GNU LilyPond — Application Usage

This document is also available as a PDF and as HTML indexed multiple pages.

This file documents GNU LilyPond program usage.

Copyright 1999–2009 by the authors

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled “GNU Free Documentation License”.

This is the Application Usage (AU) manual for GNU LilyPond version 2.12.2. For more information about how this fits with the other documentation, see About the documentation.

More information can be found at The website contains on-line copies of this and other documentation.

1. Install

There are two sets of releases for LilyPond: stable releases, and unstable development releases. Stable versions have an even-numbered ‘minor’ version number (i.e. 2.8, 2.10, 2.12, etc). Development versions have an odd-numbered ‘minor’ version number (i.e. 2.7, 2.9, 2.11, etc).

Building LilyPond is a very involved process, so we highly recommend using the precompiled binaries.

1.1 Precompiled binaries


Check out for up to date information on binary packages for your platform. If your operating system is not covered on that general page, please see the complete list at

We currently create binaries for

darwin-ppc  - MacOS X powerpc
darwin-x86  - MacOS X intel
freebsd-64  - FreeBSD 6.x, x86_64
freebsd-x86 - FreeBSD 4.x, x86
linux-64    - Any GNU/Linux distribution, x86_64
linux-ppc   - Any GNU/Linux distribution, powerpc
linux-x86   - Any GNU/Linux distribution, x86
mingw       - Windows x86

Known issues and warnings

If you have MacOS 10.3 or 10.4 and you would like to use Python scripts such as convert-ly and lilypond-book, see Setup for MacOS X.

1.2 Compiling from source

1.2.1 Downloading source code

Download source

For information on packaging, see

1.2.2 Requirements


In addition to the packages needed for running LilyPond (see below), you need the following extra packages for building.

When installing a binary package FOO, you may need to install the FOO-devel, libFOO-dev or FOO-dev package too.

Running requirements

Running LilyPond requires proper installation of the following software

International fonts are required to create music with international text or lyrics.

Requirements for building documentation

You can view the documentation online at, but you can also build it locally. This process requires a successful compile of LilyPond, and some additional tools and packages:

1.2.3 Building LilyPond


To install GNU LilyPond, type

gunzip -c lilypond-x.y.z | tar xf -
cd lilypond-x.y.z
./configure		# run with --help for applicable options
su -c 'make install'

If you are not root, you should choose a --prefix argument that points into your home directory, e.g.

./configure --prefix=$HOME/usr

Compiling for multiple platforms

If you want to build multiple versions of LilyPond with different configuration settings, you can use the --enable-config=CONF option of configure. You should use make conf=CONF to generate the output in ‘out-CONF’. For example, suppose you want to build with and without profiling, then use the following for the normal build

./configure --prefix=$HOME/usr/ --enable-checking
make install

and for the profiling version, specify a different configuration

./configure --prefix=$HOME/usr/ --enable-profiling --enable-config=prof --disable-checking
make conf=prof
make conf=prof install

Compiling outside the source tree

It is possible to compile LilyPond in a build tree different from the source tree, with --srcdir option of configure:

mkdir lily-build && cd lily-build
sourcedir/configure --srcdir=sourcedir

Useful make variables

If a less verbose build output if desired, the variable QUIET_BUILD may be set to 1 on make command line, or in ‘local.make’ at top of the build tree.

1.2.4 Building documentation

This requires a successful compile of LilyPond, or using an external LilyPond binary.

Commands for building documentation

The documentation is built by issuing

make web

After compilation, the HTML documentation tree is available in ‘out-www/offline-root/’, and can be browsed locally.

The HTML and PDF files can be installed into the standard documentation path by issuing

make web-install

This also installs Info documentation with images if the installation prefix is properly set; otherwise, instructions for manual installation of Info documentation are printed on standard output.

It is also possible to build a documentation tree in ‘out-www/online-root/’, with special processing, so it can be used on a website with content negotiation for automatic language selection; this can be achieved by issuing

make WEB_TARGETS=online web

and both ‘offline’ and ‘online’ targets can be generated by issuing

make WEB_TARGETS="offline online" web

Several targets are available to clean the documentation build and help with maintaining documentation; an overview of these targets is available with

make help

from every directory in the build tree. Most targets for documentation maintenance are available from ‘Documentation/’; for more information, see ‘Documentation/user/README.txt’ and ‘Documentation/TRANSLATION’.

