These two questions request support for some type of typesetting/notation:

Request Lilypond support from the SE developers

Decision: Request ABC Notation support from the SE developers

I think everyone agrees that we need some way of inserting notation besides posting images. Which do we prefer?

For fair-ish comparison, here are simple scores for both ABC and Lilypond. These are minimal scores, suitable for Q&A Format. The phrase is BACH with some dynamics (suggested by the weblily site). I've included places where you can try the notation online and the docs for those who aren't familiar.

Lilypond link to typeset music: (you can try lilypond at weblily.com, login required): http://www.weblily.net/app/permalinks/scores/tmp-3011634232162858451-8.html. The docs are here.

ABC.js editor (paste code from below): http://abcjs.net/abcjs-editor.html The docs are here.

Note: Weblily is running a server side implementation, not in-browser; abc.js is using the javascript implementation.

  • Both can produce midi audio.
  • The output of either is clean and legible.
  • There are extensive song libraries for either. Lilypond seems to have more classical music, people who use ABC seem to favor traditional music.


M: 2/4
K: F
!p! B8 !<(! | A4 c4| !<)! !f! =B8 |


{ \key f \major \time 2/4
  bes'2\p a'4\< c''4 b'2\f

Without Dynamics:


M: 2/4
K: F
B8 | A4 c4 | =B8 |


{ \key f \major \time 2/4
   bes'2 a'4 c''4 b'2

Note: I've CW'd my answers so other people can add to them. Feel free to post your own or edit mine.

Note 2: The linked questions give primarily give ABC as an easier to implement alternative to lilypond. I want to know which one people think would be more suitable for this site, on their own notation merits, assuming we could implement either.

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  • 3
    Those questions you link show how the site feels about each already. Lilypond is preferred by the current community. – Dom May 15 '15 at 15:49
  • Dom - I'm not sure. The lilypond has over 5x the number of views. Maybe the community does prefer lilypond, but I wanted to see. Or maybe there's another language people would like. In any case, the votes on this question will make it very clear. – Josiah May 15 '15 at 15:50
  • Let me clarify: in the other posts, ABC is considered as an easier-to-implement alternative to lilypond. I want people to look at their utility as languages suitable for music markup on the site, not primarily as which is more likely to be implemented. – Josiah May 15 '15 at 16:10
  • 2
    We've still disused this before and most people on the site still feel the same: meta.music.stackexchange.com/a/975/7222 – Dom May 15 '15 at 16:12
  • 1
    @Dom But did we find a renderer? If I'm not mistaken the devs asked us for one, but we weren't able to find it. At this point it is both about what we want and what is implementable. – Von Huffman May 21 '15 at 2:35


  • It's a much more powerful language, capable of publication-quality engraving.
  • ABC is a subset of Lilypond
  • We're likely to get questions about using lilypond, and it would be easy to answer these if we used lilypond.
  • It's better suited for complex and non-Western music
  • 1
    For the record my vote goes here. Can't vote for my own answer. – Josiah May 18 '15 at 15:57
  • Can Lilypond be implemented here? Did we find a renderer? Last thing I remember about the subject is the devs asking us for a renderer they could use, and we couldn't find one. – Von Huffman May 21 '15 at 2:12
  • 1
    Rendering scheme code on the server would open up a lot of potential security/load issues, and writing a Lilypond parser in javascript would be several year's work. I don't see it happening. ABC is more doable. My vote would be for musicxml which is easily generated by hundreds of systems and has multiple parsers (server and some client side). – Michael Scott Cuthbert Aug 13 '15 at 17:19


  • Human readable enough to play from (especially if it's just pitches and durations).
  • It's easy to write because the syntax is easy to remember and it looks a lot like what I see in my head when I'm sightreading. (No, I'm not a robot).
  • It's simple to implement and could make a good colloquial web music language
  • It's got an easy learning curve

Tunearch uses it for all their typesetting, and it works well over there, though they use a server-side implementation I believe.

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