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.

Screenshot of Symphytum Personal Information Manager

Free easy-to-use Personal Information Manager SYMPHYTUM helps you get organized

Indie Publishing Friends, Reviews, Writing

I’ve been CRAVING a virtual Rolodex/dossier box/index card program to help me organize things (like my book info)…today I stumbled upon a BEAUTIFUL and EASY TO USE Personal Information Manager (PIM) that let me do exactly what I wanted quickly, with little fuss.

It’s called SYMPHYTUM, it’s free for Windows, Linux, and Mac, and I love it already. Screenshot of Symphytum Personal Information Manager Each record starts as a blank screen, but you add the fields you want where you want them. Simple pick-an-option-then-drag-and-drop. I used a lot of “text” fields for my book page here, but the “date” field will pull up a calendar from which you can choose dates, and clicking the globe icon in a “web link” field will take you to the URL you entered in there. I’m sure there are other cool features.

You can also view all the records in a table, which makes things easy to see.

Two tricksy things:

  1.  When moving fields, they switch places with each other (when in a column I usually wanted it to bump the one I was replacing down)
  2. I couldn’t figure out how to resize my image at first, but after some experimenting I discovered the procedure: make the frame as big as you want, then get the image. If it’s not to your liking, resize the frame and get the image again.

My wishlist:

  1. It’d be nice if they had a toggle for “field-add” mode so I don’t accidently move things around when I’m just entering stuff (though I don’t think I’ve done that…yet.)
  2. I stumbled on a keyboard shortcut or two, but I don’t see ’em listed anywhere.

The next software program I want to get for writing is TrackerBox (which tracks sales across different vendors) but until then, Symphytum will work well in helping me keep ISBNs and the like straight.


Holy Grail Achieved! Finally found my replacement for the TUL MARKER PEN!!!

V Razor Point pen next to its box packaging

My new favorite pens

If you miss the now-discontinued TUL Marker Pens, I may have found you a replacement.

I’m an author who writes by hand A LOT. I can fill 100 pages of a Leuchtturm Notebook (Leuchtturm Master Ruled Notebook A4 Plus, Black) in a month. So I need a long-lasting, smooth-writing pen that can keep up with the speed of my story-brain.

In the past, I relied upon my beloved TUL MARKER PENS, but when OfficeMax suddenly Disapparated them off shelves a few years back, I was lost. I couldn’t go back to mere ballpoint pens or even gel pens; the marker tips had a way of making my handwriting look *fantastic*.
So I went on a hunt.
I previously bought and reviewed the following: Pilot Razor Point Marker Stick Pens, Ultra Fine Point, Black Ink, Dozen Box (11001) (nib wore down too fast), BIC Z4+ Roller Pens, Fine Point, 2 Pens (Z4CP21) (no soft marker tip, a little pricey, but nice for art), and Pilot Extra Fine Point Permanent Markers, Black Ink, Dozen Box (44102) (perfect for slick surfaces and baggies, but terrible bleedthrough on paper).
I was a little hesitant when I bought a box of these–“razor point” “extra fine”? My writing’s never looked good in needle-sharp lines. But the reviews were strong and I felt like I was running out of marker-tipped options.

To my utter delight, I found these pens to be the perfect replacement for the TULs. The nibs outlast the ink. They’re smooth on the Leuchtturm paper. There’s no bleedthrough interfering with my using both sides of the paper. And while they’re not waterproof (sometimes I spill my water bottle, what can I say?), after I daubed up the excess water, the writing was still legible which is all I ask for.

But the factor that makes these pens a match in office supply heaven for me is there is a LOT of ink in these things. I received my first box at the beginning of 2017. It’s the end of July, 2017. I *might* have just used up all 12 of them (though I’m not sure not sure because I bought two more boxes and sourced a couple out of there). Again, I’m writing some 200 pages, front and back, every two months, so that’s a LOT OF mileage.

Could a few things be improved? Sure. I think the barrel could feel more comfortable. And I miss the bright yellow tip available in the Pilot Razor Point Marker Stick Pens–not just stylish, but helpful in finding a pen in the dark of one’s purse.

But this price point and durability render those arguments moot. If you, too, are missing the feel of the TUL Marker Pens, grab a box of these. I think you’ll find what you’ve been missing.

(Originally reviewed at Amazon)

Yet another set of stupid Word tricks


First, if you enjoy tabs, you’ll love this free add-on that lets you have tabs in Word, Excel and PowerPoint (works up until Office 2013):


Second, if you’re like me and occasionally have multiple drafts of the same story running around, here’s an easy trick to differentiate them (in Office 2010 anyway):

On the Ribbon, hit Page Layout, then Page Color.

There!  Won’t affect your printing unless you change things around in Options.

Now you can tell at a glance which version you’re working on!  And perhaps prevent eyestrain!

Finally, Control+Click selects a whole sentence at once.

The things you learn before 8AM on a Thursday!

Two Tips for Writers

Muse at 11, Writing

First, the general tip:  If your next scene isn’t starting off right, it might mean your last scene isn’t finished yet.  Take the scene a little further: it might launch you right into your next scene.

Second: When you’re trying to find out different members of royalty are addressed, you’ll have better look looking up “royal stylings” or “royal styles” than “royal forms of address.”  Took me months to discover this!  It also helps if there’s a monarch alive with the title you’re writing for (in my case, I had to go to Denmark.)