Finale and LilyPond
What happens when someone tries LilyPond after using Finale for years? Well, in my case I now like both programs, but for different reasons. Here are some of my thoughts about the two programs and music notation.
Update: Finale 2011 solved the melismatic syllable placement problem of which I complain here, and Finale 2012 finally accepts Unicode input. I’ve left this page up for now, but I’m happy to see that it’s quite nearly obsolete.
Chapter 3, Lyric placement
The biggest complication that vocal music has compared to instrumental music is the lyrics, and they must be placed precisely or we won’t know which words to sing with each of the notes. (I’ve seen an ambiguous score bring a rehearsal to a halt on more than one occasion.) In addition, the spacing of the elements of the page must satisfy the words and the notes at the same time. This is an interesting test.
After entering a set of notes and slurs into Finale, I type the lyrics into the Lyric Editor, in this example “Lyr-ic spac-ing is frought with per-il.” [Note: that should read fraught, but I haven't fixed it yet.] I can then CTRL-click on the first notehead in the passage to assign the lyrics to the entire passage:
Unfortunately, Finale doesn’t assume that a slurred passage only gets one syllable, as you can see. It is kind enough to automatically place word extensions when there are many notes after a syllable, which is nice if you want them automatically. (In Finale this can be disabled, while in LilyPond the word extensions only appear where you type “__” manually in the lyrics.) After assigning the lyrics in Finale, I can shift the lyrics to the correct locations by clicking on every note that doesn’t need a syllable. The result is correct lyric placement but very uneven sixteenth notes. (In Britain they are semiquavers, but they are still uneven.)
This is what has often annoyed me about Finale’s lyric placement. Although the other three sixteenth notes and an eighth note are sung to the same syllable, only the first note is actually above the syllable in the default spacing algorithm. This can be manually adjusted (by moving the beat points with the measure tool) but if the music spacing algorithm is reapplied the manual changes are lost.
In LilyPond, the lyrics are typed in nearly the same manner, “Lyr -- ic spac -- ing is frought with per -- il.” but the initial results are exactly what I want:
On lyric placement, I declare LilyPond the winner. You may also notice that the beams are more attractive and the slur is nicer. Similar results could be achieved in Finale by manual adjustment and with the Patterson Beams plug-in, but I wish it would treat melismas properly without assistance.