LilyPond — Usage

This file explains how to execute the programs distributed with LilyPond version 2.19.26. In addition, it suggests some “best practices” for efficient usage.

For more information about how this manual fits with the other documentation, or to read this manual in other formats, see Manuals.

If you are missing any manuals, the complete documentation can be found at

1. Running lilypond

This chapter details the technicalities of running LilyPond.

1.1 Normal usage

Most users run LilyPond through a GUI; if you have not done so already, please read the Tutorial. If you use an alternate editor to write lilypond files, see the documentation for that program.

1.2 Command-line usage

This section contains extra information about using LilyPond on the command-line. This may be desirable to pass extra options to the program. In addition, there are certain extra ‘helper’ programs (such as midi2ly) which are only available on the command-line.

By ‘command-line’, we mean the command line in the operating system. Windows users might be more familiar with the terms ‘DOS shell’ or ‘command shell’. MacOS X users might be more familiar with the terms ‘terminal’ or ‘console’. Some additional setup is required for MacOS X users; please see MacOS X.

Describing how to use this part of an operating system is outside the scope of this manual; please consult other documentation on this topic if you are unfamiliar with the command-line.

Invoking lilypond

The lilypond executable may be called as follows from the command line.

lilypond [option]… file

When invoked with a filename that has no extension, the ‘.ly’ extension is tried first. To read input from stdin, use a dash (-) for file.

When ‘’ is processed it will produce ‘’ and ‘filename.pdf’ as output. Several files can be specified; they will each be processed independently. 1

If ‘’ contains more than one \book block, then the rest of the scores will be output in numbered files, starting with ‘filename-1.pdf’. In addition, the value of output-suffix will be inserted between the basename and the number. An input file containing

#(define output-suffix "violin")
\score { … }
#(define output-suffix "cello")
\score { … }

will output base-violin.pdf’ and base-cello-1.pdf’.

Using LilyPond with standard shell features

Since LilyPond is a command line application, features of the ‘shell’ used for calling LilyPond can also be put to good use.

For example:

lilypond *.ly

will process all LilyPond files in the current directory.

Redirecting the console output (e.g. to a file) may also be useful:

lilypond 1> stdout.txt

lilypond 2> stderr.txt

lilypond &> all.txt

Redirects ‘normal’ output, ‘errors’ only or ‘everything’, respectively, to a text file. Consult the documentation for your particular shell, Command (Windows), Terminal or Console applications (MacOS X) to see if output redirection is supported or if the syntax is different.

The following example searches and processes all input files in the current directory and all directories below it recursively. The output files will be located in the same directory that the command was run in, rather than in the same directories as the original input files.

find . -name '*.ly' -exec lilypond '{}' \;

This should also work for MacOS X users.

A Windows user would run;

forfiles /s /M *.ly /c "cmd /c lilypond @file"

entering these commands in a command prompt usually found under Start > Accessories > Command Prompt or for version 8 users, by typing in the search window ‘command prompt’.

Alternatively, an explicit path to the top-level of your folder containing all the sub-folders that have input files in them can be stated using the /p option;

forfiles /s /p C:\Documents\MyScores /M *.ly /c "cmd /c lilypond @file"

If there are spaces in the path to the top-level folder, then the whole path needs to be inside double quotes;

forfiles /s /p "C:\Documents\My Scores" /M *.ly /c "cmd /c lilypond @file"

Basic command line options for LilyPond

The following options are supported:

-b, --bigpdfs

PDF files generated will be much larger than normal (due to little or no font optimization). However, if two or more PDF files are included within pdftex, xetex or luatex documents they can then be processed further via ghostscript (merging duplicated font data) resulting in significantly smaller PDF files.

lilypond -b myfile

Then run ghostscript;

gs -q -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -o gsout.pdf myfile.pdf can then be used to further optimize the size of file; --use-multivalent=no gsout.pdf final.pdf
-d, --define-default=var=val

See Advanced command line options for LilyPond.

-e, --evaluate=expr

Evaluate the Scheme expr before parsing any ‘.ly’ files. Multiple ‘-e’ options may be given, they will be evaluated sequentially.

The expression will be evaluated in the guile-user module, so if you want to use definitions in expr, use

lilypond -e '(define-public a 42)'

on the command-line, and include

#(use-modules (guile-user))

at the top of the .ly file.

Note: Windows users must use double quotes instead of single quotes.

-f, --format=format

which formats should be written. Choices for format are ps, pdf, and png.

Example: lilypond -fpng

-h, --help

Show a summary of usage.

-H, --header=FIELD

Dump a header field to file ‘BASENAME.FIELD’.

-i, --init=file

Set init file to file (default: ‘’).

-I, --include=directory

Add directory to the search path for input files.

Multiple -I options may be given. The search will start in the first defined directory, and if the file to be included is not found the search will continue in subsequent directories.

-j, --jail=user,group,jail,dir

Run lilypond in a chroot jail.

The ‘--jail’ option provides a more flexible alternative to ‘-dsafe’, when LilyPond formatting is being provided via a web server, or whenever LilyPond executes commands sent by external sources (see Advanced command line options for LilyPond).

It works by changing the root of lilypond to jail just before starting the actual compilation process. The user and group are then changed to match those provided, and the current directory is changed to dir. This setup guarantees that it is not possible (at least in theory) to escape from the jail. Note that for ‘--jail’ to work, lilypond must be run as root, which is usually accomplished in a safe way using sudo.

Setting up a jail can be a relatively complex matter, as we must be sure that LilyPond is able to find whatever it needs to compile the source inside the jail itself. A typical chroot jail will comprise the following steps:

Setting up a separate filesystem

A separate filesystem should be created for LilyPond, so that it can be mounted with safe options such as noexec, nodev, and nosuid. In this way, it is impossible to run executables or to write directly to a device from LilyPond. If you do not want to create a separate partition, just create a file of reasonable size and use it to mount a loop device. A separate filesystem also guarantees that LilyPond cannot write more space than it is allowed.

Setting up a separate user

A separate user and group (say, lily/lily) with low privileges should be used to run LilyPond inside the jail. There should be a single directory writable by this user, which should be passed in dir.

Preparing the jail

LilyPond needs to read a number of files while running. All these files are to be copied into the jail, under the same path they appear in the real root filesystem. The entire content of the LilyPond installation (e.g., ‘/usr/share/lilypond’) should be copied.

If problems arise, the simplest way to trace them down is to run LilyPond using strace, which will allow you to determine which files are missing.

Running LilyPond

In a jail mounted with noexec it is impossible to execute any external program. Therefore LilyPond must be run with a backend that does not require any such program. As we have already mentioned, it must be run with superuser privileges (which, of course, it will lose immediately), possibly using sudo. It is also good practice to limit the number of seconds of CPU time LilyPond can use (e.g., using ulimit -t), and, if your operating system supports it, the amount of memory that can be allocated. Also see LilyPond in chroot jail.

-l, --loglevel=LEVEL

Set the verbosity of the console output to LEVEL. Possible values are:


No output at all, not even error messages.


Only error messages, no warnings or progress messages.


Warnings and error messages, no progress.


Basic progress messages (success), warnings and errors.


All progress messages, warnings and errors.

INFO (default)

Progress messages, warnings, errors and further execution information.


All possible messages, including verbose debug output.

-o, --output=FILE or FOLDER

Set the default output file to FILE or, if a folder with that name exists, direct the output to FOLDER, taking the file name from the input file. The appropriate suffix will be added (e.g. .pdf for pdf) in both cases.


Generate PostScript.


Generate pictures of each page, in PNG format. This implies ‘--ps’. The resolution in DPI of the image may be set with


Generate PDF. This implies ‘--ps’.

-v, --version

Show version information.

-V, --verbose

Be verbose: show full paths of all files read, and give timing information.

-w, --warranty

Show the warranty with which GNU LilyPond comes. (It comes with NO WARRANTY!)

Advanced command line options for LilyPond


This sets the equivalent internal Scheme function to value.


If a value is not supplied, then the default value is used. The prefix no- may be added to option-name to switch ‘off’ an option, e.g.


is the same as


The following are supported along with their respective default values:

anti-alias-factor1Render at higher resolution (using given factor) and scale down result to prevent ‘jaggies’ in PNG images.
aux-files#tCreate .tex, .texi, .count files in the EPS backend.
backendpsSelect backend. Postscript files (default) include TTF, Type1 and OTF fonts. No subsetting of these fonts is done. Using ‘oriental’ character sets can lead to very large files.
epsEncapsulated PostScript. This dumps every page (system) as a separate ‘EPS’ file, without fonts, and as one collated ‘EPS’ file with all pages (systems) including fonts. Used as default by lilypond-book.
nullDo not output a printed score; has the same effect as -dno-print-pages.
svgScalable Vector Graphics. This creates a single SVG file, without embedded fonts, for every page of output. It is recommended to install the Century Schoolbook fonts, included with your LilyPond installation, for optimal rendering. Under UNIX, simply copy these fonts from the LilyPond directory (typically ‘/usr/share/lilypond/VERSION/fonts/otf/’) to ‘~/.fonts/’. There is also an option svg-woff (below) for use of woff font files in the SVG backend.
scmDump of the raw, internal Scheme-based drawing commands.
check-internal-types#fCheck every property assignment for types.
clip-systems#fExtract music fragments out of a score. This requires that the clip-regions function has been defined within the \layout block. See Extracting fragments of music. No fragments are extracted though if used with the ‘-dno-print-pages’ option.
datadirPrefix for data files (read-only).
debug-gc#fDump memory debugging statistics.
debug-gc-assert-parsed-dead#fFor memory debugging: Ensure that all references to parsed objects are dead. This is an internal option, and is switched on automatically for `-ddebug-gc'.
debug-lexer#fDebug the flex lexer.
debug-page-breaking-scoring#fDump scores for many different page breaking configurations.
debug-parser#fDebug the bison parser.
debug-property-callbacks#fDebug cyclic callback chains.
debug-skylines#fDebug skylines.
delete-intermediate-files#tDelete the unusable, intermediate .ps files created during compilation.
dump-cpu-profile#fDump timing information (system-dependent).
dump-profile#fDump memory and time information for each file.
dump-signatures#fDump output signatures of each system. Used for regression testing.
eps-box-padding#fPad left edge of the output EPS bounding box by the given amount (in mm).
gs-load-fonts#fLoad fonts via Ghostscript.
gs-load-lily-fonts#fLoad only the LilyPond fonts via Ghostscript.
gui#fRuns silently and redirect all output to a log file.

Note to Windows users: By default lilypond.exe outputs all progress information to the command window, lilypond-windows.exe does not and returns a prompt, with no progress information, immediately at the command line. The ‘-dgui’ option can be used in this case to redirect output to a log file.

help#fShow this help.
include-book-title-preview#tInclude book titles in preview images.
include-eps-fonts#tInclude fonts in separate-system EPS files.
include-settings#fInclude file for global settings, this is included before the score is processed.
job-count#fProcess in parallel, using the given number of jobs.
log-file#f [file]If string FOO is given as a second argument, redirect output to the log file FOO.log.
max-markup-depth1024Maximum depth for the markup tree. If a markup has more levels, assume it will not terminate on its own, print a warning and return a null markup instead.
midi-extension"midi"Set the default file extension for MIDI output file to given string.
music-strings-to-paths#fConvert text strings to paths when glyphs belong to a music font.
paper-size\"a4\"Set default paper size. Note the string must be enclosed in escaped double quotes.
pixmap-formatpng16mSet GhostScript’s output format for pixel images.
point-and-click#tAdd ‘point & click’ links to PDF and SVG output. See Point and click.
preview#fCreate preview images in addition to normal output.

