abc tune search : help


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tunes

Can you help me find a tune?

Yes - just type the title in the search box on the tune search page. However ... if it doesn't show up in the tune search, then I don't have a copy of it and I don't know where to get it.

The search results allow you to see the first line of the tune and click on a midi player which will play a sound file through your computer's speakers.

Once you've located the tune you want, just click on the "tune page" link to take you to the full tune and links to the collection where it originated, plus the midi player again and the abc version of the tune (which often contains additional notes about the tune).

The tune search is not case-sensitive and you can search for a title or just a fragment of a word - for example, click here to search for the tune Speed the Plough or here to do a search for the word jig (which also finds slip jigs, single jigs, double jigs - any tune where the word jig is mentioned in fact) or here to do a search for tunes in the time signature 6/8.

Note that, like most search engines, adding spaces between words broadens the search. For example, searching for slipjig (all one word) will only find tunes with slipjig as a single word, whereas searching for slip jig also finds tunes containing phrases such as slipjig, jig (slip), and even this jig slips along nicely.

Conversely, putting the words in quote marks narrows the search to the exact phrase. For example, searching for "slip jig" will only find tunes with the exact phrase slip jig, but not slip-jig, slipjig or jig (slip).

Can I download the music?

Yes - just go to the tune page and look for where it says "download: abc | midi | png" in the links section immediately under the tune title. Right-click (Mac users ctrl+click) on the appropriate link: midi will give you the sound file (play it in Windows Media Player or QuickTime) and png is the score (dots).

Why doesn't tune X (or collection Y) appear in the tune search?

There can be a number of reasons for exclusion including:

  • the tune is copyright - for more details, see the copyright page
  • the tune generated errors when it was being processed - for more details, see the errors section
  • the search doesn't know of the tune's existence - so tell me about it
  • the collection duplicates tunes found elsewhere - for more details, see the proliferation section
  • the owner of the abc file that the tune lives in doesn't want it included - sorry, not much I can do about that
  • the tune lives in a .htm or .html file - sorry, I can't parse these files (for reasons why not, see John Chambers' abc-faq and search for suffix)
  • the tune search hasn't been updated since the abc file was last changed - for more details, see the updating section

Tune X used to be in the tune search - why is it no longer available?

This could be for a number of possible reasons:

  • The original tune file may no longer exist.
  • The original tune file may still exist but the abc bot could not locate it when it last attempted to index abc files on the web.
  • The original tune file may still exist but it have been modified so that that particular tune is no longer available (perhaps because it has been deleted or is in a different position in the file).

You may want to try browsing the tune titles or searching again.

You could also try checking the original site - for example, if you were following a link to
  http://abcnotation.com/tunePage?a=www.domain.com/folder/filename/0000

then the address of the original file would be
  http://www.domain.com/folder/filename.abc

Can you give me more information about a tune?

Sorry - all the information I have about a tune is contained in the abc tune headers - just visit the tune page. However, I can also recommend Andrew Kuntz's Traditional Tune Archive (previously known as the Fiddler's Companion ).

I have spotted a mistake in one of the tunes - can you correct it?

No, not really - all the music on the tune search pages originates from other websites; all that the tune search does is to find and display it.

In that sense the tune search is like a sort of small-scale version of Google, which also interprets the abcs it finds to provide score and sound files.

So if you spot a mistake or an omission and would like it corrected, you should visit the collection it comes from - identified immediately under the tune title - and contact the owner so that the original can be modified. The correct version will then find its way into the abc tune search in the fullness of time.

If the mistake or omission has to do with copyright, then you should probably contact me. Since abcnotation.com does not knowingly display copyright tunes without the composer's consent, this may mean I will have to remove the tune from the website (click here for details of the copyright policy).

Alternatively I may be able to add a comment to tune manually.

Can I add a comment to the tunes?

Currently, no, although at some point in the future I intend to implement a way for registered users of the site to do this.

For now, however, I can manually add comments to tunes. Please contact me if you want to make use of this facility (although it's a bit fiddly so I can't promise to do it for lots of tunes).

Why is there no pop / rock music in the tune search?

