Chant and modern notation: fonts, programs, and software
  • Kimberly Depatie asked a question on another thread that deserves its own thread.

    [Go there to see the initial inquiry, and then use the link supplied at the end of the thread to come back.]

    My response:

    I use Writer with the Meinrad fonts I purchased from St. Meinrad Abbey four years ago to create the PDF ( has a built-in export-to-PDF option).

    On a related note, I'm currently looking at two open-source chant notation programs to use on my Linux installation: Gregorio and OpusTex. I haven't really researched their compatibility with Windows or Macintosh, but I suspect they're compatible. Prepare to learn about a command-line interface and code-based input - neither has a graphical user interface. However, the developers of Gregorio plan on making that a reality for Linux.

    I can tell you that the initial learning curve is somewhat steep - I'm only less than a day into my research. Once I have everything resolved, though, I plan on writing an article for others to help avoid the mistakes I'm making now.

    It would be frankly wonderful to have an online database of the entire corpus of Gregorian chant in these compact gabc, TeX or XML files; this would allow end-users the ability to prepare customized scores (and even volumes) of chant for their communities.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    an online database of the entire corpus of Gregorian chant in these compact gabc, TeX or XML files

    FINALLY someone who understands how incredibly useful that would be! If the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music has the budget, surely it should jump on this idea immediately.
  • RobertRobert
    Posts: 343
    I've been playing around with the free download of GregEdit:

    It seems like a fantastic program, but it isn't very stable on my computer (a new-ish Mac); it usually crashes within five minutes or so.
  • Actually I've been finding that scanning and Photoshop work pretty well for clean chant programs too. Does anyone know if there is a good chant font for Finale?

  • A "chant" font for Finale is my dream Christmas wish, and has been for many years! I already know how to create staves with however many lines I want. I just need the square notes / neumes to go on them! Since I prefer organ accompaniment, a document similar to the "English Hymnal" (ca. 1936) could have the traditional chant notation with text at the top, and regular western notation underneath.
  • Lilypond is a good program (works on Windows, Linux, Mac) for round-notes, and they have a square note feature but I haven't had the time to work with it yet and I hear that it is a bit buggy. It does not use a graphic interface; you have to program everything with a text editor and then run it through the command line for PDF and/or graphic output. But honestly you can't beat the price for these programs as compared with Finale, and once you get used to the programming aspect -- which isn't too difficult if you patiently trudge through it -- I think you will find that the program is easier and more efficient that Finale.

    The Gregoire program that someone spoke about (the French gregorian one that is very buggy) is nice and I find it easier to use than the Meinrad font. I could never figure out how to judge the space that I should place between neumes with the Meinrad font in order then to put the text in below it. It's too time intensive. Gregoire makes the text-entry part a lot easier but it also has a tendency to crash (although I seem to recall having figured out what triggers the crash and how to avoid it) and the graphic output that it produces is tedious (as I recall it saves each staff as a separate graphic file and then dumps then into a Word doc, then you have to mess around with the spacing).

    Really, though, some Catholic computer/music geeks really need to get on the ball and make a program (perhaps one that supports both command-line and GUI) that handles both round and square notes with ease and efficiency, with both PDF and hi-res graphic output, and good-quality note engraving. It's about time! Hopefully we will not have to wait too much longer.
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    Steve C. -- I looked in my user manual for Finale (2005), where I found that a third-party plugin for chant notation is available. For your reference, I've just copied-and-pasted the text from the user manual below... please note that I'm NOT affiliated with the company in any way!

    Neuma and Neuma Symbol (part of the Medieval plug-in package) by Robert Piéchaud ($200)

    The Medieval plug-in offers you the possibility to produce professional transcriptions of early music easily, from Gregorian square notation to Italian mixed notation, with a beautiful rendering. Medieval gives you a wide choice of tools such as automatic recognition of neumes (more than 80!) up to 7 notes, liquescences, automatic placing of the “direct”, stemmed note groupings, and numerous special symbols: quilisma, rests, plicas, large ligatures, black-void notation, etc. With Medieval you will get:

    1. a Finale plug-in (installed into the Finale plug-in Folder) consisting of a new palette with 12 graphic-oriented tools;
    2. 2 new fonts, Neuma and Neuma Symbol, for PostScript and TrueType printers;
    3. 2 new default files;
    4. samples such as Gregorian, Franconian, Machaut´s Mass, etc.;
    5. a real handbook with a complete english tutorial

    Klemm Music Technology
    Waldstieg 2
    D-37133 Friedland, Germany
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 992
    The only major bug I've found in Gregoire frustrated me for a long time, but I finally found the trigger. Don't put more than one word attached to any neum. In particular, it seems that Gregoire can't handle having two or more spaces in the text - obviously, you need to be able to have one space to separate words.

