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 authentically.

Tunebooks in Acrobat format

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.)


abc (&postscript)

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 details.


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:
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 copyright): -----


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. -----


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. -----

Printed Sources

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.

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 Northern Fiddler (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 WordPerfect 6 format).



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

Songs and Lyrics

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