the example files (in particular English.abc) and try out some
examples. Thus rather than describing them in  detail,  they  are
summarised  in  the following table. The second, third and fourth
columns specify respectively how the field should be used in  the
header  and  whether it may used in tune body or elsewhere in the
file. Certain fields do not affect  the  typeset  music  but  are
there  for  other  reasons,  and  the fifth column reflects this;
index fields only affect the index (see index.tex) while  archive
fields  do not affect the output at all, but are just provided to
put in information that one might find in,  say,  a  conventional
tunebook.

Field name            header tune elsewhere Used by Examples and notes
==========            ====== ==== ========= ======= ==================
A:area                yes                           A:Donegal, A:Bampton
B:book                yes         yes       archive B:O'Neills
C:composer            yes                           C:Trad.
D:discography         yes                   archive D:Chieftans IV
E:elemskip            yes    yes                    see Line Breaking
F:file name                         yes               see index.tex
G:group               yes         yes       archive G:flute
H:history             yes         yes       archive H:This tune said to ...
I:information         yes         yes       playabc
K:key                 last   yes                    K:G, K:Dm, K:AMix
L:default note length yes    yes                    L:1/4, L:1/8
M:meter               yes    yes  yes               M:3/4, M:4/4
N:notes               yes                           N:see also O'Neills - 234
O:origin              yes         yes       index   O:I, O:Irish, O:English
P:parts               yes    yes                    P:ABAC, P:A, P:B
Q:tempo               yes    yes                    Q:200, Q:C2=200
R:rhythm              yes         yes       index   R:R, R:reel
S:source              yes                           S:collected in Brittany
T:title               second yes                    T:Paddy O'Rafferty
W:words                      yes                    W:Hey, the dusty miller
X:reference number    first                         X:1, X:2
Z:transcription note  yes                           Z:from photocopy

Some additional notes on certain of the fields:-

T - tune title. Some tunes have more than one title and  so  this
field  can  be used more than once per tune - the first time will
generate the title whilst  subsequent  usage  will  generate  the
alternatives  in  small  print.   The  T:  field can also be used
within a tune to name parts of a tune - in this  case  it  should
come before any key or meter changes.

K - key; the key signature should be  specified  with  a  capital
letter  which  may  be  followed  by  a  # or b for sharp or flat
respectively. In addition,  different  scales  or  modes  can  be
specified  and,  for  example,  K:F  lydian,  K:C, K:C major, K:C
ionian, K:G mixolydian, K:D dorian, K:A minor, K:Am, K:A aeolian,
K:E  phrygian  and  K:B locrian would all produce a staff with no
sharps or flats.  The spaces can be left out,  capitalisation  is
ignored for the modes and in fact only the first three letters of
each mode are parsed so that, for example, K:F# mixolydian is the
same  as  K:F#Mix or even K:F#MIX.  There are two additional keys
specifically for notating highland bagpipe  tunes;  K:HP  doesn't
put  a  key  signature  on the music, as is common with many tune
books of this music, while K:Hp marks the stave with F  sharp,  C
sharp  and  G natural.  Both force all the beams and staffs to go
downwards.

Finally, global accidentals can also be  set  in  this  field  so
that,  for  example,  K:D =c would write the key signature as two
sharps (key of D) but then mark every  c  as  natural  (which  is
conceptually  the same as D mixolydian).  Note that the there can
be several global  accidentals,  separated  by  spaces  and  each
specified  with  an  accidental,  __,  _, =, ^ or ^^, (see below)
followed by a  letter  in  lower  case.  Global  accidentals  are
overridden  by  accidentals  attached to notes within the body of
the abc tune and are reset by each change of signature.

L - default note length; i.e.  L:1/4  -  quarter  note,  L:1/8  -
eighth  note,  L:1/16  -  sixteenth,  L:1/32 - thirty-second. The
default note length is also set automatically by the meter  field
M: (see below).

M - meter; apart from the normal meters, e.g.   M:6/8  or  M:4/4,
the   symbols  M:C  and  M:C|  give  common  time  and  cut  time
respectively.

P - parts; can be used in the header to state the order in  which
the  tune parts are played, i.e.  P:ABABCDCD, and then inside the
tune to mark each part, i.e.  P:A or P:B.

Q - tempo; can be used to specify the notes per minute, e.g.   if
the  default  note length is an eighth note then Q:120 or Q:C=120
is 120 eighth notes per minute. Similarly  Q:C3=40  would  be  40
dotted  quarter  notes per minute.  An absolute tempo may also be
set,  e.g.  Q:1/8=120  is  also  120  eighth  notes  per  minute,
irrespective of the default note length.

G - group; to group together tunes for indexing purposes.

H - history; can be used for multi-line stories/anecdotes, all of
which will be ignored until the next field occurs.


  abc tune notation
  =================

The following letters are used to represent notes:-


                                                      d'
                                                -c'- ----
                                             b
                                        -a- --- ---- ----
                                       g
 ------------------------------------f-------------------
                                   e
 --------------------------------d-----------------------
                               c
 ----------------------------B---------------------------
                           A
 ------------------------G-------------------------------
                       F
 --------------------E-----------------------------------
                   D
 ---- ---- ---- -C-
            B,
 ---- -A,-
  G,

and by extension, the notes C, D, E, F, a' and b' are  available.
Notes can be modified in length (see below).

