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Lilypond Vs. Abc?

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I just stumbled across a reference to the LilyPond software (http://lilypond.org/), which I had not heard of before.
I had a look, and I'm thinking of installing it for a trial run. However, looking at the documentation, I get the idea that it
is more (a lot more?) 'verbose' than ABC (the syntax seems to be very TeX-like - I never really got on with TeX/LaTeX).
I also get the impression that it has less functionality than (say) EasyABC.
The few references to LilyPond on this forum refer to it as an aside in other threads.
Are there any users in this forum who could comment on its functionality, ease-of-use and suitability for producing
simple scores and sound files as compared to ABC? Are there any repositories of tunes on t'Internet in LilyPond
format as there are for ABC? Pros and cons?
Thank you in advance.


x-posted to melodeon.net

Edited by lachenal74693
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Lilypond vs. ABC: it depends of what you want to do. If you want to exchange relatively simple music with other players ABC, is the way to go. (abc2ps does a good job producing staff notation out of ABC and there are extension for multi-voice music.) If you want to publish high-quality music engravings, liliypond is the way to go.


I sort-of grew up with TeX/LaTeX so I find the lilipond notation natural. I does have a learning curve.





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I think the aims are a bit different. Lilypond is a program that 'engraves' music for display/print, which happens to read a text based description of the score instead of a graphical WYSIWYG editor. The comparison with TeX/LaTeX is apt. See also MusiXTeX. ABC is a simple human-readable text format for sharing music online, and there are various programs that can read it and engrave it for display/print or produce a MIDI performance. LilyPond is probably a better choice than ABC if your aim is to make beautiful scores for a songbook or something.

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Mutopia is a repository for lilypond music; the idea is to transcribe public domain music into lilypond so it's focused more on (older) classical music.

The other repository that I can think of is MuseScore - -- I think that this application uses lilypond "under the hood", but is its own music engraving program.

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I'm constantly amazed by just how good abc is, and how it easily copes with some quite complex classical arrangements. the %%staves command is an extremely powerful tool in multi-voice settings and I also like the fact that I am able to do quite unusual (or unmusical!) things, without it correcting me. It's also great that it has become the standard form for communication and transmission of tunes and is so light on memory. I did try lilypond a few years ago, but it seemed to require a level of computer knowledge that was beyond me.



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Thanks to all those who responded to my query about LilyPond on melodeon.net and concertina.net.

I didn't express any strong opinons about LilyPond in my OP because: 1) I didn't want

to influence the opinions of any responders; 2) I hadn't tried it yet.

All the responders to my original post made points which mirrored my own thoughts, which

have largely been re-inforced/confirmed by my little experiment (see below).

I've now installed LilyPond and tried it with a couple of very simple files.

The program installed with no problems.

Tunes can be input via a 'dedicated' editor, or via an editor of your choice. In fact the

'dedicated' editor isn't much different from an ordinary editor. There doesn't seem to be

a full-blown GUI (as with Musescore) or a flexible multi-window interface (titles, score and

code, as with EasyABC). In that sense, LilyPond seems a little basic but it is a dedicated

music typesetting language, not a 'quick and easy' tune create/edit/playback utility.

The user interface seems to be via either:

1) Simple 'drag and drop' of a .ly file onto the LilyPond icon on the desktop.

2) A command line interface within the Windows Command Prompt window.

Both worked and I was able to produce PDF scores, and (with a little fiddling about) MIDI files.

The syntax of what really is a music typesetting language is very verbose and looks a lot

like C/Python/TeX/LaTeX/w.h.y. The 'verbosity factor' in the simple file(s) I tried was about

5:1 - that is, in LilyPond, it took about 25 lines to specify what I could specify in about

5 lines in ABC. I don't think that's really a fair test; that factor would surely drop in

larger files, but IMO probably not to a value of 1:1. Unlike with ABC, the files aren't really

'readable' by a human being.

[Later edit: Yup! I got this down to about 2.5:1 on 'moderate' sized files. Still not tempted though.]

I didn't take it much further than that.

I suppose the real clincher is that in the 3.5 years since signing up to melodeon.net and

concertina.net, I've never seen a tune posted in LilyPond format(*). I've only ever seen tunes

posted in ABC format, so ABC for me, although I occasionally use MuseScore for specific tasks

which (as far as I can see) are not catered for in any of the popular ABC utilities (EasyABC,

ABCExplorer, etc.).


(*) I didn't know about the LilyPond and MuseScore tune repositories - thank you for pointing

these out.

Edited by lachenal74693
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  • 2 weeks later...

Nice summary. Be interested to know what things required you to use Musescore.


Thank you guv'nor - we do our best... :)


Apropos MuseScore. I use it:


1) to edit tunes 'on the fly', ie: using the GUI to move a note up/down on the staff and then to listen immediately

to the effect. I do this when I have a photocopy of a photocopy of a hand-written score which has been through

the washing machine twice - they are sometimes a little difficult to read... :)

2) similarly when I start feeling a little cocky and start editing an existing score with my own 'variations'

3) on the odd occasion when I want to produce a 'decent' sound file(*) - MuseScore allows me to use a sampled

concertina 'sound font' to do this (currently maintained by Don Taylor of this parish).


[Later edit: I get a score into MuseScore by exporting an XML file from EasyABC and then importing the XML

file into MuseScore - because I can't be *rsed to install the ABC add-on - clunky, eh?!]


I don't use it for anything more sophisticated than that, I'm afraid, though I'm very well aware that it is capable

of much, much more when used by 'real' musicians as opposed to numpties like myself.




(*) I generally use MIDI files generated by EasyABC as 'aides-oreille' when learning a tune. I know that the

consensus of 'the body of the kirk' is probably that MIDI files are not worth the paper they are printed on, but by

choosing the MIDI instrument carefully, and adding a few chords, they can be made to be at least 'acceptable',

(IMO). You can do more - a couple of days ago, I produced a spoof Uilleann pipe solo using a tune from 'The Brendan

Voyage'. The killer factor was to add drones (which caused a slight hiccup till I got the syntax sorted). It sounds

almost real(ish)...

Edited by lachenal74693
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