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Re: Question about customizing emmentaler font

From: Urs Liska
Subject: Re: Question about customizing emmentaler font
Date: Tue, 22 Apr 2014 01:08:00 +0200
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sorry, it's too late to go into any detail. But also considering Werner's comments I still have the question what kind of tool you are aiming at: Do you want to provide end-users with a tool to tailor the fonts to their individual needs or are you "only" trying to create a modified font?

If it's the first one then of course editing the Metafont sources would be quite some overhead (as you'd need a complete LilyPond building environment). But if you're going for the font itself it would definitely worth trying to go the Metafont route. I _think_ (with my minimal experience) that the kind of modifications you intend are done quite naturally with Metafont. This would probably even give you the option to have it consistently parametrized.

Hope to get back to that issue soon.

Am 21.04.2014 20:47, schrieb tisimst:

Good, valid questions, and thank you for your response. Let's see if I
can answer them satisfactorily:

1. The use case, at least as it is with me, would be for anyone
dabbling with their own notation fonts that want to use them without
needing to mess with source code. Granted, the work-flow is a little
bit hacked and definitely done on the command-line, so it takes some
courage for those less inclined to work there. Also, the method I'm
using allows the user to edit only the glyphs they want to change in
FontForge (usually the standard glyphs) and leave the other less-common
glyphs (like the ancient notations) as they are, but still available
(as opposed to what Gonville has done) if someone wants to mix notation
styles in a score, thus allowing for complete flexibility while
maintaining a comprehensive glyph set.

2. The reason I chose not to edit the metafont source is because it
appeared that metafont behaves more like a person with a pen writing
down the glyph (which absolutely has its place) and not a craftsman
with a chisel making a glyph punch and engraving the glyph in a metal
plate. I just don't know (probably because of my lack of experience) if
metafont can easily add the features I've identified. Now, I 100% agree
that it would be a very nice touch if it could be integrated into
LilyPond itself, even a totally custom build. I just don't know how to
make the changes in the metafont easily, but that, again, could be due
to my lack of experience.

Honestly, the differences between Emmentaler and Cadence (that's what
I'm calling my font so far) are pretty small. Some more obvious, others
more subtle. I've attached the FontForge's full-font print out to show
the 20pt sizes of both Emmentaler and Cadence.

Also attached are LilyPond's engraving of the first score in the
"essay", Suite I, BWV 1007. One version was laid out to match the PDF
version of the essay in its printed size (larger margins, staff-size of
15.3pt, etc.), but engraved with Emmentaler, which looks fabulous (I
always wondered why LilyPond's version was not included for comparison
in the essay), which looks fabulous.

The other two are the same score at 20pt size, still letter-size paper,
but default margins, one using Emmentaler and the other using Cadence.
This particular score looks fine with Cadence since it doesn't use any
dynamics or numerals (except for the fingering which actually comes
from a smaller optical Emmentaler font).

- I've tried to mimic the way that some styles blend the noteheads
together, particularly the half-note and whole note (similar to what
the Parnassus font does for MuseScore). They are a little larger, and a
little more round, but still NOT round or even elliptical.
- I've simplified the curves of the treble clef (it just always looked
a little too hand-written to me) and increased the length of the tail
of the bass clef.
- I've also increased the width of the natural accidentals (not
completely settled on this yet, but the default seems a little thin to
me) and increased the stems a little, adjusted the interior void of the
flat accidentals so that the stem has a more consistent taper and the
bulb is more voluptuous and black.
- Of course, I added consistent internal rounds to all the glyphs that
should have them (and not all SHOULD have them, by the way, if we
follow the engraving process).

If you get any tips as to solving my problems with the font, I'd
greatly appreciate it!


On Mon, Apr 21, 2014 at 11:29 AM, Urs Liska [via Lilypond]
<address@hidden> wrote:
Hi Abraham,

this sounds very interesting indeed. I'd be most interested in seeing
some comparison examples!

I can't help you at all with your actual question, but I have a
of my own: Could you please make somewhat more clear what the use
is exactly (in terms of your "users")?
My main question is why exactly you want ot edit the .odt files and
the sources. I mean you are writing a Python script, so your users
wouldn't mess with Metafont anyway.
Of course Modifying the .otf is faster and doesn't require a LiylPond
build. But wouldn't it be a very nice touch if the modifications you
made could principally be integrated into LilyPond itself (or at
least a
custom build).


