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Melody study using ABC Notation Possible solution to the attachment problem

#1 User is offline   Greg Ball Icon

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 11:47 PM

I came across something that could possibly be an answer to how to write and review melodies together without having to upload an attachment to this forum: ABC notation

It was invented a number of years ago (back when we all had dial up modems) for the express purpose of making it easy to email or post music in a short plain text format. Once you receive the text, there are many free programs that will play it for you, convert it to sheet music, convert it to or from MIDI, MusicXML, etc.

Another chief reason ABC notation was created was to quickly capture a lot of traditional folk music. As text it is very searchable, so the Musicology department at MIT created some free tools (Music21) that allow a researcher to search a catalog of music and quickly ask questions like "Find all songs that use a particular chord pattern", a particular rythmn, etc. If we ever get really interested in knowing how the blues had evolved from earlier music, that would be a useful tool. There are some large public catalogues of music already in ABC notation for us to explore for ideas and understanding.

I'm a Finale user myself, and I'm not crazy about the number of mouse clicks it takes in Finale sometimes just to enter a few notes. So as I've been playing with ABC Notation using the "EasyABC" tool, I've found that it sure is a fast way to sketch a melody. Don't get me wrong, Its not going to replace Finale for composing - at least for me - and its a lot easier to enter notes than it is to read them - but I don't mind so much since the EasyABC tool is converting them to standard notation "on the fly" as I type them.

You can go to www.abcnitation.comfor more information. If you want to try it, the remainder of this post is a short example that I wrote. To see it it action, first copy every line starting with X:1 below Then go to www.folkinfo.org and paste the song into their convert to see and hear the resulting melody:

X:1
T:This is a Test
C:Greg Ball
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
Q:80
K:G
EF "G" [G2B2] AGE | "D" [F2A2] "Am" [D3G3d3] z [EA] "F" F | "Em" [E4G4] [D2F2] "C" [C2E2G2]|[C4E4G4] z4 |
w: This is not an act-u-al song But it will prove the point

#2 User is offline   Lazz Icon

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 12:51 AM

I'm a pen and paper guy.
Pretty stone-age, but I do have a scanner.
So all I could use is a simple way to post a ".jpeg or ".pdf now and again.
Hip Pocket Music

"It is the best of all trades to make songs...
and the second best to sing them"

Hillaire Belloc

“SONG is the joint art of words and music, two arts under emotional pressure coalescing into a third.
The relation and balance of the two arts is a problem that has to be resolved anew in every song that is composed.”

The Encyclopedia Britannica

#3 User is offline   Greg Ball Icon

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 11:18 AM

View PostLazz, on 09 February 2012 - 11:51 PM, said:

I'm a pen and paper guy.
Pretty stone-age, but I do have a scanner.
So all I could use is a simple way to post a ".jpeg or ".pdf now and again.


I respect that. I don't like any extra steps myself that might limit the number of people who participate. It was my understanding though that attachments weren't negotiable, so was trying to do the best we can.

Time is becoming a factor for me. I read somewhere on one of these posts that "tools won't give you talent", and that's true but a good tool to me is like a pair of shoes. I can see this tool giving time back to me; creative time.

#4 User is offline   Lazz Icon

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 11:59 AM

Greg Ball said:

a good tool to me is like a pair of shoes. I can see this tool giving time back to me; creative time.

That's how I feel about my pen and paper, Greg.
I invested a great deal in learning how to write lead sheets properly.
I would resent the new demands of applying an inferior intermediary technology.

Shameful really, for a 'songwriters' site' to have no facility for sharing/discussing charts.
Negotiable or not, it would still be a simple low-cost thing to achieve.
Hip Pocket Music

"It is the best of all trades to make songs...
and the second best to sing them"

Hillaire Belloc

“SONG is the joint art of words and music, two arts under emotional pressure coalescing into a third.
The relation and balance of the two arts is a problem that has to be resolved anew in every song that is composed.”

The Encyclopedia Britannica

#5 User is offline   Greg Ball Icon

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 09:48 PM

So its okay for Jodi to send you the bill then? :)

Lazz, you seem to be someone whose work I would especially like to see preserved in an encoded format, beyond any of today's music business trends, for a time when people are trying to understand who we really were. A large part of what caught my eye was how the Academic community was using it to solve the problem of capturing and understanding "what is music". Of not losing our heritage.

The issue with ink and paper (scanned or not) is similar to the same problem we once had with ink and paper fingerprints. If someone can't find it, you might as well not have it. Encoding is the enabler where otherwise your scans and audio would molder in a (real or virtual) warehouse. Because of encoding they can look at tunes from a certain region, and craft a query based on tones, rythmns, patterns, etc. to disover how that music came to be, rather than relying on someone's acknowleged "influences". Some of it apparently can be traced at least as far back as 1000BC.

I am admittedly trying to take some of the sting out. I agree with you that it would be irritating to do something just to accommodate the limitations of a web site. I hope to persuade you that there are other benefits. And I'm perfectly happy to give anyone space to disagree.

