As nothing much happened this weekend, I thought now would be a good time to talk about Lilypond. Lilypond, as in, the computer program for typesetting / engraving sheet music.

The reason I’ve been using it is because Chris, the co-leader of the Sunday@6 band, has written a few songs. Unfortunately he doesn’t read music, and so we just had lyrics and chords to work with up until now. A couple of weeks ago I thought I’d try and transcribe songs on the piano, and then typeset them using Lilypond.

I was quite impressed with the results! Lilypond is a pretty powerful program – it’s been in development for a long time, and is pretty mature by now. It produces really good looking output as well – I’d say probably higher quality than many equivalent software packages (even ones you have to pay for…)

The only issue is, it’s a bit like LaTeX: you type in your formatting commands in a text editor, and that then gets converted by Lilypond into a PDF (or PostScript file, or even MIDI). Now, for a programmer like me that’s not too bad, but for someone who is used to pointing and clicking, that’s not going to work. Still. It does mean there’s an awful lot of power at your fingertips. Unfortunately, this does mean that it takes a while to learn the program.

I spent ages trying to figure out how to create a simple song with separate lyrics and music for the verse and chorus (it’s a bit complicated to explain). It seems there was nothing on the internet – apart from a few mailing list posts – to help. So, I finally managed to cobble something together, and I present it here for the benefit of people in the same situation as me šŸ™‚

Download and run it through Lilypond. That should hopefully get you started.

But I also recommend having a good read through the Lilypond documentation – I’m still only a newbie, but I find it gets easier the more I know!


2 thoughts on “Lilypond

  1. You can actually get Latex packages that typeset music. Don’t know if you know this already. I have no idea how good any of them are or what their capabilities are, though, having never used them.

    Also, some of the Latex editors allow you to point and click, so it’s not so bad. But I prefer, when I’m typing lots of stuff, not to use the mouse because changing from one input type to another disrupts the flow, so Latex isn’t so bad for me. If I do use Word or similar, I prefer to use the shortcut keys, if there are any and I know what they are. The one thing I don’t like about my Latex editor on Windows is that there’s no keyboard shortcut to compile a PDF.

    Anyway, I imagine you’ll get the hang of Lilypond the more you use it.

  2. I think you can include Lilypond output in Latex actually, haven’t tried it though.

    Yeah, Lilypond is starting to make more sense to me now. It’s pretty cool, even if it takes a while to get the hang of!

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