Latest Update: 10 September 2017
I've been a great advocate of using available technology to help students of traditional Irish music in the difficult task of learning and mastering tunes. Over the past two years I've learned hundreds of tunes using the programs and resources listed below.
See you at the session!
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
~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:|
The .ABC home page is located at http://abcnotation.com/
The .ABC notation for nearly any tune can be searched for by name at thesession.org.
Once you have the .ABC notation for a file, you can play or convert it to standard notation.
These are programs that I use and recommend for working with .ABC files:
ABCMus - Full-featured .ABC player for Windows. Includes stylistically correct "swing" and beat emphasis for reels, jigs, and hornpipes. This is what I use for practice nearly every day.
ABC2Win - .ABC to standard notation program for Windows.
ABCNavigator - Versatile ABC editor and tunebook printer.
Free Online Metronome - Very versatile free online metronome program offered by VirtualSheetMusic.com.
AppCordions Traditional Musical Instrument Apps for iOS and Android - Virtual accordions, concertinas, bagpipes, flutes, whistles, and hammered dulcimers
ClearTune for Android
ClearTune for iOS
One of the best ways to learn to play traditional Irish music with the correct feel and ornamentation is to listen and analyze the playing of good players on recordings or YouTube Videos The only problem is that often times they play so quickly that it is difficult to figure out exactly what they are doing.
If you have a reasonably fast computer with a CDROM drive, many very useful tools are now available for assisting with learning tunes off of audio CDs. These programs allow you to do several things:
1) Play the file back at a slower speed, without changing the pitch. Most programs will allow you loop on a particular section.
2) Change the pitch of a recorded tune without changing the speed. This is very useful, for example, if the performer on the CD is playing an E-flat or B-flat whistle and you only have a D-whistle.
Seventh String Music Software
The Transcribe! application is an assistant for people who sometimes want to work out a piece of music from a recording, in order to write it out, or play it themselves, or both.
Transcribe! offers many features aimed at making the transcription job smoother and easier, including slowing the music down without changing the pitch as well as actually showing the pitches present at any point in the music.
30-Day free trial versions for Windows, Mac, and Unix available for download.