It's nothing personal, but tunes in abc tend to be mostly from the folk or early music traditions (though you could try the LOTRO collections). Those in the tune search are also out of copyright (or permission has been granted to use them), which means that almost all of them are more than 70 years old.

Can you host my tune collection / can I upload a tune?

Currently, I cannot offer hosting for abc collections, or even individual tunes, although I hope to at some point in the future.

For a single tune, probably the simplest option is to submit it to TheSession.org.

For tune collections (assuming you do not have your own website), there are plenty of free file hosting services and people have used Google sites (for example, Ali Corbin's transcriptions of medieval music are hosted there) or, for downloadable abc files, Dropbox.

Lusthof der Muziek (the Garden of Musical Delights) is a good example: their main website is hosted on blogger.com but that service will only allow you to upload image files, so their abc files live in a public Dropbox folder.

Furthermore, now that their tunes are included in the tune search they can be viewed via search queries - for example, abcnotation.com/searchTunes?q=site:dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/4496965/ will display all the abc tunes (together with downloadable score and midi files) which live at http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/4496965/. Click here for more details.

You can even take it a bit further with ABCexplorer (if using a PC), which allows you to export an abc file as webfolder containing a webpage for each tune with downloadable abc, pdf and midi files. Once created, you can then upload the whole folder to a public Dropbox folder (or your own website if you have one).

Whatever you decide, send me a link to where the collection lives and I will make sure it is included on the abcnotation.com webpages and tune search.

Can you include my tune collection (or someone else's) in the tune search?

Yes. Just send me a link to where the collection lives.

I can't offer to host your collection, but it's not too difficult to put it online yourself.

Can you exclude my tune collection / (copyright) tune from the tune search?

Yes. Just let me know.

Alternatively, use a robots.txt file.

What's all this about copyright?

Please see the copyright page.

The tune search is out of date - why doesn't it reflect the latest changes in my tune collection?

Like google, the abc tune search doesn't show real-time search results. Instead the results reflect the state of tune collections the last time they were visited (indexed) by the abc search bot (kind of like the googlebot, but with much more restricted scope).

Typically I run the abc search bot once a month, so nothing should be more than a month out of date (in contrast, the googlebots are running all the time but typically only visit each page once every 3 months or so - however, they do have a enormous job to do).

Why has tune X (or collection Y) disappeared from the tune search?

Like google, the abc tune search shows a snapshot of the web. Web pages, and the online tune collections they contain, come and go and just because a tune existed in the tune search once, doesn't mean that it always will.

I don't automatically archive all of the tunes, so once it's gone, there's nothing much I can do about it. Sorry.

Why does the search show lots of copies of the same tune?

Probably it's just because folk music comes from an aural tradition and as a result there are often lots of different versions of the same tune.

However, since the early days of abc, various people have compiled (and made available online) collections of tunes found elsewhere online, meaning that some tunes appear on multiple websites.

Different search engines tend to handle this differently. John Chambers' tune finder tends to give you every copy of the tune that his abcbot has come across, whilst the Folk Tune Finder has sophisticated indexing algorithms to identify identical tunes.

The abc tune search falls somewhere between these two camps and to reduce proliferation, files and collections that are obvious duplicates of others are excluded from the listings. However, the matching algorithm isn't that smart, so duplicates can still sometimes occur. Please let me know if you spot any major duplications.

Back to the top

searching

Can I search inside a particular collection or file?

Yes, using site searches (which you can now do from every tune page - just look for the "search: file | collection" links).

For example, to search inside the Village Music Project, use the search query site:www.village-music-project.org.uk. Click here to see this work in practice.

You can also be more specific - for example, to search for John Clare's tunes at that site, use the search query site:www.village-music-project.org.uk/abc/clare_J. Click here to see this work in practice.

You can even combine a site search with other terms - for example, click here to search for John Clare's jigs.

Finally, note that if any part of the query contains spaces then it should be enclosed in quote marks, e.g. site:"www.domain.com/file name with spaces".

Why are the browseable index and/or the search results sorted in a funny order?

Deciding how to sort an index of tune titles in multiple languages is not easy.

