Abbreviations of English note names

Hello, I am making a list of different violin tunings (scordaturas) and would like to know, how to best abbreviate the (English) note names in standard ASCII text.

g sharp = g#
a flat = ?

ab doesn’t look convincing to me…

It might look more convincing with capital note names A–G.

Thanks, yes this looks better.
But isn’t there a standard about the octave, wether it’s written as Capital or Standard letter?
Example: A - a - a1 - a2

I: g - d1 - a1 - e2 (standard)
G - D1 - A1 - E2
II: a - d1 - f#1 - b1
A - D1 - F#1 - B1
III: g - c#1 - a1 - e flat2
G - C#1 - A1 - Eb2
IV: b - d1 – g1 – e2
B - D1 - G1 - E2
V: g - b - g1 - e2
G - B - G1 - E2
VI: f - c1 - a flat1 - e flat2
F - C1 - Ab1 - Eb2

“That’s the thing about standards – there are so many to choose from!”

My thought is that since this is violin tuning, the pitches can’t be more than a few steps from standard tuning (can they?) So if you’re listing strings in ascending order, the octaves should be obvious enough, even without numbers.

On the other hand, if this is for coding purposes, then of course you need it to be read by software without error, so you’d need to define the notation.

Quite right. Scordatura can play havoc with an instrument setup! Heinrich Biber probably pushed it to the limit in his Mystery Sonatas.
I wouldn’t like to retune up/down more than major 2nd or at a push a minor 3rd (and I’d never send the top string up)

Janus, as far as I know, in one of these Biber sonatas the tuning is “crossways”, so not from low to high, but g - g1 - d1 - d2
It is sonata XI, called “The Resurrection”

Just to add to the conversation, for a scordatura setup, a violin can of course be restringed with strings of different diameter. For the top string there is a physical limit though, you might get up to a high f or f#, but thats about the end of it - even with a very thin string.

Andro, good point. If I am typing, f.e. with my smartphone, I can’t see a way of inputting Unicode flat and sharp symbols. That’s why I try to find something useful with just the standard ascii set…

UnicodePad for Android. UniChar for iOS for phone. May be useful to you.

Thanks Andro, I will look into it. Will these characters also be displayed, if I put them onto a web-page (.html)? Sorry, I’m a real beginner here…


I tried with UniChar:

g sharp → g♯

a flat → a♭

… it works!

Yes, Unicode ♭♯♮ are standard enough to display anywhere, in a fallback font when necessary. I have made MacOS text shortcuts for them. If only they worked in BBEdit (free mode) and Dorico, where I do most of my work nowadays.

Apparently you can buy a set of double-thick strings to get a “baritone violin”, sounding an entire octave lower. Can be heard here: A Night In Tunisia - Turtle Island String Quartet - YouTube

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That’s a superb performance. The instrument itself does not sound that great, but it doesn’t matter with these performers. I tried to figure out the tuning… I don’t think they had it down the octave to Gdae’ like a tenor violin, rather something higher. Someone with perfect pitch has to confirm this, please.

*) wiki:

Performers on the baritone violin commonly use amplification to overcome the limited projection and sonority inherent with a lower range on a relatively small bodied instrument

In the opening solo the lowest note is A. It sounds open, but I’m not sure.