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abc notation?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by RoadRanger, Nov 19, 2012.

  1. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    Am I the only one that uses abc notation for bass line transcriptions?
    Actually I use my own variant that I independently came up with in the late 70's. It'll have more or less detail and rhythm accuracy depending on what I need and how much I'd worked on it. Here's a sample:
    Blister in the Sun - Violent Femmes.rtf
  2. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    I can't get my head wrapped around it very well. Same with TAB, I just don't like it. I think standard notation is the way. You can even see the rise and fall of the notes, and I think the intervals are easier to visualize. If it works for you, though, have at it.
    BassChuck likes this.
  3. Wow, I have been playing guitar & bass for almost [del]25[/del] 30 years and I have never seen that before.

    I've often thought that standard notation, and for that matter the whole note naming system, isn't really optimal. But, like the QWERTY keyboard, it's here, it's universal, and it doesn't look like it's going anywhere, so I have learned to live with it.
  4. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    Note that abc notation was only introduced in 1991, my similar system dates back over ten years previous. I only discovered abc a couple years ago in researching alternative notation systems and found it is remarkably similar. I never came across tablature back then (thankfully!). Unfortunately I tossed out all my sheets when I stopped playing for 20 years :( .
    The only thing about "Standard Notation" that frosts my arse is key signatures. I actually learned some music theory before I started playing bass. I could get up on semi-sightreading the key of "C" pretty quickly but it seems that you'd then have to learn how to sightread each of the other signatures :(. With modern software it'd be easy to do "keyless" standard notation and I have thought about "converting" to that but I have found some value in sharing out my charts to the guitarists in the bands to give them a start on figuring out the chords and structures of songs we do. Standard notation wouldn't be of any value to most of them ;).

    I've also recently found out my "system" is close enough to what iRealB uses that I can jam jazz standards from that pretty good - although I do prefer sheet music with chords noted. I did do a bit of choral singing 30+ years ago (second bass of course ;)) so I can kinda follow the "trend" of the notes to know where I am and where the rests are :) .
  5. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    "Keyless" standard notation is much harder to read.
  6. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    Looking at tab reminds me of coloring books LOL. I have transcribed tab into my system on occasion but usually just start from a chord chart if I can find one.
    Stick_Player likes this.
  7. blakelock


    Dec 16, 2009
    this is very similar to the presentation i've seen in folk tune songbooks. i think it's fine for quick shorthand but FAR less versatile than standard notation. the abc notation for notes of different lengths and rests is nearly unusable even for relatively simple songs...but i imagine you could teach your brain to do these gymnastics just like you could teach it to read standard.

    good luck!
  8. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    Actually the gymnastics of dealing with different key signatures is what puts me off of standard notation :( .
    Thanks, but I was just wondering if anyone besides myself uses a similar system. I do like knowing what notes I'm playing :) vs a "tab player" who just knows what frets to play :( .
  9. AMp'D.2play


    Feb 12, 2010
    I use a crude variation of this when I'm scribbling down notes on a section of a song I'm working on when I'm pressed for time. I never knew it actually had a name and someone developed a system based on it!

    My similarity to this guy's method is I'll use upper case letters, and if there are any octaves in the section, I'll use lower case letters for those. I don't include any reference to rhythm since this is only for those cases where I know how the song (or section) goes in my head.

    It's not optimal, but it's quick. I much prefer it to tab (which I hate & avoid at all costs) because at least I'm looking at the actual note name & not a number that indicates a string/fret position.
  10. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    Yes, I do that too!
    E F F#/Gb G G#/Ab A A#/Bb B C C#/Db D D#/eb e f f#/gb g g#/ab a a#/bb b c c#/db d d#

    For readability I use Arial 28pt with 24pt for sharps and flats and maybe minors (like am) with 14pt blank lines between sections.
    I try to roughly notate rhythm by something like:
    |A| (full note)
    |A B| or |AB| (half notes)
    |A x| or |Ax| (half note and half rest)
    |A - B C| or |A BC| (half note followed by two quarter notes)
    |A- -B C- D-| or |A -B C D| or |A--B CD| (3/8 note, 1/8 note, two quarter notes.)
    |A8| (straight eighth notes)