The makefile variable QUIET_BUILD may be set to 1 for a less verbose build output, just like for building the programs.

Known issues and warnings

The most time consuming task for building the documentation is running LilyPond to build images of music, and there cannot be several simultaneously running lilypond-book instances, so -j make option does not significantly speed up the build process. To help speed it up, the makefile variable CPU_COUNT may be set in ‘local.make’ or on the command line to the number of .ly files that LilyPond should process simultaneously, e.g. on a bi-processor or dual core machine

make -j3 CPU_COUNT=3 web

The recommended value of CPU_COUNT is one plus the number of cores or processors, but it is advisable to set it to a smaller value if your system has not enough RAM to run that many simultaneous LilyPond instances.

If source files have changed since last documentation build, output files that need to be rebuilt are normally rebuilt, even if you do not run make web-clean first. However, building dependencies in the documentation are so complex that rebuilding of some targets may not be triggered as they should be; a workaround is to force rebuilding by touching appropriate files, e.g.

touch Documentation/user/*.itely
touch input/lsr/*.ly

Building documentation without compiling LilyPond

The documentation can be built locally without compiling LilyPond binary, if LilyPond is already installed on your system.

From a fresh Git checkout, do

./   # ignore any warning messages
cp GNUmakefile
make -C python
nice make LILYPOND_EXTERNAL_BINARY=/path/to/bin/lilypond web

Please note that this may break sometimes – for example, if a new feature is added with a test file in input/regression, even the latest development release of LilyPond will fail to build the docs.

You may build the manual without building all the ‘input/*’ stuff: change directory, for example to ‘Documentation/user’, issue make web, which will build documentation in a subdirectory ‘out-www’ from the source files in current directory. In this case, if you also want to browse the documentation in its post-processed form, change back to top directory and issue

make out=www WWW-post

Known issues and warnings

You may also need to create a script for pngtopnm and pnmtopng. On GNU/Linux, I use this:

export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/usr/lib
exec /usr/bin/pngtopnm "$@"

On MacOS X, I use this:

export DYLD_LIBRARY_PATH=/sw/lib
exec /sw/bin/pngtopnm "$@"

1.2.5 Testing LilyPond

LilyPond comes with an extensive suite that exercises the entire program. This suite can be used to automatically check the impact of a change. This is done as follows

make test-baseline
## apply your changes, compile
make check

This will leave an HTML page ‘out/test-results/index.html’. This page shows all the important differences that your change introduced, whether in the layout, MIDI, performance or error reporting.

To rerun tests, use

make test-redo           ## redo files differing from baseline
make test-clean          ## remove all test results

and then run make check again.

For tracking memory usage as part of this test, you will need GUILE CVS; especially the following patch:

For checking the coverage of the test suite, do the following

# uncovered files, least covered first
./scripts/auxiliar/  --summary out-cov/*.cc
# consecutive uncovered lines, longest first
./scripts/auxiliar/  --uncovered out-cov/*.cc

1.2.6 Problems

For help and questions use Send bug reports to

Bugs that are not fault of LilyPond are documented here.

Bison 1.875

There is a bug in bison-1.875: compilation fails with "parse error before ‘goto’" in line 4922 due to a bug in bison. To fix, please recompile bison 1.875 with the following fix

$ cd lily; make out/
$ vi +4919 out/
# append a semicolon to the line containing "__attribute__ ((__unused__))
# save
$ make


Solaris7, ./configure

./configure’ needs a POSIX compliant shell. On Solaris7, ‘/bin/sh’ is not yet POSIX compliant, but ‘/bin/ksh’ or bash is. Run configure like

CONFIG_SHELL=/bin/ksh ksh -c ./configure


CONFIG_SHELL=/bin/bash bash -c ./configure


To use system fonts, dejaview must be installed. With the default port, the fonts are installed in ‘usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/dejavu’.

Open the file ‘$LILYPONDBASE/usr/etc/fonts/local.conf’ and add the following line just after the <fontconfig> line. (Adjust as necessary for your hierarchy.)


International fonts

On MacOS X, all fonts are installed by default. However, finding all system fonts requires a bit of configuration; see this post on the lilypond-user mailing list.

