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Percussion notation

From: Mike Irwin
Subject: Percussion notation
Date: Wed, 15 Sep 2004 07:48:30 -0400

First off, let me say thank you to the developers for LilyPond; it is a wonderful piece of software. However, with that said, I would like to make a request to the developers for improving some of the methods used for percussion notation.

Most engravers overlook the notation quirks involved with writing for percussion instruments, though LilyPond has done very well for the most part. I've searched through the mailing list archives, and while some of these issues have been brought up in the past, it seems nothing much became of it.

The Percussive Art Society's International Drum Rudiments, found at, can be used as a reference for the following items:

Rolls - Using tremolo repeats, one can get something close to what's known in the percussion world as a double-stroke roll. The problem with this, though, is that if using a tremolo repeat on a beamed note, the tremolo is drawn horizontal instead on angled. This is too hard to read, as the tremolo is aligned with the lines of the staff. Also, if a tremolo repeat is drawn on, for example, a single eighth note, the stem is lengthened too much, causing other issues, and makes it stick out like a "sore thumb", so to speak. Note also, the buzz, or multiple bounce, roll which is drawn with the letter Z through the stem. I know this can be achieved by other means, but making this part of the standard syntax would be a big help.

Flams - It would be very handy if one could write something like \flam sn16 or \flam bd4 instead of the current method of \acciaccatura sn8 sn16 and \acciaccatura bd8 bd4. Since flams are nearly always written equivalent to \acciaccatura voice8 voice, this would be handy. If a flam between different voices is desired, then the current method could be used.

Drags/Ruffs - Similar to flams, the current method is something like \acciaccatura { sn16[ sn] } sn4. Drags are nearly always written equivalent to \acciaccatura { voice16[ voice] } voice, so something like \drag (or \ruff) sn4 would be a real time-saver. The same as with flams, if a drag between different voices is desired, then the current method could be used.

"Ghost" notes - It is very common to have ghost notes, which are simply notes in parentheses, in drum set notation. I've checked out for doing this, but why can't this be part of the standard syntax?

All of the aforementioned items are very commonly used standards in percussion music. If these things were introduced/corrected in a future version of LilyPond, it would be a huge boon for percussionists looking to write music for their instrument.

I'm not much of a developer, although I do dabble in it occasionally. I don't have much spare time to try to implement these things myself, though I would be interested in learning and helping out as much as possible if someone could point me in the right direction.

Thanks for listening, and thank you again to the developers for creating an otherwise great tool for musicians.
Mike Irwin

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