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What is alphaTab?

Thanks for your interest in alphaTab. alphaTab is a music notation and guitar tablature rendering engine written in C# and cross compiled to other languages like JavaScript. First of all you need to understand that alphaTab is not a music editing software like Audacity or Finale. It is a library for developers or webmasters who want to need a music notation rendering engine for their software or website. Here a live demo where we display a music sheet right within the browser:

alphaTab resembles the awesome software Guitar Pro developed by Arobas Music.  Guitar Pro is a musical software program allowing musicians to write and view music notation.

The core of alphaTab is built around string based instruments like Guitars and Violins but is also suitable for Drums, Pianos and any other instrument. But still keep in mind that the technical core of alphaTab is built around what you play on a stringed instrument. Any other music notation software would use information like the actual notes played to render the music notation. Just like:

score-c

C3, D3, D3, F3, G3, A3, B3, C4 in quarter notes. (C-Major Scale)

alphaTab is different. As the name might suggest, it uses tablature notation to determine the notation. Okay, what the hell is tablature notation? The tablature notation indicates which fret to press on a stringed instrument to play a song. So if you have a 6 stringed guitar, you will have 6 lines with numbers on it. The number indicates which fret to press when playing this note. The actual note is determined by the tuning of the guitar. The same C-Major scale played on a guitar with standard tuning would look like:

tab-c

Behind the scenes alphaTab only knows that a quarter note is played on the 3rd fret on the 5th string of the guitar. Taking this information the standard music notation and the tablature notation can be displayed.

Why alphaTab?

alphaTab started as a hobby project by the lead developer Daniel Kuschny. He is a guitarist and a software developer and alphaTab is the combination of those two hobbies.  There are a lot of websites out there, providing music notation and guitar tabs for free just like Ultimate-Guitar. But most tabs are still old fashioned text tabs or you need to download the Guitar Pro file. And in that case you need to buy Guitar Pro, a full featured music notation editor to just view this file. The main idea behind of alphaTab was to bring full featured music notation to the web. Using modern web-technologies like HTML5 and SVG we can render complex graphics directly within the browser without the need of any plugins like Flash or Java.

Nowadays alphaTab is not only a music notation engine for the web. We use the same source code to compile libraries for JavaScript, .net, Java and many other platforms.

Features

Now that you know what alphaTab is all about it’s time to learn what this library is capable of.

Load

There are several established file formats which store music notation for songs. You can think of it like MP3s which contain what the instruments played instead of the actual song itself. alphaTab can read those files and use the data to render the music notation. Here is the list of file formats which are supported by alphaTab

Guitar Pro 3-5 (gp3,gp4,gp5) – Those files are widely available in the internet. They are created using earlier versions of Guitar Pro (version 3 to 5).

Guitar Pro 6 (gpx)  – This is the newest file format created by Arobas, the creators of Guitar Pro.

AlphaTex – AlphaTex is a text based format for writing music notation. It was created for alphaTab to allow people easy writing and storing of music notation.

Render

The Guitar Pro files allow a huge amount of a effects and annotations to be placed within the music notation. alphaTan can render:

Standard Musical Notation – The standard sheet music most people heard of. This includes clefs, time signatures, key signatures and everything you’d expect from a music sheet.

Tablature Notation – Tablature notation is widely used for stringed / fretted instruments. This also includes effects that can only played with those instruments like string bendings or whammy bars.

Markers – Markers can be placed on bars to indicate different sections of the song.

Tempo – Tempo changes are no problem, they are shown above the bars.

Text – Guitar Pro allows to place custom texts above beats as special annotations.  

Chords –  You want to indicate which chord is played at a specific beat? No problem, chord names are shown.

Trill – Trills are annotated like expected.

Vibrato –  Waves are rendered above the beats which should be played with a vibrato effect.

Alternate Endings – Alternate Endings are parts of a lot of songs.

Crescendo, Decrescendo, Fades and Dynamics – Dynamics rendering is no problem for alphaTab

Let-Ring and Palm-Mute – Palm Mute and Let Ring ranges are also indicated.

Play

One of the most impressive features is that you can let alphaTab play the music notation. The underlying notes can be exported to MIDI files. Using our midi synthesizer alphaSynth you can load this midi data and let it play.