Composing Music

LilyPond – music formatter software

LilyPond is an automated engraving system. It formats music beautifully and automatically, and has a friendly syntax for its input files. One of LilyPond’s major goals is to produce scores that are engraved with traditional layout rules, reflecting the era when scores were engraved by hand.

LilyPond takes ASCII input, which you can produce in your favorite environment, quickly and comfortably. No more messing with the mouse. The input contains all the information, so there is no need to remember complex command sequences. Simply save an input for later reference.

LilyPond is a compiler: the music is encoded in a .ly file. When LilyPond is run on it the input is transformed into music notation, which is written to disk as PostScript or SVG and postprocessed to PDF and PNG.

LilyPond does not contain its own graphical user interface for the creation of scores.

Features include:

  • Automated high-quality formatting
    • Automatic spacing, line breaking and page breaking.
    • Handling of polyphonic collisions for notes, dots, and rests.
    • Automatic placement of accidentals, beams, slurs, ties, based on optimal scoring algorithms.
    • No user interaction necessary during running.
    • The Feta font has been tailored especially for LilyPond.
    • Clashes between lyrics, notes, and chords are resolved and slurs and beams are sloped, automatically.
  • All style settings, font designs and algorithms have been inspired by the finest hand-engraved music.
  • Put fragments of music into texts with without cutting and pasting pictures. Integrate music into LaTeX or HTML, or add music to with ooolilypond.
  • Parts and score are made from the same source file, so every change always gets into both score and parts.
  • Combine staves in scores and insert cue-notes from other parts.
  • Extensible design.
  • 300 page user manual and over 400 example files.
  • No arbitrary limits: unlimited number of staves, voices, measures, lengths of texts, etc.
  • Pluggable output backend: output in EPS, PDF, PNG, PostScript, MIDI, SVG.
  • Lyrics in any language.
  • Text-based input with versatile music language.
  • Programmable and extensible with built-in LISP interpreter.
  • Supported by many other programs RoseGarden, NoteEdit (surpassed by Canorus), Canorus, PowerTab Tools, Denemo, plugin.
  • Support for kievan square notation.
  • Two alternative methods for bar numbering can be set.
  • Imports ABC, ETF (Finale), MIDI, Music XML, Noteworthy Composer.
  • Editors with special LilyPond support Emacs, Vim, JEdit, WordPress.

Support: Manuals
Developer: Christian Schoenebeck and contributors
License: GNU General Public License v2.0


LilyPond is written in C++ and Scheme. Learn C++ with our recommended free books and free tutorials. Learn Scheme with our recommended free books and free tutorials.

Return to Make Music | Return to Scorewriters

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