One issue that arises is how to deal with definite & indefinite articles. For example, it is normal to ignore words such as the, a and an when sorting English titles or le, la, les and l' when sorting French ones.

Accordingly, tune titles with leading articles are mostly rearranged before sorting and, for example, The Foxhunters Jig is changed to Foxhunters Jig, The. (One exception - currently - is that if the title, or part of the title, is enclosed in quote marks then it is not rearranged so, for example, "The Foxhunters Jig" is left unchanged.)

However, even deciding which words are articles is not straightforward. For example, the word a means to in Spanish and related languages and is therefore not an article.

And sometimes it does not even make sense to treat an article as such. For example, La Russe is a well-known tune in England and would usually be found amongst the Ls even though its title is clearly French.

Accordingly, different collections have different sets of articles assigned to them. Almost certainly, some of these are wrong, so let me know if you spot something odd.

Another issue that arises is sorting characters with accents. For example, in Scandinavia it's common to put characters such as å or ø at the end of the alphabet after z. However, this is not the practice in Southern Europe and English speakers tend to just ignore accents altogether (sorry). It would also make the software more complicated.

Accordingly, the tune titles are sorted as if all the letters are unaccented and as if all the punctuation and spaces were removed from the title.

Finally, the search allows you to sort by alphabetically by title (select a - z) or in file order. Sorting by title just sorts the tune titles of the search results alphabetically as discussed above.

Sorting in file order sorts them alphabetically by the URL of the abc file they come from and then by their position in that file. This is useful for keeping results from the same file or collection together.

Does it sort the results by relevance?

No, not yet.

Does it search musically / thematically / by melodic contour (Parsons code)?

Not yet, but it will.

For now, try one of the other search engines on the search page.

Back to the top

midi players

If you are having problems listening to tunes on the website, please read this section in full. For more discussion about the issues, see my blog post the problem with midi.

How can I listen to a tune?

When you do a search (or look at a tune page) you should see something like one of these images:

typical search results
typical search results
possible search results in Internet Explorer
possible search results in Internet Explorer

Notice that at the top right of every tune there is a little midi player embedded in the page. However which midi player you see will depend on your browser and how your computer is set up.

If you are using Internet Explorer, you may see a minimised version of Windows Media Player looking like this:

Windows Media Player

However, in newer versions of Internet Explorer this doesn't always seem to work - if not, probably the best option is to install QuickTime.

If you are using another browser (e.g. Firefox, Safari, Chrome), and often if you are using Internet Explorer, you should see a minimised version of QuickTime looking like this:

QuickTime

Both players allow you to play / pause a tune and adjust the volume. Windows Media Player also allows you to change the speed (right click on the player and select Play Speed).

Why is QuickTime no longer working in Chrome, Safari & Opera?

As of May 2013, the latest version of QuickTime, 7.7.4, has changed (in technical terms it is much more strict about the MIME types it accepts and some of the browsers are not using the correct MIME type for MIDI files). I was able to find a fix which works for FireFox and Internet Explorer, but not the other three major browsers.

If you have QuickTime version 7.7.4 installed and you are using Chrome, Safari or Opera, you will see a faded QuickTime icon (a big faded blue Q with a question mark in the middle). As far as I know the only solution is to uninstall Quicktime and then reinstall QuickTime 7.7.3.

I picked up a Windows/PC copy of QuickTime 7.7.3 from oldapps.com - you need to click on the words "Quicktime Player 7.7.3 (38.56 MB)" and not on any of the prominent download buttons on the page (which are adverts).
Caveat downloader: Make sure you run the download through a virus scanner.

I don't currently know how to resolve this issue on a Mac - if you find a solution (such as an old Mac version of QuickTime), please let me know.

Why is midi not working on my mobile device?

Unfortunately, if you are using a mobile device (e.g. an iOS device such as an iPhone or iPad, or an Android phone or tablet) you will almost certainly not see an embedded midi player as typically these devices don't support midi.

