FORTE's Academy of Music


Written Lessons

Lesson 1: Downloading and Installing Songs

Lesson: 3 Manually Playing Songs

Lesson 4: Downloading and Installing Plugins

Lesson 5: Using SongbookBB

Lesson 1: Downloading and Installing Songs

  1. Creating your Music folder

    All your .ABC and .txt music files will go into a Music folder found in My Documents/The Lord of the Rings directory. But by default there is no folder. So you need to go to your LOTRO folder in My Documents and create one called "Music."

  2. Saving music files

    You will find most LOTRO music files created by players save as either .abc or .txt files. When you locate one either on this site, or on another site you will want to save them to the Music folder in the LOTRO directory of your My Documents. You may receive the files in a .zip file. Simply open the zip and either extract or drag and drop the files into your Music folder.

  3. Installing the Songbook Updates from this site

    1. Click the Download Songbook button in the Songbook section of the site.

    2. It will download a Self Extracting .exe. Simply open the file when it is downloaded.

    3. Now, click browse to find your Music folder in your LOTRO folder of My Documents.  Then click extract.

    4. Let it replace/update any existing files it detects as updates to the music is done all the time to make it better.

    5. That's it! You are ready to play the music!

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Lesson 2: Understanding ABC Files

  1. Getting familiar with ABC file sections

    First, you will want to open the song file. You can open it with notepad, but it is strongly suggested doing it with LOTRO Music Manager.

    Unless you are an expert in doing so, don't modify anything other then what is stated here.

    X: is the part number for the song and that instrument. If it is a solo it is default 1. If multiple parts are in one file, the first note section will be 1. The following will show X:2, X:3 etc depending on how many instruments that song uses.

    T: is the title of the song and what shows up in game when you hit enter to start the song. It is typically in a Title (Instrument) (Duration) layout.

    C: is the composer of the song. ie John Denver, Michael Jackson, etc

    Z: is the ABC frile transcriber. This would be either you, or who ever created the ABC file from either scratch or converted it froma  MIDI file..

    M: is the measure that the song was created in..

    Q: is the speed/tempo of the song. Increasing quickens it, decreasing slows it. You can modify this if you choose, but make a note of the original number in the case you have to change it back.

    K: is what key the song is in. Don't change this. Leave it as it is.

    Then, everything below here are the Notes for that part for the respective song.

  2. Standard Numbering System for Part #s

    There is a standard number designation system that is being use among the Music community for the X: field, ie Part # of an ABC song. using this convention will help keep all ABC files standard and easily usable by more people. The numbering list has been updated with the addition of the Lute of Ages and Misty Mountain Harp.

    1-10: DRUM
    11-20: LUTE OF AGES
    21-30: BASIC HARP
    31-40: THEORBO
    41-50: BAGPIPES
    51-60: FLUTE
    61-70: HORN
    71-80: CLARINET
    91-100: PIBGORN
    101-110: Used for overflow
    111-120: BASIC LUTE

  3. Manually adding multiple instruments into one ABC file

    This is quite simple.

    First of all, you will need to either create a new ABC file, or edit an existing one using Notepad.

    Open one of the files if you have created seperate files for individual parts, or simply edit the one file you have created if you have created the ABC file from scratch, generally the first instrument in the song. Which file doesn't really matter. Its just better this way.

    The instrument as indiate in the Getting to Know ABCs section is always denoted by the X: section. This is the Part #.

    You will always want to use a standard numbering system when assigning a # to the particular part. This way no matter who plays this song, they know that for instance all parts #ed 1-10 refer to drum parts, and 11-20 refers to Lutes of Ages, etc.

    So once you have properly labele the X:# for the first instrument, you can th en either manually type, or copy and paste the next part section into the bottom of the file, leaving atleast 1 empty space below the last notes of the previous part.

    Fill out the appropriate part # for that part and all other fiels, then continue with the next.

    You might be asking, is there an order if which I should be adding the part to the file? Yes. While in the end it really doesnt matter, the best orer to add parts is to do it by part #.

    For instance. The first part in file should be X:1 which is the drump, if there is infact a drum in the song. Then you should add any aditional drums below, then Lute of Ages etc. Follow the Standard Part Numbering System to get an idea of the order you should use.

    Once you have added all the parts in there order and have verified that all part fields are correct, you can save the file. Make sure to save it with .abc at the end of it, even if you edited the file using Note pad.

