The ABC Plus Project

Versione italiana   Versione italiana


One of my hobbies is music: I play folk and early music on the whistle, flute, bagpipe, recorder, and clarinet. I find that the ABC music notation language is a wonderful tool to typeset sheet music. ABC is one of the best designed, easy to use, well-thought out, and nicely implemented notation formats I've ever seen: IMHO, it surpasses other good notation languages like GNU Lilypond or MusiXTeX. (Philip's Music Writer is a serious contender though.) You can write music in a very simple ASCII format and convert it to MIDI, or typeset it to make professional-looking scores.

ABC was originally designed for simple melodies, but there have been efforts to extend the notation. The ABC Music Standard is now at version 2.1, which is unfortunately not fully implemented by major programs.

Some ABC applications implement most of the the ABC language; low-level details (formatting and MIDI effects) are supported too. The purpose of the ABC Plus project is to provide software and documentation for this extended ABC. This is an example of classical music written in ABC Plus; it sounds like this. What I informally call ABC Plus is, in practice, the current implementation of ABC 2.*.

All RPMs and .deb packages available on this site were built on a Mint GNU/Linux 17.3 system. I built the RPM packages first, then I made the .deb package using the alien converter.

A couple of notes.

First of all: please note that I am not the author of abcm2ps, abcmidi, and EasyABC. I wish I were such a great programmer! I just provide the packages or the links. Please refer to the authors for any questions.

Secondly: please refer to The ABC Notation software page for a full and quite long list of ABC software.

Finally: please, please, don't write to me asking how to do this or that. I've run out of time. I recommend that you join the abcusers mailing list, and ask questions there. Thanks!

Making Music with ABC 2

I have written a manual that explains how to write music using ABC 2. It focuses on using abcm2ps and abcmidi, but most of the information it contains can be applied (at least to some extent) to all ABC applications. Many thanks to Norman Schmidt who helped me translate parts of the manual.

I release this manual under the GNU Free Documentation License 1.3. This basically means that it's free and that you can freely modify it, as long as you make your modifications publicly available.

Latest release:

Previous versions:

I rely on your feedback to fix errors and omissions, and in general to make this manual more useful. Please feel free to make translations!

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Some ABC Plus choral music

As a demonstration of the capabilities of ABC Plus, I have prepared a few examples of choral sheet music. They're free to use and share.

All scores use this choral.fmt format file.

Description ABC PDF MIDI
"Ave Maria"
Jacob Arcadelt (c. 1514-1557) Ave_Maria_Arcadelt.pdf Ave_Maria_Arcadelt.mid
"Ave Maria"
Nicolas Gombert (c. 1490-1560) Ave_Maria_Gombert.pdf Ave_Maria_Gombert.mid
"Ave Maria"
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594) Ave_Maria_Palestrina.pdf Ave_Maria_Palestrina.mid
"Ave Regina Coelorum"
Guillaume Dufay (c. 1400-1474) Ave_Regina_Coelorum.pdf Ave_Regina_Coelorum.mid
"Ave Verum"
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) Ave_Verum.pdf Ave_Verum.mid
"Il bianco e dolce cigno"
Jacob Arcadelt (c. 1514-1557) Bianco_Dolce_Cigno.pdf Bianco_Dolce_Cigno.mid
"Canzonetta a tre voci"
Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) Canzonetta.pdf Canzonetta.mid
"Coro della notte"
Pietro Alessandro Yon (1866-1943) Coro_Della_Notte.pdf Coro_Della_Notte.mid
"Gaudeamus igitur"
traditional; music by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) Gaudeamus_Igitur.pdf Gaudeamus_Igitur.mid
Philipp Heinrich Erlebach (1657-1714) Halleluja_Erlebach.pdf Halleluja_Erlebach.mid
"O sacrum convivium"
Andrea Gabrieli (c. 1510-1586) O_Sacrum_Convivium_Gabrieli.pdf O_Sacrum_Convivium_Gabrieli.mid
"O vos omnes"
Carlo Gesualdo (c. 1561 - 1613) O_Vos_Omnes.pdf O_Vos_Omnes.mid
"Otche nash" (Pater Noster)
Nikolai Kedrov Sr. (1871-1954) Otche_Nash.pdf Otche_Nash.mid
"Pater Noster"
Igor F. Stravinskij (1882-1971) Pater_Noster.pdf Pater_Noster.mid
"Selig sind die Toten"
Heinrich Schutz (1585-1672) Selig_Sind_Die_Toten.pdf Selig_Sind_Die_Toten.mid
Pierre Attaignant (c.1494 - c.1551) Tourdion.pdf Tourdion.mid
"Unendliche Freude"
Franz Schubert (1797-1828) Unendliche_Freude.pdf Unendliche_Freude.mid

