Listening to Tunes from the Tunebooks
I produce some music tunebooks, which as well as a printed or printable score, are available in 'ABC' digital music format.
This page contains suggestions as to how to listen to the tunes using the ABC files.
Digital Music in ABC
The abc files for the tunebooks contain digital definitions of the tunes.
An example is the ABC file of Paul Hardy's Session Tunebook. ABC is a simple format which has become a
standard for exchange of music notation by electronic media such as email. See the ABC notation page
for a description of ABC. See my Tunebook Process page for more information on how I produce the tunebooks.
Programs to Read ABC
These are several programs (free and commercial) that will read ABC files, and both display and play the tunes.
I suggest two free programs that do this simply, and let you vary the speed of playback, so that you can play along.
They also let you edit the source of the ABC to change the tune.
Both these programs are in fact graphical front-ends, and rely on two other programs behind the scenes - abc2midi to play the music, and abcm2ps to display the score.
- On Windows, ABCExplorer is my current favourite. This has a text editor
which colour codes the different elements of an abc tune, gives a preview of the score as you edit, and can play a tune as midi
through the computer speakers. The author is known as 'Billig'.
- EasyABC is a recent alternative by Nils Liberg with similar display, playing, and edit with
preview functionality. It works on Linux as well as Windows.
Download and install the ABCExplorer software from the ABCExplorer site.
Download the abc file of my Session Tunebook from my tunebooks page.
Start ABCExplorer, and use the 'File' menu to navigate to and open pgh_session_tunebook.abc. The file name should appear in the left side of the screen.
Click on the + sign next to it to get a list of tunes.
Click on a tune in the list, and it should be shown on the right hand side, with the abc source in the top pane, and the music score in the bottom.
Click on the red arrow button at top middle to play the tune. You can vary the speed using the tempo slider bar.
If you just see introductory text in the panel where the musical notation should be, then click on Options menu, choose the Editor tab, and untick the option
for “Use data of the file header to display the score”.
Download and install the EasyABC software from the more recent SourceForge page.
Ignore the the original EasyABC site, which is now out of date.
Then download the abc file of my Session Tunebook from my tunebooks page.
Start EasyABC, and use the 'File' menu to navigate to and open the abc file. A list of tunes should appear in the left side of the screen.
Click on a tune in the list, and it should be shown on the right hand side, with the music score in the top pane, and the abc source in the bottom.
If you get the tunebook intro page rather than the score, then there is a toggle in the Settings to ignore the file header.
Click on the green arrow at top left to play the tune.
- The ABC content for the Session tunebook is also available in a versatile App called "Abc Session Viewer" (written by a member of my local Greenshoots session) to run on Android tablets or on iPads - see the
Android version or iPad version.
This does one-click transposition, guitar and mandolin tabs, etc. As of January 2017, there is a later version just for iPhone and iPad called ABC Viewer II.
On iPad and iPhone I tend to use an app called “the Craic” by Wil Macaulay – see the Craic web site or the Apple App store.
The + sign at top of screen allows adding of tunebooks from the web, like mine.
I also occasionally use an app on my iPhone/iPad called Tunebook.
This can play and display from ABC files including my ones, but its ability to browse for them seems to be broken as of 2020. You have to paste in the full URL of the abc file.
Enjoy the music, and play along with it!
Live recordings alternative
As a Coronavirus lockdown project, I also have recorded a lot of the tunes on my concertina in the Greenshoots slow then faster style for learning by ear or playing along to.
These are in my Virtual Greenshoots page.
Go up to Hardy home page