LilyPond, MuseScore, and More Software News

It is hard to believe that a year has gone by since our last blog post.  Luckily this lack of posts does not reflect a lack of things that we should have been posting about.  So this will be the first of several posts summarizing some of what has been going on in the past year, in case you missed any of it over on our Forum.


Back in 2007 Kevin Dalley was working on adding support for chromatic-staff notation systems to LilyPond, a free, open-source music notation application.  He got busy with other things and we assumed that the code that he had finished had not made it into the official LilyPond application. Since then Mark Hanlon and Andrew Wagner pitched in to help work on this.

But fast forward to a month ago when Paul Morris stumbled upon the fact that much of Kevin’s code had already been included in the official LilyPond application by the LilyPond development team (particularly Neil Puttock and Han-Wen Nienhuys, our thanks to them!).  This means that LilyPond has the feature set to support chromatic-staff notation systems (and has had it for some time).  It is possible to remap the pitches on the staff chromatically, to change the staff line pattern, to customize note head shapes, and various other alternative notation tweaks.  Read more about it and see where things stand on the MNP’s LilyPond wiki page.

One of the patches that Kevin submitted to LilyPond just needs some refactoring and documentation before it can be added to LilyPond.  It provides support for custom ledger lines that appear inside the staff, which is needed for many alternative notation systems. If anyone has the programming skills and would like to contribute, this would be a great way to do so! The patch is being tracked here as part of LilyPond development on Google code.


In other free, open-source music software news, MuseScore recently reached its 1.0 release. Although MuseScore does not really support chromatic-staff notation systems, Jan Braunstein worked out ways to use it to create sheet music for his alternative notation system (Chromatic Lyre Notation).  He posted some tips about how he did this on the MuseScore forums, and with his permission we have edited them and put them on the MNP’s new MuseScore page.

MuseScore is progressing quickly and already has support for percussion staves, so perhaps a future version will have the features needed to really support chromatic-staff notation systems.  See these feature requests: (1) Standard note entry and editing for percussion staves, (2) Customizing staff line positions, (3) Customizing note head shapes.

VexFlow and Belle, Bonne, Sage

VexFlow and Belle, Bonne, Sage are interesting new open-source projects with the potential to be used with alternative music notation systems. VexFlow is a web-based API (in JavaScript) for rendering music notation and guitar tablature in a website or web application.  Belle, Bonne, Sage is a vector-graphics library for music notation. They are listed on our Software page.

Ambrose Piano Tabs Music Editing Program

This free-to-download (but not open-source) application for Ambrose Piano Tabs came to our attention.  It is also listed on our Software page.

Lost Email

It recently came to our attention that our email provider was not delivering some legitimate email messages because it was being too aggressive with its spam filters.  We have changed our settings so this should no longer be a problem in the future.  If you emailed us and did not  hear back, then this is probably why.  Our apologies, and please contact us again.

Look for future posts on the notation systems added to our site this past year (and some other systems that still need to be added), as well as some other things we have yet to blog about!

5 thoughts on “LilyPond, MuseScore, and More Software News

  1. I’ve got programming skills. If I wanted to help out with your software projects,
    how do I get started?
    BTW, I’ve done some preliminary work toward using text-mode software for music notation–see my website

  2. Hi Joe, Thanks for your comment! If you wanted to help out I think the “lowest hanging fruit” would be putting the finishing touches on Kevin’s patch for LilyPond that lets you place ledger lines between regular staff lines. A lot of alternative notation systems use ledger lines like this, so not having this feature limits how far we can go with LilyPond.

    You can see Kevin’s patch and the discussion about it at the link to LilyPond on Google code in the blog post above. To find out what exactly still needs to be done with it, we would need to contact the LilyPond developers and ask them. I’ve been in contact with Neil Puttock briefly, and he seems to know the most about it.

    See also the LilyPond page on the MNP Wiki for more on using LilyPond with alternative notation systems.

    Feel free to continue this discussion over on the MNP Forum (Google Group), or you can email me about it.

    By the way, nice work getting alternative notation working in Excel and Word! Looks like you’ve made good progress there, as shown on your site.

  3. Thank for the information. I am glad you are updating your blog now, i will back following your blog. Keep posting good content mate.

  4. MuseScore seemed to be a good website for open source music. I actually just stumbled upon this website because I am looking for open source music. Thank you for the recommendation.


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