Why Lilypond?

Theory and practice of composition and arranging for classical guitar, discussion of works in progress, etc.
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Theory and practice of composition and arranging for classical guitar, discussion of works in progress, etc.

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Mark Clifton-Gaultier
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Why Lilypond?

Post by Mark Clifton-Gaultier » Sat Jul 24, 2010 8:19 am

I'm intending to publish some scores in the near future and it's clear from the posts here that quite a few people are choosing Lilypond as their preferred method of digital music setting. I wonder why, as (despite the ingenuity of the arrangers in manipulating code) I find the finished scores quite clunky, even ugly to the eye when compared with the elegant results that can be produced using Finale (and even Sibelius with a bit of tweaking).

I should say, by the way, that I'm referring to Lilypond scores in general, not specifically the ones produced by members of this forum.

So my question(s) - are there some advantages to Lilypond that make it a great choice for guitar scoring and is it possible to address the aesthetic considerations ie. looking at the finished page as a piece of graphic design? Has anyone got a beautiful example of a Lilypond score that they could post? A Bach fugue would be great to see.

Thanks in advance to anyone that can assist.

Cheers
Mark

wbajzek

Re: Why Lilypond?

Post by wbajzek » Sat Jul 24, 2010 4:14 pm

I used Finale in the past and Sibelius G7 more recently, and found that for every note/slur/etc I entered I would always have to adjust things to get it to look nice. There are typical examples in the lilypond engraving essay:
http://lilypond.org/about/automated-engraving/

So basically I found the other software expensive and frustrating to use. Soon after I discovered Lilypond, people tried to convince me that the full version of Sibelius required less tweaking, but I was unwilling to spend hundreds of dollars on it, knowing that I would probably still be disappointed. With lilypond, in my experience, once you learn to set up a file correctly, basic notation almost never needs tweaking... Just the rare case here and there. I can think about the music I'm inputting and let the score take care of itself.

If you find the output clunky, I can't help you there. I find its output easy to read and easy on the eyes with minimal fuss. There are variables you can tweak regarding thickness and such if those are what bother you. If you want your barlines laid out in a grid, then it's the wrong software for you.

Have a look at these. If you don't like them, then lilypond's not for you and... oh well.
http://lilypond.org/doc/v2.12/examples

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Paul
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Re: Why Lilypond?

Post by Paul » Sat Jul 24, 2010 5:38 pm

Reiterating William's point, I really like the idea of a free program which can produce scores of the same quality as Finale, Sibelius, et al. Having said that, all of the programs require a lot of effort to create an aesthetically pleasing score.

Also, I think you'll find that more people use programs other than Lilypond, it's just that there have been recent posts here in this new forum about the program.

Flameproof uses Musescore, JF Delcamp uses Finale. I'm not sure what others use.

Wim Hoogewerf writes an interesting post here, commenting on John Rethorst, who created this comparison of 6 programs (Encore, Finale, LilyPond, Overture, Score and Sibelius) which you can download here http://home.earthlink.net/~jfalbano/Six ... %20v.2.pdf

Paul

(Dear mods, apologies for the deep link, but there's no link from the main page anymore.)

John Kotopka

Re: Why Lilypond?

Post by John Kotopka » Sat Jul 24, 2010 5:47 pm

Another thing about lilypond is that it's possible to adjust *every* little glyph on the sheet. Everything, and in just about any manner thinkable. Most of the "clunky" sheets are probably using mostly the default settings, and I agree that they can tend to look clunky, but if one is really motivated to learn the little details of lilypond, it's probably possible to create a work of craftsmanship equal or better than the most meticulously arranged mechanical engravings.

Of course I can't find an example of this right now, but I'll upload one if I do.

As an aside, here is a little comparison of lilypond and Finale that someone linked to in another topic here recently:

http://www.musicbyandrew.ca/finale-lilypond-1.html

SteveM

Re: Why Lilypond?