This option is supported by all backends; pdf, png, ps, eps and svg, but not scm. It generates an output file, in the form myFile.preview.extension, containing the titles and the first system of music. If \book or \bookpart blocks are used, the titles of \book, \bookpart or \score will appear in the output, including the first system of every \score block if the \paper variable print-all-headers is set to #t.

To suppress the usual output, use the ‘-dprint-pages’ or ‘-dno-print-pages’ options according to your requirements.

print-pages#tGenerate full pages, the default. ‘-dno-print-pages’ is useful in combination with ‘-dpreview’.
profile-property-accesses#fKeep statistics of get_property() function calls.
protected-scheme-parsing#tContinue when errors in inline scheme are caught in the parser. If set to #f, halt on errors and print a stack trace.
read-file-list#f [file]Specify name of a file which contains a list of input files to be processed.
relative-includes#fWhen processing an \include command, look for the included file relative to the current file (instead of the root file).
resolution101Set resolution for generating PNG pixmaps to given value (in dpi).
safe#fDo not trust the .ly input.

When LilyPond formatting is available through a web server, either the ‘--safe’ or the ‘--jail’ option MUST be passed. The ‘--safe’ option will prevent inline Scheme code from wreaking havoc, e.g,

#(s ystem "rm -rf /")  % too dangerous to write correctly
  c4^$(ly:gulp-file "/etc/passwd") % malicious but not destructive

The ‘-dsafe’ option works by evaluating in-line Scheme expressions in a special safe module. This is derived from GUILE ‘safe-r5rs’ module, but also adds a number of functions of the LilyPond API which are listed in ‘scm/safe-lily.scm’.

In addition, safe mode disallows \include directives and disables the use of backslashes in TeX strings. It is also not possible to import LilyPond variables into Scheme while in safe mode.

-dsafe’ does not detect resource overuse, so it is still possible to make the program hang indefinitely, for example by feeding cyclic data structures into the backend. Therefore, if using LilyPond on a publicly accessible webserver, the process should be limited in both CPU and memory usage.

Safe mode will prevent many useful LilyPond snippets from being compiled.

The ‘--jail’ is an even more secure alternative, but requires more work to set up. See Basic command line options for LilyPond.

separate-log-files#fFor input files,, etc. output log data to files FILE1.log, FILE2.log
show-available-fonts#fList available font names.
strict-infinity-checking#fForce a crash on encountering Inf and NaN floating point exceptions.
strip-output-dir#tDon’t use directories from input files while constructing output file names.
strokeadjust#fForce PostScript stroke adjustment. This option is mostly relevant when a PDF is generated from PostScript output (stroke adjustment is usually enabled automatically for low-resolution bitmap devices). Without this option, PDF previewers tend to produce widely inconsistent stem widths at resolutions typical for screen display. The option does not noticeably affect print quality and causes large file size increases in PDF files.
svg-woff#fUse woff font files in SVG backend.
trace-memory-frequency#fRecord Scheme cell usage this many times per second. Dump the results to FILE.stacks and FILE.graph.
trace-scheme-coverage#fRecord coverage of Scheme files in FILE.cov.
verbose#fVerbose output, i.e. loglevel at DEBUG (read-only).
warning-as-error#fChange all warning and ‘programming error’ messages into errors.

Environment variables

lilypond recognizes the following environment variables:


This specifies a directory where locale messages and data files will be looked up by default. The directory should contain subdirectories called ‘ly/’, ‘ps/’, ‘tex/’, etc.


This selects the language for the warning messages.


The default loglevel. If LilyPond is called without an explicit loglevel (i.e. no ‘--loglevel’ command line option), this value is used.


A variable, as a percentage, that tunes memory management behavior. A higher values means the program uses more memory, a smaller value means more CPU time is used. The default value is 70.

LilyPond in chroot jail

Setting up the server to run LilyPond in a chroot jail is a complicated task. The steps are listed below. Examples in the steps are from Ubuntu GNU/Linux, and may require the use of sudo as appropriate.

Example script for 32-bit Ubuntu 8.04

## defaults set here

# the prefix (without the leading slash!)
# the directory where lilypond is installed on the system

adduser $username
dd if=/dev/zero of=$loopfile bs=1k count=200000
mkdir $jaildir
losetup $loopdevice $loopfile
mkfs -t ext3 $loopdevice 200000
mount -t ext3 $loopdevice $jaildir
mkdir $jaildir/lilyhome
chown $username $jaildir/lilyhome
cd $jaildir

mkdir -p bin usr/bin usr/share usr/lib usr/share/fonts $lilyprefix tmp
chmod a+w tmp

cp -r -L $lilydir $lilyprefix
cp -L /bin/sh /bin/rm bin
cp -L /usr/bin/convert /usr/bin/gs usr/bin
cp -L /usr/share/fonts/truetype usr/share/fonts

# Now the library copying magic
for i in "$lilydir/usr/bin/lilypond" "$lilydir/usr/bin/guile" "/bin/sh"  \
  "/bin/rm" "/usr/bin/gs" "/usr/bin/convert"; do ldd $i | sed 's/.*=>  \
    \/\(.*\/\)\([^(]*\).*/mkdir -p \1 \&\& cp -L \/\1\2 \1\2/' | sed  \
      's/\t\/\(.*\/\)\(.*\) (.*)$/mkdir -p \1 \&\& cp -L \/\1\2 \1\2/'  \
        | sed '/.*=>.*/d'; done | sh -s

# The shared files for ghostscript...
      cp -L -r /usr/share/ghostscript usr/share
# The shared files for ImageMagick
      cp -L -r /usr/lib/ImageMagick* usr/lib

### Now, assuming that you have in /mnt/lilyloop/lilyhome,
### you should be able to run:
### Note that /$lilyprefix/bin/lilypond is a script, which sets the
### LD_LIBRARY_PATH - this is crucial
      /$lilyprefix/bin/lilypond -jlily,lily,/mnt/lilyloop,/lilyhome

1.3 Error messages

Different error messages can appear while compiling a file:


Something looks suspect. If you are requesting something out of the ordinary then you will understand the message, and can ignore it. However, warnings usually indicate that something is wrong with the input file.


Something is definitely wrong. The current processing step (parsing, interpreting, or formatting) will be finished, but the next step will be skipped.

Fatal error

Something is definitely wrong, and LilyPond cannot continue. This happens rarely. The most usual cause is misinstalled fonts.

Scheme error

Errors that occur while executing Scheme code are caught by the Scheme interpreter. If running with the verbose option (‘-V’ or ‘--verbose’) then a call trace of the offending function call is printed.

Programming error

There was some internal inconsistency. These error messages are intended to help the programmers and debuggers. Usually, they can be ignored. Sometimes, they come in such big quantities that they obscure other output.

Aborted (core dumped)

This signals a serious programming error that caused the program to crash. Such errors are considered critical. If you stumble on one, send a bug-report.

If warnings and errors can be linked to some part of the input file, then error messages have the following form

filename:lineno:columnno: message
offending input line

A line-break is inserted in the offending line to indicate the column where the error was found. For example, error: not a duration: 5
  { c'4 e'
           5 g' }

These locations are LilyPond’s best guess about where the warning or error occurred, but (by their very nature) warnings and errors occur when something unexpected happens. If you can’t see an error in the indicated line of your input file, try checking one or two lines above the indicated position.

Please note that diagnostics can be triggered at any point during the many stages of processing. For example if there are parts of the input that are processed multiple times (i.e. in midi and layout output), or if the same music variable is used in multiple contexts the same message may appear several times. Diagnostics produced at a ‘late’ stage (i.e bar checks) might also be issued multiple times.

More information about errors is given in Common errors.

1.4 Common errors

The error conditions described below occur often, yet the cause is not obvious or easily found. Once seen and understood, they are easily handled.

Music runs off the page

Music running off the page over the right margin or appearing unduly compressed is almost always due to entering an incorrect duration on a note, causing the final note in a measure to extend over the bar line. It is not invalid if the final note in a measure does not end on the automatically entered bar line, as the note is simply assumed to carry over into the next measure. But if a long sequence of such carry-over measures occurs the music can appear compressed or may flow off the page because automatic line breaks can be inserted only at the end of complete measures, i.e., where all notes end before or at the end of the measure.

Note: An incorrect duration can cause line breaks to be inhibited, leading to a line of highly compressed music or music which flows off the page.

The incorrect duration can be found easily if bar checks are used, see Bar and bar number checks.

If you actually intend to have a series of such carry-over measures you will need to insert an invisible bar line where you want the line to break. For details, see Bar lines.

An extra staff appears

If contexts are not created explicitly with \new or \context, they will be silently created as soon as a command is encountered which cannot be applied to an existing context. In simple scores the automatic creation of contexts is useful, and most of the examples in the LilyPond manuals take advantage of this simplification. But occasionally the silent creation of contexts can give rise to unexpected new staves or scores. For example, it might be expected that the following code would cause all note heads within the following staff to be colored red, but in fact it results in two staves with the note heads remaining the default black in the lower staff.

\override Staff.NoteHead.color = #red
\new Staff { a' }

[image of music]

This is because a Staff context does not exist when the override is processed, so one is implicitly created and the override is applied to it, but then the \new Staff command creates another, separate, staff into which the notes are placed. The correct code to color all note heads red is

\new Staff {
  \override Staff.NoteHead.color = #red

[image of music]

Error message Unbound variable %

This error message will appear at the bottom of the console output or log file together with a “GUILE signalled an error …” message every time a Scheme routine is called which (invalidly) contains a LilyPond rather than a Scheme comment.

LilyPond comments begin with a percent sign, (%), and must not be used within Scheme routines. Scheme comments begin with a semi-colon, (;).

Error message FT_Get_Glyph_Name

This error messages appears in the console output or log file if an input file contains a non-ASCII character and was not saved in UTF-8 encoding. For details, see Text encoding.

Warning staff affinities should only decrease

This warning can appear if there are no staves in the printed output, for example if there are just a ChordName context and a Lyrics context as in a lead sheet. The warning messages can be avoided by making one of the contexts behave as a staff by inserting

\override VerticalAxisGroup.staff-affinity = ##f

at its start. For details, see “Spacing of non-staff lines” in Flexible vertical spacing within systems.

Error message unexpected \new

A \score block must contain a single music expression. If instead it contains several \new Staff, \new StaffGroup or similar contexts introduced with \new without them being enclosed in either curly brackets, { … }, or double angle brackets, << … >>, like this:

\score {
  % Invalid! Generates error: syntax error, unexpected \new
  \new Staff { … }
  \new Staff { … }

the error message will be produced.

To avoid the error, enclose all the \new statements in curly or double angle brackets.

