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Ascii Tablature -
General comments on the ascii tablature on this site

This tablature using only ascii characters follows as closely as possible the tablature standards proposed on my web site. It is right-side-up, uses fret numbers and provides continuous rhythm information. No problem with that, is there?

It also uses spaces rather than lines for the strings. The main reason for this is that the fret numbers are more visible in the spaces than on the lines. If you prefer your tablature with frets-on-the-lines, all you need to do for each staff is delete the top line and substitute "-" for all "_" in the staff. What makes this process a pain is that "_" are also used in the rhythm symbols, making it impossible to simply do a global substitution throughout the whole page. I suggest not resisting frets-in-the-spaces. There is nothing hard or confusing about it; it has a long and respected history; and much, maybe most, modern tablature is printed this way.

If you are experienced in reading French tablature with frets-in-the-spaces and are bothered by the top line of the tablature staff here, simply delete it.

RHYTHM VALUES: If a stem has no associated fret numbers or arrow-head, simply sustain the previous note or chord. The 4er-note rhythm value is the longest one available in ascii, so halfs and dotted-halfs, etc., are indicated by a succession of 4er stems. This presents no reading problem, and has the benefit of always making a stem available for attaching arrowheads.

BEAMS: In this tablature using only ascii characters, the 16th-note rhythm symbol leaves a little to be desired. The minus sign "-" is a tad short and doesn't give a good impression of a solid beam. Fortunately, this is quick and easy to fix. After printing out, draw a line through the beam connecting the 16th notes, from the first to last stem of the group. It only takes seconds to do this for a whole piece - a very worthwhile investment of your time and effort.

MEASURE NUMBERS: Every measure is numbered, even partial measures divided for musical reasons. A measure broken across staffs counts as one measure, of course. The provided leading measure numbers apply to whatever measure appears first on the staff, whether it is complete or broken. Just start counting off from the beginning of the staff.

If the tablature is a translation of an earlier publication or manuscript, the leading measure numbers for the original tablature are provided in the notes on that piece. Thus, you can easily cross-reference the modern version with the original.

PRINTING OUT: The layout here is a throwback to much simpler times, when all characters printed out the same width (sort of like typewriters, for those of you who remember them.) I chose a line width of 96 characters, which fully utilizes the width of the standard 8.5 x 11 inch page (American standard, at least.) This works out to a pitch of 12 characters per inch (called "elite".) For my tastes, the tablature looks too clunky at 10 cpi (called "pica") and is overly wasteful of space.

The modern tablature is laid out so that a new page is started after every 66 lines. At the standard 6 lines per inch, this fills up the standard page precisely.

The point of all this is, if you save the tablature in a text file (no non-Ascii characters) starting with the title line of the first page, and set up your printer for 96 characters per inch, you will get perfect results by printing out directly from the system using the PRINT command.

I don't know if modern, whiz-bang computers still come with a system print command, or if you can even work your way down to the system level anymore. In any case, if you print directly from your browser, or if you set your word processor loose on this tablature, good luck - but the results are on your head.

DELUXE PRINTING: For those of you who are a little more adept with computers, I offer a program in BASIC at the end of this page which gives an even nicer appearance. Instead of the minus signs ("-") in the 16th-note rhythm symbols, it prints a horizontal line which reaches all the way from stem to stem. You won't need to fill in the 16th-note beam by hand. It also prints a nice-looking solid, vertical line for the rhythm symbol stems and the bar lines, rather than the pipe ("|") keyboard character.

How well this will work for you, I can't say. I get great results on a Panasonic dot-matrix printer (which emulates Epson). The funny thing is, the results look fantastic in draft mode, but horrible in letter-quality mode. The horizontal and vertical line graphics are nice and thin in draft mode, but fat and ugly in letter-quality. My guess is that laser and inkjet printers do not make such a big difference between draft and full-quality modes, and will always give you the fat and ugly graphics.

MAC PRINTING: Good news! David Norton has supplied instructions for Mac users who use Claris Word, which is standard Apple software. Set the printer as follows:

    Font = Courier 9

    All margins = 0.75 inch

David says it took quite a bit of "monkeying around" to discover this. If anyone has tips on how to print from other common word processors, please let me know so we can share them with everybody.

