Much of the music available on the Internet is stored in “abc notation”. This format dates from the early 1990’s and is a way of representing complex musical scores using normal text characters - which can then easily be emailed or shown on a web page. ABC notation is not designed to be human readable, and so having downloaded the music you use software to convert the text into a conventional musical score. Fortunately there are many free applications available for Windows, MacOS and Linux. A good starting point is the abc notation home page (maintained by Chris Walshaw, original inventor of the notation) or the official ABC Music project pages on Sourceforge (for the more technical minded).
Some good starter music pages include:
- ABC Tune Search - an index of 67000 tunes across the web
- TunePal.org - play part of a tune into your computer and it will search for the complete ABC tune (focused on traditional Irish music).
- ABC tune finder - search engine for tunes by title
- FolkTuneFinder - search either by title or a few notes from the tune
- The Session - huge online database of session tunes
- Concertina.net - around 1300 tunes, including online abc rendered