Using curly brackets will introduce the \new statements sequentially:

\score {
    \new Staff { a' a' a' a' }
    \new Staff { g' g' g' g' }

[image of music]

but more likely you should be using double angle brackets so the new staves are introduced in parallel, i.e. simultaneously:

\score {
    \new Staff { a' a' a' a' }
    \new Staff { g' g' g' g' }

[image of music]

Warning this voice needs a \voiceXx

or \shiftXx setting

If notes from two different voices with stems in the same direction occur at the same musical moment, but the voices have no voice-specific shifts specified, the warning message ‘warning: this voice needs a \voiceXx or \shiftXx setting’ will appear when compiling the LilyPond file. This warning will appear even when the notes have no visible stems, e.g. whole notes, if the stems for shorter notes at the same pitch would be in the same direction.

Remember that the stem direction depends on the position of the note on the staff unless the stem direction is specified, for example by using \voiceOne, etc. In this case the warning will appear only when the stems happen to be in the same direction, i.e. when the notes are in the same half of the staff.

By placing the notes in voices with stem directions and shifts specified, for example by using \voiceOne, etc., these warnings may be avoided.

Notes in higher numbered voices, \voiceThree etc., are automatically shifted to avoid clashing note columns. This causes a visible shift for notes with stems, but whole notes are not visibly shifted unless an actual clash of the note heads occurs, or when the voices cross over from their natural order (when \voiceThree is higher than \voiceOne, etc.)

See also

Explicitly instantiating voices, Real music example, Single-staff polyphony, Collision resolution.

2. Updating files with convert-ly

As LilyPond is improved, the syntax (input language) of some commands and functions can change. This can result in unexpected errors, warnings or even output when input files, previously created with older versions of LilyPond are then used with later versions.

To help with this the convert-ly command can be used to upgrade these older input files to use the newer syntax.

2.1 Why does the syntax change?

Often, syntax changes are made to make the input simpler to both read and write, but occasionally the changes are made to accommodate new features or enhancements to existing functions.

To illustrate this here is a real example:

All \paper and \layout property names were supposed to be written in the form first-second-third. However, in LilyPond version 2.11.60, it was noticed that the printallheaders property did not follow this convention. Should this property be left alone (confusing new users with an inconsistent format)? Or should it be changed (annoying old users with existing LilyPond input files)?

The decision was made to change the name of the property to print-all-headers, and by using the convert-ly command the old users had a way to automatically update their existing input files.

However, the convert-ly command cannot always be used to manage all syntax changes. In versions of LilyPond before 2.4.2, accents and non-English characters were entered using standard LaTeX notation. For example the French word for ‘Christmas’ was entered as No\"el. But in LilyPond 2.6 onwards, the special ë must be entered directly as a UTF-8 character. The convert-ly command cannot change LaTeX special characters into UTF-8 characters, so older LilyPond input files have to edited manually.

The conversion rules of the convert-ly command work using text pattern-matching and replacement (rather than ‘understanding’ the context of what it is changing within a given input file). This has several consequences:

2.2 Invoking convert-ly

The convert-ly command uses the \version number in the input file to detect older versions. In most cases, to upgrade your input file it is sufficient just to run;

convert-ly -e

in the directory containing the input file. This will upgrade ‘’ in-place and preserve the original file by renaming it ‘’. The \version number in the upgraded input file, along with any required syntax updates, is also changed.

When run, the convert-ly command will output the version numbers of which conversions have been made to. If no version numbers are listed in the output for the file, it is already up to date and using the latest LilyPond syntax.

Note: For each new version of LilyPond, a new convert-ly command is created, however not every version of LilyPond will need syntax changes for its input files from the version before. This means that the convert-ly command will only convert input files up to the latest syntax change it has and this, in turn, may mean that the version number left in the upgraded input file is sometimes earlier than the version of convert-ly command itself.

To convert all input files in a single directory use;

convert-ly -e *.ly

Linux and MacOS X users can both use the appropriate terminal application, but MacOS X users can also execute this command directly under the menu entry Compile > Update syntax.

A Windows user would run the command; -e *.ly

entering these commands in a command prompt usually found under Start > Accessories > Command Prompt or for version 8 users, by typing in the search window ‘command prompt’.

To convert all input files that reside in different sets of subdirectories;

find . -name '*.ly' -exec convert-ly -e '{}' \;

This example searches and converts all input files in the current directory and all directories below it recursively. The converted files will be located in the same directory along with their renamed originals. This should also work for MacOS X users, although only via the terminal app.

Windows user would use;

forfiles /s /M *.ly /c "cmd /c -e @file"

Alternatively, an explicit path to the top-level of your folder containing all the sub-folders that have input files in them can be stated using the /p option;

forfiles /s /p C:\Documents\MyScores /M *.ly /c "cmd /c -e @file"

If there are spaces in the path to the top-level folder, then the whole path needs to be inside double quotes;

forfiles /s /p "C:\Documents\My Scores" /M *.ly /c "cmd /c -e @file"

2.3 Command line options for convert-ly

The program is invoked as follows:

convert-ly [option]… filename

The following options can be given:

-d, --diff-version-update

increase the \version string only if the file has actually been changed. In that case, the version header will correspond to the version after the last actual change. An unstable version number will be rounded up to the next stable version number unless that would exceed the target version number. Without this option, the version will instead reflect the last attempted conversion.

-e, --edit

Apply the conversions direct to the input file, modifying it in-place. The original file is renamed as ‘’. This backup file may be a hidden file on some operating systems. Alternatively, if you want to specify a different name for the upgraded file without using the -e options default ~ appended to the old input file, the output can be redirected instead;

convert-ly >

Windows user would use; >
-b, --backup-numbered

When used with the ‘-e’ option, number the backup files so that no previous version is overwritten. The backup files may be hidden on some operating systems.

-f, --from=from-patchlevel

Set the version to convert from. If this is not set, convert-ly will guess this, on the basis of \version strings in the file. E.g. ‘--from=2.10.25

-h, --help

Print usage help.

-l loglevel, --loglevel=loglevel

Set the output verbosity to loglevel. Possible values, in upper case, are PROGRESS (the default), NONE, WARNING, ERROR and DEBUG.

-n, --no-version

Normally, convert-ly adds a \version indicator to the output. Specifying this option suppresses this.

-s, --show-rules

Show all known conversions and exit.

-t, --to=to-patchlevel

Explicitly set which \version to convert to, otherwise the default is the most current value. It must be higher than the starting version.

convert-ly --to=2.14.1

To upgrade LilyPond fragments in texinfo files, use

convert-ly --from=… --to=… --no-version *.itely

To see the changes in the LilyPond syntax between two versions, use

convert-ly --from=… --to=… -s

2.4 Problems running convert-ly

When running convert-ly in a Command Prompt window under Windows on a file which has spaces in the filename or in the path to it, it is necessary to surround the entire input file name with three (!) sets of double quotes:

convert-ly """D:/My Scores/""" > "D:/My Scores/new"

If the simple convert-ly -e *.ly command fails because the expanded command line becomes too long, the convert-ly command may be placed in a loop instead. This example for UNIX will upgrade all ‘.ly’ files in the current directory

for f in *.ly; do convert-ly -e $f; done;

In the Windows Command Prompt window the corresponding command is

for %x in (*.ly) do convert-ly -e """%x"""

Not all language changes are handled. Only one output option can be specified. Automatically updating scheme and LilyPond scheme interfaces is quite unlikely; be prepared to tweak scheme code manually.

2.5 Manual conversions

In theory, a program like convert-ly could handle any syntax change. After all, a computer program interprets the old version and the new version, so another computer program can translate one file into another2.

However, the LilyPond project has limited resources: not all conversions are performed automatically. Below is a list of known problems.

 Doesn't always convert figured bass correctly, specifically things like {<
>}.  Mats' comment on working around this:
   To be able to run convert-ly
   on it, I first replaced all occurrences of '{<' to some dummy like '{#'
   and similarly I replaced '>}' with '&}'.  After the conversion, I could
   then change back from '{ #' to '{ <' and from '& }' to '> }'.
 Doesn't convert all text markup correctly.  In the old markup syntax,
 it was possible to group a number of markup commands together within
parentheses, e.g.
   -#'((bold italic) "string")
   This will incorrectly be converted into
   -\markup{{\bold italic} "string"}
   instead of the correct
   -\markup{\bold \italic "string"}
 Doesn't handle \partcombine
 Doesn't do \addlyrics => \lyricsto, this breaks some scores with multiple
 \magnify isn't changed to \fontsize.
    - \magnify #m => \fontsize #f, where f = 6ln(m)/ln(2)
 remove-tag isn't changed.
    - \applyMusic #(remove-tag '. . .) => \keepWithTag #'. . .
 first-page-number isn't changed.
    - first-page-number no => print-first-page-number = ##f
 Line breaks in header strings aren't converted.
    - \\\\  as line break in \header strings => \markup \center-align <
      "First Line" "Second Line" >
 Crescendo and decrescendo terminators aren't converted.
    - \rced => \!
    - \rc => \!
 \turnOff (used in \set Staff.VoltaBracket = \turnOff) is not properly
 \markup{ \center-align <{ ... }> } should be converted to:
 \markup{ \center-align {\line { ... }} }
 but now, \line is missing.
 Special LaTeX characters such as $~$ in text are not converted to UTF8.
 \score{} must now begin with a music expression.  Anything else
 (particularly \header{}) must come after the music.

3. Running lilypond-book

If you want to add pictures of music to a document, you can simply do it the way you would do with other types of pictures. The pictures are created separately, yielding PostScript output or PNG images, and those are included into a LaTeX or HTML document.

lilypond-book provides a way to automate this process: This program extracts snippets of music from your document, runs lilypond on them, and outputs the document with pictures substituted for the music. The line width and font size definitions for the music are adjusted to match the layout of your document.

This is a separate program from lilypond itself, and is run on the command line; for more information, see Command-line usage. If you have trouble running lilypond-book on Windows or Mac OS X using the command line, then see either Windows or MacOS X.

This procedure may be applied to LaTeX, HTML, Texinfo or DocBook documents.

3.1 An example of a musicological document

Some texts contain music examples. These texts are musicological treatises, songbooks, or manuals like this. Such texts can be made by hand, simply by importing a PostScript figure into the word processor. However, there is an automated procedure to reduce the amount of work involved in HTML, LaTeX, Texinfo and DocBook documents.

A script called lilypond-book will extract the music fragments, format them, and put back the resulting notation. Here we show a small example for use with LaTeX. The example also contains explanatory text, so we will not comment on it further.




Documents for \verb+lilypond-book+ may freely mix music and text.
For example,

\relative {
  c'2 e2 \tuplet 3/2 { f8 a b } a2 e4

Options are put in brackets.

  c'4 f16

Larger examples can be put into a separate file, and introduced with


(If needed, replace @file{} by any @file{.ly} file
you put in the same directory as this file.)