    Then use the one file to Start it as a band.

    Or to make life easier if you want to create a multi-part song using a MIDI, you can do so by using the program Maestro, which you can download from Links.

  4. How to change song speed

    If you right click a song and open it in note pade, or edit it with the LOTRO Music Manager [LOMM], you will notice a section that says Q: This is the speed/tempo of the song. If it is Q:160 for instance and you change it to Q:80, it will make it twice as slow. Making it Q:320 it will be twice as fast.

    If you edit it in notepad and save, it will save it as a .txt file, which is still usuable. It is preferred you save it so it remains a .abc, so using the LOMM is suggested.

  5. How to add Lyrics

    To add lyrics while you are playing, you need to install the Lyrical add-on that uses an interface in game to create lyric sheets and allows for easy pressing of a hotkey to initiate the lyrics.

  6. Recommended Standard ABC file naming system

    There is a standard naming convention that is recomened when naming your ABC files. It puts the most information, but with the lease size of a file name. While this isn't something everyone nees to file, as everyone will have their own way of doing things,  this is an example of a way to name your files if you are looking for suggestions.

    Example of a file name is: 4-(For)LittleLionMan

    4- denotes how many parts the song has

    (For) is the first 3 letters of the creators name

    Title then you finish it with the song title.

    While same may also seperate the create name and song title with the band name, ie 4-(For)Mumford-LittleLioMan to denote thes song is by Mumford and Sons, most people use the Songbook, where you can easily search songs by the Mumfords and Sons or any other song composer since it is already denoted in the file header itself.

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Lesson: 3 Manually Playing Songs

  1. Performing a Solo song

    You will need a solo song file to play a solo song. For exampe" target="_blank">1-(For)1Dir-StoryofmyLife has a 1- at the beginning, denoting it only uses one part. For this song it is performe with a Lute of Ages or Lute as you can see if you open the file with Notepa and see its part # is X:11 which with the new addition of the Lute of Ages is its new designation. If you don't have a solo song, click this song, and save the file per the Lesson about saving Music files.

    Now that you have a song saved in your Music folder you need either save or remember the file name. If you don't want to have to remember the file name, simply left click the file, click rename, and now since you have the filename highlighed, hit Cntl + C to copy the name.

    Now go in game, equipt the Lute, type /music and press enter to go into music mode in the game chat, then type /play Amarantine-Lute then press enter.

    Don't include the file extensions .abc or .txt when trying to play it in game.

    The solo song, if you have the appropriiate instrument for that song should now be playing in game for everyone to hear.

  2. Playing a Multi part song as a Band

    Some files you will download will include all the instrument music in a single file, such as" target="_blank"> 2-(For)DavyJones

    This particular song is a Duet using two Lute of Ages

    Right click the file then Open with Notepad.

    You will notice the header of the first part at the top that says:

    X: 11
    T: Davy Jone's Suite [Lute of Ages 1] (2:22)

    These are the only parts of the files you need to worry about.

    The X: indicates the part #
    The T: is the title of the song and usually shows what instrument is used for that part.

    If you scroll down you will then see the ABC music notations that are used to play the song. Dont ever touch this or the music will be messed up. If you scroll down further, you will see the next part of the song, which will say X:12 which in this case is used by the second Lute of Ages part.

    With only knowing the song filename the specific part # for the instrument, each member is now ready to play.

    To sync this song each member types:

    /play 2-(For)DavyJones 11 sync
         by the person playing the 1st Lute of Ages
    /play 2-(For)DavyJones 12 sync
         by the person playing the 2nd Lute of Ages

    Then type /playstart to get the band rolling, and then you have a band!

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Lesson 4: Downloading and Installing Plugins

  1. SongbookBB

    1. First, go to links click the SongbookBB plugin link.

    2. Go to the page and click the big DOWNLOAD button on the right side.

    3. Once the plugin zip is downloaded, export the folder in it named "Chiran" into your Plugin folder of your Lord of the Rings Online folder of My Documents.

    4. You now need to compile your songs. Open the Chiran folder and double click the songbook named application. It will ask you to confirm your username for LOTRO. Accept and wait a moment while it gets your music.