On Linux, international fonts are installed by different means on every distribution. We cannot list the exact commands or packages that are necessary, as each distribution is different, and the exact package names within each distribution changes. Here are some hints, though:

Red Hat Fedora

    taipeifonts fonts-xorg-truetype ttfonts-ja fonts-arabic \
         ttfonts-zh_CN fonts-ja fonts-hebrew

Debian GNU/Linux

   apt-get install emacs-intl-fonts xfonts-intl-.* \
        ttf-kochi-gothic ttf-kochi-mincho \
        xfonts-bolkhov-75dpi xfonts-cronyx-100dpi xfonts-cronyx-75dpi

2. Setup

This chapter discusses various post-install configuration options for LilyPond and various other programs. This chapter may be safely treated as a reference: only read a section if it applies to you.

2.1 Setup for specific Operating Systems

This section explains how to perform additional setup for specific operating systems.

2.1.1 Setup for MacOS X

Using Python scripts on MacOS 10.3 or 10.4

LilyPond binaries for MacOS X do not provide Python, but Python 2.4 or newer is required by convert-ly. Therefore, if you use MacOS 10.3 or 10.4, you must install a newer Python version from, then edit the first line of convert-ly and lilypond-book as follows: if the Python binary you just installed is in your PATH, the first line should be

#!/usr/bin/env python

otherwise it should be


MacOS X on the command line

The scripts — such as lilypond-book, convert-ly, abc2ly, and even lilypond itself — are included inside the .app file for MacOS X. They can be run from the command line by invoking them directly, e.g.


The same is true of the other scripts in that directory, including lilypond-book, convert-ly, abc2ly, etc.

Alternatively, you may create scripts which add the path automatically. Create a directory to store these scripts,

mkdir -p ~/bin
cd ~/bin

Create a file called lilypond which contains

exec path/to/ "$@"

Create similar files lilypond-book, convert-ly, and any other helper programs you use (abc2ly, midi2ly, etc). Simply replace the bin/lilypond with bin/convert-ly (or other program name) in the above file.

Make the file executable,

chmod u+x lilypond

Now, add this directory to your path. Modify (or create) a file called .profile in your home directory such that it contains

export PATH=$PATH:~/bin

This file should end with a blank line.

Note that path/to will generally be /Applications/.

2.2 Text editor support

There is support from different text editors for LilyPond.

2.2.1 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))

2.2.2 Vim mode

For VIM, a ‘vimrc’ is supplied, along with syntax coloring tools. A Vim mode for entering music and running LilyPond is contained in the source archive in $VIM directory.

The LilyPond file type is detected if the file ‘~/.vim/filetype.vim’ has the following content

if exists("did_load_filetypes")
augroup filetypedetect
  au! BufNewFile,BufRead *.ly           setf lilypond
augroup END

Please include this path by appending the following line to your ‘~/.vimrc

set runtimepath+=/usr/local/share/lilypond/${LILYPOND_VERSION}/vim/

where ${LILYPOND_VERSION} is your LilyPond version. If LilyPond was not installed in ‘/usr/local/’, then change this path accordingly.

2.2.3 jEdit

Created as a plugin for the jEdit text editor, LilyPondTool is the most feature-rich text-based tool for editing LilyPond scores. Its features include a Document Wizard with lyrics support to set up documents easier, and embedded PDF viewer with advanced point-and-click support. For screenshots, demos and installation instructions, visit

2.2.4 TexShop

The TexShop editor for MacOS X can be extended to run LilyPond, lilypond-book and convert-ly from within the editor, using the extensions available at

2.2.5 TextMate

There is a LilyPond bundle for TextMate. It may be installed by running

mkdir -p /Library/Application\ Support/TextMate/Bundles
cd /Library/Application\ Support/TextMate/Bundles
svn co

2.2.6 LilyKDE

LilyKDE is a plugin for KDE’s text editor Kate. It has a powerful Score Wizard to quickly setup a LilyPond document and an embedded PDF viewer.

LilyKDE can use Rumor, so music can entered by playing on a MIDI keyboard.

Other features are lyric hyphenation and running LilyPond on multiple files at once from within the KDE file manager.

2.3 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.

When this functionality is active, LilyPond adds hyperlinks to the PDF file. These hyperlinks are sent to the 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.

For Xpdf on UNIX, the following should be present in ‘xpdfrc1

urlCommand     "lilypond-invoke-editor %s"

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:normchar 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.

The point and click links enlarge the output files significantly. For reducing the size of PDF 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.

