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Re: Shortcut for \repeat unfold

From: Lukas-Fabian Moser
Subject: Re: Shortcut for \repeat unfold
Date: Tue, 28 Sep 2021 10:49:46 +0200
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:78.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/78.13.0

Maybe it helps to give some context: The discussion started with the problem of skipping notes in lyrics (using \addlyrics {} / \lyricsto {}) in the documentation. In order to skip multiple notes, the documentation currently suggests ugly things like

\repeat unfold 2 { \skip 1 }

a) are very cumbersome,
b) contain a mandatory-yet-unused duration argument.

I think b) can be remedied by using "" instead of the skip (I'm not sure yet if it's really equivalent), which leads to

\repeat unfold 2 ""

And I think it would be nice to have an even more natural variant for that; I think it's reasonable to provide & show/recommend convenient solutions for standard tasks (rather than say "you can define your own abbreviation here if you know how to do so") - for example,

\*2 ""    or    \x2 ""

which would be my favourite.

Well, \repeat unfold has become sort of an independent
issue from my point of view since what I would rather
see in lyrics is some way to make explicit durations
override the synchronization between lyrics and melody,
either as

\lyricmode {
  lyrics following notes
  lyrics8 with4. \skip 1 own2. rhythm1*3/4
  follow notes again

or (if the compatibility breakage were too high)

\lyricmode {
  lyrics following notes
  \noSync { lyrics8 with4. \skip 1 own2. rhythm1*3/4 }
  follow notes again

I'm still not sure if it's possible to give this a well-defined meaning at the boundaries between sync'ed and non-sync'ed lyrics.

Anyway: As I now know, "" is not a suitable replacement for a lyric skip (it stops lyric extenders). So, regarding my initial merge request: I still think that "\skip 1" in lyrics (the necessary-but-discarded duration argument) is sufficiently ugly to warrant hiding it behind special syntax, e.g. \lyricSkip as I proposed (or \skipNote). I agree that the multi-notes variant in that said merge request might be overkill, and I'd be absolutely fine with trashing that.

\*… well I can't say I'm a huge fan of it, but it looks reasonable enough.


We have a lot of syntax to remember already. While I advocate
an addition here for something that I consider sufficiently
generally useful (notably for presentation contexts where custom
shorthands are not wanted), I think we should be parcimonious
when adding new syntax, because more of it also means looking
up the documentation more frequently when you are not
an intensive user.
(Please forgive me for re-arranging your mail, I hope I didn't distort your intended meaning.)

Yes, absolutely. I think for \repeat unfold ... it might be warranted, though: That is sufficiently clumsy (if used for repeating single notes, for example) and at the same time ubiquitous that a shorthand might be a worthwhile addition. Of course it's true that everybody may define shorthands for whatever constructions they use the most, but if an addition makes it possible to give examples in the NR in a way that is succinct and easy to write and read, that might be a good idea. After all, the NR should show how elegant and convenient entering music in LilyPond can be - not demonstrate a cumbersome way of expressing things that "insiders" might know how to simplify.
Do note, however, that:

One of the reasons I argue against making \repeat $n \music equivalent to some \repeat X $n \music.

An implementation that doesn't require changes in the lexer/parser would have the advantage of allowing you to re-define it according to your needs. LilyPond is so great it even allows you to do:

is not entirely true: once a function is defined, it can be
relied on internally. Imagine my embarrassment when I had to
explain on -user-fr the cause of the error occurring with
the code (minimized here):

cons = \markup \tiny "conséquent"

  \undo \stemDown
Agreed: The possibility to redefine things ends where redefinitions render the whole system unusable. But I'm really glad that your example does not crash anymore, as that shows that it's become quite less easy to disrupt LilyPond in such a way.
I like Werner's suggestion with ** better already.
What worries me a bit is the difference with the
existing use of *, which might be confusing. R1*5
will be (most of the time) equivalent to R1**5,
whereas c'1*5 will not be the same as c'1**5.
Something like c'1\p**5 will be valid, contrary to
c'1\p*5; c'1*4/5 will work but not c'1**4/5; …

I have to think about it a bit more.

If ** could be make to work, it might be a good idea to demonstrate its use in the manuals only with spaces. Of course they don't (shouldn't/mustn't) make a difference to LilyPond, but to the human reader, "c4 ** 5" is much less likely to be mistaken for "c4*5" than "c4**5". There's a reason we write

\relative {
  c'4 d8 e f4 d
  e4 d c2

and not

\relative { c' 4d 8e f 4d e 4d c 2 }

By now, I know a handful of "normal" musicians among my friends
Oh, my notion of my own normality totters somewhat… ;-)
I took care only to talk about my friends being normal, not myself. :-)
who use LilyPond for their occasional engraving tasks. From what they show me when they have questions, I think there is still a significant number of users that stay in the mode of "never defining anything new except music variables" (and are still able to produce impressive scores). Of course, the advent of \etc has made it extremely easy to create simple music functions without even realising it; but I still think a sentence like "it's easy enough to write a music function" makes a possible feature practically invisible/unattainable for a large percentage of users: The idea of defining parameterised short-hands is not familiar to many people without a maths/computer science background.

I know, but is it significantly easier to write

\defaultRepeatType percent

compared to

per = \repeat percent \etc

? The latter is allowed with David's patch, which
has now become
­— thank you David!

If it's a matter of discoverability, then it's the job
of the documentation to advertise the possibility of
defining these shortcuts, possibly mentioning it around
repeats and possibly presenting \etc prominently in the
learning manual next to variables.
I answer somewhat orthogonally to your question: I think that for many people it's a lot easier to digest the information

"\* creates unfolded repeats; this behaviour may be changed using \defaultRepeatType percent"

than to come up with a shorthand using \etc themselves. That's the problem with general constructions: You have to see/understand/discover/be shown to what they can specialise. But of course there's the drawback of having too many specialised syntax constructions: If there's a command for everything, no one can remember the right tool for anything.

So I agree that this just boils down to a matter of documentation and of making \etc and its possible applications appear prominently in the learning manual as well as the notation reference. I'll try to make myself useful there.

 One reason \etc is so great is that you
can use it in many different cases without thinking too much
or writing a single line in an esoteric, err, not very
commonly spoken programming language.

Absolutely. It's an incredibly elegant tool.


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