Instead you will probably see a midi download button like the one below:

QuickTime

You will be able to download the midi file and should be able to find an app which will play it. Most midi apps have far more features than you need to simply play a file and hence are quite expensive but a cheap one I have found for iOS is called Symphonix Evolution Player (a cut down version of the more expensive Symphonix Evolution).

How can I download the midi file?

If you would like to download the midi file of the tune, for example to add it to your music collection, then you have a number of options:

  • You can do it manually by right-clicking on the "midi" link underneath the tune title and selecting "Save Target As..." (Internet Explorer) or "Save Link As..." (Firefox, Chrome) or "Download Linked File As..." (Safari) or "Save Linked Content As..." (Opera).
  • If you are using QuickTime and you have paid for the Pro version, you can click on the downwards arrow and select "Save As Source...".
  • If you are using Windows Media Player, you can click on the "midi" link underneath the tune title to open full version of Windows Media Player and then manage the file there.
  • If neither QuickTime nor Windows Media Player is working, you should see a download button like the one below.

QuickTime

I want to use Windows Media Player in Internet Explorer but all I get is QuickTime.

NOTE (April 2013): I am not sure that the embedded version of Windows Media Player is still working with recent versions of Internet Explorer (i.e. 9 & 10) but here is earlier advice that worked. Please let me know if this works for you.

Sometimes it can happen that when you install Quicktime or iTunes or even a new browser, Internet Explorer is reconfigured to use QuickTime to play midi files.

According to Microsoft, the best way to deal with this is to reinstall Windows Media Player.

It is not immediately obvious how to uninstall Windows Media Player, but here is a helpful guide to uninstalling WMP version 11.

Then it is straightforward to download and install it again.

Finally, if you are prompted by a "MIME Type Configuration" dialog which says "Some of the MIME types previously associated with the QuickTime plugin are currently associated with other applications. Should I restore these MIME type associations to QuickTime?", you should select "No".

Help - I can't play anything.

Some people have reported that they cannot play tunes on the abc website, even though they can play sound files at other sites. I'm trying to find a fix for this so if anyone can offer any suggestions they would be most welcome.

Note: as far as I know there is no way to fix it if you are using a mobile device (e.g. an iOS device such as an iPhone or iPad, or an Android phone or tablet) - these devices currently do not have an embedded midi player available.

If you are using a PC or a Mac, here are some configuration things to check.

At a very minimum you will need to download and install QuickTime 7.7.3 (should work on any computer) or Windows Media Player (will only work on PCs in Internet Explorer).

It is also worth trying a browser other than Internet Explorer.

If you have checked the above and it's still not working please email me stating:

  • what type of computer you are using (Windows PC, Apple Mac, Linux, ...)
  • what browser(s) you have tried (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, ...)
  • what your default media player is (QuickTime, Windows Media Player, ...) - to check, try manually downloading a midi file (see above), then double-clicking on it once it is downloaded to your computer

I may not be able to help you, but it would be useful to know where the problems lie.

Why does the QuickTime midi player occasionally make a horrible noise as it starts to play?

I don't know. It's either a bug in QuickTime, or something to do with its connection to the sound card. At any rate, I don't think it's a problem with the abc website and so there's not much I can do to fix it. Sorry.

Back to the top

technobabble

What if a tune contains notation errors?

The staff notation and midi files are generated by abcm2ps and abcMIDI respectively.

It is impressive to note that of the 36,000 tunes included when the abc tune search was first set up, less than 1% caused abcm2ps problems and only 0.1% of the remaining tunes caused abcMIDI problems. As far as I know, all the problems are caused by mangled abc, rather than bugs in these packages (and also this is not to suggest that abcm2ps is less robust than abcMIDI, since only tunes that had been successfully processed by abcm2ps were passed to abcMIDI).

Why does the staff notation shown in the search results look odd?

In order to show the search results in a compact format, the tune search attempts to display just the first line of each tune.

Although the mechanism for doing this is a little crude, it works most of the time. However, it ignores most of the fields in the tune and in particular the V:voice field, so that for tunes with multiple voices, only the first line of the first voice is shown.

Nonetheless, if you see a result that looks odd, then please report it so that I can improve the code.

What are SVG and PNG and what's the difference between them?

