Step 8 (Optional) - Music Basics and Refresher
The abc language will assume we remember some basic things from our early music training. (You can skip this step if you already remember these!) A very abbreviated reminder is reviewed below, but don’t worry, you can progress through the steps in these instructions even if you don’t feel you’ve gotten back to 100% of remembering all of your basic music theory. Hopefully these brief sections will be helpful.
Astaff is the five lines drawn horizontally across the page. Sheet music for four part vocal harmony typically uses a two staff system. The symbol at the beginning of a staff is the clef . Figure 1 shows two staffs, the upper staff marked with a Treble clef will show notes for the Soprano and Alto voices and the lower staff marked with a Bass clef will show notes for the Tenor and Bass voices.
Figure 13 shows the names of the notes in the Treble clef (top) and the Bass Clef (bottom.)
Your music teachers may given you these phrases to remember the names:
Treble Clef Lines: Every Good Boy Does Fine
Treble Clef Spaces: FA C E
Bass Clef Lines: Good Boys Do Fine Always
Bass Clef Spaces: All Cows Eat Grass
Figure 14 Treble and Bass Clefs with note letters and mnemonics
Notice that there is one line between the Treble clef and the Bass clef. This line is usually only drawn if it is needed. The first note in the upper staff in Figure 5 is “middle C”.
Note Lengths, Time Signature, and Measures
The “Time signature” is a method to indicate how many beats per measure and which note value has one beat. And, not all notes, of course, have the same length. Take a look at the following figure “Note Lengths, Time Signatures, and Measures.” Don’t worry if it is not all coming back to you, we will run into the concepts during our example and step by step build up our skills.
Figure 15 - Note Lengths, Time Signatures, and Measures
The Key Signature of a song is the set of sharps (♯) or flats (♭) placed together at the beginning of the staff right after the clef. The sharps and flats apply to any note on the line (unless overridden with a specific sharp, flat, or natural (♮, negates a sharp or flat.) You can use the chart below to look up the key of a song, or you can remember a few simple steps:
No sharps or flats - Key signature of C natural
One flat - Key of F
Flats - Note name that the 2nd to last flat is on plus “flat.” (i.e. 3 flats, 2nd to last flat is on E, so the key is Eb.)
Sharps - Note name that the last sharp is on plus a note. (i.e. 2 sharps, last sharp is on C, so the key is D.)
You will need to enter the Key Signature of the song, so either remember the “rules” or keep a look-up chart handy.
Figure 16 - Key Signatures
With this basic music refresher, you should have little trouble in using abc notation to easily enter music, and to instantly change it from normal notation to either the seven shape style or the four shape style. We hope you enjoy using abc notation, and we appreciate you reviewing this set of instructions.
Best wishes in your music projects!
Some music basics in case we forgot!
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