New Hampshire Country Dance Fiddle Tunes Website

Introduction to abc Notation


Some Important abc Links

There are many websites related to abc notation. Here I present some of the important websites for learning about abc and how to use it. I also present a couple websites that contain or link to substantial collections f tunes in abc format. And finally I present links to useful abc software.

There are two parts to the section on abc notation. This is the last page of the Introduction to abc Notation section. If you want to learn more, consider looking at the Detail section. Please use the abc Notation menu above to navigate the abc pages.

Here I want to list a few of the most important ones for learning about and using abc notation.

Learning & Reference. Here are a few of the most important websites and web pages for learning about abc notation and for answering questions while using abc notation.

  • The abc Notation Home Page. This is the official home page for abc notation, from Chris Walshaw who invented abc notation in the first place. It's got some of everything. It's got pages for learning abc, for finding tunes, for finding useful, mostly free or inexpensive abc software and more.
  • The abc Standard. The abc Standard documents the current standard for abc notation. If you need to know something about abc, it's probably in here. Version 2.2 is in flux right now, but this web site follows the draft Version 2.2 as do many others using abc notation at this time.
  • The abc Plus Project. This is Guido Gonzato's amazing abc web site. There are two components to the web site. (1) It contains links to some of the most useful abc software. (2) It contains his excellent book Making Music with ABC 2, which is a very useful source of information for most topics related to using abc notation. I find it to be a very useful reference.
  • abcm2ps & abc2svg Documentation. Most abc software relies on one of these two programs from Jean-François Moine for high quality printing. This page has a reference to all the parameters that affect how an abc file is printed. You can use them to change the spacing of staffs, to change the font and size of chord notation, to set margins, and many other parameters. It's confusing at first but once you get the idea of how to do it you can do just about anything with abc notation.
  • Using abc on a Web Page. This page documents using abc2svg to put music on the web in standard notation and in playable form.
  • Peter Yarensky's abc 2.2 Help File and Help Reference. The Help File is a PDF file I made up (originally for myself but modified for general use) documenting most features of abc 2.2 that I use with any regularity, and also a number of shortcuts and tricks to make things work more easily. The Help Reference is a short summary for quick reference. There are probably some errors in it but mostly along the lines of vocabulary; I believe everything works as described.
  • abcusers. The abc User’s Group on It’s an internet list for people who use abc notation and for the people who write the software. Activity ranges from minimal to several messages/day, usually low volume, and it can be interesting and useful.

Music in abc format. There are literally thousands of fiddle tunes online in abc format. Here are a couple places to find them.

  • JC's ABC Tune Finder. Run by John Chambers, this is probably the best search engine for tunes in abc format. Type in part or all of the title, or even the contour of the tune to search. In addition to finding tunes it can display standard notation for you in various formats and it can play the tunes.
  • Tune Collections. This is a set of links to music collections from the abc Home page. It's very extensive. Look there for links to the Nelson Music Collection, O'Neill's, Elias Howe, Kerr's Merry Melodies, Playford, Cole's Thousand Fiddle Tunes, and many more.

abc Software including web-based utilities. The final set of links is to useful software for using abc notation.

  • abc Software at the abc Home Page. This is probably the most comprehensive list available and always is worth consulting. There is a Guide to abc Software that Chris Walshaw (inventor of abc notation) compiled, which discusses the abc software that he finds most useful. Although a few years old it's still a god guide.
  • EasyABC is probably the best software for most people. Macintosh users: You'll need a version that is 64-bit compatible. If you click on the EasyABC folder there are currently two options. Version 1.3.8 contains a mac-compatible version (EasyABC_1.3.8.dmg.gz) as does EasyABC; I'm not sure what the difference is.
  • Tunebook and the Craic. These are what I use on my iPhone and iPad. Both are fairly complete editors with display and playback capabilities.
  • abcConverter. This is a web-based abc interpreter. It can produce standard notation in PDF format and playable midi files.

This is the last page of the Introduction to abc Notation. If you'd like to learn more about it, check out some of the links on this page. You can also look at the abc Detail Pages on this website. Use the menu at the top, or to get to the first page, click on the Tune Header link here.