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cross-staff beaming in Lilypond

From: Jonathan Kulp
Subject: cross-staff beaming in Lilypond
Date: Sun, 13 Apr 2008 07:54:39 -0500
User-agent: Thunderbird (X11/20080227)

Hi.  I'm new to the mailing list and pretty new to Lilypond, as well.
First off I'd like to say a big "thanks" to the developers of Lilypond.
  This is an amazing engraver!  I've been using Finale since about 1999
or so, and have just started trying Lilypond in earnest in the last
month or so.  I tried it cursorily last fall when I first got a laptop
and installed Ubuntu on it, but I found the lack of a graphical
interface too daunting and just gave up.  Lately I've made an honest
effort to learn it and I'm really impressed by its powerful capabilities
and beautiful output.  And really, the learning curve for Lilypond is no
steeper than it was for me learning Finale.  When I learned Finale98 it
was a big pain.

So anyway, I was writing to make a suggestion regarding sections 7.1.1-2
of the user's manual, the ones on staff changes in piano music.  In my
latest engraving project, a solo piano work of mine, I was faced with
doing cross-staff notes and beaming in the very first measure (see
attached image) and I looked all through the manual trying to find the
section that showed how to do this (in Finale it's called "cross-staff
beaming," and I was looking for something similar in the manual).  Only
after much searching and thinking did it occur to me that I might be
able simply to enter the notes using the \change Staff function and the
beams would take care of themselves.  (Since the examples given in the
manual used quarter notes, they of course wouldn't need beams.)  I set
up the staves called "up" and "down," then entered a series of 16th
notes alternating from one staff to the other as shown in 7.1.2 (manual
staff switches).  To my amazement, it created perfect beams.  It seems
like in Finale you have to use three different tools to do this.  Nice!

My suggestion is this: in section 7.1.1 and/or 7.1.2 of the manual,
about staff switching, add a sentence or two plus a simple example
showing how the beams are handled automatically if you enter notes that
require beaming (i.e. 8ths or shorter).  Anyone coming from Finale will
be looking for "cross-staff beaming" instead of staff switching.  If I
had seen an example of notes switching staves, beamed together like
that, I would have known immediately that that was what I was looking for.

Also, it would be nice to have a brief explanation of the "\skip 1 * 10"
command that's given in the example code in 7.1.2.  I didn't know what
that was for but typed it in anyway and saw that it created a bunch of
empty measures.  I tried substituting a few "s2." (dotted half-note
spacers) to see if they'd work the same as the \skip thing, and they
did.  Maybe the explanation could mention that \skip performs the same
function as s1 s2 and so forth.

Now, when I did my staff switching, I didn't really know where to put
the \context Staff and \new Voice stuff that's shown in the example in
7.1.2, so I just left that part out--it worked just fine without it.
What do those things do if they're included?  I'm glad it worked without
them because I'm still very confused by contexts and voices.  I can't
get my MIDI block in the right place to generate a MIDI file either!

Finally an observation, which is that Lilypond handles cross-staff
beaming much more smoothly than Finale does.  I'm finding that there are
many things for which Lilypond is more adept than Finale, and it's
really fun learning this.  There's something magical about the way it
takes a text file and churns out a lovely musical engraving.  I've shown
some of these things to my students and they can hardly believe it,
although I doubt any of them will start using Lilypond because they seem
pretty scare of the code when I showed them that.  Anyway kudos to the
Lilypond developers.  It's a great tool!  All best,

Jon Kulp
Jonathan Kulp, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Music History and Theory
UL Lafayette School of Music
P. O. Box 41207
Lafayette, LA  70504-1207
Office phone: (337) 482-5203

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