Welcome to LotRO Player Music System, now with ABC Notation!
What's all this alphabet stuff then? Well, put simply (for it is simple) is that ABC is an ASCII representation of Music Notation. In other words, it's sheet music in text form.
Sheet music, you say? Yes, in all its glory. Not only do you get to know the notes, but all the structure that separates music from random noise. It is hard to use? Well, that depends. If you have any musical aptitude, and can even marginally read and understand music notation, it's a piece of cake. If you don't or can't, but are reasonable intelligent and can read, you'll be able to pick it up without too much trouble. If you're hopeless, you can always cut->paste->play.
So, lets take a look at a basic ABC file.
T:Wild Mountain Thyme
z4 c2 A2 |G3 G A2 c2 |c c3 e2 g2 |a3 g a2 g2 |e g3 e2 g2 |a4 g2 e2 |d c3 d2 e2 |f3 e d2 c2 |A c3 c2 A2 |G4 A2 c2 |c4 e2 g2 |a3 g a2 g2 |e g3 e2 g2 |a4 g2 e2 |d c3 d2 e2 |f3 e d2 c2 |A c3 c2 A2 |
G4 A2 c2 |c4 z4 |]
%End of file
All of the stuff of the form <letter>: is header. The stuff in tan just describes what song this is. Pure text, pure description, and not entirely necessary.
The stuff in yellow is a different matter. That is important, as it describes the tone and key of the music. Q defines the tempo (how fast). M is the meter (in this case 4/4 time). L describes the default length of a note. This will be important later. K is the key, or scale the music is played in.
Now we're to the meat of it. The music itself. Looks like a jumble, doesn't it? Well, if you take a moment to look at it, it's pretty straightforward. Notes are defined by <letter><number>. If you see C, it's the note C. Since L=1/8, C by itself is an eighth note. If it were C2, that'd be twice as long, or a quarter note. What if you need a 16th? Divide by 2. C/2.
But what's the difference between c and C? It's all a matter of scale, as in, they're different scales. C is middle C. c is an octave above. You noticed the z in there, did you? Can't fool you. There is no z note. z is a rest. Treat it like a note in terms of duration, but no sound. z4 is the same as a half note in duration, but silent. Got it?
So, you understand the basics. How do you use it? Well, ABC files are pure text. You write and edit them like you would text, in Notepad. To take music posted on the boards and save it to your computer, it's a simple copy & paste job, saving the file with an .abc extension in the /Music directory of your Lord of the Rings Online folder in My Documents. To use them, once you're in music mode in the game, type /play <filename> and you're playing!
Well, that's the nickle tour. The official ABC website (see my sig) has all the gory details, a ton of ready made ABC files that can be downloaded royalty-free, and links to software you can use to compose, edit, transform music to your heart's content. Browse around and experiment.