Draw the Dots

What can I type into this program?

This is an implementation of the ABC musical notation. There are many things written about this notation system on the web. In a nutshell, this is a notation system that is composed of regular characters, so it is easy to email to someone, and it is easy to write it down on a bar napkin. There are a number of versions and dialects of ABC, but the main two definitions are the widely supported but limited ABC version 1.6 definition and the much more comprehensive but not universally supported ABC version 2.1 definition. This software attempts to be supportive of the 2.1 definition and also as many dialects as possible. Unfortunately, there are places where the standard is either incomplete or a common dialect conflicts with it. This software attempts to support the most features it can and tries to do something sensible with all input.

Possibly useful links:

What is something simple I can type in to get started?

The notes are represented by the letters CDEFGABcdefgab. Cut and paste the following into the editor below:


You should see a line of music notation underneath the editor, and you should see a little music player to the right of it. If you click the music player, you should hear the scale being played.

To not have all the notes share a single horizontal bar, put a space between the notes that you want separate. Paste this into the editor instead:

CDEF GABc defg ab

That looks a little better. You can change the length of the note by putting a number after it. Let's make the C notes last twice as long:

C2DE FGAB c2de fgab

Now, if we just add bar lines and a repeat symbol, we've got a very simple score. Bar lines are created with a combination of the vertical bar symbol and the colon.

C2DE FGAB| c2de fgab:|

Now what?

There are symbols in ABC for expressing quite a lot of Western musical notation, and a little bit of not-quite-western notation. Click on the links above for more information, then experiment. There are many examples of ABC notation on this site and on the web in general. If you study them, you can see what they do. You can paste one in the editor, then add and delete characters to see what happens.

Here's just a taste of what you can do to spice up our example above:

Q: 180
K: Cm
"Cm"C2(3DEF- FG/2A/2B2| (c2de) fgab:|

(For a complete explanation of what the above means, go here: ABC version 1.6. In a nutshell, the Q: line sets the tempo, the K: line sets the key, anything in quotes is a chord symbol that is put above the music, the "(3" marks a triplet, the dash ties the notes before and after it, the "/2" means to divide the note value by two, the parentheses around a group of notes causes them to be slurred them together.)