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LilyPond is a music typesetting system and markup language. The internal parts are written in lisp and the user interface is influenced by the TeX syntax. So, are questions about this system on-topic on any of StackExchange sites? And on which one?

Typical question:

How do I add a tie on seconda volta note in LilyPond?

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5 Answers 5

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LilyPond seems to have a small following at Musical Practice & Performance

I think you'd be surprised at just how many musicians use utilities like this to reproduce music.

There is also a few at SuperUser.

I think either site is fine. I'd start with Musical Practice & Performance, as it is much more specific to that crowd.

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    No, I'm asking about neither. I'm asking about LilyPond. I'll add a typical question. Notice that I said "influenced by TeX". It has nothing to do with TeX itself.
    – yo'
    Feb 20, 2013 at 7:17
  • Notice that only 2 questions on SU and 0 questions on Music ask about LilyPond, the rest are answers/noise. So while I'm thankful for your opinion, these statistics don't give a reasonable precedent.
    – yo'
    Feb 20, 2013 at 7:24
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    Still, I'd start with music. If you assume that 20 people will view your question on SO, SU, or Music -- you are much more likely to have somebody with knowledge view your question on Music. Feb 20, 2013 at 7:25
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There's an argument to be made that - as they effectively contain code - LilyPond input files can become so inscrutable to anyone but programmers, that questions about them are (a) unlikely to find answers on Music.SE (or, to a lesser extent, SuperUser), and (b) on-topic as programming questions for Stack Overflow (though this is maybe a bit more controversial).

On the one hand, this is similar in principle to asking how to use a particularly complex GUI to achieve the same result, making the question purely about usage and so off-topic for SO.

On the other, you could argue that a non-programmer on Music.SE is much more likely to be using the GUI than LilyPond anyway, and - depending on the complexity of the required solution - not equipped to actually formulate an answer by writing code. It doesn't seem sensible to ask questions in "the right place", when they stand a better chance of being answered in "the slightly less right place".

Of course, we could just conclude that they're off-topic everywhere on SE at the moment, and so should be confined to the LilyPond mailing list, but that sounds overly dogmatic and inflexible to me.

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+100

It's been about 10 years since this question was asked, so I thought I'd provide an up-to-date answer.

Currently, there are 3 sites with a LilyPond tag:

  1. Music: Practice & Theory is without a doubt is the best SE site to go to for general questions on LilyPond.

    It has a [lilypond] tag which hosts more than 70% of all SE's LilyPond questions. This is over 600 questions and over 900 answers (with less than 2% of questions going without upvoted or accepted answers).

    It also has over 40 questions with the [lily-scheme] tag. This is for questions about Scheme functions within a LilyPond context. Scheme (from the Lisp family) is one of the lower level programming languages that LilyPond is built with.

    As a side note, I was the first user there with a shiny silver tag badge for that tag. Having said that, there are certainly many other SE users that I know of who have more experience and expertise.

  2. Stack Overflow also has a [lilypond] tag with a considerable number (about 20%) of the overall questions. But they don't seem to get nearly as much attention.

  3. TeX – LaTeX is also worth considering. While it has less than 10% of the total questions tagged with [lilypond], most of these are about integrating LilyPond within TeX documents.

There are also a handful or so questions on Super User that at least mention LilyPond.

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    Actually you're not the only one anymore. But still impressive, kudos! Sep 30, 2023 at 6:06
  • @Shadow Well, I was when I started writing this answer. Also, I have answered over 100 questions on LilyPond if you include answers on Music and SO. Sep 30, 2023 at 6:13
  • Yeah, it's a nice coincidence. As for amount of answers, the badge itself is given for 80+ answers, so having 100 might be bit confusing that's why I changed. Sep 30, 2023 at 6:28
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Expanding on Frankston's answer (i.e. commentary that is too long to format as a comment):

I've always considered lilypond to be directly on topic for Musical Practice & Performance, given the indication that "usage of specific music software" is on topic. I'm certain that there are many users who are experience in how to read lay-out music notation in general, and there are a few who are using lilypond specifically.

I can see an argument that more complicated lilypond scripting, i.e. once users start to program in guile within their lilypond files, could be more of a Superuser or Stack Overflow type of question.

However, to date it looks like all of the questions are "how do I get lilypond to output what I want" (Music Practice) rather than "how do I do complicated programming within a lilypond file" (SuperUser), so I'd still say that the primary location for basic lilypond usage questions is Musical Practice & Performance.

As a final note, prompted by PeterBjuhr comments/answer, one of the reasons why there are so few questions is because lilypond has an active and helpful mailing list; and you're likely to get better answers there (at least for now).

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It has been recommended by the LilyPond community that all questions should be posted to the LilyPond Users mailing-list. There you will get fast and competent help!

For details how to use the mailing list, go here.

For a more thorough searching of old threads you can use: http://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/lilypond-user/

If you like to get more involved you can also subscribe to the list.

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    This is a nice answer, but personally, I don't think one should have to use such unfomfortable thing as a mailing list. As long as there is a site where LilyPond is on-topic, I want to post questions there.
    – yo'
    Nov 5, 2013 at 12:39
  • I'm sorry, this is what we come up with when the question was discussed. The possibility of an own StackExchange site for LilyPond related question was discussed but rejected, at least for now. So where LilyPond is on-topic is on that mailing list.
    – PeterBjuhr
    Nov 5, 2013 at 18:51
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    Lilypond is on-topic on music.se and actually has a number of knowledgeable lilypond users there.
    – Luke_0
    Nov 6, 2013 at 1:18
  • @tohecz For technologies with smaller userbases, you're unlikely to find a more concentrated group of knowledgeable persons than on a mailing list. It's easy for me to miss questions on SE sites, especially if I'm away for a day or two, but I'll generally see at least the subject of every thread that gets posted on a mailing list. If most of the people who can help are also developers, you're much more likely to get their eyes on your question on their mailing list than by hoping that they also visit the same SE site that you did in the same general timeframe. Nov 6, 2013 at 5:23
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    @JoshuaTaylor: but how is that an argument pro mailing list? If the userbase is small, then there won't be all that many questions – ok, so you won't miss a question, it'll be on the "active questions" list for a few days. The problem is precisely that the developers can't watch out for Lilypond questions, because there is no dedicated SE site. There's nothing a mailing list can but SE can't, only SE is much, much more convenient for comments, editing, code formatting, and more that's relevant for Lilypond questions. Feb 1, 2014 at 15:56
  • @JoshuaTaylor what about the idea of posting the question in the friendly S.O. format, then also posting it to the email list, and sharing useful response both forums. Best of both worlds?
    – MikeiLL
    Dec 22, 2014 at 22:59

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