The Linux Story – Part III – The Music Engraving Incident


“Music is the healing force of the universe”

(Albert Ayler  1936-1970)

GUI Applications

There are two types of music engraving applications, two different approaches and abilities. The first kind is the GUI (Graphical User Interface.) Finale, Sibelius, NoteWorthy Composer. This kind of applications are also known as WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) a long living approach (You might know it from Microsoft Word for example) These application approach is simple, you select the object you want and place it where you want.

I used mostly Finale in these types of application, and do have some experience with NoteWorthy and Sibelius. It is possible to use key binds and shortcuts the make the engraving faster, but it is still somewhat slow. The main problem with these applications that it takes time, and sometimes a lot of time, if it’s even possible, to set it up for what is needed.

The first version of my Fantasy III was engraved using Finale 2012, to write counterpoint I had to use different layers, as far as I know, it’s the only way to do so. It’s like using several papers to each voice. This also led to some problems with the stems.  To setup tablatures in the same piece is even a bigger nightmare and required much more tweaks, it makes the work really slow for my needs. There are of course specific entabulation application as Fronimo, but still, it’s point and click and a lot of setting up.

You can get great results with these applications, if you have time to set them up and play with configurations, tweaks and menus inside menus. But that’s not for me, I need my work to be fluid. There is however a big plus for these applications, if you have a MIDI keyboard you can easily use it, I do not know if Lilypond is capable of doing so (and I don’t have a MIDI keyboard to try it)

TUI Applications

TUI (Text based User Interface), do you remember DOS or Norton Commander? Something like that. TUI music engravers include Lilypond and specifically for tablatures (lute) Tab by Wayne Cripps are more of programming languages. You do not point and click, write instruction to the file and then compile it and get the results. 
Now, this is great, there are many commands and many tweaks you can write, there are no menus so you just need to find the right one and you do it in a simple search in the manuals. These applications are much more similar to the good old paper and pen, you write what you need and where you need it. Let me use the example of Fantasy III again, when I moved to Lilypond I only had to give several instructions. First, I had to setup the staves and voices, it is much easier then switching to different layers as one staff which include several voices. I also had to include a tablature staff and include the voices in it. That was it, I could start writing after 5 minutes of setup and completed the work in less then an hour. 
The result was perfect for me, I got all the voices in place as I wrote on paper. But, and there is a but, using these application under Windows is not that natural. I never tried Tab for Windows, I couldn’t really understand how to install it. But with Lilypond it was really unnatural, again, I can’t just explain what it means, I just the feeling that something is not right. 
There is a third kind of application, like Denemo and MuseScore, both based on Lilypond, they just gives a point and click, I don’t see any reason to use these application, they do not give anything GUI based application or text based. 

What does it have to do with the Linux story?

Finale and most GUI based application have versions for both OSX and Windows, but I don’t like the GUI based. Lilypond and Tab have OSX, Windows and Linux support (well, I never tried the windows version of Tab) it allows to use your works on every computer, and why it good for me? As I mentioned, I’m using iMac as my main computer, but I also have a laptop running windows. Sometimes I can’t Work on the iMac, for the usual reasons, in work, bathroom, bedroom watching TV, etc. and as Lilypond felt really wrong under Windows, the logical conclusion was to install Hackintosh.

But I also need a stable and long running system, the next logical choice was to install Linux. and That’s What I did.


In the next part I will explain the what I install and how I feel about it. Stay Tuned!



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