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Re: LilyPond examples

From: Andrew Hawryluk
Subject: Re: LilyPond examples
Date: Thu, 16 Oct 2008 20:32:33 -0600

On Thu, Oct 16, 2008 at 5:06 AM, Cameron Horsburgh <address@hidden> wrote:
> Hi folks,
> Next weekend I'll be attending a composing workshop organised by my
> church. One of the sessions will cover the relevant software. It seems
> the facilitator is going to be showing off Finale and Sibelius, but he
> seems willing for me to do a very brief presentation on LilyPond. I'm
> not familiar with either of those programs, and I don't want to be
> drawing direct comparisons with them---I'd prefer to simply let it
> speak for itself. So I'm looking for several things.

That's probably a good idea, since the time allotted is "very brief".
However, since much of the session will be spent on Finale and
Sibelius, you may not be able to entirely avoid some comparisons.

I would point out that LilyPond has a small, specailized feature set
compared to the other two and that this is intentional. Therefore, a
simple feature-by-feature comparison is not only outside your scope,
it is misleading and/or irrelevant. For example, it is not a bug that
LilyPond does not include any of the optical music recognition
abilities that you would find in Finale.
(see for one
possible discussion of these issues)

> 1) What does LilyPond do well?
> (I already have that the default output is far better than the
> equivalent in most software I've seen, and it is very quick once the
> basics are mastered. I'll also mention the integration with
> OpenOffice, HTML and LaTeX.)

Mention the direct to PDF output. This is fantastic.

I'm not sure how to present this without making a comparison, but I
love the fact that LilyPond's page layout is so smart that I can
almost entirely ignore it. My previous (Finale) workflow was:
1. Compose music & enter notes (iterative procedure)
2. Print the piece and mark it up, circling every collision and
correction that I could spot
3. Correct those issues and reprint (I can't seem to spot problems
until it's on paper)
4. Feel 95% sure that I've gotten it ready to go
5. Print to PDF.

Now my workflow is
a) Compose & enter notes
b) Find a few issues that need tweaking (LilyPond seems to either get
things perfect or very bad, so any fine tuning issues are much easier
to find - I can even find most of them without printing)

The improvement in productivity is multipied even further when there
are many parts: I used to do steps 2-5 for every extracted Finale

For a church audience, you may want to tell them that LilyPond's
lyrics support is excellent. Granted, I am under the impression that
some of the developers are unsatisfied by the current \lyricsto
approach, but in most cases this is a vast improvement over the
methods I tolerated before. You might want to show them the difference
in output between the second and third figures in

Oh, and UTF-8 support, too. We might take it for granted that modern
software would include this but that is not necessarily the case (at
least with Finale 2008).

> 2) What doesn't it do as well?
> (Lily is very difficult to use at first).
> Any other suggestions?

No MIDI input. Well, rumor would work on Linux but I haven't been able
to get it to work, so I feel safe saying that there is no MIDI input
for almost all LilyPond users. This doesn't slow me down for vocal
music as I can type a melody almost as fast as I would have entered it
by MIDI, but piano parts are much slower when I can't just drop a
whole chord at a time.

LilyPond is a beautiful place to engrave music, but a difficult place
to compose. Those who like to enter music a bit at a time, play back
sections, drag and drop measures from one place to another, transpose
regions back and forth, and enter blank measures in the middle of a
multi-stave piece will not find what they want. On the other hand, I
like what I write better when I'm away from the computer so I can live
with this.

> I'd also appreciate it if anyone had files I could use that show off
> some of the more interesting features of LilyPond. I'll produce some
> printed examples, and if people start scratching their heads trying to
> work out how I did something, I'll have done my job ;-).
> Thanks folks,
> --
> Cameron Horsburgh

Good luck!

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