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"repeat" slashes and the nature of lilypond

From: wintryblue
Subject: "repeat" slashes and the nature of lilypond
Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2005 02:24:39 -0500

Lilypond makes many assumptions about musical symbols, and notation in
general, that are very rigidly tied to classical conceptions of music.
A music notation program should be flexible about this sort of thing,
since most people using it will probably be typesetting contemporary
forms of music rather than classical scores.

Take, for example, the "repeat" slash marking. Lilypond seems to
assume that it is primarily a repeat marker. This is incorrect. In
most instances in contemporary music, the slash markers are used
through measures to indicate chordal accompaniment, "comping", or
improvisation. A quick glance at any orchestral score for a musical,
or a jazz lead sheet, would confirm this fact.

There should be a way to just get the slash markings in a measure, one
after another, without specifying any repeat parameters, Just the

I know that you can do things like

     sl = {
       \override NoteHead #'style = #'slash
       \override Stem #'transparent = ##t

and then specify the note "b". But why must we jump through all these
hoops? Why can't this be the default behavior, so we can just type
\slash or something of that sort?

The strange thing is that Lilypond seems to account for some very
unusual notation symbols. Take the section 5.14.5: "Improvisation" in
the manual. "Improvisation is sometimes denoted with slashed note
heads." In all my years of playing jazz, I have never seen such a
thing. Now, it's nice that there exists such an obscure feature should
someone need it, but for Lilypond to have that but not be able to
specify generic slashes for improvisation seems strange to me.

The same thing goes for jazz articulations and such. There exists
hacks to get certain symbols that don't exist in the font set. Why
can't those "hacks" be made part of Lilypond for the time being, so we
don't have to dig through many pages to try to figure how to get that
little thing we want? I understand Lilypond is a program by
programmers for programmers, and like most FOSS projects disdains such
things as "ease of use" and "accessibility", but these are small
matters that could be easily implemented.

If you think about it, most scores that people typeset with notation
programs, be it Sibelius, Finale, Lilypond, etc., are either rock/pop,
or contemporary classical/jazz pieces. Because older scores already
exist and can be bought, and people who typeset music on their home
computers are usually composers are musicians performing modern music.

Now, I am aware that the authors of Lilypond come from a very
traditional music background, and probably have very little experience
with modern forms of music. (The antiquated chord symbol chart is
probably better proof of this than anything.*) Unlike others I don't
complain about the lack of a "jazz font", but one should note that for
a notation program to typeset good jazz/pop music, you actually don't
need that many features! Unlike classical music there isn't a need for
such a wide range of symbols.

If Lilypond were to get certain things right, like:

- chord symbols that have a wide enough range and adequately reflect
what most jazz/pop musicians use today on lead sheets. I've never met
anyone who uses the ignatzek system. (European bias, perhaps? I look
at the ignatzek chart and go, "#7 for major? what?!?!?") Any "real
book" system would do, really.


Either way, the chord symbols should not be tied like they are current
to actual NOTES. The symbols should just be that, symbols. No
connection to notes. You want Csus4/b9/b13 whatever, you get it, no
matter if it makes sense or not. They should just be a bunch of
letters and symbols you get to pick and put up in whatever order you
want on the top of the staff. The current system of saying "these
notes make up this symbol" is antithetical to how any musicians thinks
about chord symbols.

- jazz articulations (I understand these will be in, eventually)
- easier way to notate rhythm symbols like for chord comping, or
slashed noteheads that "float" above the staff.

Now, I could go on, but what I'm saying is that the feature set needed
for Lilypond to be "complete" regarding contemporary music is smaller
than that needed for classical music (unless you're talking
experimental forms, in which case you'll go crazy). With only a few
improvements, Lilypond could easily be the best typesetting for these
kinds of music.

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