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
. 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
    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.

You’ll have to read my other blogs again

I really find on Wednesday that if I fix all the problems with the music
that the Cantabile Band
played the previous night, and get it uploaded, and maybe blog
about it on the Serpent
Publications blog
, I don’t really have the time or energy to
write a completely unrelated post for the 59th year
blogging experiment.
So the way I did a week or so
I’m just going to point you at the writing I’ve
already done. Even if you aren’t interested in the Renaissance
music, read the Chidiock_Tichborne

So here’s the report on last
night’s meeting
, and the description
of the pieces I uploaded this morning.

Serpent Publications Changes

I’ve already done a lot of writing this morning, so instead of
writing you a separate post, I’ll just point you at what I’ve
already written:

Tufte-inspired LaTeX class

One of the things I do when I’m putting off doing a piece of writing
because I won’t enjoy it is figure out a new way to publish it
so that it will at least look good.

I ran across the Tufte LaTex
on the comp.text.tex newsgroup yesterday and
downloaded it. It really does look nice, so I’m writing the
summary of income, deductions, and expenses for the Estate of
Bonnie Rogers using it.

It’s inspired by the books of <a href="Edward Tufte,
whose design lots of people, including me, admire.

I think the package may be a work in progress, but so far the
quick outline I threw up of my document does compile and look
pretty good. I base my judgement about the work in progress on
both the question on the newsgroup and the fact that the
sample-book gives me errors instead of a PDF file on my

There probably isn’t much point using the Tufte style
if you aren’t going to have marginal notes and figures, but for
this purpose there won’t be any trouble writing marginal notes
like “Ted, you have the paperwork for the sale of the house, so
your guess about which items are expenses is better than

Another piece of distraction I found was downloading the free

Bergamo Std font
from So then I
had to google things about how to use open type fonts. The
magic word for Ubuntu is that after you’ve unzipped the fonts
into a suitable directory, such as /usr/local/share/fonts, you

fc-cache -f -v

Then if you want to look at them on the screen, Abiword seems
support open type fonts better than openoffice. I had to change
permissions on both the directory and the fonts before I could
use them.

Giant social networking sites

I keep being surprised by how many people want their online
presence mediated by a corporation.

I have a friend I’ve been carrying on an email correspondence
with for 15 years or so, and she had taken some pictures of her
flower garden that she wanted me to see, but she put them on her
facebook page and couldn’t figure out how to let me see them if I
didn’t send her my facebook ID. I think she’s wrong — I’ve
seen other things on people’s facebook pages without registering
and logging in, so it must be possible to let non-facebook users
see things if you want to. But in any case, I told her I wasn’t
getting a facebook page because I have two websites that I
attempt vainly to keep up to date, and their URL’s are in all my
email messages and they both have RSS feeds. So I don’t want to
also have a facebook page to get out of date.

Her response was that several non-technical people she wanted
to stay in touch with now had facebook pages, and weren’t going
ot read a blog or follow a flickr url. If I know people like
that, they haven’t told me about their facebook pages.

I was surprised again yesterday morning yesterday morning when
one of the mailing lists I’m on had a discussion about how
disconnected they felt with twitter being down. (This turns out
to be a side effect of the Russia/Georgia conflict, according to
New York Times article.
So don’t say Americans are totally
insulated from the effects of war.)

Unlike facebook, twitter
does seem to have things to offer even the technically ept who
are capable of setting up a blog or uploading pictures to Flickr. But I have yet to
sign up to take advantage of them.

Between email and websites and blogs, I really don’t see why I
need to sign up for a mass-produced page. And I don’t see why
my friend wouldn’t be better off getting a flickr account or a
blog on if
she wants to share stories or pictures with the world.

I like to think I’m not quite as bullheaded about adopting
popular technologies as the rest of my family (who don’t have
cell phones or cable TV, and got broadband internet only because I
forced them to and paid for it). But I really do think people
should think about “What will this do for me?” before blindly
following all the other sheep to sign up for it.

Making one PDF of many

People who aren’t lazy enough to have figured out how to use
computers to save them work are really strange about using them to
make lots of work for other people.

The director of the West Gallery Quire sent
a mail to the list suggesting that everybody print their own music
for the workshop
next week,
but providing only a link to a page with pointers
to the individual pieces, and a list of the order it should be in.

