A frequent MuseScore user reviews LilyPond with Frescobaldi

Music, Music Composition, Reviews

Once I got into the flow of text entry, I *really* wanted to like LilyPond (and Frescobaldi). And when I say flow, I mean the full-on Csíkszentmihályi experience.

Black kitty with white paws typing like the wind! (From Aaron's Animals on YouTube)

Pictured: me inputting musical notes in LilyPond

Never in all my years of writing and adapting music in MuseScore did note entry go so fast. The notes flew out of my fingers.

When done, I pressed the little green lily pad button in Frescobaldi to see my plain text turned into beautifully-engraved music in the tiled window just next to my text editor.

If I had never coded before in HTML and CSS, I’d say it was like magic.Screenshot of an old version of MOUNTAIN BELLS, being worked on in Frescobaldi

That’s the promise of the free program LilyPond: beautifully engraved sheet music made with fast (text-based) input. And when you pair it with the free program Frescobaldi, the “coding” becomes close to What You See Is What You Get, once you hit that lily pad button. Plus, Frescobaldi played the music back to me.

Yes. Once I got used to it, the text input was MIGHTYFAST and I loved it and wished it would go on forever.

BUT I don’t think it’s a good tool for piano sheet music.

Because 1) setting up the right hand section in paragraphs in separate-but-parallel sections to the left hand got old quickly, despite Frescobaldi highlighting which text part corresponded to which printed notes. This was extra apparent when adding new notes and phrases in the middle of completed measures. One note gets shifted, then—bazoom!— both staves are misaligned and it’s very heard-wrapsy to fix it all on the text side.

2) Though the documentation claims there’s a way to set up staves one atop another, I just couldn’t figure it out. And folks, I just taught myself how to typeset a novel in Scribus from the ground floor. If you look up “self-taught” I’m at least in an example sentence.

While shifting notes and phrases around can also be a pain in MuseScore, it’s a nuisance-pain, not an MC-Escher-word-puzzle-being-solved-through-a-laparoscope pain. Mess up in MuseScore, you can directly cut, paste, and adjust on the score. In LilyPond, you have to go hunting through text, run the engraving process again, then pray you aligned everything correctly.

If input speed were my sole consideration, I might try using LilyPond and Frescobaldi for banjo tabs, or something else with only one staff.

But my understanding is MuseScore can do tablature too—and editing a multi-stave piano score makes far more sense to me in that program than it does LilyPond.

Sorry, folks. For this piano composer, MuseScore is just easier to handle.

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