ABC Music Notation: Readability

by John Chambers
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One of the nice things about ABC notation is that it is fairly readable. Many people are already claiming that they can read ABC nearly as easily as standard music notation. However, as with anything, there is good and bad ABC notation. Here are some suggestions for making your ABC easy to read.

The main suggestion is to use spaces. Consider these lines of music:

Not very nice to read, is it? Now compare it with:
| "C"EDC    | GF "C7"E | "F"ccA/B/ | c3  | "C"GEC |    CB,C | "D7"EDD | "G7"D2G |
| "C"GGE/F/ | GG "C7"c | "F"ccA/B/ | c2A | "C"GEC | "G7"DED |  "C"C3- | C3     ||
You probably find this much easier to read. There are two ways that the spacing makes the second easier to read: A third, more subly thing that was done in both of the above examples was to make each phrase start a new line. This isn't always possible, just as it isn't with standard music notation, but when you can do it easily, you should.
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Copyright 2001, 2002 by John Chambers