#6 User is offline   ed_shaw Icon

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 08:32 AM

Good idea Greg.
Time consuming, though; everything is.

#7 User is offline   Alistair S Icon

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 12:46 PM

Most ISPs over here offer some free webspace. If that isn't so over there, it is still possible to grab some at places like http://www.4shared.com/ or maybe justcloud.com or dropbox.

I'd suggest loading the sheets up there and then linking them. Surely, that would work?
My Soundclick Music Page
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"In my opinion this is a bunch of filth and garbage and we need far less this type of lyrics gettin back in the ears of our children." - from a critique received

"When I was 5 years old, my mum always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wante to be when I grew up. I wrote down, "Happy". The told me I didn't understand the assignment and I told them they didn't understand life." John Lennon.

#8 User is offline   FunkDaddy Icon

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 02:27 PM

Doesn't everybody have a .pdf reader these days? It's a very common way of sharing documents that are a little more complicated than just text. Or am I misunderstanding the problem that this is the solution to?
Mark
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Always up for a collaboration with lyricists!

#9 User is offline   Alistair S Icon

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 11:23 AM

I don't think that's the issue, Mark. I think it's more about how to upload and share.. but maybe I didn't understand either.
My Soundclick Music Page
My Facebook Music Page

"In my opinion this is a bunch of filth and garbage and we need far less this type of lyrics gettin back in the ears of our children." - from a critique received

"When I was 5 years old, my mum always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wante to be when I grew up. I wrote down, "Happy". The told me I didn't understand the assignment and I told them they didn't understand life." John Lennon.

#10 User is offline   Salley Gardens Icon

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 11:24 AM

I see the issue as being able to discuss melody/music in this forum easily by utilizing graphics and sound. In order to show a graphic (like a lead sheet, or a few bars of notation), it needs to be created (let's say in Sibelius, Band in a Box, MuseScore, etc.), formatted to PDF, uploaded to a site other than the Muse, and embedded in a Muse post. (Some of the notated graphics I created and linked to ended up with a ton of white space around it, making the post difficult to maneuver in.)

The sound file is created separately, and as most of us know, is hosted elsewhere and a link provided. (I tried embedding a sound file once, and that didn't turn out too well.)

This process is very cumbersome, time consuming, and doesn't produce results for easy discussion of music in a way that would benefit a portion of the community here.

The Muse forums already take up huge amounts of space (which is why old posts are periodically weeded out). It would cost Jodi more to provide additional space to host the sound and/or graphic files that would be so useful in this particular forum. And if that capability were available to us, I'm sure the other forums would start using it, too, so the added space needed would fill up quickly, requiring stepped up maintenance of weeding out old posts. So the option of hosting these files is off the table.

Greg had mentioned in another post, MusicXML readers (which are free for download), like Scorch from Sibelius, and one from Finale. This would go a long way toward solving this issue. These notation programs, the notation files can be embedded from a different host site, and if you have the reader, the file ot only appears in the post, but plays the music that is notated. A bit of research needs to be done, as I don't know if the readers generically work for all MusicXML files, or if each notation program needs its own reader (not all notation programs have a reader).

ABC is a fantastic new language for creating notation that was created early on in the Internet's history as a means to work around this problem, when all you saw on the screen was text. One could actually play from the ABC text file, after becoming familiar with the language, and an ABC reader on one's computer could also convert it to real notation for viewing away from the Internet. I agree with Lazz, that learning another intermediary step doesn't go to far to address the problem we have here.

I don't know if the ABC readers (I used Barfly), can be used to create the graphic within the post. (Once graphics could be seen on the Web, the need for ABC dwindled, so I don't know whether their was a need for it anymore.) Anyone interested in world folk music might want to check the ABC files that are out there, as it's one of the best libraries of Irish, Scandinavian, Scottish, etc., music.

#11 User is offline   Lazz Icon

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 12:02 PM

Salley said:

to provide additional space to host the sound and/or graphic files that would be so useful in this particular forum. And if that capability were available to us, I'm sure the other forums would start using it, too, so the added space needed would fill up quickly, requiring stepped up maintenance of weeding out old posts. So the option of hosting these files is off the table.

Other forums already use the capability, Salley, purely as a point of information.
Hosting sound-files would take up a great deal of space, certainly. But that was never my issue.
A lead sheet, on the other hand, is a matter of mere kilobytes.
Not a big issue at all.

Alistair S said:

Most ISPs over here offer some free webspace. If that isn't so over there, it is still possible to grab some at places like http://www.4shared.com/ or maybe justcloud.com or dropbox.

I'd suggest loading the sheets up there and then linking them. Surely, that would work?

Perfect solution for my problem, Alistair.
Thank you.
Hip Pocket Music

"It is the best of all trades to make songs...
and the second best to sing them"

Hillaire Belloc

“SONG is the joint art of words and music, two arts under emotional pressure coalescing into a third.
The relation and balance of the two arts is a problem that has to be resolved anew in every song that is composed.”

