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Reading ABC

28 Mar 04 - 11:23 AM (#1148231)
Subject: Reading ABC
From: Eric the Viking

When you get a tune from something like the "ABC" tune finder, how do you interpret the chords such as

e3c    dedb etc for guitar.

Any help for thickies like me appreciated, thanks.

28 Mar 04 - 06:34 PM (#1148467)
Subject: RE: Reading ABC
From: Snuffy

Them's melody notes, Eric, not chords. Chords are always in quotes - "C" or "G7" or "Em"

28 Mar 04 - 11:11 PM (#1148649)
Subject: RE: Reading ABC
From: Mark Clark

There are two ways to denote chords in ABC. One is to use quoted chord names as Snuffy said. The other is to enclose the notes of a chord in square brackets. A D Major chord might look like [D,F,A,]. In the key of D Major the F, is taken to mean F# below middle C. Using bracket notation, the chord is set as notes in the score instead of chord names above the score.

An excellent reference and tutorial on ABC coding may be read or downloaded from The ABC Plus Project page.

      - Mark

29 Mar 04 - 03:11 AM (#1148751)
Subject: RE: Reading ABC
From: GUEST,Eric t V@work

Thankyou.I shall look up the pages.

29 Mar 04 - 06:56 AM (#1148866)
Subject: RE: Reading ABC
From: pavane

Note also that the two things are different. "D" means display a D chord (symbol/name) on the score. abc file players will not necessarily PLAY a chord at this point.

[D F A] means play these three notes together. The notes do NOT have to make a "named" chord, they can be any (two or more) notes, including discords.

29 Mar 04 - 08:19 AM (#1148953)
Subject: RE: Reading ABC
From: Snuffy


"D" means play or display a chord and most player programs implement this. "Abuse" of the chord notation to print something else above the score can give interesting results with a player program.

29 Mar 04 - 08:25 AM (#1148957)
Subject: RE: Reading ABC
From: pavane

I can't recall if this is actually defined or mandatory in the abc specification - I will look it up. I have certainly seen players which DON'T play it by default. (My program HARMONY for one! But there is a reason for that)

Agreed that I have seen it abused for all kinds of text comments!

29 Mar 04 - 04:29 PM (#1149347)
Subject: RE: Reading ABC
From: Eric the Viking

I'm still fick about this.

29 Mar 04 - 04:38 PM (#1149354)
Subject: RE: Reading ABC
From: Ed.

I'm still fick about this

Actually explaining what you mean might be more productive, Eric

29 Mar 04 - 04:51 PM (#1149377)
Subject: RE: Reading ABC
From: Eric the Viking

That is quite true.

Firstly, I have no musical theory, so looking at musical notes-dots etc is as much use as me trying to read cantonese.When I get given a tune to learn, I do it by ear, on guitar for the most basic chords, majors/minors etc, but, many tunes have much more in them than just basic chords. More complex than just normal basic chords, hearing these is one thing, knowing what they are is something else. Also, if I want to make the tune more ornate, then I again do it by ear, fitting what (normally) sounds right. But I believe, a chord can be determined by the notes of the dots. But that is where I am fick

29 Mar 04 - 05:43 PM (#1149449)
Subject: RE: Reading ABC


Re abuse of chord notation, quoted strings starting with one of the 5 characters ^, _, <, >or @ are valid text annotations, not to be confused with chords eg "D" indicates a D major chord starting at this note, "@D" indicates a letter D to be displayed as text (eg for a section marker) near the associated note, exact location at the discretion of the printing program (the other start symbols are for text to be displayed above, below, left or right of the associated note).