The 123s of ABCs: Making a Solo ABC Part I

Last time we went over basic tools and principles for converting a midi to an abc. This time I’ll walk through the process step by step. My goal for this installment is to create a simple solo abc for lute. For that purpose I’ve chosen a midi for the song The Dangling Conversation by Paul Simon.

This is what the midi looks like untouched. You can see 15 tracks there but if you scroll down there are actually 23. But don’t panic! Most of these track have no notes as you can see here:

When you highlight a track and see the words “no notes” in red above, you can go ahead and confidently delete it. It is quite common for midis to have extra tracks with no notes. To delete them you simply make sure the correct track is selected, then go to the Track menu at the top of the screen and select Delete.

Once I’ve deleted all the tracks with no notes I’m left with a less daunting 7 tracks to work with. Now my goals are:

  1. Decide which parts of the song are not necessary to a solo lute version and eliminate those tracks.
  2. Combine the remaining tracks into one.
  3. Make sure the result conforms to LOTRO’s limitations of note range and number of notes.

The first thing I always do is play through the song while examining the tracks to familiarize myself with the midi. Depending on the midi’s complexity, I might need to do this a few times. At the same time, I will begin to assign tracks to instruments that correspond better to the LOTRO instrument choices.

Now in this midi I can immediately get rid of the drum track. You can always tell which track is the drum track, if it doesn’t say so in the name, because it will be on channel 10. No matter what the “instrument” column says, if the “channel” column says 10 then it will play drum sounds. Next I’m going to get rid of the two strings tracks, “left strings” and “right strings”. Those will not translate into a lute piece well. The track labeled “Chimes” could probably translate well onto the lute, but it doesn’t add a lot to the song and so for the sake of keeping things simple, I’m going to delete it.

Now I’m left with 3 tracks. The main guitar part is assigned to Acoustic Guitar (Nylon) already, which is the closest equivalent to the LOTRO lute. Then there are two vocal tracks, the melody on Clarinet and the harmony on Flute. Since my goal is to make this a solo lute piece, I’m going to change the instruments on the two vocal tracks to Acoustic Guitar (Nylon) and see how it sounds. Do this by simply clicking on the words “Clarinet” and “Flute”. A pop up box with all your instrument choices will appear.

After listening to the song, I think that the harmony part as translated to the lute doesn’t add enough to the song to justify the changes I will have to make to work it into the correct range. I’m going to eliminate the track “Simon” to reduce complexity.

Now I’ve noticed that the melody vocal track has several notes that are too high for the lute’s range in LOTRO. Here you can see the lute range represented by the red lines and see the notes that go outside of it.

When this happens in a vocal line, it’s best not the change individual notes to bring them into range as you can with accompaniment tracks. The best option is to transpose the entire track down one octave.

So we select the Track menu, Transpose, Entire Track and enter -12 to go down one octave. (To go up one octave would be 12.)

There is also a note at the end of the acoustic guitar track that is out of range. It is labeled here by the notation “8va” which means that the note is actually an entire octave lower that what it is showing, but the real note is too low to display on the staff.

The easiest thing to do in this case is simply delete the note. It is part of a chord and will not be missed. To delete it we are going to go into the Piano Roll Editor which is a different way of viewing the midi. Go the the View menu and select Piano Roll Editor. This is what it looks like:

The blue bars represent the notes. In this case the lowest blue bar labeled as B flat is the one we want to delete. We delete it by simply clicking on the bar and it will disappear. This is usually the best way to remove notes without unintentionally changing the rest of the midi. (You can also use this view to add in notes by clicking on the row where you want the note to be and dragging it until it is the right length.) After we’re done we go to the View menu again and select Composer to return to the normal view. Now all of the notes in the midi are within the Lute range.

Now I’ve come to the last step in the midi editing process. I’m going to merge these two tracks. It’s important to remember when you merge that you keep the most important or prominent track selected. It should be the track that the other one is merged into. So we are going to have the vocal track, called Garfunkel, selected. Then we go to the Track menu and select Merge. You’ll get a pop up box that give you a drop down menu of tracks to select from. We are going to choose Acoustic Guitar to be merged into the selected track.

Once the two tracks are merged we can delete the acoustic guitar track. We are left with our finished midi, ready to be run through a conversion program.

Now I know this seemed like a long, complex process, but it takes longer to describe than to do. One you practice on a few midis you’ll find that it only takes you mere seconds to make many of these decisions. Often times, I can finish a solo song (depending on the complexity of the midi) in a matter of minutes.

In the next article in this series we will take this fully edited midi and put it through LOTRO midi player to convert it to abc notation. At the same time I will explain the principles behind how LOTRO midi player adjusts midis and how you need to use it to achieve the best results.

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7 Responses to “The 123s of ABCs: Making a Solo ABC Part I”

  1. Mirar Says:

    Ah. That reminds me, I made a MIDI to LOTRO ABC converter that seems enough bug-free and well-tested enough now to be released more publicly. Would CSTM want to try it out?


    • Avatar of Fionnuala
      Fionnuala Says:

      I’d love an opportunity to try a new converter. Any chance that it divides the abc file line by line according to measure? I really dislike LOTRO midi player’s block of text style.


      • Mirar Says:

        Unfortunately, it doesn’t do that. I could probably add that if it’s a feature that will be used. Right now it’s treating the ABC like another form of MIDI, with a more limited sample time, note and intensity register, but it shouldn’t be a too big problem moving around the linebreaks (if I can figure out what the measure was to start with).

        The converter is here:
        It’s help page should get you (or anyone else that want to test it) started. It’s web-based and it will first show a list of all the songs that are free to use (published by users of the converter) – log in/create an account and upload a MIDI to get started.

        Feel free to contact me on the email that isn’t published in the comment (if you can see that?) – if not I’ll figure something out. I’m on the EU servers so I don’t yet have an account to log into Landroval or the Turbine forums.


  2. Dragonwitch Says:

    Thank you for a very well-written and informative article, Fionnuala. :)This seems way too complicated for me, though *quakes in tech-fear* 8O


    • Mirar Says:

      You can try the converter I made too, if you want: http//
      It’s both easier and more complicated. In different ways.


  3. Halfling Clothing Co Says:

    Thank for your such a well written post on the ABC system. Two of our team members are long time musicians and we look forward to converting some of the music into Midi files and then to ABC!



  1. The 123s of ABCs: Making a Solo ABC Part 2 | A Casual Stroll to Mordor - May 19, 2011

    [...] time we edited a midi with the goal of creating a solo abc file. This time we will take that midi and run it through the LOTRO midi player conversion program. [...]

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