Post by SteveM » Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:55 am

The new Sibelius (6), although expensive, has the 'magnetic layout' feature which saves a lot of time and avoids clashes of slurs, text, hairpins etc. Most input looks fine without any tweaking.
I have never used Lilypond so can't realy comment but i use Sibelius all the time and find it very fast. also you can set up your own templates, fonts, nothead styles etc. very aesily.
Steve

manythumbed
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Re: Why Lilypond?

Post by manythumbed » Sun Jul 25, 2010 2:16 pm

On the subjective question of score appearance, have you checked the mutopia project of free online scores that have been created with Lilypond? They have a lot of Bach scores you can examine in PDF form with the associated Lilypond file so that you can see how it the score was created and tweaked. I had a quick glance at Menuet in G BWV Anh. 114 arranged for guitar at Mutopia and I think that looks very readable, maybe I should dash downstairs and give a poor rendition on one of my steel strings to test it out.

I think Lilypond has got quite good support for the guitar using standard notation and with tablature. Most of the pieces that I have transcribed using Lilypond are in non-standard tunings and it has excellent support for that.

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Mark Clifton-Gaultier
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Re: Why Lilypond?

Post by Mark Clifton-Gaultier » Sun Jul 25, 2010 7:00 pm

Thanks all for your replies,

after examining some Mutopia files and reading these articles,
Paul wrote:Wim Hoogewerf writes an interesting post here
and whilst FREE is a great price, I'm pretty much convinced now that Lilypond isn't quite capable (yet) of the professional output that I'm looking for without an awful lot of tweaking - it appears to me that every page needs separate "beautification" though I know that's a subjective view.
manythumbed wrote:have you checked the mutopia project of free online scores
Well, I have now and thanks for the idea. I found a fugue (from BWV997) which is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. Unfortunately the score shows dozens, probably hundreds, of typesetting errors, overlapping stems, beams, rests etc., accidentals placed too closely, ties upside down, incorrectly set beam slopes - I could go on. The minuet that you suggested is certainly more clear (just a two part texture) but even so, the stems, beams and barlines are inconsistent in thickness, the stems also show odd fluctuations in length and the beam slopes vary.

What really clinches it is that nobody (I've been enquiring elsewhere) seems to be able to present an example of a professional quality commercial score created using this program. It seems to me that if it was straightforward enough then there would be at least a few professionals out there using it. Of course, it could be the case that they are simply too familiar with their current software and/or there is insufficient incentive provided by unique or improved features in Lilypond to warrant the investment in time required in learning a new system.

Sibelius is a non-starter. It tries to do way too much of the thinking for my liking, and adjusting/correcting those decisions is a complete pain; the manual is inscrutable when it comes to the user taking back control.

So it's Finale for me.

Thanks again for everyone's input - though I won't be using Lilypond, the information has been very useful in informing my decision.

SteveM

Re: Why Lilypond?

Post by SteveM » Tue Jul 27, 2010 9:33 am

I must disagree about your Sibelius comments. every single aspect of the layout is tweakable and can be saved as manuscript paper or house style so that you can start new scores with your own layout preferences. The manual gives more detail than you would ever need about every aspect of the programme. Each to his own I guess.
Steve

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Mark Clifton-Gaultier
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Re: Why Lilypond?

Post by Mark Clifton-Gaultier » Tue Jul 27, 2010 10:19 am

Steve,

it's not so much the layout that bothers me with Sibelius, I understand house-styles etc., it's more about the note-spacing and alignments in this case. I can see that the program is capable of producing elegant results but Finale is much more direct and intuitive in my opinion.

Naturally, that kind of judgement depends an awful lot on which programs one might have used in the past, my experience being unique and the decision therefore almost entirely subjective in the end. Nevertheless, the impressions and judgements of other users is still very useful. As you give the impression of being an experienced user could you possibly point me at a good (guitar) score of the fugue from BWV 997 (or something similar) that's been set using Sibelius?