    So in the cases where I need to put multiple words on a neum, I actually put the 2nd and following words on a note which is up off the top of the staff, and when I import that into PowerPoint I remove the note. If you're using paper, you could probably just as easily use White-Out.

    Life is much easier now that I know what to avoid. Gregoire has other occasional quirks but they don't crash the program. I'm not sure that the program is under development anymore, it hasn't changed since I got it a few years ago. Maybe it would be worth contacting the author of the program to see if it's possible to take over the source code? Hmmm..... Would somebody who speaks French be willing to act as an intermediary?
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Font-based programs don't encode actual musical data. Lilypond does. If we had the pitches of the entire Graduale encoded, we'd have a major resource. You could do some interesting analysis of it, for starters. You could push and pull that data in any number of ways. And of course, you wouldn't have to re-size anything by hand, but leave all the typesetting details to software.
  • In my work on trying to add to the free tools available for chant notation, I have been playing around with making a chant font called Caeciliae. However, it has some serious limitations, many of which have been identified in this thread: fonts require manual typesetting (much more painstaking than I thought at the outset), don't allow for a separation of musical data from the separation of the form (for programmers: no model/view distinction), etc. Caeciliae requires solid OpenType support, which requires expensive apps (a la Adobe InDesign).

    The problem I see with a Finale solution is that it still is a proprietary format with a non-free application.

    Gregorio is a good start, but lacks the ease of use required by most non-geeks.

    Are there other software engineers who have an interest in a project like this? I have started on the initial architecture of an app for full-on Chant notation (auto formatting, vector output, etc.), but it is quite a project to create a custom typesetting engine. Are there others who want to collaborate on something like this?
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • marek
    Posts: 17
    phatmatt, do you know lilypond? It would be great to expand its gregorian feature in the way we need it. Much of typesetting is already there, but some gregorian-specific issues must be done. I would like to collaborate. We could also try to find donors for lilypond programmers who help us.
  • During the two-week course on Gregorian semiology taught by Fr Columba Kelly OSB at Saint Meinrad Archabbey (this was 1998 or 2000; not sure exactly which), I was able to purchase from him a beta copy of ChantScribe, a program that used the StMeinrad square-notation fonts along with a user interface. One could select a note type and move notes and neumes to a staff, then type a text below by syllable, and the syllables would stay with their neumes. The Laon and St Gall notations were included, if I recall correctly. I haven't heard of any further development of this application, but such a thing would be just the ticket. Anyone know of something similar? I would imagine a challenge with this sort of thing is the limited market (so far), so it's hard to justify lots of money spent on development.
  • marek,

    I am a big fan of the principles behind lilypond, and it was actually one of my inspirations to try to create a better chant font. I'm not sure if it's the best solution though...

    First, because it is primarily a backend. I don't mind entering music in batch files and scripts, but I doubt many people are willing to get to that level. There are front ends for lilypond, but aren't most of them for Linux (under KDE or GTK)? Then again, maybe what is needed is a Gregorian-specific front end for lilypond (with the appropriate hooks into the engine to support chant).

    My second reservation to using lilypond is that chant layout is sufficiently different from standard musical layout. I think lilypond might add a level of complexity that would hinder a project. Chant layout is still a difficult technical problem in and of itself, but it does not include the much more complex features of standard notation (chords, melodies, time signature changes and calculations, etc.).

    I'm not saying that lilypond wouldn't work though. I'm just not sure it would make the problem easier to solve...?
  • Marek, phatmatt, and others:

    According to the developers of Gregorio:

    "Lilypond (documentation) is a very good tool, but the part on Gregorian chant is not maintained and very deep modifications are needed to perfectly align notes and text."