The Encyclopedia Britannica

#12 User is offline   Salley Gardens Icon

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 01:30 PM

View PostLazz, on 13 February 2012 - 10:02 AM, said:

Not a big issue at all.

It's not my call. Apparently, to Jodi the issue is big enough. Here is her reply when I asked about the possibility of adding that function:

Quote

Hi Janet. Really sorry to have taken so long to get back to you on this. For some reason, I was never sent a notice when you private messaged me. Weird. Anyway ... um... well... no. I won't be adding the function to add attachments any time soon because that requires that they be stored here. And that's just not going to happen. I'd run out of space really really quick. That said, if you make a PDF out of whatever lead sheet you're hoping to share (and there are tons of free MS Word and other programs to PDF conversion programs out there) then link to the PDF in the code of your message, that might solve some of these problems. You just need to store it somewhere that's off site from here.

Hope that helps! :)

All the best, -- Jodi


You are welcome to PM Jodi yourself if you wish to discuss it further.

Her suggestion was to do what I have done in the past: link or embed the file which is hosted on another server, whether that be your own ISP, or sites like Alistair suggested.

Here is an example of such, complete with a link to a sound file: http://www.musesmuse...ndpost&p=527523

Sure, the graphic showed up, and there's a corresponding sound file. *My* problem with this is all the white space in the graphic. I would like to have several graphics of 2 to 4 bars only, with their corresponding sound files linked right by them, all in one post. I think the the seas of white space would distract from effective communication. Whether this problem is due to my notation program, or the server hosting the graphic, I don't know.

This works fine for posting a complete lead sheet.

#13 User is offline   Lazz Icon

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 02:24 PM

Thanks, Salley.
We have a solution now - the one from Jodi being the same as the one from Alistair's - so it's no problem for me anymore.

Not sure how I would address the issue that you are suffering, though - the white space blues.
The only way I have dealt with things elsewhere is to upload a jpeg or pdf I have made - which then appears exactly as I have framed and formatted the original. Never had need to link the item to a sound-file. (Indeed, wherever I have uploaded a chart in this way, there has been no comparable facility for uploading sound-files. That operation WOULD be unrealistically demanding on space. My own sound-files, for instance, can be between 9MB and 16MB. Space for jpegs and pdfs however is comparatively negligible and doesn't present anywhere near the same challenges.) So Alistair's work-around suggestion will work just fine for me.

In retrospect, I believe I may have previously misunderstood what you meant by the words "other forums" and realise now you were probably referring to other sections of the Muse board and not other sites. My mistake. And of course I realise also that it is not your call to make for this site.
Hip Pocket Music

"It is the best of all trades to make songs...
and the second best to sing them"

Hillaire Belloc

“SONG is the joint art of words and music, two arts under emotional pressure coalescing into a third.
The relation and balance of the two arts is a problem that has to be resolved anew in every song that is composed.”

The Encyclopedia Britannica

#14 User is offline   Greg Ball Icon

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 07:13 PM

There's still this problem though: People have always had the ability to post links to images, PDF's etc. here, as Salley's example shows - yet this has been an awfully quiet forum. So my question is still what can we differently?
In general (whether you use ABC or MusicXML as a file format) what seems energizing about using sofware versus a PDF or image are things like:

A) I can press "play" and hear all the parts, even if I don't have the skill (or enough hands) to hear them otherwise. Yes, I could do that with a recording but...

B) I can also edit the notes, slow the piece down, mute certain parts etc. and hear the effect immediately. I can submit my changes to the forum without having to re-record anything.

C) I can write /listen to songs with bare bones chords only (or words and chords) including complex Jazz chords I might not have heard or used before and the software I have will at least play the progression for me band-in-a-box style (free, does'n't require band in the) With just chords to work with, this tool plays only a very simple rythmn, but it would be enough to help understand say how changing to a 6/4 inversion of a chord leads nicely to the end of a cadence.

A correction I'd like to make, because I gave out wrong information earlier: I'm told that ABC notation in its basic form dates back to at least the Middle Ages, though there are some newer computer related extensions to it (EX: assigning a MIDI Instrument to a voice) that are kept carefully compatible with its original form. That might not make a different to anyone except me, but it gave me a greater respect for its utility and survivability.

To answer a couple of Salley's questions, the tool I use immediately converts ABC notes like E E F G grapically to the standard notes/staves into another window on the screen as I type them. So its not a question of either/or for me, but I end up using both at the same time.

I can also drag music XML, midi, or ABC into the tool, and the software will automatically convert and display it visually for me. So I could be ambivilent about the file format, but here's one reason maybe to care though what format we use: As a reader, it seems easy enough to click on a PDF or Image. But as a submitter or reviewer who has to post files on one site and comments on another, I think its faster and less irritation to copy and paste ABC from the forum.
Sibelus handles ABC and MusicXML. As far as free tools for standard notation, M.I.T. recommends MuseScore (Heh, seems appropriate for us) as a free tool that rivals Finale or Sibilus. MuseScore can also directly save or import files as ABC, MusicXML, etc.

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