Save the code above to a file called ‘lilybook.lytex’, then in a terminal run

lilypond-book --output=out --pdf lilybook.lytex
lilypond-book (GNU LilyPond) 2.19.26 
Reading lilybook.lytex...
…lots of stuff deleted…
Compiling lilybook.tex...
cd out
pdflatex lilybook
…lots of stuff deleted…
xpdf lilybook
(replace xpdf by your favorite PDF viewer)

Running lilypond-book and latex creates a lot of temporary files, which would clutter up the working directory. To remedy this, use the ‘--output=dir’ option. It will create the files in a separate subdirectory ‘dir’.

Finally the result of the LaTeX example shown above.3 This finishes the tutorial section.


Documents for lilypond-book may freely mix music and text. For example,

[image of music]

Options are put in brackets.

c'4 f16

[image of music]

Larger examples can be put into a separate file, and introduced with \lilypondfile.

[image of music]

If a tagline is required, either default or custom, then the entire snippet must be enclosed in a \book { } construct.

    title = "A scale in LilyPond"

  \relative {
    c' d e f g a b c

[image of music]

3.2 Integrating music and text

Here we explain how to integrate LilyPond with various output formats.

3.2.1 LaTeX

LaTeX is the de-facto standard for publishing layouts in the exact sciences. It is built on top of the TeX typesetting engine, providing the best typography available anywhere.

See The Not So Short Introduction to LaTeX for an overview on how to use LaTeX.

lilypond-book provides the following commands and environments to include music in LaTeX files:

In the input file, music is specified with any of the following commands:


\lilypond[options,go,here]{ YOUR LILYPOND CODE }



Additionally, \lilypondversion displays the current version of lilypond. Running lilypond-book yields a file that can be further processed with LaTeX.

We show some examples here. The lilypond environment

  c' d' e' f' g'2 g'2


[image of music]

The short version

\lilypond[quote,fragment,staffsize=11]{<c' e' g'>}


[image of music]

Currently, you cannot include { or } within \lilypond{}, so this command is only useful with the fragment option.

The default line width of the music will be adjusted by examining the commands in the document preamble, the part of the document before \begin{document}. The lilypond-book command sends these to LaTeX to find out how wide the text is. The line width for the music fragments is then adjusted to the text width. Note that this heuristic algorithm can fail easily; in such cases it is necessary to use the line-width music fragment option.

Each snippet will call the following macros if they have been defined by the user:

Selected Snippets

Sometimes it is useful to display music elements (such as ties and slurs) as if they continued after the end of the fragment. This can be done by breaking the staff and suppressing inclusion of the rest of the LilyPond output.

In LaTeX, define \betweenLilyPondSystem in such a way that inclusion of other systems is terminated once the required number of systems are included. Since \betweenLilyPondSystem is first called after the first system, including only the first system is trivial.


  c'1\( e'( c'~ \break c' d) e f\)

If a greater number of systems is requested, a TeX conditional must be used before the \endinput. In this example, replace ‘2’ by the number of systems you want in the output.


(Since \endinput immediately stops the processing of the current input file we need \expandafter to delay the call of \endinput after executing \fi so that the \if-\fi clause is balanced.)

Remember that the definition of \betweenLilyPondSystem is effective until TeX quits the current group (such as the LaTeX environment) or is overridden by another definition (which is, in most cases, for the rest of the document). To reset your definition, write


in your LaTeX source.

This may be simplified by defining a TeX macro


and then saying only how many systems you want before each fragment,


See also

There are specific lilypond-book command line options and other details to know when processing LaTeX documents, see Invoking lilypond-book.

3.2.2 Texinfo

Texinfo is the standard format for documentation of the GNU project. An example of a Texinfo document is this manual. The HTML, PDF, and Info versions of the manual are made from the Texinfo document.

lilypond-book provides the following commands and environments to include music into Texinfo files:

In the input file, music is specified with any of the following commands

@end lilypond

@lilypond[options,go,here]{ YOUR LILYPOND CODE }



Additionally, @lilypondversion displays the current version of lilypond.

When lilypond-book is run on it, this results in a Texinfo file (with extension ‘.texi’) containing @image tags for HTML, Info and printed output. lilypond-book generates images of the music in EPS and PDF formats for use in the printed output, and in PNG format for use in HTML and Info output.

We show two simple examples here. A lilypond environment

c' d' e' f' g'2 g'
@end lilypond


[image of music]

The short version

@lilypond[fragment,staffsize=11]{<c' e' g'>}


[image of music]

Contrary to LaTeX, @lilypond{…} does not generate an in-line image. It always gets a paragraph of its own.

3.2.3 HTML

lilypond-book provides the following commands and environments to include music in HTML files:

In the input file, music is specified with any of the following commands:

<lilypond options go here>

<lilypond options go here: YOUR LILYPOND CODE />

<lilypondfile options go here>filename</lilypondfile>

<musicxmlfile options go here>filename</musicxmlfile>

For example, you can write

<lilypond fragment relative=2>
\key c \minor c4 es g2

lilypond-book then produces an HTML file with appropriate image tags for the music fragments:

[image of music]

For inline pictures, use <lilypond … />, where the options are separated by a colon from the music, for example

Some music in <lilypond relative=2: a b c/> a line of text.

To include separate files, say

<lilypondfile option1 option2 …>filename</lilypondfile>

<musicxmlfile> uses the same syntax as <lilypondfile>, but simply references a MusicXML file rather than a LilyPond file.

For a list of options to use with the lilypond or lilypondfile tags, see Music fragment options.

Additionally, <lilypondversion/> displays the current version of lilypond.

3.2.4 DocBook

For inserting LilyPond snippets it is good to keep the conformity of our DocBook document, thus allowing us to use DocBook editors, validation etc. So we don’t use custom tags, only specify a convention based on the standard DocBook elements.

Common conventions

For inserting all type of snippets we use the mediaobject and inlinemediaobject element, so our snippets can be formatted inline or not inline. The snippet formatting options are always provided in the role property of the innermost element (see in next sections). Tags are chosen to allow DocBook editors format the content gracefully. The DocBook files to be processed with lilypond-book should have the extension ‘.lyxml’.

Including a LilyPond file

This is the most simple case. We must use the ‘.ly’ extension for the included file, and insert it as a standard imageobject, with the following structure:

    <imagedata fileref="" role="printfilename" />

Note that you can use mediaobject or inlinemediaobject as the outermost element as you wish.

Including LilyPond code

Including LilyPond code is possible by using a programlisting, where the language is set to lilypond with the following structure:

    <programlisting language="lilypond" role="fragment verbatim staffsize=16 ragged-right relative=2">
\context Staff \with {
  \remove "Time_signature_engraver"
  \remove "Clef_engraver"}
  { c4( fis) }

As you can see, the outermost element is a mediaobject or inlinemediaobject, and there is a textobject containing the programlisting inside.

Processing the DocBook document

Running lilypond-book on our ‘.lyxml’ file will create a valid DocBook document to be further processed with ‘.xml’ extension. If you use dblatex, it will create a PDF file from this document automatically. For HTML (HTML Help, JavaHelp etc.) generation you can use the official DocBook XSL stylesheets, however, it is possible that you have to make some customization for it.

3.3 Music fragment options

In the following, a ‘LilyPond command’ refers to any command described in the previous sections which is handled by lilypond-book to produce a music snippet. For simplicity, LilyPond commands are only shown in LaTeX syntax.

Note that the option string is parsed from left to right; if an option occurs multiple times, the last one is taken.

The following options are available for LilyPond commands:


Set staff size to ht, which is measured in points.


Produce ragged-right lines with natural spacing, i.e., ragged-right = ##t is added to the LilyPond snippet. Single-line snippets will always be typeset by default as ragged-right, unless noragged-right is explicitly given.


For single-line snippets, allow the staff length to be stretched to equal that of the line width, i.e., ragged-right = ##f is added to the LilyPond snippet.


Set line width to size, using unit as units. unit is one of the following strings: cm, mm, in, or pt. This option affects LilyPond output (this is, the staff length of the music snippet), not the text layout.

If used without an argument, set line width to a default value (as computed with a heuristic algorithm).

If no line-width option is given, lilypond-book tries to guess a default for lilypond environments which don’t use the ragged-right option.


Where string is a paper size defined in ‘scm/paper.scm’ i.e. a5, quarto, 11x17 etc.

Values not defined in ‘scm/paper.scm’ will be ignored, a warning will be posted and the snippet will be printed using the default a4 size.


Do not print the time signature, and turns off the timing (time signature, bar lines) in the score.


Make lilypond-book add some boilerplate code so that you can simply enter, say,


without \layout, \score, etc.


Do not add additional code to complete LilyPond code in music snippets. Since this is the default, nofragment is redundant normally.


Set indentation of the first music system to size, using unit as units. unit is one of the following strings: cm, mm, in, or pt. This option affects LilyPond, not the text layout.


Set indentation of the first music system to zero. This option affects LilyPond, not the text layout. Since no indentation is the default, noindent is redundant normally.


Reduce line length of a music snippet by 2*0.4in and put the output into a quotation block. The value ‘0.4in’ can be controlled with the exampleindent option.


Set the amount by which the quote option indents a music snippet.


Use relative octave mode. By default, notes are specified relative to middle C. The optional integer argument specifies the octave of the starting note, where the default 1 is middle C. relative option only works when fragment option is set, so fragment is automatically implied by relative, regardless of the presence of any (no)fragment option in the source.

LilyPond also uses lilypond-book to produce its own documentation. To do that, some more obscure music fragment options are available.


The argument of a LilyPond command is copied to the output file and enclosed in a verbatim block, followed by any text given with the intertext option (not implemented yet); then the actual music is displayed. This option does not work well with \lilypond{} if it is part of a paragraph.

If verbatim is used in a lilypondfile command, it is possible to enclose verbatim only a part of the source file. If the source file contain a comment containing ‘begin verbatim’ (without quotes), quoting the source in the verbatim block will start after the last occurrence of such a comment; similarly, quoting the source verbatim will stop just before the first occurrence of a comment containing ‘end verbatim’, if there is any. In the following source file example, the music will be interpreted in relative mode, but the verbatim quote will not show the relative block, i.e.

\relative { % begin verbatim
  c'4 e2 g4
  f2 e % end verbatim

will be printed with a verbatim block like

  c4 e2 g4
  f2 e

If you would like to translate comments and variable names in verbatim output but not in the sources, you may set the environment variable LYDOC_LOCALEDIR to a directory path; the directory should contain a tree of ‘.mo’ message catalogs with lilypond-doc as a domain.


(Only for Texinfo output.) Prepend line \version @w{"@version{}"} to verbatim output.


(Only for Texinfo output.) If lilypond is called with the ‘--header=texidoc’ option, and the file to be processed is called ‘’, it creates a file ‘foo.texidoc’ if there is a texidoc field in the \header. The texidoc option makes lilypond-book include such files, adding its contents as a documentation block right before the music snippet (but outside the example environment generated by a quote option).

Assuming the file ‘’ contains

\header {
  texidoc = "This file demonstrates a single note."
{ c'4 }

and we have this in our Texinfo document ‘test.texinfo


the following command line gives the expected result

lilypond-book --pdf --process="lilypond \
  -dbackend=eps --header=texidoc" test.texinfo

Most LilyPond test documents (in the ‘input’ directory of the distribution) are small ‘.ly’ files which look exactly like this.