    So apparently, the Gregorio developers did consider the route suggested by Marek and found it overly cumbersome.

    I myself am familiar with Lilypond and think it's a wonderful music typesetting tool that enables presentation to be separated from content - just not for Gregorian chant. (I used to hard-code HTML and CSS, so Lilypond markup isn't a stretch for me by any means.) The shorthand developed by Gregorio to input the chant is superior in my opinion - take a look at the output and input examples to get a feel for it. (Scroll to the bottom of the page - the example is the introit Populus Sion.)
  • For what it's worth, I also note that Gregorio is designed purely for the four-line square notation:

    "This notation does not consider the ancient neume notation. Although the latter is important, a completely different technique is needed for it, which we may consider at a later stage."
  • marek
    Posts: 17
    I often need to combine chant with polyphony - that's why i think, lilypond would be the best way. There would be a lot of work in every case. But in my opinion the interface of lilypond has much more pros than cons. Imagine for example writing strophic hymn. You need to write melody only once and just add new text, if you wish... I think also, that adding of neumatic (non square) notation, would by relatively easy once we have quadratic notation working...
  • I will take a closer look at lilypond when I get a chance. Perhaps it will be more readily adaptable than I thought.

    Ancient neume notation would be great also, but like Aristotle quotes above, it is an entirely different beast.
  • RobertRobert
    Posts: 343
    I use Lilypond for modern notation and I think it's great. Gregorio looks like the perfect program. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to make it work on my Mac. The developers seem to have assumed that anyone who wants to or is able to use a text based interface to write musical scores must be a sophisticated hacker. In my case, not so.

    So I download the binary, opened the readme file and I get this:

    gregorio depends on the libxml2, you must have it installed. If you
    want to compile from the sources, you must have the header files of
    the libxml2 and flex and bison (of course you will need gcc and make

    Oh, of course.

    I am emailing a friend who works in the computer science field for help.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Sigh. Documentation is always a problem.

    In the new year, I may write to the Lilypond developers and offer financial support for some work on the Greg code. It will depend on whether they think they can make the plumbing work.
  • I have used Lilypond to make square neumes as well as modern notation.
    I _am_ a hacker actually ;-) and I know both LaTeX and Scheme (on which
    Lilypond's input language is based). I found Lilypond quite usable for
    modern notation (polyphony and lyrics). However, I found its processing
    of square neumes fragile (if you make a tiny mistake, the whole output is
    messed up), and its error messages nonintuitive.

    Unfortunately I don't have time to work on the back end of Lilypond, and
    I'm also not a professional typesetter. I imagine it's hard to find someone
    with both hacking and typesetting skills, hence the paucity of open-source

    Robert -- it's easier if you first use a package manager like Fink or
    DarwinPorts to install the required packages (libxml2 should be sufficient):

    fink install libxml2

    However, Gregorio 2.2 doesn't seem to compile on my Mac; I suspect
    the developer is compiling with a relaxed set of flags, as the errors are
    typical for a C++ coder working in C. You may have to fetch out of their
    Subversion repository. If I get a chance, I'll try to fix the bugs, as they
    are minor.

    No offense to GregEdit as a product, but any software with a website as
    hideous as theirs doesn't deserve to be on my computer ;-P
  • I agree with Pes that it's better to keep an encoding of the neumes
    themselves separate from how they are displayed. For example, blind
    people may not get very far with a fancy PDF, but I know blind coders
    who can read and edit text (and web pages and code) just fine with a
    screen reader.

    This doesn't mean that using a fancy GUI is wrong or "un1337" -- I don't
    mean to say that everyone should be _forced_ to typeset chant that way.
  • Jan
    Posts: 242
    Any Sibelius users out there? Know any Gregorian Chant plug-ins for Sibelius?
  • Jan
    Posts: 242

    That chant notation program do you use? I like the way it looks. I need help soon! Tx in advance. I am
    a software 'postulant'!
  • Jan
    Posts: 242

    I've noticed Meinrad Font was written in 1995'ish. Do you use it on a newer computer system like window XP
    or the newer MacBooks? I'm worried it might not be compatible with say XP, or Mac Tiger or Mac Leopard.
  • Meinrad fonts are TrueType fonts, so they will be compatible with all operating systems that support TrueType. Macintosh, XP, Vista and most Linux distributions that I'm familiar with support TrueType.
  • Jan
    Posts: 242
    Tx Aristotle. I will probably spend the $50 & avoid all the free download problems.
  • Apparently Meinrad is fussy on the new Mac OS, according to W. Mahrt. I don't know. I use XP and I'm not upgrading to Vista if I can help it.