    5. You will have to do step 4 each time you add new music to your music folder.

    6. Now log in to the character select screen, and click manage Plugins

    7. You can set it to auto load for a character if you choose.

    8. In game if it is not loaded, go to System>Plugin Manager and load it from there.

    9. To view the Songbook in game type /songbook view.

  2. Poetical

    Poetical is a great plugin that allows you to store text, whether they are for a poem, lyrics, story, announcements, or the like. The plugin allows you to attach tag labels to your list for easy retreival. Then, with a press of a button it will let you speak the text into any chat channel you previously chose, ie /say, /ra, /regional etc.

    Just like any plugin the installation is the same. You first nee to acquire the plug in. you can find the link for it in the Links section of this website.

    Once you have downloaded the ZIP file, open it up and you will see a folder. You simply drag and drop the folder into your Plugins folder of your Lord of the Rings Online folder of your My Documents.

    At that point it is ready to go, no other out of games actions. Once you load of the game and arrive at your character select screen, click on the Plugin Management on the right side. You will see Poetrical on the left. Click on it, designate who you want it to automatically load for on the bottom, then hit ok, and log in with your character. The commans to view it if it is not open when you log in is on the download page where you originally got the file.

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Lesson 5: Using SongbookBB

  1. How to use SongbookBB

    SongbookBB, is a modified version of the original Songbook plugin that was updated by the Badgers. This Plugin, makes life as a musician easier.

    It allows for an easy view of all your songs, in all their subdirectories. With the click of a button, it will display the parts in a song. Players select their appropriate part, click sync, then the band leader starts the music. In a matter of a few seconds, a band can get going with their new song. This is a way to no longer need to manually start songs as described in Lesson 3.

    You need to now load the Plugin so it appears in game.

    coming soon...

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Lesson 13: How to create your own ABC song by hand

  1. Introduction

     A tutorial by Steve Mansfield

    Abc notation is a simple but powerful ASCII musical notation format. Devised by Chris Walshaw, abc is widely used for the notating and distribution of tunes, particularly on the internet. Very popular in traditional music circles, it is also gaining in popularity in early music.

    A tune notated in abc can be played directly from the notation, or many software packages exist which can convert abc notation into MIDI, produce sheet music, play the file through the computer speaker, etc.

    Abc is not reliant on the user even having a computer, or on a computer having any specific music hardware and software. It is platform and OS independent, and is a very efficient way of storing and distributing tunes and collections of tunes. John Adams of the Village Music Project, at the end of a talk at Sidmouth Festival in 1999, distributed over 1000 tunes on a single floppy disk!

    This tutorial does not claim to be authoritative or even complete in its coverage of the abc standard. It is intended to be an introduction (albeit a reasonably comprehensive one), and sufficiently detailed to enable you to read and write abc files.

    I would of course be extremely indebted to anyone who points out any errors of fact or interpretation in this tutorial.

    The tutorial assumes you possess basic knowledge of how 'standard' Western musical notation works in terms of note names and lengths, the concept of a tune having a key, etc.

    For further information on abc, the various software packages available, and links to other abc sites and tune collections, go to the abc home page at .

  2. Basic Structure

    There is a structure you need to set  your file so it can include all the fields, and section for your music notes.

    X: Part Number
    T: is the title of the song and what shows up in game when you hit enter to start the song. It is typically in a Title (Instrument) (Duration) layout.
    C: is the composer of the song. ie John Denver, Michael Jackson, etc
    Z: is the ABC frile transcriber. This would be either you, or who ever created the ABC file from either scratch or converted it froma MIDI file..
    M: is the measure that the song was created in..
    Q: is the speed/tempo of the song. Increasing quickens it, decreasing slows it. You can modify this if you choose, but make a note of the original number in the case you have to change it back.
    K: is what key the song is in. Don't change this. Leave it as it is.


    Then, everything below here are the Notes for that part for the respective song.

  3. X: Instrument Name

    The Index Field is where you denote the instruments that is assigned to that musical part. 

    There is a standard number designation system that is being use among the Music community for the X: field, ie Part # of an ABC song. using this convention will help keep all ABC files standard and easily usable by more people. The numbering list has been updated with the addition of the Lute of Ages and Misty Mountain Harp.


