LilyPond – Open Source Music Printing

FugueFragmentThere are a bunch of musicians (and I am including students, teachers and dilletantes under that heading) who actually READ music and the quality of the music they read can range from 29th generation photocopy to Store bought “no you cant borrow it” pristine to handwritten in ebony black, hand mixed calligraphers ink containg exotic gums and resins from around the world on hand made paper from the finest materials. OK, ok. I am making up the last one, it’s usually a chicken scratch half working biro on the back of a cigarette pack or beer coaster. But you get the point. Now some of the more awake amongst you will be aware of Finale and a bevy of other PC based music writers, and rightfully point out that these programs are available for an amount not dissimilar to putting a small child through the Victorian Education system from kindergarten to the end of university (think LOTS).
“Well spotted” I say except for one teeny tiny objection… they are musicians. THEY HAVE NO MONEY.

Now to redress this the Open Source Community has leapt to the front and made available (for a price even musicians can afford i.e. its free) LilyPond music printing

We will now start the quote from the hype machine…
“LilyPond is an automated engraving system. It formats music beautifully and automatically, and has a friendly syntax for its input files. Best of all. It is Open Source Software (‘open source’).

Features of LilyPond

    Music language input.
    The input is done in the form of a textual music language.
    Entry may be done with the text editor of your choice, and using the national language of your choice.
    The ASCII input language can integrate with TeX, HTML and Texinfo, thus allowing musicological treatises to be written from a single source.
    The music and its layout are strictly separated, so score and parts (possibly in different styles and keys) and scores can be generated from the same source, and changes always take effect in both places.
    The output can be improved by upgrading the program.
    Pieces can be printed in different (typographical) house styles, or according to different notational conventions.”

and as Yul Brynner once wisely observed “Etcetera. Etcetera.”

Now the spiffy thing is that it runs on MacOS X and Linux (lots of flavours, and I believe its included in Ubuntu) and Windows.
It Is seriously well supported with a lot of documentation and you can read all about it at their site.

So why would you stop using your 134th generation pirated copy of Finale? Well for one the moral high ground, you will be able to sneer at those hypocrites in the music industry who decry “pirates” while having a hard drive full of copped material.

The program, as noted above is pretty well OS ecumenical. You dont get tied down to any one machine (some may not see this as a plus… I do).

You put the “commercial” manufacturers on notice to lift their game.

The biggy though is that from the samples I saw, it looks beautiful. The output of Lilypond is really first rate and legible.

Go and have a look. It really is worth it.


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