LilyPond

Notation Software Alternatives

While many commenters to Bill Holab’s article directly focused on the immediate topic of yay or nay vis-à-vis Sibelius 8, others have passionately advocated for alternative music notation software programs.

Written By

NewMusicBox Staff

LilyPond logo featuring a drawing of a lilypond superimposed on a measure of two stave music notation

Might LilyPond be a viable alternative to Finale or Sibelius? Some composers think so.

Since posting Bill Holab’s “To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade? A Notation Software Update” just prior to the Independence Day holiday weekend, there’s been a steady flow of comments from our readers. While many commenters were directly focused on the immediate topic of yay or nay vis-à-vis Sibelius 8, others have passionately advocated for alternative music notation software programs. James Harkins’s remarks about LilyPond caught our attention in particular:

I’ve used LilyPond for my own scores for the last five years or so, and I can say confidently that the amount of manual tweaking that it takes to get a “good enough” result is a small fraction of what I used to have to do in Finale. Many composers will be put off by its text input, but what you get for it is automated layout that’s 95% of the way there (instead of 70%). Whether you take to LilyPond or not depends, I think, on cognitive style. If you feel like, “Don’t bore me with a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo — when do I get to put some notes on screen?” — LilyPond won’t be for you. If, instead, you feel, “I can’t stand making the same adjustment by hand 10,000 times — isn’t there some system that could just get it right?” — you might prefer LP. … Oh, and LP is free/libre software, fully open-source. No licensing drama.

What music notation software works best for you and why?

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