In this tab I will assume a basic understanding of abc notation but perhaps little practical experience with it. If you find yourself getting confused consider reviewing the previous tabs. As I mentioned on the previous page, one of the advantages of abc software is that it's generally free or inexpensive. There are other advantages as well.
In order to use abc notation you'll need to have software to read the abc code. Its two main jobs are (1) to convert the abc code to standard notation, and (2) to play the tune for you.
There are two categories of abc readers: apps that you download and keep on your computer, and websites with abc reader software. You can find out about lots of software, mostly free, at the abc Notation website run by the inventor of abc notation, Chris Walshaw. The Software page lists lots of software and web-based abc readers. Chris also published a guide to abc software which presents what he considers the best abc software. It's a few years old but it remains a good guide.
Here are instructions for getting started with EasyABC; they are followed by instructions for using the web-based abcConverter.
That should get you started with EasyABC. Now let's look at abcConverter.
Here are instructions for getting started with the abcConverter.
Again there's a lot more that can be done with the abcConverter; it should be reasonably easy to discover with some experimentation.
There is a third, very different way of using abc notation: abc code can be included as part of an HTML document. Doing so has two very important benefits. (1) It allows us to put standard notation directly on a webpage, and (2) when clicked on, the tune plays back with a basic chordal accompaniment. This forms the basis for the playable tunes that are used throughout this website, and is discussed in moderate detail in the Playable Tunes section of the website.
On the next page we'll look at links to web pages related to abc notation: pages about how it works, abc software, pages filled with tunes in abc format, and more.
Why use abc notation? We've already looked at the advantages of using text files to write out tunes. How about the software itself?
I find with most notation software that unless I use it regularly I have to spend a lot of time relearning it each time I use it. With abc notation if I forget something it's easy to look at the online documentation and generally I get the answer quickly.
The disadvantages generally have to do with things that it doesn't do, or that it doesn't do well. These are only occasionally problems, and in the process of preparing these tunes I've solved most of them. For writing out fiddle tunes the ease of use more than balances out the few problems.