The English Hymnal - Wiki Music Experiment/ABC

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ABC background

ABC music notation is an easy way to notate music in a plain text editor such as NotePad, representing the notes by their letter-names, with numbers to indicate relative note-lengths. Wikipedia's article offers a reasonable overview, with a code example and links to tutorials and tools. Particularly note that you don't have to install any special software to dip a toe into ABC. Once you've typed the notation into your text editor, you can proof the music output by pasting your code into the online Tune-O-Tron converter. It will create both sheet music you can compare to the original and a MIDI file you can play to hear how your notation sounds. When you get your ABC code just how you want it, paste it in as Lily1 code on the Notation Page for your piece, mark the Lily1 stage as done by you (with ABC), and someone will run it through a conversion program to create Lilypond code for further editing (this will save a lot of time for the Lilypond coders!). Note that the Tune-O-Tron requires pieces to have a meter specified in the M: field, but it doesn't seem to object to deviations from that meter, so go with what seems the best fit, if no meter is specified for the piece you are working on. Also note that the Tune-O-Tron does not seem to handle plainsong pieces very well.

Additional tools

If you find you like working with ABC, there are some free tools that are handy to have installed. Many possibilities are listed here. I like using jcabc2ps and abcMIDI (which includes the abc2midi program to create a sound file from ABC code and also the abc2abc program which allows you to transpose a piece).

Notes on ABC for the English Hymnal

There are some features of the scores which you do not need to replicate in your ABC. It is easier to create them in Lilypond (and the workarounds to create them in ABC will not convert into Lilypond well). These include:

  • Many of the pieces in the English Hymnal are in four parts, shown on two staves. However, in your ABC code, please put each of the four parts on its own staff. The parts will be combined onto staves appropriately in the Lilypond code.
  • Omit complicated tune headers (do include title in T: field and composer (if provided) in C: field, but omit the rest).
  • Omit breath marks at ends of phrases.
  • Omit any text annotation of the music ("D.C. al Fine," e.g.).
  • Omit lyrics if they are separate from the music, at the bottom of the page for instance. Another volunteer will add a lyrics block copied from P3 and automatically formatted as needed for Lilypond.

If you wish, you may include notes on omitted score features in the comments above the ABC for the piece (precede comments with %). It is also useful to include the PNG number of the scan(s) for the piece in the comments.

For more information

You can see some sample ABC code for this project here (scan for comparison) and here (scan for comparison). Here is a snippet of ABC (the "Amen" after the main hymn) which might be useful as a template:

%%% The English Hymnal, 036.png
%%% Format=ABC
%%% Amen only.

X: 13
M: 4/2
L: 1/2
Q: 1/2=69
K: G
V:1 staves=4
%%MIDI transpose 0
%%MIDI transpose 0
V:3 clef=bass
%%MIDI transpose -24
V:4 clef=bass
%%MIDI transpose -24

If you have questions about ABC, please PM QMacrocarpa.