2.2.1 Common notation for keyboards

This section discusses notation issues that may arise for most keyboard instruments.


References for keyboards

Keyboard instruments are usually notated with Piano staves. These are two or more normal staves coupled with a brace. The same notation is also used for other keyed instruments. Organ music is normally written with two staves inside a PianoStaff group and third, normal staff for the pedals.

The staves in keyboard music are largely independent, but sometimes voices can cross between the two staves. This section discusses notation techniques particular to keyboard music.

Several common issues in keyboard music are covered elsewhere:

See also

Learning Manual: Real music example, Other uses for tweaks.

Notation Reference: Grouping staves, Instrument names, Collision resolution, Writing music in parallel, Fingering instructions, List of articulations, Grid lines, Ties, Arpeggio, Tremolo repeats.

Internals Reference: PianoStaff.

Snippets: Keyboards.

Known issues and warnings

Dynamics are not automatically centered, but workarounds do exist. One option is the ‘piano centered dynamics’ template under Piano templates; another option is to increase the staff-padding of dynamics as discussed in objects Moving objects.


Changing staff manually

Voices can be switched between staves manually, using the command

\change Staff = staffname

The string staffname is the name of the staff. It switches the current voice from its current staff to the staff called staffname. Typical values for staffname are "up" and "down", or "RH" and "LH".

Cross-staff notes are beamed automatically:

\new PianoStaff <<
  \new Staff = "up" {
    <e' c'>8
    \change Staff = "down"
    g8 fis g
    \change Staff = "up"
    <g'' c''>8
    \change Staff = "down"
    e8 dis e
    \change Staff = "up"
  }
  \new Staff = "down" {
    \clef bass
    % keep staff alive
    s1
  }
>>

[image of music]

If the beaming needs to be tweaked, make any changes to the stem directions first. The beam positions are then measured from the center of the staff that is closest to the beam. For a simple example of beam tweaking, see notation Fixing overlapping notation.

See also

Learning Manual: Fixing overlapping notation.

Notation Reference: Stems, Automatic beams.

Snippets: Keyboards.

Internals Reference: Beam, ContextChange.


Changing staff automatically

Voices can be made to switch automatically between the top and the bottom staff. The syntax for this is

\autochange …music

This will create two staves inside the current staff group (usually a PianoStaff), called "up" and "down". The lower staff will be in the bass clef by default. The autochanger switches on the basis of the pitch (middle C is the turning point), and it looks ahead skipping over rests to switch in advance.

\new PianoStaff {
  \autochange {
    g4 a b c'
    d'4 r a g
  }
}

[image of music]

A \relative section that is outside of \autochange has no effect on the pitches of the music, so if necessary, put \relative inside \autochange.

If additional control is needed over the individual staves, they can be created manually with the names "up" and "down". The \autochange command will then switch its voice between the existing staves.

Note: If staves are created manually, they must be named "up" and "down".

For example, staves must be created manually in order to place a key signature in the lower staff:

\new PianoStaff <<
  \new Staff = "up" {
    \new Voice = "melOne" {
      \key g \major
      \autochange \relative c' {
        g8 b a c b d c e
        d8 r fis, g a2
      }
    }
  }
  \new Staff = "down" {
    \key g \major
    \clef bass
  }
>>

[image of music]

See also

Notation Reference: Changing staff manually.

Snippets: Keyboards.

Internals Reference: AutoChangeMusic.

Known issues and warnings

The staff switches may not end up in optimal places. For high quality output, staff switches should be specified manually.

Chords will not be split across the staves; they will be assigned to a staff based on the first note named in the chord construct.


Staff-change lines

Whenever a voice switches to another staff, a line connecting the notes can be printed automatically:

\new PianoStaff <<
  \new Staff = "one" {
    \showStaffSwitch
    c1
    \change Staff = "two"
    b2 a
  }
  \new Staff = "two" {
    \clef bass
    s1*2
  }
>>

[image of music]

Predefined commands

\showStaffSwitch, \hideStaffSwitch.

See also

Snippets: Keyboards.

Internals Reference: Note_head_line_engraver, VoiceFollower.


Cross-staff stems

Chords that cross staves may be produced:

\new PianoStaff <<
  \new Staff {
    \relative c' {
      f8 e4 d8 d f e4
    }
  }
  \new Staff {
    \relative c' {
      << {
        \clef bass
        % stems may overlap the other staff
        \override Stem #'cross-staff = ##t
        % extend the stems to reach other other staff
        \override Stem #'length = #12
        % do not print extra flags
        \override Stem #'flag-style = #'no-flag
        % prevent beaming as needed
        a8 g4 f8 f bes\noBeam g4
      }
      \\
      {
        f,2 bes4 c
      } >>
    }
  }
>>

[image of music]

Selected Snippets

Indicating cross-staff chords with arpeggio bracket

An arpeggio bracket can indicate that notes on two different staves are to be played with the same hand. In order to do this, the PianoStaff must be set to accept cross-staff arpeggios and the arpeggios must be set to the bracket shape in the PianoStaff context.

(Debussy, Les collines d’Anacapri, m. 65)

\paper { ragged-right = ##t }

\new PianoStaff <<
  \set PianoStaff.connectArpeggios = ##t
  \override PianoStaff.Arpeggio #'stencil = #ly:arpeggio::brew-chord-bracket
  \new Staff {
    \relative c' {
      \key b \major
      \time 6/8
      b8-.(\arpeggio fis'-.\> cis-. e-. gis-. b-.)\!\fermata^\laissezVibrer
      \bar "||"
    }
  }
  \new Staff {
    \relative c' {
      \clef bass
      \key b \major
      <<
        {
          <a e cis>2.\arpeggio
        }
        \\
        {
          <a, e a,>2.
        }
      >>
    }
  }
>>

[image of music]

See also

Snippets: Keyboards.

Internals Reference: Stem.


Other languages: français, español, deutsch.

Notation Reference