Do we need the ‘new’ abc music notation standard?

Although I use abc music notation quite a lot, I haven’t looked at the specification for a while. I’ve always prefered to use the old 1.6 standard. To me, the main advantage of abc is the simple syntax to transcribe melodies, sometimes with chords or lyrics. There’s a trend going on to expand abc to a complete music description language for complicated multivoice music. However, the thousands of abc tunes online are mostly simple melodies. For music typesetting there are much better solutions, like Lilypond. The Lilypond syntax is more complicated than plain abc, but writing multivoice scores in abc is not much easier.

Since I’m working on new abc software I’ve had a look at the specification. The latest version is 2.1. Of course the 1.6 specification is a little informal. There have been many additions to abc 1.6 and the new standard is an effort to standardize these extensions. Unfortunately they’ve also deprecated part of the older abc files, so most of the abc music online does not conform to abc 2.1. New abc 2.1 files should start with a file formatĀ  identification ‘%abc’ or ‘%abc-2.1’. A quick google search shows that after almost two years there are only three files using the ‘%abc’ identifier and a handful of tunes using the ‘%abc-2.1’ version. So who’s using the new specification?

To keep things simple I think I’m going to stick with abc 1.6 and add my own extensions for everything that isn’t covered by 1.6.

Ukulele chords I

Note: this is the first part of a five-part course in moveable ukulele chords, originally published in Dutch. The other parts will follow shortly.

You can find ukulele chords in chord tables which you can find on the internet. But there are many kinds of chords like major, minor, 7th and many more, each in twelve different keys. And you can play each of these chords in a number of ways, resulting in hundreds of ukulele chords. You could learn all of these chords or use a small selection of ‘basic’ chords. A much better solution is to know what you’re doing, and learn a couple of basic shapes. Combined with a little bit of musical theory you can then find all the chords and variations you ever need yourself. In this series I’ll show you how to do just that.

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