Am 21.04.2014 19:19, schrieb tisimst:

I am developing a /relatively/ easy python script to allow a person
to tweak
the default Emmentaler font as they desire without needing to mess
metafont, but by simply modifying the .OTF files in FontForge. I
feel like
I've gotten things /mostly/ under control, but I am running into
two issues
that I just can't figure out.

The first has to do with the glyphs, which I tweaked a little, that
from the feta-alphabet subfonts (i.e., the time-signature numerals
and the
dynamics letters) which for some reason default to some other font
for the
numbers and letters and don't use those in my font at all:


The other issue appears with the arpeggio element and, I suspect,
also with
the trill element (though I haven't tried it explicitly), neither
of which
did I modify at all. As can be seen below, the glyph doesn't
connect for a
continuous look:


I have combed through the source code, but I couldn't find anything
obvious as to why this would be the case.  There also appears to be
kerning information for these glyphs that I think I've figured out,
but not
sure. Let's just say I am at a loss without some help from someone
intimately involved in the data required to render these glyphs

Now, why am I doing this?

Well, Although creating a new music notation font is definitely
fun, there's
another more important reason for this. I'm an engineer by trade
with some
manufacturing experience. I also love singing and playing the piano
computer programming, which makes using LilyPond quite enjoyable.
As I have
looked at the notation glyphs from older (and IMHO more beautiful)
that are hand engraved and printed, there is an artistic aspect of
the glyph
designs that is still missing from Emmentaler. I am, in NO WAY,
saying that
Emmentaler is a poorly designed font. It is VERY NICE and I offer
my highest
regards to those who developed it. I know it took a ton of work.

Here's what's missing, and I don't know how metafont can capture
this. Much
of the focus of the design of Emmentaler font has been around the
*/engraving/* part, which is HUGELY important. However, one thing
we are
forgetting (which may not be important to others, but I see as more
critical) is the design AND FABRICATION of the punches that were
used. Let
me explain what I mean.

In order to cut metal, I have to have a tool that is */sharp/*. How
Well, that's relative I suppose, but let's assume I have a tool
knife-like edge that is hard enough to cut, say, the treble clef
punch at a
particular size. Now, this knife edge is only so sharp and, when
metal, isn't likely to be used like we would use a knife to carve
wood. On
the contrary, it would be used more like a chisel and would be able
create a /smallest/ feature size, like for an interior corner. This
is the
most obvious kind of feature that most people don't think about
creating a classical-looking font. Exterior corners can be made
problem!/--because I am not limited in size by the tool I'm using
to create
it. On the other hand, the interior corners are /*NEVER EVER EVER*
going to
be sharp/ because I simply do not have a strong enough tool with a
enough edge to cut a perfectly sharp interior corner. Even nowadays
with our
advanced manufacturing processes, this is a difficult and very

What this means: in order to have a truly authentic, classically
look, ALL interior corners should be rounded-ish, and the
should remain optically constant (i.e., for emmentaler-26, the
rounds would be optically the same size as those for emmentaler-11,
but in
the font itself, the rounds would be /MUCH LARGER/ for
emmentaler-11 than
emmentaler-26 because the intended print size is /MUCH SMALLER/). I
that using a traditional printing press with liquid ink will also
to the final size of these rounds, so what this "minimum feature
should be is certainly debatable. I know that not everyone would
agree with
the need to add this feature, or with any of the other changes I've
but take it for what it's worth. I think it would add a very nice
touch to


Wow, I didn't mean for all that to come out right now, but I
thought I'd
share some thoughts on this matter. I just LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE the
look of hand-engraved scores, and the Emmentaler font does great
for the
most part, but I don't feel like it quite captures some
hand-engraved features of the whole engraving/printing process
needed to
make computer-generated scores look more authentic and less
computer-generated. There are even more features that I love, but
would be
most difficult to mimic, so I won't go there (yet).

So, back to my original reason for posting this. Can someone help
me figure
out why the dynamic letters and time-signature numbers won't appear
they should from my font and why the arpeggio elements won't line
up? I know
there's kerning involved, but I don't suspect that is the issue. I
know the
glyphs are there in the font, so that's also not the issue. Thanks
for your
help and keep up the excellent work!


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pr-Cadence-20-20pt.pdf (285K) 
suite1-bwv1007-emmentaler.pdf (190K) 
suite1-bwv1007-cadence.pdf (191K) 
suite1-bwv1007-essay.pdf (63K) 
pr-Emmentaler-20-20pt.pdf (202K) 

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