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Re: Hiding empty staves

From: Manuel
Subject: Re: Hiding empty staves
Date: Sun, 24 Dec 2006 22:30:06 +0100

Here is the whole thing again, including Jay's suggestions and other corrections



Beginners Guide

for the

Very Beginner

Chapter One.

If you are using a Mac, open a new LilyPond window.
If you are working with Linux...

Then write this inside:

{ c'  d'  e'  f'  g'  a'  b'  c' ' }

Save the file and then select "Typeset file" from the "Compile" menu.

A small window will open, where you can follow the proceedings, and then a ".pdf" document will appear, with this result:

(insert graphic here)

It is a little C-major scale. Let us consider it:

The so-called "curly braces"




are essential. You must always write your music inside such brackets.

Also, LilyPond is "case sensitive", which means that in our little example, "c" (that's lower case) is right, but "C" (that's upper case) would be wrong.

Then, LilyPond has certain pre-set values, called "defaults", which will apply whenever you do not ask for something different. In our present example, for instance: the treble clef, 4/4 time signature, quarter notes.

You can, of course, change these and all other defaults, indeed you can engrave old plainchant, contemporary notation, orchestral scores, do MIDI files, and more. But all that lies further down the road. For the moment, we will teach you how to engrave a simple melody.

First, we'll give you a very useful tool to input your notes, called the "relative mode".

In our example, we have written each note with an octave denomination: one apostrophe:


for the so-called "first octave", which is the octave immediately above and including the central c, and two apostrophes:


for the "second octave", the one immediately above the first octave.

But now, using the "relative mode", you will save yourself a lot of work. Erase what you wrote before in the LilyPond window and write this instead:


{ c d e f g a b c }

Save the document again, close the .pdf and select "Typeset file" from the "Compile" menu. The result will be the same C-major scale.

(insert graphic here)

But now, with the


command, the first note is automatically engraved as close as possible to the central c and every further note will be engraved as close as possible to the previous note. "As close as possible" means calculating the smallest interval. Thus if you modify your input to this:


{ e g c b g f d c  }

(Don't forget to always save the file and close the previous .pdf before compiling)

You will get this result:

(insert graphic here)

You can analyze the exercise and see that a third has been preferred to a sixth, a fourth to a fifth, etc. Now in this mode, when you add an apostrophe, it makes the note appear one octave higher as it would have appeared without the apostrophe. Two apostrophes make for two octaves, and so forth.

To make a note one octave lower as it would otherwise appear, add a coma:


or two or more for more octaves:


See it here:


{ c' g e' d c c, d c  }

(insert graphic here)

Good. Now let's see how to select the following:


Time signatures

Keys major and minor

Rhythmic values

Sharps and flats

Double bars and repeat bars.

These are simple things to do. Write this example:



\clef treble
\key c \major
\time 4/4

 c d e f g a b c }

(insert graphic here)

The result is our first example of a C-major scale, but this time you see the way some defaults are set. Change them easily, like this:



\clef alto
\key cis \minor
\time 2/2

 c d e f g a b c }

This should look thus:

(insert graphic here)

Don't worry just yet about the naturals. We'll come to it in a moment.

You change the clef changing the denomination "treble" for




or other, no less important clefs, like:

french (G clef on the first line)

soprano (C clef on the first line)

mezzosoprano (C clef on the second line)

baritone (C clef on the fifth line)

varbaritone (F clef on the third line)

subbass (F clef on the fifth line)

percussion (percussion clef)

tab (tablature clef)

To set the key, proceed in this way:

\key (name of the tonic) \(major or minor)

like for instance:

\key g \minor

And similarly for the time signature, like this:

\time x/y

For instance:

\time 6/8

Now for the rhythmic values.

You specify these values with a number after the name of the note: "c1" will make a whole note; "d8" an eighth note, etc.

Add full stops (called "periods" in american English) for dotted or double doted notes:


for a dotted quarter note,


for a double dotted eighth note, and so on.

Insert rests with the letter "r" and specify their duration with numbers:


will be a dotted fourth rest.

Once a rhythmic value is entered it remains the same for all the following notes or rests until you change it. This applies for rests as well. Lets see this with an example:


{c4 r8 e g4 c r8 g c r c,4 r}

(insert graphic here)

Analyze this and see how the rhythmic values are automatically repeated.

You can amuse yourself writing all possible and also impossible examples of simple melodies, and see what happens. Don't worry, whatever you type, you can't break it...

Working fine? Then let's go for sharps and flats. Just name the notes:








for sharps, and







for flats.

(Please note that this is not necessarily the way you are used to name the notes)

"cisis" and "ceses" will give you double alterations. Get it?

Whatever key you have chosen, you must always input the exact name of the note you wish to have printed. For example in the key of D-Major you must type in fis and cis for f-sharp and c-sharp otherwise a natural sign will be printed before the note. This is not a disadvantage, as you will surely notice after a time.

Insert double bars and repeats like this:



\clef treble
\key c \major
\time 2/4

c d

\bar "|:"

e f

\bar ":|:"

g a

\bar ":|"

b c

\bar "||"


(insert graphic here)

The exercises you have done so far should enable you to write any simple melody. As you are surely aware, we have not said anything yet about tuplets, lyrics, polyphony and many other things. If you wonder whether you can do this or that with LilyPond, the answer is very probably "YES!"

Look for it in the other tutorials or in the next chapters, as soon as they are written. Any unsolved questions can be directed to the mailing list, including an example of your problem. Take great care where you put your { and } around your music, and

have fun!

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