    I don't do anything finer that eighth notes and often "simplify" to quarter or half notes and rely on memory for the exact rhythm. I'll use the "shorter forms" above if it helps fit it all on one sheet or (more recently) one screen. Rather than print them out for a rehearsal I'll bring the computer or iPad. Two of the three places I rehearse/jam at have WiFi - I use Google Drive to share out the charts and MP3's to my iPad and others in the bands.
  11. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    It's lovely, but no better than tab IMHO. For example, what octave do you start at? Also, writing lines with 16th notes will be unwieldy at best. Standard notation is the language of communication for all instruments, and it will always be thus. It's been around for so long, all instruments use it, and it's so well-established that nothing can top it. I say why fight it?
  12. wrench45us


    Aug 26, 2011
    There's a similar note name based system that's used in the gospel community where not everyone reads music. The notes are written out left to right, left hand | right hand usually to block out the chords and the player sorts out the melody line.

    So looking at this horizontal scheme and knowing a little about this vertical scheme -- well it's got to be one or the other -- which is sort of the shortcoming.
  13. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    I'd like to see an example of that :) .
  14. AMp'D.2play


    Feb 12, 2010
    Can't say I disagree with anything you've mentioned regarding the superiority of notation, but ...

    Instead of making things easier, tab actually complicates things for me. If I look at a tab, my pea brain adds an unnecessary step. Instead of seeing E-5 and going to the 5th fret of the E string, I first convert that to an A, and then play an A.

    In my 1st post above, I mentioned that in its limited use for me, I have to already be somewhat familiar w/ the song. So I already know which note(s) I'll be playing & where. The stuff I play rarely exceeds 2 octaves, so a simple A/a, B/b, C/c, etc. is adequate.

    I use it exclusively as a method for myself. I don't intend to share my "chart" with anyone, so there's no communication involved.

    There are those times where I may not have my laptop (which includes Finale notation software) or a book of staff paper. If I want to jot down a particular fill on a chord sheet or just some blank sheet of lined paper, this gets the job done in a pinch.
  15. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    Exactly. I don't want to ever learn to "sight read" tab - I think it would be a step backwards :( .
    On a four string that covers all the notes on the first 7 frets - everything except the "showoff" notes :p .
    As I said the guitarists have found my charts somewhat useful too. I now leave the chord names in (if there is room) to help them (assuming I'm starting from a chord chart) . I'll also put fragments on my setlists, keeping that down to where I can still get an entire setlist on one sheet readable from the floor :ninja:.
  16. Schmorgy


    Jul 2, 2012
    Technically, that's the point of Tab.

    Tabbers typically hear it the same way and play it different ways, but all the ways are means to the same end. The only reason to play it differently is efficiency and direction (next note higher on the neck? Lower?). If you're seeing a tab written as a fret, and interpreting it to an actual note in your brain, you're doing the right thing since blindly following tab makes you very good at knowing where your frets are and very bad at knowing the fretboard itself.
  17. INTP


    Nov 28, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    I don't get the point of alternate musical notations such as letter notation or TAB. Standard musical notation is really not hard, and the alternate methods all seem to be lacking the information in some way (e.g. time info in TAB). Or when they do include it, it's much less easy to read than standard notation would be. It just seems like a lot of effort and in the end it avoids something simple and elegant in favor of something awkward and messy.

    Since you asked...
  18. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    Didn't actually :p .

    The "point" of abc notation is that it is ASCII - you can't type "standard notation" without special software. While MusicXML is a standard for computer based standard notation (and if you're a total geek perhaps you can even type it :scowl:) you can't sightread it like you can abc.

    In any case I was only asking if anyone else was using it or a variant thereof :cool:.

    FWIW there is software that can convert abc to standard and MusicXML to abc :) .
  19. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I'm not sure I get how this works, the key signature is G major but there's no F#, just F. If I'm supposed to understand that because of the key signature F is actually F#, how do you notate any secondary key centers? Write me out the melody in the bridge to HAVE YOU MET MISS JONES....
  20. BassChuck


    Nov 15, 2005
    OP-Seems like you've worked as hard to understand this as you would have to learn standard notation. You have to be careful when re-inventing the wheel. That kind of thinking could, in its extreme, lead to candidacy for public office.