3. Running LilyPond

This chapter details the technicalities of running LilyPond.

3.1 Normal usage

Most users run LilyPond through a GUI; see First steps if you have not read this already.

3.2 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’. They should also consult Setup for 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.

3.2.1 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. 2

If ‘’ contains more than one \score 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")
\book { … }
#(define output-suffix "cello")
\book { … }

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

3.2.2 Command line options for lilypond

The following options are supported:


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.


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

Example: lilypond -fpng


This sets the internal program option var to the Scheme value val. If val is not supplied, then #t is used. To switch off an option, no- may be prefixed to var, e.g.


is the same as


Here are a few interesting options.


Running lilypond -dhelp will print all of the -d options available.


This option sets the default paper-size,


Note that the string must be enclosed in escaped quotes ( \" ).


Do 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, for example

#(system "rm -rf /")
  c4^#(ly:export (ly:gulp-file "/etc/passwd"))

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

In addition, safe mode disallows \include directives and disables the use of backslashes in TeX strings.

In safe mode, it is not possible to import LilyPond variables into Scheme.

-dsafe does not detect resource overuse. 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.

The safe mode will prevent many useful LilyPond snippets from being compiled. The --jail is a more secure alternative, but requires more work to set up.


the output format to use for the back-end. Choices for format are


for PostScript.

Postscript files include TTF, Type1 and OTF fonts. No subsetting of these fonts is done. When using oriental character sets, this can lead to huge files.


for encapsulated 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.

This mode is used by default by lilypond-book.


for SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics). This dumps every page as a separate ‘SVG’ file, with embedded fonts. You need a SVG viewer which supports embedded fonts, or a SVG viewer which is able to replace the embedded fonts with OTF fonts. Under UNIX, you may use Inkscape (version 0.42 or later), after copying the OTF fonts from the LilyPond directory (typically ‘/usr/share/lilypond/VERSION/fonts/otf/’) to ‘~/.fonts/’.


for a dump of the raw, internal Scheme-based drawing commands.


do not output a printed score; has the same effect as -dno-print-pages.

Example: lilypond -dbackend=svg


Generate an output file containing the titles and the first system


Generate the full pages, the default. -dno-print-pages is useful in combination with -dpreview.


Show a summary of usage.


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

--include, -I=directory

Add directory to the search path for input files.


Set init file to file (default: ‘’).


Set the default output file to FILE. The appropriate suffix will be added (e.g. .pdf for pdf)


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.


Run lilypond in a chroot jail.

The --jail option provides a more flexible alternative to --safe when LilyPond formatting is available through a web server or whenever LilyPond executes externally provided sources.

The --jail option 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 is a slightly delicate matter, as we must be sure that LilyPond is able to find whatever it needs to compile the source inside the jail. A typical setup comprises the following items:

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 already mentioned, it must be also run with superuser privileges (which, of course, it will lose immediately), possibly using sudo. It is a good idea 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.


Show version information.


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


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

3.2.3 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.


With this variable the memory footprint and performance can be adjusted. It is a percentage tunes memory management behavior. With higher values, the program uses more memory, with smaller values, it uses more CPU time. The default value is 70.

3.3 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.

3.4 Updating files with convert-ly

The LilyPond input syntax is routinely changed to simplify it or improve it in different ways. As a side effect of this, the LilyPond interpreter often is no longer compatible with older input files. To remedy this, the program convert-ly can be used to deal with most of the syntax changes between LilyPond versions.

It uses \version statements in the input files to detect the old version number. In most cases, to upgrade your input file it is sufficient to run

convert-ly -e

MacOS X users may execute this command under the menu entry Compile > Update syntax.

If there are no changes to and file called is created, then is already updated.

3.4.1 Command line options for convert-ly

convert-ly always converts up to the last syntax change handled by it. This means that the \version number left in the file is usually lower than the version of convert-ly itself.

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

To upgrade many files at once, combine convert-ly with standard UNIX commands. This example will upgrade all .ly files in the current directory

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

In general, the program is invoked as follows:

convert-ly [option]… file

The following options can be given:


Do an inline edit of the input file. Overrides --output.


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.


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

-s, --show-rules

Show all known conversions and exit.


Set the goal version of the conversion. It defaults to the latest available version.

-h, --help

Print usage help.

3.4.2 Problems with convert-ly

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.