    I tried just about everything from Guido to Gregorio to the neume plugin for finale. i finally settled on clean and wonderful Meinrad. it is so great. Better get it now before they release another version with more "features."
  • Jan
    Posts: 242
    Tx--will do.
  • Tibia
    Posts: 2

    No official plug-ins for Sibelius. Someone might have one out there, but if it's not on Sibelius' page, I'd be extremely cautious.
  • I forgot to mention a freeware chant font "Festa Dies" from Colombia. Attached to this post is a PDF example file with a the creator's e-mail address. (Note that the Spanish-language keyboard is mapped.)
  • Jan
    Posts: 242
    Tx everyone. I really appreciate all your suggestions!
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Using Word 2007 with Meinrad fonts (on Vista) seems to introduce vertical alignment problems between text and music. It changes based on magnification, with music magnifying different from text, throwing the whole thing off. Then when you print, the alignment comes out completely differently from what you see. This of course is completely unacceptable.

    Does anyone know the workaround?
  • OlbashOlbash
    Posts: 312
    I'm glad this thread has resurfaced. Has anyone tried the Medieval plug-in for FInale that Mark M. referenced above? 200 bucks is a big investment, but wrothwhile if it is useful for the kinds of applications we've been discussing.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    The last I heard it is very buggy to the point where the payoff is quite low.
  • janetgorbitzjanetgorbitz
    Posts: 944
    I've been using Word 2003 on Vista with the Meinrad fonts and it works fine... must be with the newer Word 2007 version...

  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    my supposition too
  • Just thought I'd let you know, I'm working on typesetting Chants in gabc and OpusTeX. I find gregorio is somewhat incomplete (which is kinda what you'd expect with version 0.x :), but it's a marvellous shortcut for OpusTeX, so I'm starting with gregorio, outputting to OpusTeX, then fine tuning the OpusTeX files.

    I'm starting with the Selected Gregorian Chants part of the PDF chantsofchurch.pdf. Soon I'll move on to the Hebdomada.

    I love typesetting, so I'm having fun and doing something worthwhile as well :)

    Anyone wanting to proofread my work will be most welcome!
  • Please add whatever you have done as an attachment here.
  • Will do.

    I think I'll set up something with Google Docs. There's a batch of 60 Chants coming up, I've almost finished the gabc coding, the fine tuning with OpusTeX starts soon...
  • TBL
    Posts: 13

    I've been using gregorio for a while now too. Typesetting chant is a somewhat random hobby of mine -- I think I do it to remind myself there is better Catholic music than what I hear on a typical Sunday. :-) Perhaps we can collaborate. What features do you find missing in gregorio? I found using OpusTeX slightly tedious, so I just convert gabc files to GregorioTeX files (the default conversion), and fine tune in plain TeX/LaTeX.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,965
    I'm just getting started with gregorio too. So far I find it only sparsely documented, and a real bother to install. I had to build an Ubuntu system just for the purpose.

    A new release may be coming in the semi-near future; I've volunteered to translate the draft documentation into English, so there should be more info available Real Soon Now.
  • TBL
    Posts: 13

    The first time I installed gregorio on an Ubuntu 7.10 laptop, it took half a day-- font problems. So I know how that is. More recently, I've gotten it running on Windows (cygwin), and Mac OS X; I'm surprised the linux install doesn't "just work" yet. I've toyed with the idea of a native Windows port (wider audience?); not sure if the developer has plans for that.