I've already ordered Finale 2011 but I'm not partisan about things like this, I'm quite open to buying Sibelius as well and using both programs side by side for whichever job each one handles the best.

Thanks
Mark

wbajzek

Re: Why Lilypond?

Post by wbajzek » Tue Jul 27, 2010 3:38 pm

Have a look at the scores here and see what you think. The Couperin "L'Arte Toucher Le Clavecin" is an interesting example as it was all produced with lilypond. http://nicolas.sceaux.free.fr/

You might find this interview interesting, too: http://www.all-day-breakfast.com/cannam ... ypond.html
What really clinches it is that nobody (I've been enquiring elsewhere) seems to be able to present an example of a professional quality commercial score created using this program. It seems to me that if it was straightforward enough then there would be at least a few professionals out there using it. Of course, it could be the case that they are simply too familiar with their current software and/or there is insufficient incentive provided by unique or improved features in Lilypond to warrant the investment in time required in learning a new system.
That's exactly where you are at, isn't it? I have no doubt that you could learn to produce scores as good or better with lilypond than with what you currently use, but why should you bother unless you are already unhappy with Finale's output? Why would you want to be persuaded to use Lilypond when you are already heavily invested in Finale?

My first few Lilypond scores looked good but had the types of formatting errors that you mentioned; overlapping items, etc. I had to look for help in tweaking things to get them to look right. As I learned to organize my files better, though, I needed to employ fewer and fewer. Now, I'm sure there will come a time where I will do a project complex enough to need more tweaking, but for day to day work the output has been good enough that I haven't tweaked any of it in months. I was never so productive with Finale when I used it, or G7, or anything else that I tried, nor was I ever happy with the mechanical looking output that they produced by default. So, I guess it's fair to say that while I am really fond of the Barenreiter-like style that Lilypond is going for, the main reason I use it is that I can be very productive with it quickly without being prematurely distracted by formatting.

I already mentioned my experience with Finale and G7; when I used them, just about everything entered required manual tweaking. Sibelius may have fixed some of those problems, but that doesn't change the fact that it costs a lot and frankly their support for G7 when it had problems, which it did so blatantly that they must have seen them and chosen to ship it with them, was on the level of "why should we help you? you only gave us a hundred dollars." And as far as Finale goes, I might still be using it today if they didn't arbitrarily decide at one point that my license was a non-upgradeable academic license (which it wasn't) and offered me no recourse other than to repay the full price when it came time to upgrade. Neither of those companies will get any money from me again.

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oski79
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Re: Why Lilypond?

Post by oski79 » Tue Jul 27, 2010 4:20 pm

Do any of you have any experience with a program called "Songworks" by Ars-Nova?
“People may say I can’t sing, but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.” --Florence Foster Jenkins

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Mark Clifton-Gaultier
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Re: Why Lilypond?

Post by Mark Clifton-Gaultier » Wed Jul 28, 2010 7:50 am

William,

thanks very much for those links, and taking the trouble to post a second time - the thing that drew me to look at Lilypond in the first place (apart from the numerous mentions here) was the position stated in articles such as the Linux one where Han Wen says,

"We knew what publication quality engraving meant, and were determined to perfect Lily into producing that. Since we like hand-engraved music, we started reproducing simple pieces in LilyPond and comparing the output side-by-side. By doing close comparisons, we learned how music should really look, and we fixed all the deficiencies that we found."

Fantastic - that's just what I want but I'm still looking for some less "simple" examples.
wbajzek wrote:The Couperin "L'Arte Toucher Le Clavecin" is an interesting example as it was all produced with lilypond.
I'm sorry (and maybe I'm picky) but that is not publication quality engraving. There are many line thickness errors, slur ends curtailed early, beam thickness is out of proportion with the staff measurements, the note-heads are too heavy etc. There are also incidences of elements clashing when something unusual occurs such as a clef change.