There are a few things that the convert-ly cannot handle.  Here's a list
of limitations that the community has complained about.

This bug report structure has been chosen because convert-ly has a
structure that doesn't allow to smoothly implement all needed changes.
Thus this is just a wishlist, placed here for reference.

 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.

3.5 Reporting bugs

If you have input that results in a crash or an erroneous output, then that is a bug. There is a list of current bugs on our Google bug tracker,

If you have discovered a bug which is not listed, please report the bug by following the directions on

Please construct and submit minimal examples of bugs in reports. We do not have the resources to investigate reports which are not as small as possible.

4. lilypond-book: Integrating text and music

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 MacOS 10.3 or 10.4 and you have trouble running lilypond-book, see Setup for MacOS X.

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

4.1 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' {
  c2 g'2 \times 2/3 { f8 e d } c'2 g4

Options are put in brackets.

  c'4 f16

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


(If needed, replace by any .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) 2.12.2 
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]

4.2 Integrating music and text

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

4.2.1 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.

Music is entered using






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,


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.

4.2.2 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.

In the input file, music is specified with

@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.

4.2.3 HTML

Music is entered using

<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>

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

4.2.4 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.

4.3 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. This is the default for the \lilypond{} command if no line-width option is present. It is also the default for the lilypond environment if the fragment option is set, and no line width is explicitly specified.


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.


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 c' { % begin verbatim
  c4 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.

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 is similar to quote, but only the music snippet (and the optional verbatim block implied by verbatim option) is put into a quotation block. This option is useful if you want to quote the music snippet but not the texidoc documentation block.


(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.


This option includes fonts in all of the generated EPS-files for this snippet. This should be used if the snippet uses any font that LaTeX cannot find on its own.

4.4 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.pdftex
pdflatex yourfile.tex

To produce PDF output via LaTeX/dvips/ps2pdf, you should do

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.


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.

-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.


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.


Be verbose.


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.

4.5 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”.

4.6 Alternative methods of mixing text and music

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

Many quotes from a large score

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

Inserting LilyPond output into

LilyPond notation can be added to with OOoLilyPond.

Inserting LilyPond output into other programs

To insert LilyPond output in other programs, use lilypond instead of lilypond-book. Each example must be created individually and added to the document; consult the documentation for that program. Most programs will be able to insert LilyPond output in ‘PNG’, ‘EPS’, or ‘PDF’ formats.

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

  bookTitleMarkup = ##f
  scoreTitleMarkup = ##f

{ c1 }

To produce a useful ‘EPS’ file, use

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

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

5. 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 Setup for 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.

5.1 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.


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.

5.2 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. It is invoked from the command-line.

It 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.


print usage and option summary.

-l, --language=LANG

use a different language file ’’ and corresponding pitch names, e.g. ’deutsch’ for and German note names.


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

--nd --no-articulation-directions

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


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


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


convert pitches in relative mode (default).


be verbose.


print version information.


input file is a zip-compressed MusicXML file.

5.3 Invoking abc2ly

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:


preserve ABC’s notion of beams


this help


set output filename to file.


be strict about success


print version information.

There is a rudimentary facility for adding LilyPond code to the ABC source file. If you say:

%%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.

5.4 Invoking etf2ly

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:


this help


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.

5.5 Generating LilyPond files

LilyPond itself does not come with support for any other formats, but there are some external tools that also generate LilyPond files.

These tools include

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    A ‘Transparent’ copy of the Document means a machine-readable copy, represented in a format whose specification is available to the general public, whose contents can be viewed and edited directly and straightforwardly with generic text editors or (for images composed of pixels) generic paint programs or (for drawings) some widely available drawing editor, and that is suitable for input to text formatters or for automatic translation to a variety of formats suitable for input to text formatters. A copy made in an otherwise Transparent file format whose markup has been designed to thwart or discourage subsequent modification by readers is not Transparent. A copy that is not ‘Transparent’ is called ‘Opaque’.

    Examples of suitable formats for Transparent copies include plain ASCII without markup, Texinfo input format, LaTeX input format, SGML or XML using a publicly available DTD, and standard-conforming simple HTML designed for human modification. Opaque formats include PostScript, PDF, proprietary formats that can be read and edited only by proprietary word processors, SGML or XML for which the DTD and/or processing tools are not generally available, and the machine-generated HTML produced by some word processors for output purposes only.

