Paul Hardy's Tunebook Process

I produce some music tunebooks. This page contains an outline of the process that I followed in creating the tunebooks, and in making them available in downloadable and printed forms. The work is done on a home PC under Windows 10.

Digital Music in ABC

My starting point is to create an ABC file with the digital definitions of the tunes. An example is the ABC file of Paul Hardy's Session Tunebook. ABC is a simple format which has become a standard for exchange of music notation by electronic media such as email. See the ABC notation page for a description of ABC.

A typical ABC tune from my session tunebook looks like:

X:2012
T:Blue Eyed Stranger
R:Reel
C:Trad.
O:England
Z:Paul Hardy's Session Tunebook 2016 (see www.paulhardy.net). Creative Commons cc by-nc-sa licensed.
M:4/4
L:1/8
Q:1/4=160
K:G
"G"G2D2D2GF|"C"ED EF "G"G2A2|"G"B2d2 "D7"cB AG|"C"E2 "D7"F2 "G"G2 D2:|
"G"GA Bc d2G2|"C"ed cB "D7"A2D2|"G"GA Bc d2d2|"D7"B3c "G"d4|
"G"GA Bc d2G2|"C"ed cB "D7"A2GA|"G"B2d2 "D7"cBAG|"C"E2 "D7"F2 "G"G4|]

Finding and transcribing tunes

The tunes in my tunebooks have come from several sources:

Manipulating tunes in ABC

I use a variety of utilities (mainly free or very low cost software) for manipulating ABC files:

Over the years I've spent a lot of time massaging the tunes into a consistent form, adding guitar chord suggestions, simplifying ornaments, sorting out repeats and layouts, and generally making sure the tunes are playable from the dots.

Printing tunebooks

For producing the printable version of my tunebooks, I use the excellent program abcm2ps, from moinejf.free.fr maintained by Jeff Moine. This takes an ABC file as input and generates a PS (PostScript) file as output. It is controlled by a mechanism of formatting instructions, which can be read from format files, such as the formatting instruction file (.fmt) for my Session Tunebook.

I then convert the PS to PDF (Adobe Portable Document Format). Originally I used a free utility called GhostView (GSView) for this conversion, which in turn relies on the Ghostscript interpreter - see the Ghostscript site. Now I use the Adobe Acrobat Distiller software which I have for work purposes (and for which the licence allows installation of a second copy on a home computer), as it is the de facto standard for PDF.

Index, Incipit and Cheat sheets

I have various mechanisms for finding tunes in the tunebooks:

Batch files

Uploading to the web for download

I have a web site of my own, so I used a free FTP utility (Filezilla) to upload the abc, PDF, and html files. The html files of the web site (like this page) are written by hand in html 4 using a text editor (TextPad) which colour-codes the html elements. The html pages use a cascading style sheet called hardy.css to get consistent visualisation.

Publishing for print-on-demand

I used the biggest Internet print-on-demand company called Lulu.com to make the tunebook be orderable in a nicely printed and bound form. It has easy to use publishing wizards that talk you through choosing a book size and binding, designing front and back covers, and uploading the contents as PDF. You can order the books in any county and it will print, bind and ship them from its nearest printer (in Spain for Europe).

Lulu does insist that all fonts are embedded in the PDF files you upload, or are in a small standard set on the server. Originally the tunebook used Times and Helvetica which I couldn't work out how to embed (and weren't on the server) so I had to persuade abcm2ps to use Verdana instead. Also Lulu was reluctant to take a PDF generated from GhostScript, so that is why I switched to using Acrobat Distiller.

Python scripts

I use a couple of Python scripts to automate the creation of derivative tunebooks, e.g. creating Paul Hardy's Basic Tunebook by selecting tunes from the main session tunebook.. This process uses a definition abc template file which drives the script to create the basic tunebook abc file.

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