Important Note: This page works best on a screen at least 768 pixels wide. You should hold an iPhone or any other small screen in landscape orientation for best results.
In the last tab we looked at the tune header, which has basic information about a tune such as title, timing, key, etc. We'll need to refer back to it, so I'm reproducing the relevant parts here.
X:1 % the tune number T:On the Road to Boston % title T:Road to Boston % a second title M:2/4 % meter L:1/8 % default note length R:March % rhythm K:D % key
Next is the tune body, where the music itself is encoded. Let's look at the code for the first line of music.
A |\ "D" f2 fe/2f/2 | "D" gf ed | "A7" cd ef | "D" dA FA |
You probably noticed that although I said it was code for the first line of music, there are two lines of code. Although the code looks confusing, the basic principles involved are pretty simple, and there aren't too many to know to get the basic idea of how it works.
/2. That means what you might predict: an eighth note divided by two or a sixteenth note.
f2 fe/f/; the division by 2 is implied.
f2, it's an F#; there's no need to write in the # as it's implied by the key signature.
The end result looks like the following:
Here's a chart of when to use upper- and lower-case letters.
In addition to viewing the sheet music, most abc software can also play back the tune. That's useful both for proofreading a tune you've written out and for learning a tune. Those of us who can't always tell what a tune sounds like from the written notation can use the playback to find out.
If you click on the tune you should hear the melody with a basic accompaniment. (Note that playback may not work on a phone or a tablet.)
The next page is The Tune Body II. We'll use the rest of the tune to illustrate additional techniques for writing out tunes with abc notation.