The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #164277   Message #3931381
Posted By: Howard Jones
17-Jun-18 - 06:38 AM
Thread Name: ABC versus Standard Notation
Subject: RE: ABC versus Standard Notation
Text-based shorthands have been used for a long time, and Chris Walshaw's computer abc language derives from other text systems which were already in use, which he refined into computer software.

Learning by ear has many advantages but you sometimes need a reminder of how a tune goes. Music readers can use incipits, but if you don't read then just jotting down the name of the notes can be a useful reminder of how a tune which you've heard before goes - you already know other things like rhythm and speed. A text system can be refined to include other information, until you achieve something with the complexity of Walshaw's system which can reproduce very nearly everything standard notation can.

Conventional notation allows you to learn tunes you haven't heard before, so there are obvious benefits from learning that. However it does involve an extra level of interpretation. A player who sees "A" written as text only has to remember the fingering for "A". Reading from notation they first have to recognise the tadpole as "A". Of course with practice that becomes automatic, but I can see that in a workshop in particular that might be an additional barrier to what the tutor is trying to get across.

I certainly agree that it is advantageous to learn conventional notation, but other systems, including tablature and text, have their uses. Walshaw's abc in particular is simply another way of representing the information contained in notation in text form, which can then also be interpreted by a computer and rendered as notation and sound. And to hammer home the point which has already been made many times, despite the title of this thread notation and ABC are complementary, not "versus".