For localization purpose, if the Texinfo document contains @documentlanguage LANG and ‘’ header contains a texidocLANG field, and if lilypond is called with ‘--header=texidocLANG’, then ‘foo.texidocLANG’ will be included instead of ‘foo.texidoc’.


(Only for Texinfo output.) This option works similarly to texidoc option: if lilypond is called with the ‘--header=doctitle’ option, and the file to be processed is called ‘’ and contains a doctitle field in the \header, it creates a file ‘foo.doctitle’. When doctitle option is used, the contents of ‘foo.doctitle’, which should be a single line of text, is inserted in the Texinfo document as @lydoctitle text. @lydoctitle should be a macro defined in the Texinfo document. The same remark about texidoc processing with localized languages also applies to doctitle.


(Only for Texinfo output.) Do not translate comments and variable names in the snippet quoted verbatim.


If a LilyPond input file is included with \lilypondfile, print the file name right before the music snippet. For HTML output, this is a link. Only the base name of the file is printed, i.e. the directory part of the file path is stripped.

3.4 Invoking lilypond-book

lilypond-book produces a file with one of the following extensions: ‘.tex’, ‘.texi’, ‘.html’ or ‘.xml’, depending on the output format. All of ‘.tex’, ‘.texi’ and ‘.xml’ files need further processing.

Format-specific instructions


There are two ways of processing your LaTeX document for printing or publishing: getting a PDF file directly with PDFLaTeX, or getting a PostScript file with LaTeX via a DVI to PostScript translator like dvips. The first way is simpler and recommended4, and whichever way you use, you can easily convert between PostScript and PDF with tools, like ps2pdf and pdf2ps included in Ghostscript package.

To produce a PDF file through PDFLaTeX, use:

lilypond-book --pdf yourfile.lytex
pdflatex yourfile.tex

To produce PDF output via LaTeX/dvips/ps2pdf:

lilypond-book yourfile.lytex
latex yourfile.tex
dvips -Ppdf yourfile.dvi

The ‘.dvi’ file created by this process will not contain note heads. This is normal; if you follow the instructions, they will be included in the ‘.ps’ and ‘.pdf’ files.

Running dvips may produce some warnings about fonts; these are harmless and may be ignored. If you are running latex in twocolumn mode, remember to add ‘-t landscape’ to the dvips options.

Environments such as;

\begin{lilypond} … \end{lilypond}

are not interpreted by LaTeX. Instead, lilypond-book extracts those ‘environments’ into files of its own and runs LilyPond on them. It then takes the resulting graphics and creates a ‘.tex’ file where the \begin{lilypond}\end{lilypond} macros are then replaced by ‘graphics inclusion’ commands. It is at this time that LaTeX is run (although LaTeX will have run previously, it will have been, effectively, on an ‘empty’ document in order to calculate things like \linewidth).

Known issues and warnings

The \pageBreak command will not work within a \begin{lilypond} … \end{lilypond} environment.

Many \paper block variables will also not work within a \begin{lilypond} … \end{lilypond} environment. Use \newcommand with \betweenLilyPondSystem in the preamble;



To produce a Texinfo document (in any output format), follow the normal procedures for Texinfo; this is, either call texi2pdf or texi2dvi or makeinfo, depending on the output format you want to create. See the documentation of Texinfo for further details.

Command line options

lilypond-book accepts the following command line options:

-f format

Specify the document type to process: html, latex, texi (the default) or docbook. If this option is missing, lilypond-book tries to detect the format automatically, see Filename extensions. Currently, texi is the same as texi-html.

-F filter

Pipe snippets through filter. lilypond-book will not –filter and –process at the same time. For example,

lilypond-book --filter='convert-ly --from=2.0.0 -' my-book.tely

Print a short help message.

-I dir

Add dir to the include path. lilypond-book also looks for already compiled snippets in the include path, and does not write them back to the output directory, so in some cases it is necessary to invoke further processing commands such as makeinfo or latex with the same ‘-I dir’ options.

-l loglevel

Set the output verbosity to loglevel. Possible values are NONE, ERROR, WARNING, PROGRESS (default) and DEBUG. If this option is not used, and the environment variable LILYPOND_BOOK_LOGLEVEL is set, its value is used as the loglevel.

-o dir

Place generated files in directory dir. Running lilypond-book generates lots of small files that LilyPond will process. To avoid all that garbage in the source directory, use the ‘--output’ command line option, and change to that directory before running latex or makeinfo.

lilypond-book --output=out yourfile.lytex
cd out

Do not fail if no lilypond output is found. It is used for LilyPond Info documentation without images.


Do not fail if no PNG images are found for EPS files. It is used for LilyPond Info documentation without images.


Write lily-XXX files to directory dir, link into ‘--output’ directory. Use this option to save building time for documents in different directories which share a lot of identical snippets.


Set the output verbosity of the invoked lilypond calls to loglevel. Possible values are NONE, ERROR, WARNING, BASIC_PROGRESS, PROGRESS, INFO (default) and DEBUG. If this option is not used, and the environment variable LILYPOND_LOGLEVEL is set, its value is used as the loglevel.


Format Texinfo output so that Info will look for images of music in dir.


Run executable prog instead of latex. This is useful if your document is processed with xelatex, for example.


Pad EPS boxes by this much. amount is measured in millimeters, and is 3.0 by default. This option should be used if the lines of music stick out of the right margin.

The width of a tightly clipped system can vary, due to notation elements that stick into the left margin, such as bar numbers and instrument names. This option will shorten each line and move each line to the right by the same amount.

-P command

Process LilyPond snippets using command. The default command is lilypond. lilypond-book will not ‘--filter’ and ‘--process’ at the same time.


Create PDF files for use with PDFLaTeX.


By default, output is displayed on the terminal. This option redirects all output to log files in the same directory as the source files.


Write snippet output files with the same base name as their source file. This option works only for snippets included with lilypondfile and only if directories implied by ‘--output-dir’ and ‘--lily-output-dir’ options are different.


Be verbose. This is equivalent to --loglevel=DEBUG.


Print version information.

Known issues and warnings

The Texinfo command @pagesizes is not interpreted. Similarly, LaTeX commands that change margins and line widths after the preamble are ignored.

Only the first \score of a LilyPond block is processed.

3.5 Filename extensions

You can use any filename extension for the input file, but if you do not use the recommended extension for a particular format you may need to manually specify the output format; for details, see Invoking lilypond-book. Otherwise, lilypond-book automatically selects the output format based on the input filename’s extension.


output format























If you use the same filename extension for the input file than the extension lilypond-book uses for the output file, and if the input file is in the same directory as lilypond-book working directory, you must use ‘--output’ option to make lilypond-book running, otherwise it will exit with an error message like “Output would overwrite input file”.

3.6 lilypond-book templates

These templates are for use with lilypond-book. If you’re not familiar with this program, please refer to Running lilypond-book.

3.6.1 LaTeX

You can include LilyPond fragments in a LaTeX document.



Normal LaTeX text.

\relative {
  a'4 b c d

More LaTeX text, and options in square brackets.

d4 c b a

3.6.2 Texinfo

You can include LilyPond fragments in Texinfo; in fact, this entire manual is written in Texinfo.

\input texinfo @node Top

Texinfo text

\relative {
  a4 b c d
@end lilypond

More Texinfo text, and options in brackets.

d4 c b a
@end lilypond


3.6.3 html

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN">
<!-- header_tag -->

Documents for lilypond-book may freely mix music and text.  For
\relative {
  a'4 b c d

Another bit of lilypond, this time with options:

<lilypond fragment quote staffsize=26 verbatim>
a4 b c d


3.6.4 xelatex

%xetex specific stuff
\setmainfont[Numbers=OldStyle]{Times New Roman}
%This can be empty if you are not going to use pdftex
%Here you can insert all packages that pdftex also understands

\title{A short document with LilyPond and xelatex}

Normal \textbf{font} commands inside the \emph{text} work,
because they \textsf{are supported by \LaTeX{} and XeteX.}
If you want to use specific commands like \verb+\XeTeX+, you
should include them again in a \verb+\ifxetex+ environment.
You can use this to print the \ifxetex \XeTeX{} command \else
XeTeX command \fi which is not known to normal \LaTeX .

In normal text you can easily use LilyPond commands, like this:

{a2 b c'8 c' c' c'}

and so on.

The fonts of snippets set with LilyPond will have to be set from
of the snippet.  For this you should read the AU on how to use

Auch Umlaute funktionieren ohne die \LaTeX -Befehle, wie auch alle
seltsamen Zeichen: __ ______, wenn sie von der Schriftart
unterst__tzt werden.

3.7 Sharing the table of contents

These functions already exist in the OrchestralLily package:

For greater flexibility in text handling, some users prefer to export the table of contents from lilypond and read it into LaTeX.

Exporting the ToC from LilyPond

This assumes that your score has multiple movements in the same lilypond output file.

#(define (oly:create-toc-file layout pages)
  (let* ((label-table (ly:output-def-lookup layout 'label-page-table)))
    (if (not (null? label-table))
      (let* ((format-line (lambda (toc-item)
             (let* ((label (car toc-item))
                    (text  (caddr toc-item))
                    (label-page (and (list? label-table)
                                     (assoc label label-table)))
                    (page (and label-page (cdr label-page))))
               (format #f "~a, section, 1, {~a}, ~a" page text label))))
             (formatted-toc-items (map format-line (toc-items)))
             (whole-string (string-join formatted-toc-items ",\n"))
             (output-name (ly:parser-output-name))
             (outfilename (format "~a.toc" output-name))
             (outfile (open-output-file outfilename)))
        (if (output-port? outfile)
            (display whole-string outfile)
            (ly:warning (_ "Unable to open output file ~a for the TOC information") outfilename))
        (close-output-port outfile)))))

\paper {
  #(define (page-post-process layout pages) (oly:create-toc-file layout pages))

Importing the ToC into LaTeX

In LaTeX, the header should include:


where \includescore is defined as:

% \includescore{PossibleExtension}

% Read in the TOC entries for a PDF file from the corresponding .toc file.
% This requires some heave latex tweaking, since reading in things from a file
% and inserting it into the arguments of a macro is not (easily) possible

% Solution by Patrick Fimml on #latex on April 18, 2009:
% \readfile{filename}{\variable}
% reads in the contents of the file into \variable (undefined if file
% doesn't exist)
{\catcode`\^^M=10\global\read\readfile@f to \readfile@tmp}%
\openin\readfile@f=#1 %
\typeout{No TOC file #1 available!}%


3.8 Alternative methods of mixing text and music

Other means of mixing text and music (without lilypond-book) are discussed in LilyPond output in other programs.

4. External programs

LilyPond can interact with other programs in various ways.

4.1 Point and click

Point and click lets you find notes in the input by clicking on them in the PDF viewer. This makes it easier to find input that causes some error in the sheet music.

4.1.1 Configuring the system

When this functionality is active, LilyPond adds hyperlinks to PDF and SVG files. These hyperlinks are sent to a ‘URI helper’ or a web-browser, which opens a text-editor with the cursor in the right place.

To make this chain work, you should configure your PDF viewer to follow hyperlinks using the ‘lilypond-invoke-editor’ script supplied with LilyPond.