    It's true though that documentation is lacking, and I probably would have been more frustrated getting gregorio to work if I wasn't already familiar with TeX and all its idiosyncrasies. And I'm guessing that that knowledge isn't in a lot of potential users' backgrounds. :-) For usage notes, if you know C and don't mind reading source code, gregorio's is fairly well commented. That's how I learned to do most everything that isn't in the Populus Sion example chant. I could type up my notes, but I assume it's all in the draft documentation... I look forward to reading the English, when it's available.
  • TBL,

    Thank you, I would be pleased to collaborate.

    I agree that gregorio and OpusTeX were a pain to install. I'm familiar with LaTeX and know a little C, so I'll have a look through the source code to see if there are features that I missed. Typing up your notes for gabc will be most appreciated.

    Some of the features I have trouble with in gregorio, which could be missing features, undocumented features, or bits that I've overlooked (not unlikely :) are:
    - dots (punctum mora) after diamonds don't show up
    - I couldn't get the italic "Ps." and the asterisk, etc under the separation bars
    - no tonal information above initial letter
    - Not all accented characters are recognised (personally I think there should be an additional symbol for them)
    - no automatic line breaks (which I gather is an OpusTeX problem)
    - hyphens don't appear - I had to manually add them
    - How do you get the title to appear?

    (Please forgive my not using the proper terminology)
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,965
    The linux install procedures in the svn repository are centered around building ubuntu packages.

    I'm running on "Hardy Heron" ubuntu -- actually kubuntu.

    After checking out the code from svn, you can do these:

    cd trunk
    dpkg-buildpackages -rfakeroot

    You'll have to add various packages and kludge some of the debian build-control files to get the packages to build -- contact me .... at for tips -- but when they do build, two *deb files are created in the directory above "trunk", and a sudo dpkg -i *deb command installs them nicely.

    In the trunk/examples directory, there are files with examples of how to add a title.

    In gregorio's current state, the developers recommend you go through manual steps to format your score:
    -- write the gabc file with no formatting specified
    -- determine the ideal size for the score
    -- define the style of the initial letter and the text typeface by adding some macro calls
    -- set line breaks in the gabc file manually.

    So far I have not seen the documentation on macros to change typeface, etc. However, there is a macro to adjust the size of the score. (I'll post an example here, though it doesn't use many features of the product.)
  • TBL
    Posts: 13
    I'll try to type up my notes and share them here later this weekend. Andrew, are you by any chance using the version on the gregorio website's download page? If so, it's quite out of date and I would recommend fetching the latest version out of their svn repository.

    To address some points, here's a rough draft of the (ubiquitous) Missa de Angelis ordinary. It's not proofread yet, but hopefully it's not too bad. OpusTeX doesn't use automatic linebreaks; GregorioTeX does, but sometimes puts them in awkward places. So as mentioned, some breaks need to be specified by hand.

    For specific examples of how to do some things, here are links (the forum wouldn't allow their file type as attachments) to...
    -- the Kyrie gabc file: shows the italic tags, and a manual line break
    -- the LaTeX file I used to wrap the scores and generate the pdf: shows a way to set the stuff above the initial (builtin macro I modified slightly) and the title (I just used regular LaTeX for that). Hope that helps some.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592

    That is the most incredible thing I have ever seen !!!!

    I have been searching for Gregorian music software for so long, and begging Sibelius to make one.

    I think Finale has one called "Medieval"
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    I'm pretty happy with the basic Meinradt font and MS Word. It's a bit of a pain to align the notes and the vowels, but it becomes second nature pretty soon. In any event it's lots easier than digging out the quill and inkpot.
  • TBL,

    I'm using gregorio 0.2.2

    I haven't yet succeeded in getting the svn repository version installed.

    Is there a package or font that needs to be installed to get the V and R symbols?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,965
    Someone has created a Truetype font called "Liturgy" with the V and R.

    That's probably not readily usable from TeX, but may be OK for OpenOffice/MSOffice/etc. users.
  • TBL
    Posts: 13
    Andrew-- the current gregorio svn version (0.9) comes with fonts (3 different chant fonts for the notes, and a symbol font). The symbol font includes multiple crossed V's and R's, crosses, etc. It's quite handy. I guess that's little help if you can't get it working though, sorry :-) Installation for me was an almost painless standard configure/make process...
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    The versicle/response characters are also included in the Meinrad Fonts set.