So before breakfast this morning, I spent 20 minutes
downloading the pdf’s and writing a LaTeX program to put them in
one pdf. I know there are other ways to do this, but this got me
a title page with a list of the pieces.

I was greatly assisted in doing this fast by a latex file
posted by Peter
to the Nokia
users list.
He figured out how to put PDF’s into a page
exactly the size of the Nokia
, and posted it.

After breakfast, I put my pdf file up on my website and posted a link to it. I’m sure people are a lot more likely to print one 23 page file
than to chase 10 links and print them and put them in order.

Here’s a skeleton for how to do it to print a a PDF on letter

title{Your title here}
author{Your name}
date{today} %or use the date you want

Of course, you substitute the name of your PDF file for
filename.pdf, and you can have as many includepdf lines as you

What I should be doing on the new site

I started the site before there
was such a thing as a Content Management System for a website. I
thought I was being pretty sophisticated by having it database
would indeed not be up yet if I hadn’t done that, but there’s
still a lot of stuff about the books and about why I do what I do
that’s in basic html at, and should be moved into wordpress.

I didn’t expect it to be that hard, because I’m using the raw-html
plugin for wordpress. So I was thinking that all I had to do was
to put two html comments around my html and put it in as a
wordpress post.

This is true as far as it goes, but consider the following

Links within the html
The content of the link has to be moved to the new site, and
the link has to be updated. This is easy enough on a one-by-one
basis, but doing thirty of them at once is a pain. I think I’m
not putting most of the pictures into the WordPress media
library; it’s just too much easier to copy them to a directory
and link to them there.
Links to the page
Until you’ve put the page into wordpress, you don’t know
what the link is going to be, and you don’t want to change any
links until you’ve published the new page. This means you have
to start at the bottom of the tree, and the set of links-to
relationships between my html pages is not a simple tree graph.
Redirect the page on the old site to the one on the new
A lot of people link to the old site, and I haven’t yet
gotten around to telling them all to change it, and when I do,
they’ll take their time about changing their links, at least if
they’re anything like me. So I want to keep the pages on the
old site, but have them redirect to the new site. This is
another thing I can’t do until I’ve published the page on the
new site, but want to do right afterward, since I’m doing a fair
amount of improving things as I move them, so I don’t want
people reading the old, inferior stuff when they could be
reading the new, improved stuff.

On a cheerful note, the new site is as much easier to make
additions to as I hoped it would be. On the old site, I would
spend a morning doing the additions after I’d made several of
them, but with the new site, I just do a “make upload” when I’ve
proofread a piece and think it isn’t too embarrassing.

Lilypond vs. Petrucci, round 3

After my last
on the subject of trying to get Petrucci-like spacing out
of lilypond, someone came up with a conceptually simpler way to
get equal spacing — just tell lily to treat all the notes as if
they were quarter notes. It isn’t automated yet. For each note,
you have to tell both the value to print and the fraction of the
note value to use for
spacing, and you effectively have to put the line breaks in by hand, but it really does look a lot more the way Petrucci did
it, and less like a nineteenth century engraver who thought a
breve was a large note value instead of a short one.

So here’s what the tenor part looks like now:

[lilypond equal-spaced output]

And to remind you, here’s the facsimile:

[petrucci's version]

Some pages are now being redirected

I have the new site up at
Since I will no longer be maintaining the music portion of this
site, I am now redirecting the automatically generated pages to
the equivalent pages on the new site.

I’ll deal with the written pages as I get to them.

In general, the new central place for information about all the
pieces I’ve published is the
new By Composer Page.
Let me know what you think of it.

New Serpent Publications Website

It’s been a busy week, but the new Serpent Publications website is starting to be
ready for friendly eyes.

There’s still a lot of page content to be written or
transferred from the old site, and I’ll be tinkering with the look
of the pages and fixing up broken links and such in the
database, but the music is all there and can be accessed from the By Composer page.

The piece that’s a test for the new piece pages with previews
It needs some editing; someone asked for it and it was a mess, and I got it converted to current lilypond, but haven’t finished fixing the underlay.

It’s conceivable that I’ll even be ready to go live to the
world at large by Wednesday.

More about what I’ve been doing later, but let me know what you