Tablature and lilypond

If all you’re doing is entering notes, you can probably take
lilypond from 15 years ago, run it through the automatic updater,
and get your music typeset by current lilypond, using all the
improvements made by all the developers since then.

If you have lyrics, they did something 8 years or so ago that
the automatic upgrader doesn’t deal with, so you have to manually
change two or three lines per part to use the current version. This is why there’s still a
lot of old lilypond on my music publishing
site
. But it’s certainly possible to use 10 year old work
with current lilypond.

If you want tablature, someone who actually has tablature may
have figured out something better than what I can see. What it
looks like from here is:

  • Some time in 2003, I spend some time figuring out how I
    would have to enter Dowland’s tablature if that were what I
    wanted to do. I actually had a measure or two entered, and I
    got some help writing a scheme function so that it would look
    more like what’s printed in the Dowland facsimiles. I didn’t at
    the time have any real use for the tablature, so I didn’t bother
    entering more than that measure. However, in 2007 I decided a
    few of the Dowland third book pieces didn’t really make sense
    musically without the lute part, so I attempted to enter the
    tablature, and found that all the work I’d done 4 years before
    was useless. I translated the tablature into standard notation,
    and didn’t do anything about having it as tablature.
  • This last week, someone from the recorder mailing
    list
    offered to help me proofread tablature, so I took a
    look at what lilypond has now. It would clearly be a fair amount of
    work to get from the notation I have (for a few pieces) to
    anything that looks like what Dowland printed, but I found a post
    on the LUTE
    mailing list
    from last year claiming that they had something
    useful. However, this may have worked with lilypond 2.10, but it
    no longer works with lilypond 2.12.

Now I didn’t spend a lot of time figuring out what has changed
about tablature between 2.10 and 2.12, and it could be that it’s a
trivial problem that just didn’t get into convert-ly by accident,
and if I wrote a bug report it would get fixed immediately. But
since I’ve done considerable work on tablature over the years, all
of which is completely useless with current lilypond, and of
course I still have several projects on the website with a fairly
tight deadline of mid-October. So I’m not going to do any more
work right now. But if any of you feel differently, and do get to
where there’s useful French lute tablature coming out of lilypond 2.12,
please let me know about it.

Meanwhile, I should mention that abctab2ps was
already producing useful tablature 10 years ago, and has
presumably improved. I stopped using it since tablature by itself
is of limited use to me, and there wasn’t any way to get from the
abctab2ps input to standard notation. But another possibly useful
program would translate the tab (plus the tuning information) into ABC or lilypond.

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