  Rests
  =====

Rests are generated with a z and can be  modified  in  length  in
exactly the same way as notes can.

  Note lengths
  ============

NB  Throughout  this  document  note  lengths  are  referred   as
sixteenth,  eighth,  etc.   The  commonly  used  equivalents  are
sixteenth note = semi-quaver, eighth = quaver, quarter = crotchet
and half = minim.

Each meter automatically sets a default note length and a  single
letter in the range A-G, a-g will generate a note of this length.
For example, in 3/4 the default note length is an eighth note and
so  the  input  DEF  represents  3 eighth notes. The default note
length can be calculated by computing the meter as a decimal;  if
it  is  less than 0.75 the default is a sixteenth note, otherwise
it is an eighth note. For example, 2/4 = 0.5, so the default note
length is a sixteenth note, while 4/4 = 1.0 or 6/8 = 0.75, so the
default is an eighth note. Common time  and  cut  time  (M:C  and
M:C|) have an eighth note as default.

Notes of differing lengths can be obtained by  simply  putting  a
multiplier  after the letter. Thus in 2/4, A or A1 is a sixteenth
note, A2 an eighth note, A3 a dotted eighth note,  A4  a  quarter
note,  A6 a dotted quarter note, A7 a double dotted quarter note,
A8 a half note, A12 a dotted half note, A14 a double dotted  half
note,  A15  a triple dotted half note and so on, whilst in 3/4, A
is an eighth note, A2 a quarter note, A3 a dotted  quarter  note,
A4 a half note, ...

To get shorter notes, either divide them - e.g. in 3/4, A/2 is  a
sixteenth  note,  A/4  is  a  thirty-second  note - or change the
default note length with the L:  field.   Alternatively,  if  the
music has a broken rhythm, e.g. dotted eighth note/sixteenth note
pairs, use broken rhythm markers (see below).  Note  that  A/  is
shorthand for A/2.

  Broken rhythms
  ==============

A common occurrence in traditional music is the use of  a  dotted
or broken rhythm. For example, hornpipes, strathspeys and certain
morris jigs all have dotted eighth notes  followed  by  sixteenth
notes  as  well  as  vice-versa  in  the  case of strathspeys. To
support this abc notation uses a > to mean `the previous note  is
dotted, the next note halved' and < to mean `the previous note is
halved, the next dotted'. Thus the following lines all  mean  the
same thing (the third version is recommended):

  L:1/16
  a3b cd3 a2b2c2d2

  L:1/8
  a3/2b/2 c/2d3/2 abcd

  L:1/8
  a>b c<d abcd

As a logical extension, >> means that the first  note  is  double
dotted and the second quartered and >>> means that the first note
is triple dotted and the length of the second divided  by  eight.
Similarly for << and <<<.

  Duplets, triplets, quadruplets, etc.
  ====================================

These can be simply coded with the notation (2ab  for  a  duplet,
(3abc  for  a triplet or (4abcd for a quadruplet, etc., up to (9.
The musical meanings are:


 (2 2 notes in the time of 3
 (3 3 notes in the time of 2
 (4 4 notes in the time of 3
 (5 5 notes in the time of n
 (6 6 notes in the time of 2
 (7 7 notes in the time of n
 (8 8 notes in the time of 3
 (9 9 notes in the time of n

If the time signature is compound (3/8, 6/8, 9/8, 3/4, etc.) then
n is three, otherwise n is two.

More general tuplets can be specified  using  the  syntax  (p:q:r
which  means  `put  p  notes  into  the  time of q for the next r
notes'.  If q is not given, it defaults as above.  If  r  is  not
given,  it  defaults  to p.  For example, (3:2:2 is equivalent to
(3::2 and (3:2:3 is equivalent to (3:2 , (3 or even (3:: .   This
can  be  useful  to  include  notes of different lengths within a
tuplet, for example (3:2:2G4c2 or (3:2:4G2A2Bc and also describes
more precisely how the simple syntax works in cases like (3D2E2F2
or even (3D3EF2. The number written over the tuplet is p.

  Beams
  =====

To group notes together under one beam  they  should  be  grouped
together without spaces. Thus in 2/4, A2BC will produce an eighth
note followed by two sixteenth notes under one beam whilst A2 B C
will  produce  the  same notes separated. The beam slopes and the
choice of upper or lower staffs are generated automatically.

  Repeat/bar symbols
  ==================

Bar line symbols are generated as follows:


 | bar line
 |] thin-thick double bar line
 || thin-thin double bar line
 [| thick-thin double bar line
 :| left repeat
 |: right repeat
 :: left-right repeat



  First and second repeats
  ========================

First and second repeats can be generated with the symbols [1 and
[2,  e.g.  faf gfe|[1 dfe dBA:|[2 d2e dcB|]. When adjacent to bar
lines, these can be shortened to |1 and :|2, but with  regard  to
spaces | [1 is legal, | 1 is not.