    The ‘Title Page’ means, for a printed book, the title page itself, plus such following pages as are needed to hold, legibly, the material this License requires to appear in the title page. For works in formats which do not have any title page as such, ‘Title Page’ means the text near the most prominent appearance of the work’s title, preceding the beginning of the body of the text.


    You may copy and distribute the Document in any medium, either commercially or noncommercially, provided that this License, the copyright notices, and the license notice saying this License applies to the Document are reproduced in all copies, and that you add no other conditions whatsoever to those of this License. You may not use technical measures to obstruct or control the reading or further copying of the copies you make or distribute. However, you may accept compensation in exchange for copies. If you distribute a large enough number of copies you must also follow the conditions in section 3.

    You may also lend copies, under the same conditions stated above, and you may publicly display copies.


    If you publish printed copies of the Document numbering more than 100, and the Document’s license notice requires Cover Texts, you must enclose the copies in covers that carry, clearly and legibly, all these Cover Texts: Front-Cover Texts on the front cover, and Back-Cover Texts on the back cover. Both covers must also clearly and legibly identify you as the publisher of these copies. The front cover must present the full title with all words of the title equally prominent and visible. You may add other material on the covers in addition. Copying with changes limited to the covers, as long as they preserve the title of the Document and satisfy these conditions, can be treated as verbatim copying in other respects.

    If the required texts for either cover are too voluminous to fit legibly, you should put the first ones listed (as many as fit reasonably) on the actual cover, and continue the rest onto adjacent pages.

    If you publish or distribute Opaque copies of the Document numbering more than 100, you must either include a machine-readable Transparent copy along with each Opaque copy, or state in or with each Opaque copy a publicly-accessible computer-network location containing a complete Transparent copy of the Document, free of added material, which the general network-using public has access to download anonymously at no charge using public-standard network protocols. If you use the latter option, you must take reasonably prudent steps, when you begin distribution of Opaque copies in quantity, to ensure that this Transparent copy will remain thus accessible at the stated location until at least one year after the last time you distribute an Opaque copy (directly or through your agents or retailers) of that edition to the public.

    It is requested, but not required, that you contact the authors of the Document well before redistributing any large number of copies, to give them a chance to provide you with an updated version of the Document.


    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:

    1. Use in the Title Page (and on the covers, if any) a title distinct from that of the Document, and from those of previous versions (which should, if there were any, be listed in the History section of the Document). You may use the same title as a previous version if the original publisher of that version gives permission.
    2. List on the Title Page, as authors, one or more persons or entities responsible for authorship of the modifications in the Modified Version, together with at least five of the principal authors of the Document (all of its principal authors, if it has less than five).
    3. State on the Title page the name of the publisher of the Modified Version, as the publisher.
    4. Preserve all the copyright notices of the Document.
    5. Add an appropriate copyright notice for your modifications adjacent to the other copyright notices.
    6. Include, immediately after the copyright notices, a license notice giving the public permission to use the Modified Version under the terms of this License, in the form shown in the Addendum below.
    7. Preserve in that license notice the full lists of Invariant Sections and required Cover Texts given in the Document’s license notice.
    8. Include an unaltered copy of this License.
    9. Preserve the section entitled ‘History’, and its title, and add to it an item stating at least the title, year, new authors, and publisher of the Modified Version as given on the Title Page. If there is no section entitled ‘History’ in the Document, create one stating the title, year, authors, and publisher of the Document as given on its Title Page, then add an item describing the Modified Version as stated in the previous sentence.
    10. Preserve the network location, if any, given in the Document for public access to a Transparent copy of the Document, and likewise the network locations given in the Document for previous versions it was based on. These may be placed in the ‘History’ section. You may omit a network location for a work that was published at least four years before the Document itself, or if the original publisher of the version it refers to gives permission.
    11. In any section entitled ‘Acknowledgments’ or ‘Dedications’, preserve the section’s title, and preserve in the section all the substance and tone of each of the contributor acknowledgments and/or dedications given therein.
    12. Preserve all the Invariant Sections of the Document, unaltered in their text and in their titles. Section numbers or the equivalent are not considered part of the section titles.
    13. Delete any section entitled ‘Endorsements’. Such a section may not be included in the Modified Version.
    14. Do not retitle any existing section as ‘Endorsements’ or to conflict in title with any Invariant Section.