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An ABC package for LaTeX

Prof. Enrico Gregorio (University of Verona, Italy) has written a LaTeX package for including ABC/ABC Plus music in LaTeX documents. Thanks a lot!

The package is available from all CTAN mirrors, e.g. Here's a local copy.

ABC command line tools for Windows and Android

The following archive contains the latest abcm2ps, abcmidi, beep.exe, abcpp, and abc2prt binaries for Windows and ARM Android:

Installing on Android is a bit convoluted, but it's possible even on non-rooted devices. Please refer to the included INSTALL.txt file.

Only SVG output is usable, since Ghostscript is not (yet) available on Android; so you'll want to typeset your ABC music using a command like:

$ abcm2ps -X -O=

and display the resulting music.xhtml file with Firefox or other browser.

abcm2ps binaries

One of the best implementations of ABC is surely Jean-François Moine's abcm2ps, an adaptation of Michael Methfessel's abc2ps that can handle multiple voices per staff and many other extensions. In my view, abcm2ps is ABC done right - in addition to folk music, it can do a lot of classical music quite well! It's amazing to see how this little program can make professional-looking scores.

abcm2ps' author provides the software in source-only form. Here you can download binaries for Windows and Linux:

  New stable release binary for Windows without Pango support. binary for Windows with Pango support (thanks to Oliver Pfeiffer)
abcm2ps-8.12.4 static GNU/Linux binary, without Pango support.
abcm2ps_8.12.4-1_amd64.deb binary for Debian
abcm2ps-8.12.4-1.x86_64.rpm binary RPM
abcm2ps-8.12.4-1.src.rpm source RPM Mac OS universal binary, thanks to Frédéric Aupépin and Chuck Boody

Binaries for Sun Solaris are available here.

abcm2ps can include graphics in the score, but only in EPS format (the %%EPS command). An excellent program for turning JPG, PNG and other bitmaps into compact EPS files is bmeps. For convenience, the static Windows command-line executable is here: bmeps.exe

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abcm2ps extensions

An exciting feature of abcm2ps is the possibility of writing extensions as PostScript code. Some of the ABC files included in the abcm2ps distribution show examples of such extensions.

I have gathered some code and written a few .fmt files. I remind you that to use the code in external .fmt files one has to write this command line:

abcm2ps -F formatfile

where formatfile refers to the file formatfile.fmt.

There you are a list of my .fmt files, which will grow as I finish writing and testing them. They all work on both the stable and development abcm2ps releases. Kudos to Jean-François Moine for writing the original code!



guitar chords using Italian notes (for abcm2ps 7* and later versions).
Written by Jean-François Moine.

deco-guitar.fmt guitar chords diagrams demo-guitar.pdf
deco-marks.fmt position marks demo-marks.pdf
renaissance.fmt Format file for Renaissance music, by Eric Forgeot charlotte.pdf
thinlines.fmt draw thinner lines n/a Lots of new decorations and symbols, by David Lacroix Symbols.pdf
col.fmt Note and symbols in colour, by David Lacroix colors.pdf
Easy Notes Easy notes: note heads including the note name. By Jeremy Cowgar. easynotes.png

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abcmidi binaries

I provide Win32, Linux, and Mac OS X binaries for this very important piece of software, whose original home page is The latest version is available as source from Windows binaries
abcmidi_20160925-1_amd64.deb binary for Debian
abcmidi-20160925-1.x86_64.rpm binary RPM
abcmidi-20160925-1.src.rpm source RPM Mac OS X binaries (thanks to Frédéric Aupépin and Chuck Boody)

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screenshot EasyABC loading an ABC collection. Click to enlarge.

