2.1.3 Aligning lyrics to a melody

Aligning of text with melodies can be made automatically, but if you specify the durations of the syllables it can also be made manually. Lyrics aligning and typesetting are prepared with the help of skips, hyphens and extender lines.

Lyrics are printed by interpreting them in the context called Lyrics.

\new Lyrics \lyricmode …

There are two main methods to specify the horizontal placement of the syllables:

Automatic syllable durations

The lyrics can be aligned under a given melody automatically. This is achieved by combining the melody and the lyrics with the \lyricsto expression

\new Lyrics \lyricsto name

This aligns the lyrics to the notes of the Voice context called name, which must already exist. Therefore normally the Voice is specified first, and then the lyrics are specified with \lyricsto. The command \lyricsto switches to \lyricmode mode automatically, so the \lyricmode keyword may be omitted.

The following example uses different commands for entering lyrics.

  \new Voice = "one" \relative c'' {
    \time 2/4
    c4 b8. a16 g4. f8 e4 d c2

% not recommended: left aligns syllables
  \new Lyrics \lyricmode { Joy4 to8. the16 world!4. the8 Lord4 is come.2 }

% wrong: durations needed
  \new Lyrics \lyricmode { Joy to the earth! the Sa -- viour reigns. }

  \new Lyrics \lyricsto "one" { No more let sins and sor -- rows grow. }

[image of music]

The second stanza is not properly aligned because the durations were not specified. A solution for that would be to use \lyricsto.

The \addlyrics command is actually just a convenient way to write a more complicated LilyPond structure that sets up the lyrics.

\addlyrics { LYRICS }

is the same as

\new Voice = "blah" { music }
\new Lyrics \lyricsto "blah" { LYRICS }

Manual syllable durations

Lyrics can also be entered without \addlyrics or \lyricsto. In this case, syllables are entered like notes – but with pitches replaced by text – and the duration of each syllable must be entered explicitly. For example:

play2 the4 game2.
sink2 or4 swim2.

The alignment to a melody can be specified with the associatedVoice property,

\set associatedVoice = #"lala"

The value of the property (here: "lala") should be the name of a Voice context. Without this setting, extender lines will not be formatted properly.

Here is an example demonstrating manual lyric durations,

<< \new Voice = "melody" {
    \time 3/4
    c2 e4 g2.
 \new Lyrics \lyricmode {
   \set associatedVoice = #"melody"
   play2 the4 game2.
 } >>

[image of music]

See also

Internals Reference: Lyrics.

Multiple syllables to one note

In order to assign more than one syllable to a single note, you can surround them with quotes or use a _ character, to get spaces between syllables, or use tilde symbol (~) to get a lyric tie1.

\time 3/4
\relative c' { c2 e4 g2 e4 }
\addlyrics { gran- de_a- mi- go }
\addlyrics { pu- "ro y ho-" nes- to }
\addlyrics { pu- ro~y~ho- nes- to }

[image of music]

See also

Internals Reference: LyricCombineMusic.

Multiple notes to one syllable

Sometimes, particularly in Medieval music, several notes are to be sung on one single syllable; such vocalises are called melismas, or melismata.

You can define melismata entirely in the lyrics, by entering _ for every extra note that has to be added to the melisma.

Additionaly, you can make an extender line to be typeset to indicate the melisma in the score, writing a double underscore next to the first syllable of the melisma. This example shows the three elements that are used for this purpose (all of them surrounded by spaces): double hyphens to separate syllables in a word, underscores to add notes to a melisma, and a double underscore to put an extender line.

{ \set melismaBusyProperties = #'()
 c d( e) f f( e) e e  }
 { Ky -- _ _ ri __ _ _ _  e }

[image of music]

In this case, you can also have ties and slurs in the melody if you set melismaBusyProperties, as is done in the example above.

However, the \lyricsto command can also detect melismata automatically: it only puts one syllable under a tied or slurred group of notes. If you want to force an unslurred group of notes to be a melisma, insert \melisma after the first note of the group, and \melismaEnd after the last one, e.g.,

  \new Voice = "lala" {
    \time 3/4
    f4 g8
    f e f
  \new Lyrics \lyricsto "lala" {
    la di __ daah

[image of music]

In addition, notes are considered a melisma if they are manually beamed, and automatic beaming (see Setting automatic beam behavior) is switched off.

A complete example of a SATB score setup is in section Vocal ensembles.

Predefined commands

\melisma, \melismaEnd.

See also

Known issues and warnings

Melismata are not detected automatically, and extender lines must be inserted by hand.

Skipping notes

Making a lyric line run slower than the melody can be achieved by inserting \skips into the lyrics. For every \skip, the text will be delayed another note. The \skip command must be followed by a valid duration, but this is ignored when \skip is used in lyrics.

For example,

\relative c' { c c g' }
\addlyrics {
  twin -- \skip 4

[image of music]

Extenders and hyphens

In the last syllable of a word, melismata are sometimes indicated with a long horizontal line starting in the melisma syllable, and ending in the next one. Such a line is called an extender line, and it is entered as ‘ __ ’ (note the spaces before and after the two underscore characters).

Note: Melismata are indicated in the score with extender lines, which are entered as one double underscore; but short melismata can also be entered by skipping individual notes, which are entered as single underscore characters; these do not make an extender line to be typeset by default.

Centered hyphens are entered as ‘ -- ’ between syllables of a same word (note the spaces before and after the two hyphen characters). The hyphen will be centered between the syllables, and its length will be adjusted depending on the space between the syllables.

In tightly engraved music, hyphens can be removed. Whether this happens can be controlled with the minimum-distance (minimum distance between two syllables) and the minimum-length (threshold below which hyphens are removed).

See also

Internals Reference: LyricExtender, LyricHyphen

Lyrics and repeats



[1] The lyric ties is implemented with the Unicode character U+203F, so be sure to have a font (Like DejaVuLGC) installed that includes this glyph.

Other languages: espaƱol, deutsch.

Notation Reference