    If the Modified Version includes new front-matter sections or appendices that qualify as Secondary Sections and contain no material copied from the Document, you may at your option designate some or all of these sections as invariant. To do this, add their titles to the list of Invariant Sections in the Modified Version’s license notice. These titles must be distinct from any other section titles.

    You may add a section entitled ‘Endorsements’, provided it contains nothing but endorsements of your Modified Version by various parties—for example, statements of peer review or that the text has been approved by an organization as the authoritative definition of a standard.

    You may add a passage of up to five words as a Front-Cover Text, and a passage of up to 25 words as a Back-Cover Text, to the end of the list of Cover Texts in the Modified Version. Only one passage of Front-Cover Text and one of Back-Cover Text may be added by (or through arrangements made by) any one entity. If the Document already includes a cover text for the same cover, previously added by you or by arrangement made by the same entity you are acting on behalf of, you may not add another; but you may replace the old one, on explicit permission from the previous publisher that added the old one.

    The author(s) and publisher(s) of the Document do not by this License give permission to use their names for publicity for or to assert or imply endorsement of any Modified Version.


    You may combine the Document with other documents released under this License, under the terms defined in section 4 above for modified versions, provided that you include in the combination all of the Invariant Sections of all of the original documents, unmodified, and list them all as Invariant Sections of your combined work in its license notice.

    The combined work need only contain one copy of this License, and multiple identical Invariant Sections may be replaced with a single copy. If there are multiple Invariant Sections with the same name but different contents, make the title of each such section unique by adding at the end of it, in parentheses, the name of the original author or publisher of that section if known, or else a unique number. Make the same adjustment to the section titles in the list of Invariant Sections in the license notice of the combined work.

    In the combination, you must combine any sections entitled ‘History’ in the various original documents, forming one section entitled ‘History’; likewise combine any sections entitled ‘Acknowledgments’, and any sections entitled ‘Dedications’. You must delete all sections entitled ‘Endorsements.’


    You may make a collection consisting of the Document and other documents released under this License, and replace the individual copies of this License in the various documents with a single copy that is included in the collection, provided that you follow the rules of this License for verbatim copying of each of the documents in all other respects.

    You may extract a single document from such a collection, and distribute it individually under this License, provided you insert a copy of this License into the extracted document, and follow this License in all other respects regarding verbatim copying of that document.


    A compilation of the Document or its derivatives with other separate and independent documents or works, in or on a volume of a storage or distribution medium, does not as a whole count as a Modified Version of the Document, provided no compilation copyright is claimed for the compilation. Such a compilation is called an ‘aggregate’, and this License does not apply to the other self-contained works thus compiled with the Document, on account of their being thus compiled, if they are not themselves derivative works of the Document.

    If the Cover Text requirement of section 3 is applicable to these copies of the Document, then if the Document is less than one quarter of the entire aggregate, the Document’s Cover Texts may be placed on covers that surround only the Document within the aggregate. Otherwise they must appear on covers around the whole aggregate.


    Translation is considered a kind of modification, so you may distribute translations of the Document under the terms of section 4. Replacing Invariant Sections with translations requires special permission from their copyright holders, but you may include translations of some or all Invariant Sections in addition to the original versions of these Invariant Sections. You may include a translation of this License provided that you also include the original English version of this License. In case of a disagreement between the translation and the original English version of this License, the original English version will prevail.


    You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Document except as expressly provided for under this License. Any other attempt to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Document is void, and will automatically terminate your rights under this License. However, parties who have received copies, or rights, from you under this License will not have their licenses terminated so long as such parties remain in full compliance.


    The Free Software Foundation may publish new, revised versions of the GNU Free Documentation License from time to time. Such new versions will be similar in spirit to the present version, but may differ in detail to address new problems or concerns. See

    Each version of the License is given a distinguishing version number. If the Document specifies that a particular numbered version of this License ‘or any later version’ applies to it, you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that specified version or of any later version that has been published (not as a draft) by the Free Software Foundation. If the Document does not specify a version number of this License, you may choose any version ever published (not as a draft) by the Free Software Foundation.

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 1.1
  or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
  with the Invariant Sections being list their titles, with the
  Front-Cover Texts being list, and with the Back-Cover Texts being list.
  A copy of the license is included in the section entitled ‘GNU
  Free Documentation License’.