    1-10: DRUM

    11-20: LUTE OF AGES

    21-30: BASIC HARP

    31-40: THEORBO

    41-50: BAGPIPES

    51-60: FLUTE

    61-70: HORN

    71-80: CLARINET


    91-100: PIBGORN

    101-110: Used for overflow

    111-120: BASIC LUTE


  4. T: Song Info

    T: is where you put in your title, song length, and a note denoting the instrument. This is what will appear in game when you start a song. 

    Use the format

    T: Song Title (Duration ie 3:40) - Instrument Name

  5. M: Meter field and the rhythm R: field

    Time signatures, or meters, like default note lengths, are shown as fractions in the M: field, eg:

    Jig M:6/8

    Reel M:4/4

    Waltz M:3/4

    And so forth. Common time is shown as C, and cut time as C| (the letter C followed by the pipe symbol).


    Abc also includes a rhythm field, R:, which is used for cataloguing and sorting collections of abc tunes: this is entirely free text (although there are obvious ‘standard’ entries eg R:reel, R:jig, R:schottische).


    An M: field can be placed in the middle of a tune to denote a change of meter - see the Mid-tune changes selection below.


    Summary :


    G major scale in jig time in quavers:







  6. L: Notes of different lengths

    Abc allows you to set the ‘default note length’ for each tune. This is set (as a fraction) in the tune header in the L: field.


    The following table shows the most common default note lengths for traditional music, with the equivalent terms from ‘standard’ music notation. This will hopefully give you the idea.


    Default note length ‘English’ terminology ‘American’ terminology

    1/2 Minim Half note

    1/4 Crotchet Quarter note

    1/8 Quaver Eighth note

    1/16 Semi-quaver Sixteenth note

    So a tune where the default note length is a quaver, or eighth note, would have




    in its header.


    Why is this important?


    Because the notes in tunes aren’t always all the same length. By setting a default note length you are setting the value of the most common note length in your tune.


    So to return to our C major scale




    If this had a default note length of 1/8, eg the L: field was shown as L:1/8, our scale as shown is a scale of quavers:

    Scale as quavers


    . If the default length was ¼, eg L:1/4, the same notation of the same scale is now a scale of crotchets:

    Scale as crotchets


    But, as mentioned a bit earlier, the notes in tunes aren’t always all the same length.


    What happens if notes are shorter than the default note length?


    If the particular note you are notating (which, for the sake of brevity, I will from now on call the current note ) is half the length of the default note length, it is shown with a forward slash immediately after it, eg


    This can also be written as C/2 if you wish.


    If the current note is a quarter of the default note length, it is shown like so : C/4


    If the current note is an eighth of the default note length, it is shown like so : C/8


    Other fractions (/3, /5, /7, /16 etc.) are also legal.


    What happens if notes are longer than the default note length?


    If the current note is twice the default note length, it is shown like so : C2


    If the current note is four times the default note length, it is shown like so : C4


    Other multiples (3, 5, 7, 8 etc.) are also legal.


    Remember :


    The length of any particular note is always calculated according to the default note length of the tune.


    A quick word about hornpipes


    The hornpipe rhythm is useful to illustrate one more way abc allows the notation of notes of differing length.


    A hornpipe could be notated with a default note length of 1/16 like so :





    An easier way is to set the default note length to 1/8 and use the greater than > symbol :





    The greater than (and less than) sign can be used wherever groups of dotted notes are found.


    The < symbol has the same effect in the other direction, eg shortening the first note and lengthening the second, as found in strathspeys etc.


    One last thing about default note lengths


    Some ‘standard’ default note lengths for common types of tunes


    Jig 1/8

    Reel 1/8

    Schottische 1/8

    Waltz 1/4

    Polka 1/8

    Bourree 1/8

    However according to the particular tune there is nothing to stop you using a different default note length if it makes the notation easier to read.


    An L: field can be placed in the middle of a tune to denote a change of default note length

  7. Q: Tempo field

    The tempo of a tune is shown in the Q: field, giving either the human or software musician a speed indication, eg


    indicates the tempo as 120 notes of the default note length per minute.


    Q:1/8 = 120

    can also be used, to specify in this example that the tune goes at the rate of 120 1/8 notes per minute, regardless of the default note length.