All of the above might well be "tweakable" but, if that example was produced by someone reasonably comfortable with the software, I'm not exactly encouraged, especially as that is a relatively simple score in comparison with a guitar work which could involve many minute changes in order to accommodate three or more voices on one staff and, though the first examples that you pointed me to (from Lilypond's website) are certainly far more elegantly presented, none of them pushes the software in this way.
wbajzek wrote:That's exactly where you are at, isn't it?
Luckily, not really - I've just spent a few hundred pounds and some time - I'm always trying out different software to see if I can improve my workflow and I don't yet have years of work tied up in Finale as many professionals do. In fact, I have more time and effort invested in GuitarPro which is very nearly useless as far as scores go but some other factors made it useful for me.

As I'm about to embark on the digitising of thirty years' worth of hand written material I needed to make an informed decision - all of the opinions and insights offered in this thread helped towards that in some way.

I will continue to check up on Lilypond's progress and Sibelius, no doubt, will continue to email me telling me what a mistake it is to buy anything else. For now the decision is made - I've laid down my cash for the new Finale. When I eventually post something here I'll make sure that I sit well back from the screen as the critical observations roll in.
oski79 wrote:Do any of you have any experience with a program called "Songworks" by Ars-Nova?
No, but I'll take a look.

Thanks again everyone - I followed all the links - Wim Hoogewerf's analysis was particularly interesting.
Mark

*Edited wbajzek to William.

Aaron

Re: Why Lilypond?

Post by Aaron » Wed Jul 28, 2010 12:17 pm

Nobody in this thread has yet mentioned the free, open-source MuseScore. I think it is tweakable enough, although it will surely take tweaking. Beyond that, the more people who use it, the more attention it may get, the more it will attract developers and mature into what we really want for these things...

wbajzek

Re: Why Lilypond?

Post by wbajzek » Wed Jul 28, 2010 3:00 pm

Mark Clifton-Gaultier wrote:
I'm sorry (and maybe I'm picky) but that is not publication quality engraving. There are many line thickness errors, slur ends curtailed early, beam thickness is out of proportion with the staff measurements, the note-heads are too heavy etc. There are also incidences of elements clashing when something unusual occurs such as a clef change.
A lot of the errors you refer to sound like aesthetic preferences to me. Can you point to examples in that file? Can you give some examples of published music that you would take as a model? Frankly, I think very few of the guitar scores I own look like "publication quality" once you start looking for errors. :)

I see what you call heaviness when I view on the screen but in fact a printed lilypond score I've been working from, when compared side-by-side to two of the best looking published scores I have, looks nearly the same. The most obvious differences are the clef shape and the text font, but the notes, beams, stems, slurs, etc seem to differ very little. Interestingly, I looked at those publications to see if it said what they were engraved with, and while they didn't say, it turns out that both were engraved by Sylvain Lemay who, according to my google search, uses Finale.

John Kotopka

Re: Why Lilypond?

Post by John Kotopka » Wed Jul 28, 2010 11:25 pm

Mark,

If you're satisfied with the output from Finale (and you already have the program), then there you go. Robert's your father's brother and all that!

I'm pretty confident saying that most of the programs mentioned are capable of great results, but the quality really depends on how much time one is willing to invest in learning the ins-and-outs of the program at hand. Like wbajzek said, we all have our own aesthetic preferences, and while I prefer a more bold, mechanically-pressed engraved * look to the music I like to read, others might not. What someone else might consider beautiful, I might consider "stale" or something. But really, the look of the notes on the page are really not that terribly important compared to the sounds they can produce in skilled hands!

In other words, if the score is clearly legible, then it is good. Everything else is a matter of taste.

* I actually prefer very clearly legible hand calligraphy for scores, but that seems to be a dying art, and one that is difficult to learn properly anymore. There are at most 2 books that I've learned about to learn this skill, but both are out of print and very difficult to obtain.

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