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Classical guitar notations

From: Yuri Vilmanis
Subject: Classical guitar notations
Date: Sat, 23 Oct 2004 23:21:42 +0930
User-agent: KMail/1.7

There are several very commonly used notations for classical guitar which 
define left hand, and right hand fingering, string numbers, and barred frets. 
The left hand (chord) fingerings in lilypond seem to work quite well, but 
getting good results for the other categories needs a lot of extra typing, 
and I think it would be good to have these cases defined as syntax to avoid 
the clutter. I don't have the time or knowledge of the inner working of 
lilypond required to implement these. Some of these are easy to work around, 
others are a right pain. I add suggestions for syntax (which may be changed, 
of course - they're just suggestions). A good printed example which contains 
most of these is "DANZA BRASILERA", by Jorge Morel, (c)1981, Ashley Mark 
Publishing Co Newcastle UK, but most classical or flamenco guitar manuscripts 
will contain some of these.

1) Left hand / chord fingerings :

This is already well supported as documented in the manual, section "5.7.10 
Fingering instructions"

2) String numbers:

 are represented by a number inside a circle, in the same set of positions 
occupied by fingering numbers (except when there are multiple, in which case 
they are usually to the right of the noteheads). Currently I am using the 
following ugly 

<a' c''>1^"$\\!\\!\\textcircled{\\small 3}$"

which makes things messy when it occurs 4-8 times a bar for half a page, and 
is hard to do for multiple notes in a chord. I would far prefer something 
along the lines of:

<a'-s5 c''-s3>1

Also, string numbering orientation should be set separately to fingering 
(property fingeringOrientations): the convention is that string numbers 
appear above a note  ( / chord)  if there are no left hand fingering 
instructions, otherwise they appear below - a consistent position is 
preferred (ie if once below the notes, always below the notes). I suggest a 
property name such as stringOrientations or stringNumOrientations

3) Right hand fingerings:

Lowercase cursive letters are used to indicate right-hand fingerings: p = 
thumb, i = index, m = middle, a = ring finger, c = little finger. By 
convention, these are wriiten above the note(s) unless there are left-hand 
fingering numbers, in which case they are below the notes, and they are also 
below string numbers. Positions should of course be consistent (as with 
string numbers). This can be handled readily enough with text markup and the 
\italic tag, but a special syntax might be considered.

1,2,3) Syntax suggestion: to combine the above notations, I would like to 
wirte something like:
<a'-2-s3-i c''-1-s2-m>
to indicate fingering, string, and plucking finger. Anything less compact 
would quickly lead to unreadable (and hard to write) input files.

4) Fret numbers:

A barred fret (or sometimes just the base position of the chord, ie the lowest 
fret fingered) is generally indicated with a capital roman numeral above the 
stave (optionally prefixed with C eg CXII )  (I have also seen some examples 
with lowercase italics), followed by a line extending for the duration of 
this position, ending with a downward vertical stroke if returning to the 
open-string / fret 0 position, eg:

VII -----------------,                

(imagine that the line is solid and the comma is a downstroke that joins it at 
a right angle)
for this, I have used syntax like:

 \override TextSpanner #'edge-text = #'("ix " . "") <e'' a c>4\>\startTextSpan  

which is also clumsy and messy if you need to use it often: also, I cant 
achieve the downstroke at the end

suggested syntax: 
\startFret "text" ........... \startFret "text"  .............. \stopFret 
<optional downstroke tag>
(the second startFret text would be printed in a gap in the line)

This *could* also be done by adding an end of line style to the text spanner 
for the downstroke, but that leaves the text in italics, and the need for the 
\override command to set the text, which may be needed more than once in a 
bar, makes this 

5) Harmonic fret numbers:

The notation described in section "5.12.1 Harmonic notes" is adequite for 
writing second harmonics (12th fret), but in classical guitar, harmonics can 
be played on any fret, the most common frets being the 4th, 5th, 7th, 12th 
and 19th frets. There are two main representations for the fret number: the 
first looks like the tuplet spanner as in section "5.1.13 Tuplets":

g'4 \times 2/3 {c'4 c' c'} d'4 d'4

except with the notation "Har." or "Harmonic" written above, and the fret 
number in the spanner instead of the tuplet length. Using tuplet syntax gives 
OK printouts, but I expect midi export is stuffed up, and the use of \times 
could be confusing. 

example of visual appearance:


Suggested syntax for example:
\harmonic "fret number" { music expression  }
This might also be made more general, say
\smallspanner "Har." "12" { music expression }
to allow use for other purposes?

The other notation is identical to the fret numbers as described in (4) above, 
if harmonic noteheads are used, optionally prefixed with "Har.", eg

Har. V--------------,

Harmonic fret numbers can be represented with roman or arabic numerals

6) Rascaos (tell me if I got the spelling wrong - its likely)

The rascao is basically a multiple fingered strum (usually all five fingers, 
very fast), and is represented like an arpeggio. Sometimes the notation 
"Ras." in italics is printed above. This can be represented using the 
arpeggio ("5.10.4 Arpeggio"), but you might consider a \rascao which adds the 
"Ras." notation. The arpeggio notation is also commonly used to represent 
strumming (up or down) in classical guitar manuscripts, which is more or less 
equivalent. BTW, I wouldn't mind bolder / larger arrows on the arpeggios - 
the current ones can be a bit hard to see if they end in the middle of the 

7) Chord arrows (mainly in popular music)

Many of the older popular guitar manuscripts use a vertical arrow with the 
chord name printed above to indicate strumming the chord in that direction, 
without printing the actual notes, eg.


vertical  arrows are also often printed to the left of chords that are written 
out in notes

Suggested syntax for the above example:
\strummode {
         c1 \strumUp
or to merely add an arrow to the left of the notes:
\chordmode {
         c1 \strumUp

Hope these are reasonable requests,

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