    A Q: field can be placed in the middle of a tune to denote a change of temp

  8. K: Key signatures

    The key signature is specified by the K: field eg



    So our G major scale can now be written as




    And our G minor scale as




    Major keys are assumed, but can be specified by maj eg



    Minor keys are shown by m or min, eg





    In the key signature field sharps are noted by the hash character # and flats by the letter b, eg


    B flat : K:Bb

    C sharp : K:C#

    Modal keys (the Lydian, Ionian, Mixolydian, Dorian, Aeolian, Phrygian and Locrian modes) can be specified by either name in full or by the first 3 letters of the mode: the space, and capitalisation, is optional.

    K: G mix


    K: G mixolydian


    and, indeed, K: G miXoLYdiAn

    are all correct.


    Highland Bagpipe notation is also catered for :


    puts no key signature on the music but implies the bagpipe scale, while


    puts F sharp, C sharp and G natural.


    More complex key signatures can also be expressed by global accidentals : as one example, where would the abc notation of Swedish and Macedonian tunes be without such signatures as

    K:A =C

    (eg A major with C natural, or to put it another way, a key signature of F sharp and G sharp).


    A K: field can be placed in the middle of a tune to denote a change of key - see the Mid-tune changes selection below.


    Summary :


    G major scale in quavers :





  9. C: , Z:, S:, O:, and N: Optional fields


    The composer of a tune is recorded in the C: field, eg


    C:Errol Jud Coder


    The source of a tune is recorded in the S: field, eg


    S:Dave Collinge, at Preston EuroJam November 1998


    The geographical origin is recorded in the O: field, eg


    O:Massif Central


    Textual notes on the tune are stored in the N: field, eg


    N:Long rambling note about this tune going into great detail, which can

    N: be split across several lines using multiple N: fields


    The identity of the transcriber or source of the transcription is recorded in the Z: field, eg


    Z:Forte Maestro


    The above are the most common fields encountered in abc files, but there are many more (W: for song words, B: for book, etc.)

  10. The Notes

    Middle C is notated as


    The D immediately above middle C is notated as


    The E above that is notated as


    And so on up the scale.


    Starting at middle C, the notes in that octave are shown as




    The next note up is a C again – but to show it is in the higher octave, that C is shown in lowercase as


    So a full one-octave C major scale from middle C is




    So going from middle C to the B one octave and seven notes above that is




    And we’re back at yet another C note. The next octave up is shown by an apostrophe immediately after the note name, like



    So our scale now runs two octaves from middle C:




    And using the apostrophe to denote the upper octave we can extend our scale further :




    But what about the B immediately below middle C? That octave is shown by a comma immediately following the note name, eg



    We now have four octaves at our disposal, which is more than enough for our purposes of notating traditional music:




    but note that the range can be extended further by adding more commas or apostrophes.

  11. Rests

    Rests are indicated by the (lower case) letter z. The length of rest is set exactly the same way as the length of note is, eg


  12. Sharps, flats and naturals

    So far all examples have been in the key of C. Not every tune is in C however, and some tunes confuse matters even further by having accidentals in them.


    To sharpen a note precede it with the circumflex or caret ^



    To flatten a note precede it with an underscore _



    Double sharps are shown as ^^ and double flats as __


    To naturalise (?) a note precede it with an equals sign =



    So a scale of G major could be notated as




    And a scale of G minor as




    However : just as standard Western musical notation has the key signature, so that the player automatically knows to (for example) play all Fs as F# in the key of G : the same thing exists in abc, with the K: field.

  13. Mid-tune changes of key, time etc.

    The L: note length field, the M: meter field, the K: key signature field and the Q: tempo field can all be inserted in the middle of a tune to indicate a key change. Strictly speaking this should be on a new line eg to play a G major scale ‘up’ and a G minor scale ‘down’ again,







    but most software packages will allow the use of [ ] square brackets eg



    GABcdefg [K:Gm] gfedcBAG.


    If you want to change two fields at once, either put them on two new lines like this -



    GABcdefg |



    gfe dcB | AGB FED |


    or put them both in the square brackets in the middle of the line like so :



    GABcdefg | [M:6/8 K:Gm] gfe dcB | AGB FED |

  14. Barlines and spaces

    Barlines are denoted by the pipe symbol |. Our G major scale in jig time immediately becomes more readable :








    A double bar is shown by ||, and by using the square bracket symbol as |] (thin-thick) and [| (thick-thin). Repeats are dealt with soon.