The program ‘lilypond-invoke-editor’ is a small helper program. It will invoke an editor for the special textedit URIs, and run a web browser for others. It tests the environment variable EDITOR for the following patterns,


this will invoke

emacsclient --no-wait +line:column file

this will invoke

gvim --remote +:line:normcolumn file

this will invoke

  nc -noask +line file'

The environment variable LYEDITOR is used to override this. It contains the command line to start the editor, where %(file)s, %(column)s, %(line)s is replaced with the file, column and line respectively. The setting

emacsclient --no-wait +%(line)s:%(column)s %(file)s

for LYEDITOR is equivalent to the standard emacsclient invocation.

Using Xpdf

For Xpdf on UNIX, the following should be present in ‘xpdfrc’. On UNIX, this file is found either in ‘/etc/xpdfrc’ or as ‘$HOME/.xpdfrc’.

urlCommand     "lilypond-invoke-editor %s"

If you are using Ubuntu, it is likely that the version of Xpdf installed with your system crashes on every PDF file: this state has been persisting for several years and is due to library mismatches. Your best bet is to install a current ‘xpdf’ package and the corresponding ‘libpoppler’ package from Debian instead. Once you have tested that this works, you might want to use

sudo apt-mark hold xpdf

in order to keep Ubuntu from overwriting it with the next ‘update’ of its crashing package.

Using GNOME 2

For using GNOME 2 (and PDF viewers integrated with it), the magic invocation for telling the system about the ‘textedit:’ URI is;

gconftool-2 -t string -s /desktop/gnome/url-handlers/textedit/command "lilypond-invoke-editor %s"
gconftool-2 -s /desktop/gnome/url-handlers/textedit/needs_terminal false -t bool
gconftool-2 -t bool -s /desktop/gnome/url-handlers/textedit/enabled true

After that invocation;

gnome-open textedit:///etc/issue:1:0:0

should call ‘lilypond-invoke-editor’ for opening files.

Using GNOME 3

In GNOME 3, URIs are handled by the ‘gvfs’ layer rather than by ‘gconf’. Create a file in a local directory such as ‘/tmp’ that is called ‘lilypond-invoke-editor.desktop’ and has the contents;

[Desktop Entry]
GenericName=Textedit URI handler
Comment=URI handler for textedit:
Exec=lilypond-invoke-editor %u

and then execute the commands

xdg-desktop-menu install ./lilypond-invoke-editor.desktop
xdg-mime default lilypond-invoke-editor.desktop x-scheme-handler/textedit

After that invocation;

gnome-open textedit:///etc/issue:1:0:0

should call ‘lilypond-invoke-editor’ for opening files.

Extra configuration for Evince

If gnome-open works, but Evince still refuses to open point and click links due to denied permissions, you might need to change the Apparmor profile of Evince which controls the kind of actions Evince is allowed to perform.

For Ubuntu, the process is to edit the file ‘/etc/apparmor.d/local/usr.bin.evince’ and append the following lines:

# For Textedit links
/usr/local/bin/lilypond-invoke-editor Cx -> sanitized_helper,

After adding these lines, call

sudo apparmor_parser -r -T -W /etc/apparmor.d/usr.bin.evince

Now Evince should be able to open point and click links. It is likely that similar configurations will work for other viewers.

Enabling point and click

Point and click functionality is enabled by default when creating PDF or SVG files.

The point and click links enlarge the output files significantly. For reducing the size of these (and PS) files, point and click may be switched off by issuing


in a ‘.ly’ file. Point and click may be explicitly enabled with


Alternately, you may disable point and click with a command-line option:

lilypond -dno-point-and-click

Note: You should always turn off point and click in any LilyPond files to be distributed to avoid including path information about your computer in the PDF file, which can pose a security risk.

Selective point-and-click

For some interactive applications, it may be desirable to only include certain point-and-click items. For example, if somebody wanted to create an application which played audio or video starting from a particular note, it would be awkward if clicking on the note produced the point-and-click location for an accidental or slur which occurred over that note.

This may be controlled by indicating which events to include:

Multiple events can be included:

4.2 Text editor support

There is support for different text editors for LilyPond.

Emacs mode

Emacs has a ‘lilypond-mode’, which provides keyword autocompletion, indentation, LilyPond specific parenthesis matching and syntax coloring, handy compile short-cuts and reading LilyPond manuals using Info. If ‘lilypond-mode’ is not installed on your platform, see below.

An Emacs mode for entering music and running LilyPond is contained in the source archive in the ‘elisp’ directory. Do make install to install it to elispdir. The file ‘lilypond-init.el’ should be placed to load-path/site-start.d/’ or appended to your ‘~/.emacs’ or ‘~/.emacs.el’.

As a user, you may want add your source path (e.g. ‘~/site-lisp/’) to your load-path by appending the following line (as modified) to your ‘~/.emacs

(setq load-path (append (list (expand-file-name "~/site-lisp")) load-path))

Vim mode

For Vim, a filetype plugin, indent mode, and syntax-highlighting mode are available to use with LilyPond. To enable all of these features, create (or modify) your ‘$HOME/.vimrc’ to contain these three lines, in order:

filetype off
set runtimepath+=/usr/local/share/lilypond/current/vim/
filetype on
syntax on

If LilyPond is not installed in the ‘/usr/local/’ directory, change the path appropriately. This topic is discussed in Other sources of information.

Other editors

Other editors (both text and graphical) support LilyPond, but their special configuration files are not distributed with LilyPond. Consult their documentation for more information. Such editors are listed in Easier editing.

4.3 Converting from other formats

Music can be entered also by importing it from other formats. This chapter documents the tools included in the distribution to do so. There are other tools that produce LilyPond input, for example GUI sequencers and XML converters. Refer to the website for more details.

These are separate programs from lilypond itself, and are run on the command line; see Command-line usage for more information. If you have MacOS 10.3 or 10.4 and you have trouble running some of these scripts, e.g. convert-ly, see MacOS X.

Known issues and warnings

We unfortunately do not have the resources to maintain these programs; please consider them “as-is”. Patches are appreciated, but bug reports will almost certainly not be resolved.

4.3.1 Invoking midi2ly

midi2ly translates a Type 1 MIDI file to a LilyPond source file.

MIDI (Music Instrument Digital Interface) is a standard for digital instruments: it specifies cabling, a serial protocol and a file format. The MIDI file format is a de facto standard format for exporting music from other programs, so this capability may come in useful when importing files from a program that has a converter for a direct format.

midi2ly converts tracks into Staff and channels into Voice contexts. Relative mode is used for pitches, durations are only written when necessary.

It is possible to record a MIDI file using a digital keyboard, and then convert it to ‘.ly’. However, human players are not rhythmically exact enough to make a MIDI to LY conversion trivial. When invoked with quantizing (‘-s’ and ‘-d’ options) midi2ly tries to compensate for these timing errors, but is not very good at this. It is therefore not recommended to use midi2ly for human-generated midi files.

It is invoked from the command-line as follows,

midi2ly [option]… midi-file

Note that by ‘command-line’, we mean the command line of the operating system. See Converting from other formats, for more information about this.

The following options are supported by midi2ly.

-a, --absolute-pitches

Print absolute pitches.

-d, --duration-quant=DUR

Quantize note durations on DUR.

-e, --explicit-durations

Print explicit durations.

-h, --help

Show summary of usage.

-k, --key=acc[:minor]

Set default key. acc > 0 sets number of sharps; acc < 0 sets number of flats. A minor key is indicated by :1.

-o, --output=file

Write output to file.

-s, --start-quant=DUR

Quantize note starts on DUR.

-t, --allow-tuplet=DUR*NUM/DEN

Allow tuplet durations DUR*NUM/DEN.

-v, --verbose

Be verbose.

-V, --version

Print version number.

-w, --warranty

Show warranty and copyright.

-x, --text-lyrics

Treat every text as a lyric.

Known issues and warnings

Overlapping notes in an arpeggio will not be correctly rendered. The first note will be read and the others will be ignored. Set them all to a single duration and add phrase markings or pedal indicators.

4.3.2 Invoking musicxml2ly

MusicXML is an XML dialect for representing music notation.

musicxml2ly extracts the notes, articulations, score structure, lyrics, etc. from part-wise MusicXML files, and writes them to a ‘.ly’ file and is invoked from the command-line as follows;

musicxml2ly [option]… xml-file

Note that by ‘command-line’, we mean the command line of the operating system. See Converting from other formats, for more information about this.

If the given filename is ‘-’, musicxml2ly reads input from the command line.

The following options are supported by musicxml2ly:

-a, --absolute

convert pitches in absolute mode.

-h, --help

print usage and option summary.

-l, --language=LANG

use LANG for pitch names, e.g. ’deutsch’ for note names in German.


Set the output verbosity to loglevel. Possible values are NONE, ERROR, WARNING, PROGRESS (default) and DEBUG.


use the lxml.etree Python package for XML-parsing; uses less memory and cpu time.

-m, --midi

activate midi-block.

-nd, --no-articulation-directions

do not convert directions (^, _ or -) for articulations, dynamics, etc.


do not convert beaming information, use LilyPond’s automatic beaming instead.

-o, --output=file

set output filename to file. If file is ‘-’, the output will be printed on stdout. If not given,’ will be used.

-r, --relative

convert pitches in relative mode (default).

-v, --verbose

be verbose.


print version information.

-z, --compressed

input file is a zip-compressed MusicXML file.

4.3.3 Invoking abc2ly

Note: This is not currently supported and may eventually be removed from future versions of LilyPond.

ABC is a fairly simple ASCII based format. It is described at the ABC site:

abc2ly translates from ABC to LilyPond. It is invoked as follows:

abc2ly [option]… abc-file

The following options are supported by abc2ly:

-b, --beams=None

preserve ABC’s notion of beams

-h, --help

this help

-o, --output=file

set output filename to file.

-s, --strict

be strict about success


print version information.

There is a rudimentary facility for adding LilyPond code to the ABC source file. For example;

%%LY voices \set autoBeaming = ##f

This will cause the text following the keyword ‘voices’ to be inserted into the current voice of the LilyPond output file.


%%LY slyrics more words

will cause the text following the ‘slyrics’ keyword to be inserted into the current line of lyrics.

Known issues and warnings

The ABC standard is not very ‘standard’. For extended features (e.g., polyphonic music) different conventions exist.

Multiple tunes in one file cannot be converted.

ABC synchronizes words and notes at the beginning of a line; abc2ly does not.

abc2ly ignores the ABC beaming.

4.3.4 Invoking etf2ly

Note: This is not currently supported and may eventually be removed from future versions of LilyPond.

ETF (Enigma Transport Format) is a format used by Coda Music Technology’s Finale product. etf2ly will convert part of an ETF file to a ready-to-use LilyPond file.

It is invoked from the command-line as follows;

etf2ly [option]… etf-file

Note that by ‘command-line’, we mean the command line of the operating system. See Converting from other formats, for more information about this.

The following options are supported by etf2ly:

-h, --help

this help

-o, --output=FILE

set output filename to FILE


version information

Known issues and warnings

The list of articulation scripts is incomplete. Empty measures confuse etf2ly. Sequences of grace notes are ended improperly.

