App o’ the Morning: The Craic

App o’ the Morning: The Craic February 21, 2014

The Irish Gaelic word “craic” is an odd bird. Pronounced “crack”, it means “news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation”, and apparently it’s a culturally significant word in Ireland. I first ran across it in the Silly Wizard song “Take Her in Your Arms”, which at one point describes the scene in a pub:

There’s a seisun in the corner, and the craic is grand tonight.

That means that there are folks playing music in the corner (a “session”), and the conversation is flowing well (presumably along with the beer) and everyone’s having a good time.

The peculiar thing about “craic” is that it comes from a middle-English word “crack”, meaning loud conversation or bragging talk. It passed eventually into Irish Gaelic, and Gaelic speakers began to spell it “craic”. And now it has passed back into English with its new meaning.

The folks playing music in the corner might conceivably be using an app called “The Craic” on their iPhones or iPads. The Craic is similar to ForScore in that it displays sheet music, but it’s a very different app. The Craic is specifically for use with music in ABC notation, and it allows you to:

  • Search for tunes across the web’s various repositories of music in ABC notation.
  • Store tunes you’ve found on your iPhone or iPad.
  • Display the tunes using standard staff notation.
  • Edit and create tunes in ABC notation.
  • Play tunes at any desired tempo, with looping, as an aid to learning to play them by ear.

In short, most of the things I can do with EasyABC on my desktop I can do with The Craic on my iPad. The Craic’s music playback is better—EasyABC skips the first note, and won’t loop—and of course EasyABC has no search feature.

On top of that, it comes pre-loaded with a bunch of Irish traditional jigs, reels, and so forth.

The Craic is not as capable a sheet music display tool as ForScore, but happily it doesn’t need to be: I can export any tune in PDF format to ForScore.

The only drawback to The Craic that I’ve observed so far is that its search feature sometimes finds tunes in an extended form of ABC that it can’t cope with. It would be nice if it were more powerful in that regard.

The Craic isn’t going to displace EasyABC from my set of tools; I like working at a desktop machine, and I like having multiple options. But it’s a nice tool to have in my toolkit.

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