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Chapter 12. LilyPond

12.1. How LilyPond Works
12.2. The LilyPond Approach
12.3. Requirements and Installation
12.4. LilyPond Basics
12.4.1. Letters Are Pitches
12.4.2. Numbers Are Durations
12.4.3. Articulations
12.4.4. Simultaneity
12.4.5. Chords
12.4.6. Commands
12.4.7. Source Files
12.4.8. How to Avoid Errors
12.5. Work on a Counterpoint Exercise (Tutorial)
12.5.1. Files for the Tutorial
12.5.2. Start the Score
12.5.3. Adjust Frescobaldi's Output
12.5.4. Input Notes
12.5.5. Format the Score
12.6. Work on an Orchestral Score (Tutorial)
12.6.1. Files for the Tutorial
12.6.2. Start the Score
12.6.3. Adjust Frescobaldi's Output
12.6.4. Input Notes
12.7. Work on a Piano Score (Tutorial)
12.7.1. Files for the Tutorial
12.7.2. Start the Score
12.7.3. Adjust Frescobaldi's Output
12.7.4. Input Notes
12.7.5. Troubleshoot Errors
12.7.6. Format the Score (Piano Dynamics)
LilyPond is a notation engraving program, with a focus on creating a visually appealing product. LilyPond is text-based, and allows you to focus on the (semantic?) content of your musical scores, rather than on their visual appearance. Conventional commercial notation engraving programs allow users to edit the score visually. While this approach has its benefits, especially because it's very easy to see exactly what the printed score will look like, it also has disadvantages - chief among these is the fact that users of those programs are constantly worrying about what their score looks like.
This is where LilyPond comes in - users don't need to worry about how their score will work, because they know that the expertly-crafted methods of LilyPond will automatically configure the objects on the score so that they look good, and are easy to read. LilyPond's users focus on what needs to be displayed, rather than on how it is going to be displayed.
As with any particular approach, the LilyPond approach is not for everybody. However, once you have become accustomed to working with the software, and once you have learned methods to help deal with problems and organize your scores' source-files, you will probably realize that LilyPond is both much faster, and much more flexible, than traditional, commercially-available music engraving programs.
LilyPond offers many other features, too. Some of these features include:
  • Putting scores into LaTeX or HTML documents.
  • Putting scores into documents, with the ooolilypond program.
  • Being compatible with all major operating systems.
  • Managing parts and full scores for large compositions.
  • Allowing new musical symbols with the Scheme programming language.
It is the goal of this guide to help users more quickly overcome the initial learning handicap incurred because of the text-based approach. Making use of tools such as the Frescobaldi text-editor will help to increase productivity, to make trouble-shooting easier, and to ease the memory burden associated with the text-based approach.

12.1. How LilyPond Works

Think of LilyPond as an automobile mechanic. When your car breaks down, the mechanic knows which tools to use. You can buy tools to fix your car by yourself, but the mechanic is specialized. The mechanic knows what tools to use, how to prepare the tools, and how to fix your car faster than you can fix it. LilyPond uses many programs that you can use by yourself, but LilyPond is specialized. LilyPond knows what programs to use, what settings to use, and most importantly, LilyPond takes much less time than if you use the programs directly.
We give instructions to LilyPond in specially-formed text files. LilyPond input files describe the music to notate. LilyPond decides how the music will look, then creates an output file. The input file does not contain instructions about how the music looks. Sometimes you must make an adjustment to how the output file looks, so LilyPond lets you change the settings of its internal tools.