    To make the notation even more readable spaces can be inserted to separate groups of notes :






    GAB cde|fgf edc|BAG


    Spaces are also used within the melody, and by the various software packages which convert abc into standard notation, to group notes. The spacing of abc notation will tend to mirror the grouping which would be used in standard notation. Spaces may also be inserted at the start and / or end of bars to make the abc more readable. As an example, I find something like


    G | GAG GAG | c2G EFG | A2F DEF | GEC C2E |


    easier on the eye than



  15. Repeats

    Repeats bring the colon : into action. The start of a repeated section is shown by


    and the end of a repeated section by



    Where the end of one repeated section, and the beginning of the next, coincide,


    is technically correct, but this is usually shown without the pipe symbols eg



    Numbered and alternate repeats are indicated by [1 and [2 (etc.). Where the start of a section co-incides with a barline the [ symbol may be omitted, eg


    DE FF |[1 GA Bc :|[2 GA BG ||


    can also be written as


    DE FF |1 GA Bc :|2 GA BG ||


    However if a repeat section does not coincide with a barline, always use the [ symbol instead of inserting an extra | .


    Note that there can be no blank space between the barline and the number - eg [1 and |1 are acceptable, whereas [ 1 and | 1 are not.

  16. Ornaments and grace notes

    The general symbol for an ornament is the tilde ~.


    The symbol is placed before the note to be ornamented, eg




    Note that the tilde is a general mark to indicated the presence of an ornament, and does not specify a particular ornamentation - it is usually interpreted as a roll or a turn. For the more precise notation of ornamentation such as Great Highland Bagpipe music, and for the notation of particular grace notes, enclose the notes in curly brackets { } eg




    The notes within curly brackets have no fixed time value, so their length cannot be modified by use of the usual symbols : in other words anything like {G2AG2D}, {GA/G/D/G}, or {GA>GD>G} is out of the question. The pitch of the notes is notated in the usual way, eg the octave modifiers , and ' are useable.

  17. Slurs and Ties

    The minus sign - should be used to tie two notes of equal pitch, whilst the round brackets () join two or more notes which are to be slurred, or played legato.


    Two notes can be tied together with a minus sign - . This can be applied both within a bar and across bar lines, eg








    are both correct. The tie marking should be placed immediately after a note, but can be followed by a space.


    To slur a group of notes or join them together as a phrase , use round brackets ( ) to enclose the grouped notes, eg




    Spaces can be used within the slur to improve the legibility of the file. However the first and last notes, (including any pitch and/or length markings) should be placed hard up against the beginning and ending brackets. So


    (^G A B/c/|E4 D4)


    is correct, but ( ^G A B/c/|E4 D4 ) is well wide of the mark.


    It's also worth mentioning that you can 'nest' slurs inside each other, so that a passage of music finishing with a tied note can be shown either as


    (D E F (G | G4))




    (D E F G-| G4)


    are both understood.

  18. Triplets, quadruplets, and the various other tuplets

    The basic notation for duplets, triplets, quadruplets etc. is straightforward : an opening round bracket, the number, and the notes within the tuplet eg


    Duplet (2GA

    Triplet (3GAB

    Quadruplet (4GABA

    and so on, up to




    Note that there are no spaces in the tuplet.


    The values of the particular tuplets are (to quote the abc specification)


    (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

    n is 3 in compound time signatures (3/4, 3/8, 9/8 etc), and 2 in simple time signatures (C, 4/4, 2/4 etc.)


    Warning : this next section is not as bad as it first looks. There are however some people - me for example - who are allergic to anything resembling algebraic equations: such readers may wish to click here now.


    For more complicated notation of irregular rhythmic episodes, abc allows for the use of the form






    p = the number of notes to be put into time q

    q = the time that p notes will be played in

    r = the number of notes to continue to do this action for.


    If q is not specified, it defaults to 3 in compound time signatures and 2 in simple time signatures. If r is not specified, it is taken to be the same as p.


    This comes into play when notating notes of different lengths within a tuplet eg








    and explains exactly what is going on in situations such as




    - which is the same as putting



  19. Chords and Unisons

    Chords within a melody, eg what classical Western notation would show as multiple note heads on a single stem, are shown in abc by enclosing the notes in square brackets [ ]. There should be no spaces within the chord, length and pitch modifiers can be included as required, and it is a convention to state the notes of the chord in ascending order, eg




    Chords can be arranged to form beamed groups using spaces in the same way that individual notes are, eg


    [GB][Ac] [B2d2] | [Bd][Ac] [G2B2]


    The syntax for chords can be used to notate more than one part in a single line of music - and in that case, or in cases where two strings play the same note, it will occasionally be necessary to notate a unison (eg both parts playing a note of the same pitch and length). Software which generates classical Western notation from abc will show unisons eg


    as a note with both an upwards and a downwards stem.

