4.1.4 Flexible vertical spacing \paper variables

In most cases, it is preferable for the vertical distances between certain items (such as margins, titles, systems, and separate scores) to be flexible, so that they stretch and compress nicely according to each situation. A number of \paper variables (listed below) are available to fine-tune the stretching behavior of these dimensions.

Note that the \paper variables discussed in this section do not control the spacing of staves within individual systems. Within-system spacing is controlled by grob properties, with settings typically entered inside a \score or \layout block, and not inside a \paper block. See Flexible vertical spacing within systems.

Structure of flexible vertical spacing alists

Each of the flexible vertical spacing \paper variables is an alist (association list) containing four keys:

If a page has a ragged bottom, the resulting distance is the largest of:

For multi-page scores with a ragged bottom on the last page, the last page uses the same spacing as the preceding page, provided there is enough space for that.

Specific methods for modifying alists are discussed in Modifying alists. The following example demonstrates the two ways these alists can be modified. The first declaration updates one key value individually, and the second completely redefines the variable:

\paper {
  system-system-spacing.basic-distance = #8
  score-system-spacing =
    #'((basic-distance . 12)
       (minimum-distance . 6)
       (padding . 1)
       (stretchability . 12))

List of flexible vertical spacing \paper variables

The names of these variables follow the format upper-lower-spacing, where upper and lower are the items to be spaced. Each distance is measured between the reference points of the two items (see the description of the alist structure above). Note that in these variable names, the term ‘markup’ refers to both title markups (bookTitleMarkup or scoreTitleMarkup) and top-level markups (see File structure). All distances are measured in staff spaces.

Default settings are defined in ‘ly/paper-defaults-init.ly’.


the distance between a (title or top-level) markup and the system that follows it.


the distance between the last system of a score and the (title or top-level) markup that follows it.


the distance between the last system of a score and the first system of the score that follows it, when no (title or top-level) markup exists between them.


the distance between two systems in the same score.


the distance between two (title or top-level) markups.


the distance from the last system or top-level markup on a page to the bottom of the printable area (i.e., the top of the bottom margin).


the distance from the top of the printable area (i.e., the bottom of the top margin) to the first system on a page, when there is no (title or top-level) markup between the two.


the distance from the top of the printable area (i.e., the bottom of the top margin) to the first (title or top-level) markup on a page, when there is no system between the two.

See also

Notation Reference: Flexible vertical spacing within systems.

Installed Files: ‘ly/paper-defaults-init.ly’.

Snippets: Spacing.

LilyPond — Notation Reference v2.24.3 (stable-branch).