LilyPond 2.10.33 Hymn Template Instructions

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Purpose of this article

This article is to help users understand the following LilyPond hymn template: LilyPond SATB Hymn Template. I devoted a lot of time discovering the various aspects of LilyPond notation specifically useful for hymns, for this template. Of course, you might be satisfied without all the particulars I've added to the template, but if you're like me, you'll find it quite useful, and that it suits most of your needs. Let me know if this template lacks anything you need. —Veramet 03:27, 25 October 2008 (UTC)


  • Check out the LilyPond website, its tutorials, and such before you get too excited about this (you may want to learn the basics first). Nevertheless, a few of the basics are explained here. You'll need to install the program and get used to a text editor, the command prompt, and such too. I recommend SciTE as a text editor for LilyPond (Veramet can tell you how to configure it to compile and view the pdf, and play the midi from SciTE).


  • Everything on a line after a percentage sign (%) is a comment.
  • There is a lot of commented out code - uncommenting it will do different things to your music, unless the comment is there for documentation purposes.


Why are there two sections for the composer and poet?

  • Well, there's the standard way where they show up at the top, and then there's the more (what I consider to be) hymn-like way where they show up at the bottom. Try them both out and see which way you like.


Getting lyrics to show up

  • First of all, type out your lyrics
    • i.e. the first verse would be at the end of the section that starts with sopWords = \lyricmode; the second verse lyrics go in the section entitled sopWordsTwo = \lyricmode, and so on.
  • There are two things to uncomment, for each verse/stanza:
    •  %\context Lyrics = sopranos \lyricsto sopranos \sopWords
    •  %\new Lyrics = sopranos { s1 }

How do I get lyrics to show up outside of the music?

  • That's not within the scope of this template, sadly, but you can find out in the LilyPond documentation. It's kind of like adding the composer at the bottom.

What about different alto, tenor, and bass lyrics?

  • Write your lyrics in the section for those parts (you may have to create them if you have many verses).
  • Move the line that says %\new Lyrics = basses { s1 }, or such, to its proper position in the score: i.e. the bass section would go between line 164 and line 165 of your file.

Where do I put my notes?

  • Put the soprano part on line 130, the alto after line 136, the tenor after line 158, and the bass after line 163.

What if I have more than four parts?

  • Well, this is an SATB template, but there are ways.
    • If you want extra clefs and such, you may need a new template - or make a new one based off of this one.
    • If you want it all on two clefs, just use notation for chords.
      • For a c major chord (with the duration of a quarter note), type the following in place of the notation for a note: <g' e' c'>4 (this could be put in the soprano section for three different soprano notes)
      • If you want polyphonic music (with moving parts) that has more than four parts, try the following <<{}{}>> (put the top notes, including durations, in the first set of brackets; put the bottom ones in the second; you can create a third set of brackets and so forth); putting two slashes (I forget whether they were forward or backward) between the sets of brackets will make the stem directions face different ways.


I want an indent

  • Comment out or change the value for the line (line 16) that says indent = 0.0

There's two much space between systems (lines)

  • Uncomment the following lines:
    •  %between-system-space = 0.1 \mm (line 18)
    •  %between-system-padding = #1 (line 19)

I want hymn-style piano introduction brackets

There are several methods to attempt this. Unfortunately, none of them I've seen I consider perfect, but, I think some are better than others. Some of these methods may require use of a newer (or development) version of LilyPond. —Veramet 01:35, 17 December 2008 (UTC)

Method 1

  • Have LilyPond draw the characters with special markup commands and then place them either above the notes or above the measure bars (it can be difficult to get them at equal vertical positions the latter way, though). For now, ask on the forum about how to do this.

Method 2

  • Use analysis brackets instead. For now, ask on the forum about how to do this.

Method 3

  • Use the following Unicode characters as text markup: ⌜ (U+231C) and ⌝ (U+231D)
    • If you want it above a certain note (say c'4), type c'4^\markup{\huge \bigger \bigger \bigger ⌜}
      • \bigger and \huge are just to make the character bigger—if you want smaller characters, you can leave out these tags.

How do I get a tempo mark followed by a range, rather than a set number?

  • Uncomment and edit line 52. This will not change the midi tempo.

Foreign characters

  • You need to use UTF-8 encoding for the foreign characters to show up. ANSI won't cut it anymore (it worked for ANSI characters back in version 2.4.6). SciTE is a text editor that handles this encoding. Windows notepad (for Windows 2000 and higher) also does, though it's a rather featureless editor.

I want it to say 4/4 instead of having the symbol

  • Uncomment line 61.


  • Look at what the template has to offer and experiment.
  • Take a look at the source for some of the hymns on this site.
  • Read the LilyPond Documentation, tutorials, and such.