  Accidentals
  ===========

The symbols ^ = and _  are  used  (before  a  note)  to  generate
respectively  a  sharp,  natural or flat. Double sharps and flats
are available with ^^ and __ respectively.

  Changing key, meter, and default note length mid-tune
  =====================================================

To change key, meter, or default note length, simply put in a new
line with a K: M: or L: field, e.g.
  ed|cecA B2ed|cAcA E2ed|cecA B2ed|c2A2 A2:|
  K:G
  AB|cdec BcdB|ABAF GFE2|cdec BcdB|c2A2 A2:|

To do this without generating a new line of music, put a \ at the
end of the first line, i.e.
  E2E EFE|E2E EFG|\
  M:9/8
  A2G F2E D2|]

  Ties and slurs
  ==============

You can tie two notes together either across or within a bar with
a  - symbol, e.g. abc-|cba or abc-cba.  More general slurs can be
put in with () symbols.  Thus (DEFG) puts a slur  over  the  four
notes.  Spaces within a slur are OK, e.g. (D E F G), but the open
bracket  should  come  immediately  before  a   note   (and   its
accents/accidentals,  etc.)  and  the  close  bracket should come
immediately after a note (and its octave marker or length).  Thus
(=b c'2) is OK but ( =b c'2 ) is not.

  Gracings
  ========

Grace notes can be written by enclosing  them  in  curly  braces,
{}.  For  example,  a  taorluath  on  the Highland pipes would be
written  {GdGe}. The tune `Athol Brose' (in the file Strspys.abc)
has an example of complex Highland pipe gracing in all its glory.
Grace notes have no time value and so expressions such  as   {a2}
or  {a>b} are not legal.

Alternatively, the tilde symbol ~ represents the general  gracing
of  a  note  which, in the context of traditional music, can mean
different things for different instruments, for example  a  roll,
cran or staccato triplet

  Accents
  =======

Staccato marks (a small dot above or below the note head) can  be
generated  by  a  dot before the note, i.e. a staccato triplet is
written as (3.a.b.c

For fiddlers, the letters u and v can be used  to  denote  up-bow
and down-bow, e.g. vAuBvA

  Chords and unisons
  ==================

Chords (i.e. more than one note head on a  single  stem)  can  be
coded  with [] symbols around the notes, e.g. [CEGc] produces the
chord  of  C  major.  They  can  be  grouped   in   beams,   e.g.
[d2f2][ce][df] but there should be no spaces within a chord.  See
the tune `Kitchen Girl'  in  the  file  Reels.abc  for  a  simple
example.

If the chord contains two notes  both  of  the  same  length  and
pitch,  such  as [DD], then it is a unison (e.g. a note played on
two strings of a violin simultaneously) and is shown as note-head
with both upward and downward stems.

  Guitar chords
  =============

Guitar chords can be put in under the melody  line  by  enclosing
the  chord  in  inverted  commas,  e.g.  "Am7"A2D2 . See the tune
`William and Nancy' in English.abc for an example.

  Order of symbols
  ================

The order of symbols for one note is <guitar  chords>,  <accents>
(e.g. roll, staccato marker or up/downbow), <accidental>, <note>,
<octave>, <note length>, i.e. ~^c'3 or even "Gm7"v.=G,2

Tie symbols, -, should come immediately after a  note  group  but
may  be  followed  by  a space, i.e. =G,2- . Open and close chord
symbols, [], should enclose entire  note  sequences  (except  for
guitar  chords),  i.e.  "C"[CEGc]  or "Gm7"[.=G,^c'] and open and
close   slur   symbols,   (),   should    do    likewise,    i.e.
"Gm7"(v.=G,2~^c'2)


  Comments
  ========

A % symbol will cause the remainder  of  any  input  line  to  be
ignored. The file English.abc contains plenty of examples.

  New notation
  ============

The letters H-Z can be used  to  define  your  own  new  notation
within a tune. Currently the way they are implemented (if at all)
is extremely package dependent and so users are  advised  not  to
rely  too  heavily  on  them to include new features. Instead, if
there is a feature or symbol that  you  need  and  which  is  not
available  it  is better to press for it to be included as a part
of the language.

  Line breaking and justification
  ===============================

Generally one line of abc  notation  will  produce  one  line  of
music,  although  if  the music is too long it will overflow onto
the next line. This can look very  effective,  but  it  can  also
completely  ruin  ties  across  bar  lines,  for example. You can
counteract this by changing either the note spacing with  the  E:
field (although currently this is package dependent) or break the
line of abc notation. If, however, you wish to use two  lines  of
input  to  generate  one  line  of  music  (see, for example, the
`Untitled Reel' in Reels.abc) then simply put a \ at the  end  of
the first line.  This is also useful for changing meter or key in
the middle of a line of music.

With most packages lines of music are  right-justified.  However,
where this is not the case (e.g. when using MusicTeX), a * at the
end of each line of abc notation  will  force  a  right-justified
line-break.