LilyPond is "a computer program and file format for music engraving" (quote from wikipedia). There's a LilyPond tag on stackoverflow and a LilyPond tag on the Music SE.

I recently asked a question about how to do something in LilyPond on SO here but got downvoted and another user (not the down-voter) pointed out that it is not a programming question. But it is. I've asked too on the Music SE here but I am confused. Where should such a question live on SE? Is it OK to cross-post to two relevant SE's? Why is LilyPond frowned on in SO?

  • 1
    (Cross-posted on meta-SO here)
    – dumbledad
    Jan 16, 2016 at 14:47
  • 2
    I am not super familiar with Lilypond so I might be off-base here, but my impression was that it's a markup language (like TeX or most/older HTML) and not a programming language. HTML is definitely on-topic for SO but I think that if it weren't very tied to web programming that it probably wouldn't be ... so I can't see much reason for Lilypond to be.
    – user28
    Jan 18, 2016 at 1:44
  • @MatthewRead, that's exactly the discussion that's unfolding there.
    – dumbledad
    Jan 18, 2016 at 9:28

3 Answers 3


LilyPond is very on topic here as it is a music engraving program like Finale of Silibus, just the difference is that the output is generated via text file instead of GUI interface. The description on the website describes it as:

LilyPond is a music engraving program, devoted to producing the highest-quality sheet music possible.

IMO it makes much more sense to ask it here as the audience here not only is familiar with LilyPond, but is familiar with what sheet music should look like and the basic rules of music. One stat you can look at that backs this up is even though Music SE has much lower traffic and questions than SO, it has two more questions tagged with LilyPond here shows that this community overall has a better space carved out for it.

LilyPond questions also typically require some knowledge of the notation as that can be the reason for the errors in the output as seen in this question.

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    Two more questions, given the number of users on both sites, speaks volumes. In fact I got the quickest response from the LilyPond mailing list, but it would be great if they migrated here.
    – dumbledad
    Jan 16, 2016 at 16:04
  • One other point. While I agree with your answer and am pleased to know where to post it does still feel strange. I'm use to asking programming questions on SO and I'm use to asking and answering questions here about playing the violin (or singing, or musical notation, ...). LilyPond questions feel more like the former than the latter.
    – dumbledad
    Jan 17, 2016 at 10:22

If the question is about how to get lilypond to produce the musical notation that you want, then it's on topic here, and likely to get better/quicker answers (though it is still the case the mailing list is where you'll find the best lilypond support). That being said, I can envision some types of questions where you are getting into the scheme coding side of things (maybe in support of automated score content generation) where it really is a coding question. In those cases, I'd think it belongs on SO, even if they end up closing it.


I wonder whether it might have been better to have a dedicated Music Notation stackexchange site? Within this site questions could be all focussed on notation and engraving in formats such as Lilypond, rather than mixed in with questions about practice and theory.

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    I think it would be very hard to get enough users for such a specific site, especially since most people are likely to only focus on one notation package. With this site, we gain a good cross-section of all musicians and thus (hopefully) a mix of notation users. While it might look a bit incongruous to see a theory question right next to a notation-layout question, do you see any evidence that one is actually hindering the other?
    – user28
    Jan 18, 2016 at 20:50
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    I agree with @richhallstoke in theory (hence the +1) but not in practice. They are sufficiently different to warrant a different SE, but each SE will fail without a critical mass of users, and so at present it is more important to keep us all together.
    – dumbledad
    Jan 19, 2016 at 9:51
  • OK was just an idea to explore. I'm not an active enough user on this SE site at present to really have a grasp on how many users are on here, the percentage of questions that are related to notation etc. Jan 19, 2016 at 13:08
  • Maybe start a vote? To see if it interest the community of SE users. Even my opinion is as @ Dave said in his answer. The best support you can get from the specific notation program is still in the forum / mail listing of the notation program in question.
    – Nachmen
    Jan 21, 2016 at 23:57

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