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Home PC's as a Music Studio

Nothing beats a daily Kitchen session for learning the music, but failing that, any PC with a sound card can be a real help at learning tunes. The tunes are posted all over the web and easy to find, and with the right music program, you can change the tempo to suit your pace, add a metronome, change the Key….

There are two types of programs that are very helpful.
— The first type plays what are called "abc's" - 'abc' is a simply a computer format for writing music.
— The other type of program slows down normal CD's or MP'3's

Using ABC music files

ABC is a language designed to notate traditional tunes in a standard text format. It was designed primarily for folk and traditional tunes of Western European origin (such as English, Irish and Scottish) which can be written on one stave in standard classical notation. Since its introduction at the end of 1991 it has become very popular and there now exist several PC and Mac based tools which can read abc notation and either process it into standard music notation or play it through the computer speakers.

As an example the tune The Blarney Pilgrim would be written out as:
T: The Blarney Pilgrim
R:jig
M:6/8
K:Dmix
~D3 DEG|A2G ABc|BAG AGE|GEA GED|
~D3 DEG|A2G ABc|BAG AGE|GED D3:|
|:ded dBG|AGA BGE|ded dBG|ABA GBd|
g2e dBG|AGA BGE|B2G AGE|GAG GFG:|
|:ADD BDD|ADD ABc|BAG AGE|GEA GED|
ADD BDD|ADD ABc|BAG AGE|GED D3:|

There can be anywhere from 1 to an unlimited number of tunes in a an abc file.

A pretty good website about ABC notation, and with a wealth of tunes in ABC format, is
Chris Walsh's ABC Site

Once you have the .ABC notation for a file, you can play it on your computer, or convert it to standard score notation.

There are a couple of free or low-cost options

  1. online abc converter When you find an individual tune in ABC format on the Web, you can copy it and paste it into an online abc converter: Concertina. net ABC Convert-A-Matic You can view it as a low-resolution image, or, by choosing PDF output, print out the score.
  2. AbcNavigator is a free program which shows an abc file as a printable score
    ABC Navigator
  3. ABCMus does a better job of organizing and finding abc's in large abc files, but does not show the music as a score. Shareware - $21.The AbcMus Home Page
  4. The best low-cost music score program I've found is Melody Assistant. It costs $15 US, but you can download and use it free for as long as you want, it just won't print. It will play many formats ABC, MID, etc., or you can write your own score. . It displays an abc as a the music score, allows editing, tempo and key change, adding chords, etc. It will also load a MIDI or MP3 file and let you slow it down or loop sections. Melody Assistant

Learning by Ear - Slowing down CDs or MP3s

CD's can easily be played on any PC, but if you're having trouble keeping up with the ace players, there are programs to slow down cd music, without changing pitch.

The first option, free, is to use Windows Media Player which will allow you to slow down an MP3 (only one speed, no selection or looping.)

Transcribe, a much better program for musicians learning by ear, is available for $40 U.S. You can download and try it out for 30 days for free. You can load an MP3 or a track from a standard CD, slow it down, select whatever selection you want and loop it to play repeatedly….http://www.seventhstring.com/

There is also a great free music player called WinAmp at www.winamp.com. This one's a bit more difficult technically, but basically, after you download and install Winamp, you'll need to download and install a free plug-in called Pacemaker or Slow Me Down

There's also a very good free program for slowing down a tune, a bit more technical to install. Best Practice

Editing Sound Files

If you tape or record music workshops, you're probably going to want a program to edit sound files, to edit out the junk

'Audacity, the Free, Cross-Platform Sound Editor', is a powerful program for editing and recording sound files, and it actually is free. Audacity

Check out the Links Page for abc's and music sites

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