MICROSOFT WORD PRINTING: Well, in April 2003 I was dragged kicking and screaming into Windows when I was forced to buy an up-to-date laptop for business reasons. Of course, everything I'd been doing for 30 years with computers became more difficult or impossible, but we won't get into that here. After finally buckling down in January 2004 to get my tablature programs working on the laptop, I experimented with printing out the tablature in Microsoft Word. Here's what I came up with for two fixed-width fonts.

    Font:      Courier New
    Font size:  9
      Top:     0.8
      Bottom:  0.8
      Left:    0.6
      Right:   0.5
    Font:      Lucida Console
    Font size:  9
      Top:     1.2
      Bottom:  1.5
      Left:    0.6
      Right:   0.5

If you follow either one of these recipes exactly, and your first print line is the title line on the first page of a multi-page tablature, the tablature pages will stay in sync with the printer pages all the way to the end.

I think the Lucida Console font gives a nicer, tighter-looking tablature.

Notice that in both cases, but even moreso with Lucida Console, by fitting the tablature on the page horizontally, there is wasted margin space at the top and bottom. (On the old printers, the page was filled in both dimensions.) So if the piece you want to print out has only one or two staffs on the second page, you might try to get it all on one page by setting smaller top and bottom margins and editing out the header material on page 2.

AFTER PRINTING OUT: Don't be shy about writing on your own music (tablature, in this case.) You'll need to write in slurs and triplet indications where the introductory notes indicate. Touching up 16th-note beams and strum arrows may improve readability. Other purely personal touches to consider include:

In the strummed chords in baroque guitar music, write in "0" for the open strings you want, and "." on the strings you don't want.

In baroque guitar music, wherever you think the music benefits by adding or substituting the octave above a bass string note, write in the desired fret number.

At any ornament where you catch yourself playing the wrong auxilliary note, write in the correct fret number for the ornament.

COPYRIGHT: all of these pieces I have put on the web may be copied freely by anybody. Help yourself.

ETHICAL PLEA: I do ask one thing regarding the printing of this tablature: please try to refrain from using government or your company resources to do it. Or, if you feel you have no reasonable alternative, please reimburse your employer for use of his material and equipment. I'd hate to think that my - and other people's - taxes and money spent on goods and services are paying for your recreation on the job. I'm funny like that.

BASIC PROGRAM: Here is the program I call PRTTAB, for "print tablature". Give it a try. It may look best with your printer in draft quality mode.

You will have to download the unrendered HTML, since, in the rendered form, some "<>" are lost. That means "not equal" in BASIC, and denotes a tag in HTML. In Internet Explorer, click View, then Source. Sorry, but I can't respond to questions about the program.

40 INPUT "Name of tablature file: ",FLNAM$
50 OPEN "I",#1,FLNAM$
60 WIDTH "LPT1:",255
70 OPEN "LPT1:" AS #2
80 A$=INPUT$(1,1)
90 '
100 'DO FOR all characters in the tablature file
110 IF EOF(1) THEN 290
120 NA$=INPUT$(1,1)  :'Input Next A$.
130 PRA$=A$  :'Character to be printed.
140 IF A$="-" THEN PRA$=CHR$(196)  :'Use horizontal line graphic.
150 '
160 'IF current character is a "|" (pipe)
170 IF NOT(A$="|") THEN 230
180 PRA$=CHR$(179)  :'Use vertical line graphic.
190 'If | is part of a 16th-note rhythm pattern, use graphic with cross bar.
200 IF PA$="-" AND NA$<>"-" THEN PRA$=CHR$(180) : GOTO 230  :'Case "-| "
210 IF PA$="-" AND NA$="-" THEN PRA$=CHR$(197) : GOTO 230  :'Case "-|-"
220 IF PA$<>"-" AND NA$="-" THEN PRA$=CHR$(195) : GOTO 230  :'Case " |-"
230 'ENDIF
240 '
250 PRINT #2,PRA$;
260 PA$=A$  :'For next go-round, save current A$ as Previous A$, 
270 A$=NA$  :'                   save Next A$ as current A$.
280 GOTO 100
290 'ENDDO
300 '
310 IF A$="-" THEN PRA$=CHR$(196)
320 IF A$="|" THEN PRA$=CHR$(179)
330 PRINT #2,PRA$;
360 END


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