If you have no Invariant Sections, write ‘with no Invariant Sections’ instead of saying which ones are invariant. If you have no Front-Cover Texts, write ‘no Front-Cover Texts’ instead of ‘Front-Cover Texts being list’; likewise for Back-Cover Texts.

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   R   S   T   U   V   W  
Index Entry Section

\header in LaTeX documents4.2.1 LaTeX

ABC5.3 Invoking abc2ly
About the documentationGNU LilyPond — Application Usage

bugs3.5 Reporting bugs

call trace3.3 Error messages
Coda Technology5.4 Invoking etf2ly
coloring, syntax2.2 Text editor support
command line options for lilypond3.2.1 Invoking lilypond
convert-ly3.4 Updating files with convert-ly

docbook4. lilypond-book: Integrating text and music
DocBook, music in4. lilypond-book: Integrating text and music
documents, adding music to4. lilypond-book: Integrating text and music

editors2.2 Text editor support
emacs2.2 Text editor support
enigma5.4 Invoking etf2ly
error3.3 Error messages
error messages3.3 Error messages
errors, message format3.3 Error messages
ETF5.4 Invoking etf2ly
External programs, generating LilyPond files5.5 Generating LilyPond files
Extracting fragments of musicMany quotes from a large score

fatal error3.3 Error messages
FDL, GNU Free Documentation LicenseA. GNU Free Documentation License
file searching3.2.2 Command line options for lilypond
file size, output2.3 Point and click
Finale5.4 Invoking etf2ly
First steps3.1 Normal usage

html4. lilypond-book: Integrating text and music
HTML, music in4. lilypond-book: Integrating text and music

invoking dvipsLaTeX
Invoking lilypond3.2.1 Invoking lilypond

LANG3.2.3 Environment variables
latex4. lilypond-book: Integrating text and music
LaTeX, music in4. lilypond-book: Integrating text and music
LILYPOND_DATADIR3.2.3 Environment variables

MIDI5.1 Invoking midi2ly
modes, editor2.2 Text editor support
musicology4.1 An example of a musicological document
MusicXML5.2 Invoking musicxml2ly

OpenOffice.orgInserting LilyPond output into
options, command line3.2.1 Invoking lilypond
outline fontsLaTeX
output format, setting3.2.2 Command line options for lilypond

point and click2.3 Point and click
point and click, command line3.2.2 Command line options for lilypond
PostScript output3.2.2 Command line options for lilypond
preview image4.2.3 HTML
Programming error3.3 Error messages

reporting bugs3.5 Reporting bugs

Scheme dump3.2.2 Command line options for lilypond
Scheme error3.3 Error messages
search path3.2.2 Command line options for lilypond
Staff5.1 Invoking midi2ly
SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics)3.2.2 Command line options for lilypond
switches3.2.1 Invoking lilypond
syntax coloring2.2 Text editor support

texi4. lilypond-book: Integrating text and music
texinfo4. lilypond-book: Integrating text and music
texinfo4. lilypond-book: Integrating text and music
Texinfo, music in4. lilypond-book: Integrating text and music
thumbnail4.2.3 HTML
titling and lilypond-book4.2.1 LaTeX
titling in HTML4.2.3 HTML
trace, Scheme3.3 Error messages
type1 fontsLaTeX

Updating a LilyPond file3.4 Updating files with convert-ly
URLGNU LilyPond — Application Usage

vim2.2 Text editor support
Voice5.1 Invoking midi2ly

warning3.3 Error messages
web siteGNU LilyPond — Application Usage

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


[1] On UNIX, this file is found either in ‘/etc/xpdfrc’ or as ‘.xpdfrc’ in your home directory.

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

[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 Han-Wen Nienhuys on January 24, 2009 using texi2html 1.79.

The buttons in the navigation panels have the following meaning:

Button Name Go to From 1.2.3 go to
[ << ] FastBack Beginning of this chapter or previous chapter 1
[Top] Top Cover (top) of document  
[Contents] Contents Table of contents  
[Index] Index Index  
[ ? ] About About (help)  
[ >> ] FastForward Next chapter 2
[ < ] Back Previous section in reading order 1.2.2
[ Up ] Up Up section 1.2
[ > ] Forward Next section in reading order 1.2.4

where the Example assumes that the current position is at Subsubsection One-Two-Three of a document of the following structure:

Other languages: français, español, deutsch.

Application Usage