By default, as of December 1st 2012 website pages use inline Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) to display tune scores. Previously they were displayed using Portable Network Graphics (PNG).

Without going into too many technical details this means that the tune scores are actually written in the html code for the page, rather than being downloaded as a separate image file.

As a consequence the pages should load faster: for example, on a typical search results page there will be 10 tunes - each one will have a tune score and a midi player displayed. Using PNG image files means that your web browser would have to make 21 requests to display the page - 1 for the page itself, 10 for the PNG files and 10 for the midi files. Using embedded SVG image reduces this to 11 requests - 1 for the page and 10 for the midi files.

The only downside is that older browsers don't always support SVG or, sometimes, don't display it correctly.

I have included code so that if the browser doesn't support SVG at all, the PNG should be displayed.

However, it is impossible to detect if the browser is displaying it correctly (e.g. Opera version 11 doesn't), so the option to switch back to PNG is included. Furthermore, your computer should remember your preference the next time you visit the site (provided cookies are enabled).

Nonetheless, if you find the tune scores look odd, probably your best bet is to upgrade your browser so that you get the benefit of faster page loading (visit Can I Use.com to see which browser versions offer support).

Which browsers are supported?

The abc tune search should work in all of the major browsers.

Google Chrome Firefox Internet Explorer Opera Safari

If you see a page that looks odd, then please report it so that I can improve the site.

Can I block access to my tune collection from the abcnotation indexer using my robots.txt file?

Yes - the name of the indexer is AbcNotationBot.

For example, to block access to the AbcNotationBot for all urls starting with http://www.yourserver.com/dir1/dir2/ , you would need to add the following lines to http://www.yourserver.com/robots.txt :

User-agent: AbcNotationBot
Disallow: /dir1/dir2/

To block access to AbcNotationBot for your entire site, add the following lines to http://www.yourserver.com/robots.txt :

User-agent: AbcNotationBot
Disallow: /

NB If your collection is on a shared server, you may not have access to the robots.txt file - if so, just let me know what you want excluded.

To block access to all bots (including Google) for your entire site, you would need to add the following lines:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

You can find out more about robots.txt files at www.robotstxt.org.

Alternatively, if you would rather the abc bot did not crawl your site and you don't want to use a robots.txt file, just let me know.

Can I download abcnotation.com with a website copier / grabber?

No!

Within five weeks of the website being launched, it crashed twice because of users trying to download / copy / grab the entire site. On the second occasion it was down for two days because I was away from home with no internet access.

Leaving aside the extra work that this causes me, it seems very unfair on other users.

As a result, the server will check for, and prevent, accesses from copiers / grabbers. In addition, repeat attempts will result in the offender having their access to the site denied entirely.

However, it can sometimes get a little over-enthusiastic, so if you are reading this because you have seen a warning message in a browser and think it may be in error, just refresh/reload the page - it should work without any problems (to refresh the page just look for an icon similar to this refresh icon at the top of your browser).

If you are reading this because you are seeing repeated 403 error pages and think you may have been denied access, then please contact me. I will need to know your IP address - try visiting www.checkmyipaddress.org.

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miscellaneous

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to:

  • Jef Moine and Michael Methfessel for abcm2ps and its predecessor abc2ps.
  • James Allwright and Seymour Shlien for abcMIDI.
  • The many, many musicians who have transcribed tunes into abc and made them available online.

When is a FAQ not a FAQ?

Good question!

Currently I'm writing this page as if the questions above were regularly asked by users of the abc tune search.

However, the tune search is still in development - nobody but me has seen this page and so nobody has asked any questions about it.

Hopefully - in a few years time - the list on this page will be worthy of being called Frequently Asked Questions.

For now, however, it's more like a list of Questions I Think One Might Ask, or QITOMA for short (which has quite a nice ring to it).

Or sometimes - when I consider how much longer this is taking than I thought it would; when I wonder if it will ever be finished; when I have doubts about anyone ever even seeing the pages, let alone asking questions about them - sometimes, I think of it more as a list of Frequently Unasked Questions, or FUQ for short.

Thanks for reading this far - I hope you enjoy the site.

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