Tunes at Ceolas
Ceolas carries notation for several hundred traditional tunes, in various formats,
along with music software and an index of most published tune sources and links to
other sites with tunes and songs.
Bear in mind ~ Celtic music is an oral tradition; any transcription of a song or
tune is only a representation of the music, and cannot capture the full essence of the
piece. Especially for traditional music, which is passed on by ear, it is essential to
listen to the music played in the traditional style to learn how to play it
Several collections of tunes can now be directly viewed and printed with the Acrobat reader, installed with most web browsers. These tunebooks come from the abc world (see below) and include
This is the simplest format to view; tunes are written out in standard notation and
displayed as gif graphics file on your Web browsers. There are several collections of
files in gif format:
Sites which have regularly updated collections of tunes include The Session (new tunes weekly) and the Tune of the Month .
You can also try the Digital Tradition,
a huge online listing of folk tunes and song lyrics from around the world which you
can see and play online. (If at first you can't get through, try later; that site
is periodically unreachable.)
A very simple and compact alphabetical-type format, which can be read and typeset by
both computers and (with a little practice) people.
See the abc home page for more
- Chris Walshaw's package to convert from abc to MusicTeX format. By
installing the TeX and MusicTeX packages, you can typeset and print tunes very nicely. The TeX
package itself is big and a bit unwieldy; PC and Mac users may want to try one of the following
packages to make life easier:
- Alan Ng's package for setting up abc under Windows.
- Paul Anderson's MacABC,
contains both abc2mtex and TeX compiled for the Mac.
- All-in-one shareware package for Windows, by Jim Vint, which displays, prints and plays abc notation
tunes. Caused an explosion in abc popularity when released in 1995.
- Another Windows shareware package, from Henrik Norbeck, with MIDI functions built in.
- For the traditionalist, an MS-DOS abc package, by Sean O'Malley.
- ABCTools & ABCFind
- Windows utilities from Elizabeth Scarlett to help transpose, check and find abc tunes.
- A new program from Michael Methfessel, which converts from abc to postscript
directly. It's written in C, so has to be compiled by the user;
a precompiled Macintosh
version has been made by Wil Macaulay, and I'm looking for volunteers to compile it for DOS/Windows.
Chris Walshaw (inventor of abc) likes it so much,
he's talking of stopping development of abc2mtex in favour of this package.
- A new Mac program for abc users, this is an expansion of Wil Macaulay's abc2ps for
the Mac. Currently in beta test release, version 0.6 (as of 7/98)
- Beta release of a new Mac program for handling abc musical notation.
It can play, check, transpose and display tunes in musical notation.
Version 1.0d22 now available (Jan 1999).
- ABC player program for Windows, by Bernard Chenery.
- Commercial software for Windows which can import abc files. Free for educational users, about $80 otherwise, with free download.
- A program by Don Ward which will play abc files through the speaker of most Unix systems.
- Midi <-> abc converters
- Programs by James Allwright to convert from Midi to abc and abc to Midi. Available as
C source code or as binaries for PCs.
- abc MIDIfier
- A Windows utility by Dave Glenn which provides a user-friendly front-end to
James Allwright's abcMIDI package.
Collections of tunes in abc format, most of which also have gzip-compressed postscript (psg)
versions for printing and viewing on screen (see below for software; the postscript versions have been replaced by Acrobat (pdf) versions - see top of page).
(please note that several of these are under
A format for playing tunes on electronic instruments. Long a sleeper format, there
are several new collections popping up that are making it a lot more viable.
For more information, see the MIDI page at Harmony Central.
- John Walsh's very popular collections of tunes common at Irish music sessions
- Peter Rayner's tune collection [abc,
- Bernie Stocks' collections of "The Microphone's Rambles" are back.
Book4 each have about 100 abc tunes and are
about 35 kb each. The tunes are also available from Bernie's
- Dave Gabol, John Walsh, and others have compiled a collection of 54 of Paddy O'Brien's
arrangments of traditional Irish tunes
- Tunes by Ed Reavy
favourites of traditional fiddle players, from George Keith's
- Kevin Devane's collection of dance tunes, via Ireland Online.
- Chris Ricker has a collection of
fiddle tunes popular in Canada.
- An ongoing collection of tunes posted to the Irtrad-L mailing list,
maintained by Trish O'Neil.
- Henrik Norbeck's updated collection, eventually to have a thousand tunes.
- Playford's Dancing Master of 1651
has some Scottish & Irish tunes. Courtesy of Michael Robinson. [abc, introduction]
- The Ceili House Band's collection of ~150 tunes.
This is another macro package for TeX, by Walter Innes, which is particularly geared to
setting bagpipe music.
Bagpipe Music Writer is a popular commercial package (~US$90) for typesetting bagpipe music
and David Williams has a site of BMW tunes.
If you can't find a tune online, you can hardly miss finding a published version of it
with James Stewart's
TuneIndex, a index of over 200 tune books,
with some 30,000 entries.
- Brian Hicks' extensive collection of tunes from celtic countries.
- A small collection of MIDI format traditional tunes.
- A bigger collection of tunes, by Aine Sheridan.
- Mike Simpson has a small collection of tunes by himself and other Atlanta-area musicians.
- Robert Thorpe's Uileann Bagpipe MIDI page.
- Taylor's Traditional Tunebook.
- Lesley Nelson's collection, playable through the netscape browser (Mac/Windows).
- A few dozen tunes from Richard Jordan.
- Midi <-> abc converters:
programs by James Allwright to convert from Midi to abc and abc to Midi. Available as
C source code or as binaries for PCs and Mac.
- Ceol Midi: Scottish tune collection from the Whistlebinkies.
- Richard Jordan's site, with a few dozen dance tunes.
- Robert Blakeley's site of traditional Irish tunes, with some background information.
- A dozen dance tunes from Adam Dawson.
- The website at ingeb.org has a decent collection of lyrics and MIDI
Welsh tunes, amongst others.
- A site by 'Niklas and Hasse' has a few dozen Irish tunes with both midi and staff notation displayed.
- 60+ Scottish tunes, by 'Scottish Jedi'.
The Fiddler's Companion by Andrew Kuntz, lists over 20,000
celtic/Anglo/American tunes for fiddle.
Online indexes are available for two major tune books, the
(by Robert Borcherding) and Bulmer & Sharpley's Music From Ireland (vol 1-4, index is
by Chris Corrigan, available zipped in
Rich Text Format or
To view postscript files, you need a postscript interpreter, such as Ghostscript,
available for free (under the GNU general licence) for Macintosh, Windows and Unix.
Postscript files tend to be very bulky, so the files at Ceolas are available
compressed by gzip. Utilities to uncompress them include
Other Music Software
- Dennis O'Neill's comparison guide to
music notation programs.
- Cool Edit, a shareware Windows
sound manipulation program that can slow down tunes without altering pitch,
great for learning tunes. The program is at: wuarchive.wustl.edu,
and mirrors.aol.com. A new, more commercial
version is also available.
- SoundHack is a
multipurpose Mac program; amongst other features, it can slow down tunes like CoolEdit.
- midi2tex, software to convert from MIDI to TeX, for Atari's and IBM PCs.
- Music Printer: demo of a PC program to print MIDI files.
- Chord Magic, another PC shareware program for transposing chords
from one key to another.
Home | About Ceolas | Feedback