4.3.5 Other formats

LilyPond itself does not come with support for any other formats, but some external tools can also generate LilyPond files. These are listed in Easier editing.

4.4 LilyPond output in other programs

This section shows methods to integrate text and music, different than the automated method with lilypond-book.

4.4.1 LuaTex

As well as lilypond-book to integrate LilyPond output, there is an alternative program that can be used when using LuaTex called lyluatex.

4.4.2 OpenOffice and LibreOffice

LilyPond notation can be added to and LibreOffice with OOoLilyPond, an extension that converts LilyPond files into images within documents. Although this is no longer being developed, it appears to still work with version 4.

4.4.3 Other programs

Other programs that can handle ‘PNG’, ‘EPS’, or ‘PDF’ formats should use lilypond instead of lilypond-book. Each LilyPond output file must be created and inserted separately. Consult the program’s own documentation on how to insert files from other sources.

To help reduce the white space around your LilyPond score, use the following options;

  bookTitleMarkup = ##f
  scoreTitleMarkup = ##f

… music …

To produce ‘EPS’ images;

lilypond -dbackend=eps -dno-gs-load-fonts -dinclude-eps-fonts

To produce ‘PNG’ images;

lilypond -dbackend=eps -dno-gs-load-fonts -dinclude-eps-fonts --png

For transparent ‘PNG’ images

lilypond -dbackend=eps -dno-gs-load-fonts -dinclude-eps-fonts -dpixmap-format=pngalpha --png

If you need to quote many fragments from a large score, you can also use the clip systems feature, see Extracting fragments of music.

4.5 Independent includes

Some users have produced files that can be \included with LilyPond to produce certain effects and those listed below are part of the LilyPond distribution. Also see Working with input files.

4.5.1 MIDI articulation

The Articulate project is an attempt to enhance LilyPond’s MIDI output and works by adjusting note lengths (that are not under slurs) according to the articulation markings attached to them. For example, a ‘staccato’ halves the note value, ‘tenuto’ gives a note its full duration and so on. See Enhancing MIDI output.

5. Suggestions for writing files

Now you’re ready to begin writing larger LilyPond input files – not just the little examples in the tutorial, but whole pieces. But how should you go about doing it?

As long as LilyPond can understand your input files and produce the output that you want, it doesn’t matter what your input files look like. However, there are a few other things to consider when writing LilyPond input files.

5.1 General suggestions

Here are a few suggestions that can help to avoid (and fix) the most common problems when typesetting:

5.2 Typesetting existing music

If you are entering music from an existing score (i.e., typesetting a piece of existing sheet music),

5.3 Large projects

When working on a large project, having a clear structure to your lilypond input files becomes vital.

5.4 Troubleshooting

Sooner or later, you will write a file that LilyPond cannot compile. The messages that LilyPond gives may help you find the error, but in many cases you need to do some investigation to determine the source of the problem.

The most powerful tools for this purpose are the single line comment (indicated by %) and the block comment (indicated by %{…%}). If you don’t know where a problem is, start commenting out huge portions of your input file. After you comment out a section, try compiling the file again. If it works, then the problem must exist in the portion you just commented. If it doesn’t work, then keep on commenting out material until you have something that works.

In an extreme case, you might end up with only

\score {
    % \melody
    % \harmony
    % \bass

(in other words, a file without any music)

If that happens, don’t give up. Uncomment a bit – say, the bass part – and see if it works. If it doesn’t work, then comment out all of the bass music (but leave \bass in the \score uncommented.

bass = \relative {
  c'4 c c c
  d d d d

Now start slowly uncommenting more and more of the bass part until you find the problem line.

Another very useful debugging technique is constructing Tiny examples.

5.5 Make and Makefiles

Pretty well all the platforms Lilypond can run on support a software facility called make. This software reads a special file called a Makefile that defines what files depend on what others and what commands you need to give the operating system to produce one file from another. For example the makefile would spell out how to produce ‘ballad.pdf’ and ‘ballad.midi’ from ‘’ by running Lilypond.

There are times when it is a good idea to create a Makefile for your project, either for your own convenience or as a courtesy to others who might have access to your source files. This is true for very large projects with many included files and different output options (e.g. full score, parts, conductor’s score, piano reduction, etc.), or for projects that require difficult commands to build them (such as lilypond-book projects). Makefiles vary greatly in complexity and flexibility, according to the needs and skills of the authors. The program GNU Make comes installed on GNU/Linux distributions and on MacOS X, and it is also available for Windows.

See the GNU Make Manual for full details on using make, as what follows here gives only a glimpse of what it can do.

The commands to define rules in a makefile differ according to platform; for instance the various forms of GNU/Linux and MacOS use bash, while Windows uses cmd. Note that on MacOS X, you need to configure the system to use the command-line interpreter. Here are some example makefiles, with versions for both GNU/Linux/MacOS and Windows.

The first example is for an orchestral work in four movements with a directory structure as follows:

|-- MIDI/
|-- Makefile
|-- Notes/
|   |-- cello.ily
|   |-- figures.ily
|   |-- horn.ily
|   |-- oboe.ily
|   |-- trioString.ily
|   |-- viola.ily
|   |-- violinOne.ily
|   `-- violinTwo.ily
|-- PDF/
|-- Parts/
|   |--
|   |--
|   |--
|   |--
|   |--
|   `--
|-- Scores/
|   |--
|   |--
|   |--
|   |--
|   `--
`-- symphonyDefs.ily

The ‘.ly’ files in the ‘Scores’ and ‘Parts’ directories get their notes from ‘.ily’ files in the ‘Notes’ directory:

%%% top of file ""
\include ../symphonyDefs.ily
\include ../Notes/cello.ily

The makefile will have targets of score (entire piece in full score), movements (individual movements in full score), and parts (individual parts for performers). There is also a target archive that will create a tarball of the source files, suitable for sharing via web or email. Here is the makefile for GNU/Linux or MacOS X. It should be saved with the name Makefile in the top directory of the project:

Note: When a target or pattern rule is defined, the subsequent lines must begin with tabs, not spaces.

# the name stem of the output files
piece = symphony
# determine how many processors are present
CPU_CORES=`cat /proc/cpuinfo | grep -m1 "cpu cores" | sed s/".*: "//`
# The command to run lilypond
LILY_CMD = lilypond -ddelete-intermediate-files \
                    -dno-point-and-click -djob-count=$(CPU_CORES)

# The suffixes used in this Makefile.
.SUFFIXES: .ly .ily .pdf .midi

# Input and output files are searched in the directories listed in
# the VPATH variable.  All of them are subdirectories of the current
# directory (given by the GNU make variable `CURDIR').
  $(CURDIR)/Scores \
  $(CURDIR)/Parts \

# The pattern rule to create PDF and MIDI files from a LY input file.
# The .pdf output files are put into the `PDF' subdirectory, and the
# .midi files go into the `MIDI' subdirectory.
%.pdf %.midi:
        $(LILY_CMD) $<; \           # this line begins with a tab
        if test -f "$*.pdf"; then \
            mv "$*.pdf" PDF/; \
        fi; \
        if test -f "$*.midi"; then \
            mv "$*.midi" MIDI/; \

notes = \
  cello.ily \
  horn.ily \
  oboe.ily \
  viola.ily \
  violinOne.ily \

# The dependencies of the movements.
$(piece)I.pdf: $(piece) $(notes)
$(piece)II.pdf: $(piece) $(notes)
$(piece)III.pdf: $(piece) $(notes)
$(piece)IV.pdf: $(piece) $(notes)

# The dependencies of the full score.
$(piece).pdf: $(piece).ly $(notes)

# The dependencies of the parts.
$(piece)-cello.pdf: $(piece) cello.ily
$(piece)-horn.pdf: $(piece) horn.ily
$(piece)-oboes.pdf: $(piece) oboe.ily
$(piece)-viola.pdf: $(piece) viola.ily
$(piece)-violinOne.pdf: $(piece) violinOne.ily
$(piece)-violinTwo.pdf: $(piece) violinTwo.ily

# Type `make score' to generate the full score of all four
# movements as one file.
.PHONY: score
score: $(piece).pdf

# Type `make parts' to generate all parts.
# Type `make foo.pdf' to generate the part for instrument `foo'.
# Example: `make symphony-cello.pdf'.
.PHONY: parts
parts: $(piece)-cello.pdf \
       $(piece)-violinOne.pdf \
       $(piece)-violinTwo.pdf \
       $(piece)-viola.pdf \
       $(piece)-oboes.pdf \

# Type `make movements' to generate files for the
# four movements separately.
.PHONY: movements
movements: $(piece)I.pdf \
           $(piece)II.pdf \
           $(piece)III.pdf \

all: score parts movements

        tar -cvvf stamitz.tar \       # this line begins with a tab
        --exclude=*pdf --exclude=*~ \
        --exclude=*midi --exclude=*.tar \

There are special complications on the Windows platform. After downloading and installing GNU Make for Windows, you must set the correct path in the system’s environment variables so that the DOS shell can find the Make program. To do this, right-click on "My Computer," then choose Properties and Advanced. Click Environment Variables, and then in the System Variables pane, highlight Path, click edit, and add the path to the GNU Make executable file, which will look something like this:

C:\Program Files\GnuWin32\bin

The makefile itself has to be altered to handle different shell commands and to deal with spaces that are present in some default system directories. The archive target is eliminated since Windows does not have the tar command, and Windows also has a different default extension for midi files.

piece = symphony
LILY_CMD = lilypond -ddelete-intermediate-files \
                    -dno-point-and-click \

#get the 8.3 name of CURDIR (workaround for spaces in PATH)
workdir = $(shell for /f "tokens=*" %%b in ("$(CURDIR)") \
          do @echo %%~sb)

.SUFFIXES: .ly .ily .pdf .mid

  $(workdir)/Scores \
  $(workdir)/PDF \
  $(workdir)/Parts \

%.pdf %.mid:
        $(LILY_CMD) $<      # this line begins with a tab
        if exist "$*.pdf"  move /Y "$*.pdf"  PDF/ # begin with tab
        if exist "$*.mid" move /Y "$*.mid" MIDI/  # begin with tab

notes = \
  cello.ily \
  figures.ily \
  horn.ily \
  oboe.ily \
  trioString.ily \
  viola.ily \
  violinOne.ily \

$(piece)I.pdf: $(piece) $(notes)
$(piece)II.pdf: $(piece) $(notes)
$(piece)III.pdf: $(piece) $(notes)
$(piece)IV.pdf: $(piece) $(notes)

$(piece).pdf: $(piece).ly $(notes)

$(piece)-cello.pdf: $(piece) cello.ily
$(piece)-horn.pdf: $(piece) horn.ily
$(piece)-oboes.pdf: $(piece) oboe.ily
$(piece)-viola.pdf: $(piece) viola.ily
$(piece)-violinOne.pdf: $(piece) violinOne.ily
$(piece)-violinTwo.pdf: $(piece) violinTwo.ily

.PHONY: score
score: $(piece).pdf

.PHONY: parts
parts: $(piece)-cello.pdf \
       $(piece)-violinOne.pdf \
       $(piece)-violinTwo.pdf \
       $(piece)-viola.pdf \
       $(piece)-oboes.pdf \

.PHONY: movements
movements: $(piece)I.pdf \
           $(piece)II.pdf \
           $(piece)III.pdf \

all: score parts movements

The next Makefile is for a lilypond-book document done in LaTeX. This project has an index, which requires that the latex command be run twice to update links. Output files are all stored in the out directory for .pdf output and in the htmlout directory for the html output.