  20. Guitar chords

    Chords for accompanying instruments can be shown in abc using double quotation marks " " eg




    The chord should appear before the first note of the section of melody which the chord applies to, eg


    "G"GB d2 | "D"DF A2


    Chords take the format


    note accidental type / bass



    note A to G

    accidental # or b

    type m, min, maj, sus, dim, +, 7, 9, 11,#5, etc. etc

    / bass Bass note

    accidental, type, and / bass are all optional.


    You may occasionally come across an abc file which uses the older abc style of denoting guitar chords, by surrounding them with addition signs +Gm+ : more recent versions of the abc specification specify the use of the "Gm" style, so please do your chords like that.

  21. Line ends and line breaks

    In software which generates standard Western notation from abc, the general rule is that one line of abc will generate one line of tadpoles-hanging-on-five-barred-gates.


    Most packages will however 'wrap' the staff of music onto the next line if your printed page width isn't big enough.


    To try to insist that two lines of abc notation make one line of tadpoles, put a back slash


    at the end of the first line. Again, this may be over-ridden by the software if you run out of space.


    The other common symbol often seen used in marking line breaks is an exclamation mark


    placed at the end of a line of abc, to force the software generating the standard Western notation to start a new line. This is specific to one particular piece of abc software and is not actually a formal part of the abc notation specification, but (as so many abc files are generated in this particular software package, ABC2Win) it is worth mentioning here.

  22. Fiddle bowing marks

    Up-bow and down-bow marks for fiddlers can be indicated by the letters u (up-bow) and v (down-bow), eg



  23. Accents

    If you want to indicate that a particular note should be played staccato, place a dot . before the note, eg




    or even


    .G.A._B.c .d2.e.d.^c

  24. Song words

    The W: field (upper case W) in the header can be used as many times as needed to record the entire words of the song as a block of text eg


    W:How much is that doggie in the window

    W:The one with the waggly tail?

    W:How much is that doggie in the window

    W:I do hope that doggie's for sale

    (etc. etc.)


    This form of notating the song words will produce the words as a single text block below the tune, if the abc file is fed into a software package which generates standard Western notation.

  25. Comments in an abc file

    To include comments, notes, anecdotes, copyright notices etc. in your abc file (as opposed to using the N: and H: fields in a particular tune), use a percentage % symbol eg


    %This file was downloaded from



    a % at the start, or in the middle of, a line will cause everything to the right of the % symbol to be treated as comments by both human and computer abc readers.


    Note that some software packages take advantage of this syntax to place software-specific messages in the body of an abc tune - these can usually be distinguished by the human eye as they start with a double percentage sign eg %%.

  26. Putting it all together

    Putting it all together


    An abc notation of a tune has two sections, the ‘header’ and the ‘body’.


    The header contains the various information fields (index, title, rhythm, key, meter, etc.). A few important rules :


    The first field of a tune is always the X: field

    Each field in the header occurs on a new line

    The last field in the header, immediately before the notation of the melody itself, is always the K: field

    The X: index, T: title, M: meter, L: default note length, and K: key field are obligatory : the others are optional.

    The fields usually occur in the following order:





    [optional fields]


    As stated, immediately following the K: field on the next line is the body of the tune, eg the representation of the notes of the melody.


    If there is a subsequent tune in the abc file there will be at least one blank line after the end of the first melody, then the start of the second tune is denoted by the X: field of the next tune. There should be no blank lines within a tune - whilst human abc readers can cope with this, computers cannot.





    T:Speed The Plough



    N:Simple version

    Z:Steve Mansfield 1/2/2000


    GABc dedB | dedB dedB | c2ec B2dB | A2A2 A2 BA|

    GABc dedB | dedB dedB | c2ec B2dB | A2A2 G4 ::

    g2g2 g4 | g2fe dBGB | c2ec B2dB | A2A2 A4 |

    g2g2 g4 | g2fe dBGB | c2ec B2dB | A2A2 G4 :|

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