EasyABC is an open source ABC editor for Windows, OSX and Linux. It uses abcm2ps and abc2midi, and it has a rich feature list. Most notably, it can import MusicXML files and export tunes in SVG format.

Kudos to Nils Liberg, original author, and to Seymour Shlien, current maintainer!

EasyABC sources and binaries for Windows and OS X can be downloaded from this page:

easyabc_1.3.7.5-2_all.deb binary for Debian. You'll also need python-wxgtk2.8, python-pygame, and python-pyparsing.
easyabc- latest release for RPM-based distributions
easyabc- source RPM

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screenshot A.k.a. ABC mode for Jed. Click to enlarge.
screenshot JedABC in index mode. Click to enlarge.

JedABC is an extension to the Jed editor that turns it into a powerful and easy to use IDE (Integrated Development Environment) for ABC files, with full integration with preprocessors, converters, players and previewers. It's similar in concept to BarFly or runabc, with several advantages.

Warning: JedABC is meant for geeks, that is for people who are computer proficient and are comfortable editing files by hand.

To use JedABC, install the Jed editor first. Packages should exist for your platform or Linux distribution. Also, make sure you have GhostView and a MIDI player installed. Then download JedABC:

Put and jedabc.txt where all the other .sl files reside (usually /usr/share/jed/lib), then edit the system-wide jed.rc (/etc/jed.d/ on Debian) or .jedrc in your home directory to add these lines:

variable abc_encoding="utf8";
% Italian users only
define variable abc_language = "it";
autoload ("abc_mode", "abc");
add_mode_for_extension ("abc", "abc"); % plain ABC
add_mode_for_extension ("abc", "abp"); % ABC with abcpp macros

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abcpp is a simple yet powerful preprocessor designed for, but not limited to, ABC music files. It provides conditional output, macros, symbol renaming, and file inclusion. I wrote it for two reasons: first, I wanted to overcome incompatibilities between ABC packages; secondly, I wanted to be able to write portable and more readable ABC files.

Inspired by the C and S-Lang ( preprocessor, abcpp supports some directives that allow you to play a few tricks. You write your ABC music files with directives lines like #define or #ifdef, defining macros or excluding portions of text according to specific conditions. Then you preprocess your file with abcpp, producing an output file suitable for each ABC application or voice. Interestingly, abcpp is actively used with MusiXTeX-related programs.

In a nutshell, have your ABC cake and eat it too!

Download abcpp

The archive also contains the documentation. Many thanks to the developers who sent me patches!

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abc2prt is a simple tool to extract parts from multivoice ABC music files.

I wrote it because it's often desirable to give singers their own part in addition to the complete score. I know that Perl scripts exist that do the trick, and Unix users will be happy with them. However, installing Perl on a Windows machine only for running a script is quite an overkill.

abc2prt is a command line tool. Usage is

$ abc2prt -v voicename [inputfile] [outputfile]

If inputfile and outputfile are not specified, abc2prt will use standard input and standard output. An example is

$ abc2prt -v TII

which will output the whole header and all the lines that belong to the voice defined as V:TII, including w: lines. At most five -v fields are allowed.

If there's enough request, I'll write a graphical version. The multivoice extensions were written by Matthew K. Junker, junker at alum dot mit dot edu. Many thanks, Matthew!

Download abc2prt

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This site is maintained by Guido Gonzato, Ph.D.

For information, suggestions, etc, please drop me a line: guido.gonzato at

Free Tibet!

My deeply felt sympathy to the Tibetan people

Made with Jed Abcplus at