LILYBOOK_PDF=lilypond-book --output=$(OUTDIR) --pdf $(FILE).lytex
LILYBOOK_HTML=lilypond-book --output=$(WEBDIR) $(FILE).lytex
PDF=cd $(OUTDIR) && pdflatex $(FILE)
HTML=cd $(WEBDIR) && latex2html $(FILE)
INDEX=cd $(OUTDIR) && makeindex $(FILE)

all: pdf web keep

        $(LILYBOOK_PDF)  # begin with tab
        $(PDF)           # begin with tab
        $(INDEX)         # begin with tab
        $(PDF)           # begin with tab
        $(PREVIEW)       # begin with tab

        $(LILYBOOK_HTML) # begin with tab
        $(HTML)          # begin with tab
        cp -R $(WEBDIR)/$(FILE)/ ./  # begin with tab
        $(BROWSER) $(FILE)/$(FILE).html &  # begin with tab

keep: pdf
        cp $(OUTDIR)/$(FILE).pdf $(FILE).pdf  # begin with tab

        rm -rf $(OUTDIR) # begin with tab

        rm -rf $(WEBDIR) # begin with tab

        tar -cvvf myproject.tar \ # begin this line with tab
        --exclude=out/* \
        --exclude=htmlout/* \
        --exclude=myproject/* \
        --exclude=*midi \
        --exclude=*pdf \
        --exclude=*~ \

TODO: make this thing work on Windows

The previous makefile does not work on Windows. An alternative for Windows users would be to create a simple batch file containing the build commands. This will not keep track of dependencies the way a makefile does, but it at least reduces the build process to a single command. Save the following code as build.bat or build.cmd. The batch file can be run at the DOS prompt or by simply double-clicking its icon.

lilypond-book --output=out --pdf myproject.lytex
cd out
pdflatex myproject
makeindex myproject
pdflatex myproject
cd ..
copy out\myproject.pdf MyProject.pdf

See also

This manual: Command-line usage, Running lilypond-book

A. GNU Free Documentation License

Version 1.3, 3 November 2008

Copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2007, 2008 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies
of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.

    The purpose of this License is to make a manual, textbook, or other functional and useful document free in the sense of freedom: to assure everyone the effective freedom to copy and redistribute it, with or without modifying it, either commercially or noncommercially. Secondarily, this License preserves for the author and publisher a way to get credit for their work, while not being considered responsible for modifications made by others.

    This License is a kind of “copyleft”, which means that derivative works of the document must themselves be free in the same sense. It complements the GNU General Public License, which is a copyleft license designed for free software.

    We have designed this License in order to use it for manuals for free software, because free software needs free documentation: a free program should come with manuals providing the same freedoms that the software does. But this License is not limited to software manuals; it can be used for any textual work, regardless of subject matter or whether it is published as a printed book. We recommend this License principally for works whose purpose is instruction or reference.


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    The “Invariant Sections” are certain Secondary Sections whose titles are designated, as being those of Invariant Sections, in the notice that says that the Document is released under this License. If a section does not fit the above definition of Secondary then it is not allowed to be designated as Invariant. The Document may contain zero Invariant Sections. If the Document does not identify any Invariant Sections then there are none.

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    You may copy and distribute a Modified Version of the Document under the conditions of sections 2 and 3 above, provided that you release the Modified Version under precisely this License, with the Modified Version filling the role of the Document, thus licensing distribution and modification of the Modified Version to whoever possesses a copy of it. In addition, you must do these things in the Modified Version:

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    The operator of an MMC Site may republish an MMC contained in the site under CC-BY-SA on the same site at any time before August 1, 2009, provided the MMC is eligible for relicensing.

ADDENDUM: How to use this License for your documents

To use this License in a document you have written, include a copy of the License in the document and put the following copyright and license notices just after the title page:

  Copyright (C)  year  your name.
  Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
  under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3
  or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
  with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover
  Texts.  A copy of the license is included in the section entitled ``GNU
  Free Documentation License''.

If you have Invariant Sections, Front-Cover Texts and Back-Cover Texts, replace the “with…Texts.” line with this:

    with the Invariant Sections being list their titles, with
    the Front-Cover Texts being list, and with the Back-Cover Texts
    being list.

If you have Invariant Sections without Cover Texts, or some other combination of the three, merge those two alternatives to suit the situation.

If your document contains nontrivial examples of program code, we recommend releasing these examples in parallel under your choice of free software license, such as the GNU General Public License, to permit their use in free software.

B. LilyPond index

Jump to:   \  
A   B   C   D   E   F   H   I   L   M   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X  
Index Entry Section

\header in LaTeX documents3.2.1 LaTeX

ABC4.3.3 Invoking abc2ly
Aborted (core dumped)1.3 Error messages
Articulate project4.5.1 MIDI articulation

Bar and bar number checksMusic runs off the page
Bar and bar number checks5.1 General suggestions
Bar linesMusic runs off the page
bigpdfsBasic command line options for LilyPond

call trace1.3 Error messages
chroot jail, running insideBasic command line options for LilyPond
Coda Technology4.3.4 Invoking etf2ly
Collision resolutionSee also
coloring, syntax4.2 Text editor support
command line options for lilypondBasic command line options for LilyPond
convert-ly2. Updating files with convert-ly
convert-ly2.1 Why does the syntax change?

directory, redirect outputBasic command line options for LilyPond
docbook3. Running lilypond-book
DocBook, adding music3. Running lilypond-book
documents, adding music3. Running lilypond-book

Easier editingOther editors
Easier editing4.3.5 Other formats
editors4.2 Text editor support
emacs4.2 Text editor support
Enhancing MIDI output4.5.1 MIDI articulation
enigma4.3.4 Invoking etf2ly
Enigma Transport Format4.3.4 Invoking etf2ly
error1.3 Error messages
error messages1.3 Error messages
errors, message format1.3 Error messages
ETF4.3.4 Invoking etf2ly
EvinceExtra configuration for Evince
Explicitly instantiating voicesSee also
expression evaluation, SchemeBasic command line options for LilyPond
External programs, generating LilyPond files4.3.5 Other formats
Extracting fragments of musicAdvanced command line options for LilyPond
Extracting fragments of music4.4.3 Other programs

fatal error1.3 Error messages
file searchingBasic command line options for LilyPond
file size, outputEnabling point and click
Finale4.3.4 Invoking etf2ly
Flexible vertical spacing within systemsWarning staff affinities should only decrease
format, outputBasic command line options for LilyPond
fragments, music4.4.3 Other programs

HTML3. Running lilypond-book
HTML, adding music3. Running lilypond-book

invoking dvipsLaTeX
Invoking lilypondBasic command line options for LilyPond

LANGEnvironment variables
LaTex3. Running lilypond-book
LaTeX, adding music3. Running lilypond-book
LibreOffice.org4.4.2 OpenOffice and LibreOffice
LILYPOND_DATADIREnvironment variables
loglevelBasic command line options for LilyPond
LuaTex4.4.1 LuaTex
lyluatex4.4.1 LuaTex

MacOS X1.2 Command-line usage
MacOS X3. Running lilypond-book
MacOS X4.3 Converting from other formats
make5.5 Make and Makefiles
makefiles5.5 Make and Makefiles
ManualsLilyPond — Usage
ManualsLilyPond — Usage
MIDI4.3.1 Invoking midi2ly
MIDI4.5.1 MIDI articulation
modes, editor4.2 Text editor support
music fragments, quoting4.4.3 Other programs
musicology3.1 An example of a musicological document
MusicXML4.3.2 Invoking musicxml2ly

Octave checks5.1 General suggestions
OOoLilyPond4.4.2 OpenOffice and LibreOffice
OpenOffice.org4.4.2 OpenOffice and LibreOffice
options, command lineBasic command line options for LilyPond
Other sources of informationVim mode
outline fontsLaTeX
output, directoryBasic command line options for LilyPond
output, formatBasic command line options for LilyPond
output, PDF (Portable Document Format)Basic command line options for LilyPond
output, PNG (Portable Network Graphics)Basic command line options for LilyPond
output, PS (Postscript)Basic command line options for LilyPond
output, setting filenameBasic command line options for LilyPond
output, verbosityBasic command line options for LilyPond

PDF (Portable Document Format), outputBasic command line options for LilyPond
PNG (Portable Network Graphics), outputBasic command line options for LilyPond
point and click4.1 Point and click
point and click, command lineAdvanced command line options for LilyPond
Postscript (PS), outputBasic command line options for LilyPond
preview image3.2.3 HTML
Programming error1.3 Error messages
PS (Postscript), outputBasic command line options for LilyPond

quoting, music fragments4.4.3 Other programs

Real music exampleSee also

Saving typing with variables and functions5.1 General suggestions
Scheme error1.3 Error messages
Scheme, expression evaluationBasic command line options for LilyPond
search pathBasic command line options for LilyPond
Single-staff polyphonySee also
Skipping corrected music5.2 Typesetting existing music
Staff4.3.1 Invoking midi2ly
Style sheets5.1 General suggestions
switchesBasic command line options for LilyPond
syntax coloring4.2 Text editor support

texi3. Running lilypond-book
texinfo3. Running lilypond-book
texinfo3. Running lilypond-book
Texinfo, adding music3. Running lilypond-book
Text encodingError message FT_Get_Glyph_Name
thumbnail3.2.3 HTML
Tiny examples5.4 Troubleshooting
titling and lilypond-book3.2.1 LaTeX
titling in HTML3.2.3 HTML
trace, Scheme1.3 Error messages
Tutorial1.1 Normal usage
type1 fontsLaTeX

Updating a LilyPond file2. Updating files with convert-ly
updating old input files2.1 Why does the syntax change?

vim4.2 Text editor support
Voice4.3.1 Invoking midi2ly

warning1.3 Error messages
Windows3. Running lilypond-book
Working with input files4.5 Independent includes

XpdfUsing Xpdf

Jump to:   \  
A   B   C   D   E   F   H   I   L   M   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X  


[1] The status of GUILE is not reset after processing a .ly file, so be careful not to change any system defaults from within Scheme.

[2] At least, this is possible in any LilyPond file which does not contain scheme. If there is scheme in the file, then the LilyPond file contains a Turing-complete language, and we run into problems with the famous “Halting Problem” in computer science.

[3] This tutorial is processed with Texinfo, so the example gives slightly different results in layout.

[4] Note that PDFLaTeX and LaTeX may not be both usable to compile any LaTeX document, that is why we explain the two ways.

Table of Contents

About This Document

This document was generated by GUB on August 27, 2015 using texi2html 1.82.

The buttons in the navigation panels have the following meaning:

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[Contents] Contents Table of contents  
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[ ? ] About About (help)  
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Other languages: català, deutsch, español, français, magyar, italiano, 日本語.
About automatic language selection.

LilyPond — Usage v2.19.26 (development-branch).