5.6 Vertical spacing

As a rule, LilyPond’s vertical spacing of musical objects is pretty good. Let’s see how it does with a simple song, with 2 voices and piano accompaniment:

[image of music]

There’s nothing wrong with the default vertical spacing. However, let’s assume that you’re working with a publisher with some specific requirements for vertical spacing of staves and lyrics: they want the lyrics spaced away from any notes, they want the piano accompaniment spaced away from the vocal line and they want the two piano staves pushed together tightly. Let’s start with the lyrics.

Lyrics sit within a system, and therefore the commands to space them are found in Flexible vertical spacing within systems. It tells us that lyrics are ‘non-staff lines’ and therefore the command to change their spacing will refer to a property that has the word nonstaff in its name. Spacing them away from the staff to which they relate (the top line) is indicated by the the word relatedstaff. Spacing them from the lower line is indicated by the word unrelatedstaff. The vocal parts are part of a VerticalAxisGroup, so we need to adjust its properties. Let’s try it and see if it works.

<<
  \new ChoirStaff
  <<
    \new Staff {
      \new Voice = "music" {
        b'2 c' c' c'
      }
    }
    \new Lyrics \with {
      \override VerticalAxisGroup
                .nonstaff-relatedstaff-spacing.padding = 5
      \override VerticalAxisGroup
                .nonstaff-unrelatedstaff-spacing.padding = 5
    }
    \lyricsto "music" {
      Here are some lyrics
    }
    \new Staff {
      \clef bass e'2 f e c
    }
  >>
  \new PianoStaff
  <<
    \new Staff {
      g''2 c'' c'' a''
    }
    \new Staff {
      \clef bass e2 f c e
    }
  >>
>>

[image of music]

Well – yes it does, but perhaps too well. When we set the padding to 5, LilyPond adds 5 staff spaces to the distance between objects, which is too much for us here. We’ll use value 2 instead.

Next, let’s move the piano music away from the vocal parts. The vocal music is a ChoirStaff context, so we need to increase the spacing between that group of staves and the piano staff below. We’ll do this by changing the basic-distance sub-property of the StaffGrouper grob’s staffgroup-staff-spacing.

<<
  \new ChoirStaff \with {
    \override StaffGrouper
              .staffgroup-staff-spacing.basic-distance = 15
  }
  <<
    \new Staff {
      \new Voice = "music" {
        b'2 c' c' c'
      }
    }
    \new Lyrics \with {
      \override VerticalAxisGroup
                .nonstaff-relatedstaff-spacing.padding = 2
      \override VerticalAxisGroup
                .nonstaff-unrelatedstaff-spacing.padding = 2
    }
    \lyricsto "music" {
      Here are some lyrics
    }
    \new Staff {
      \clef bass e'2 f e c
    }
  >>
  \new PianoStaff
  <<
    \new Staff {
      g''2 c'' c'' a''
    }
    \new Staff {
      \clef bass e2 f c e
    }
  >>
>>

[image of music]

Excellent. Now just for the last requirement to make the piano staves closer together. To do this, we again alter the properties of the StaffGrouper grob, but this time we’re going to reduce both the basic-distance and the padding. We can do this as shown below.

<<
  \new ChoirStaff \with {
    \override StaffGrouper
              .staffgroup-staff-spacing.basic-distance = 15
  }
  <<
    \new Staff {
      \new Voice = "music" {
        b'2 c' c' c'
      }
    }
    \new Lyrics \with {
      \override VerticalAxisGroup
                .nonstaff-relatedstaff-spacing.padding = 2
      \override VerticalAxisGroup
                .nonstaff-unrelatedstaff-spacing.padding = 2
    }
    \lyricsto "music" {
      Here are some lyrics
    }
    \new Staff {
      \clef bass e'2 f e c
    }
  >>
  \new PianoStaff \with {
    \override StaffGrouper.staff-staff-spacing =
                #'((basic-distance . 0)
                   (padding . 0))
  }
  <<
    \new Staff {
      g''2 c'' c'' a''
    }
    \new Staff {
      \clef bass e2 f c e
    }
  >>
>>

[image of music]

That’s put them really close together – but it’s what the publisher wanted. They could be moved further apart by altering the padding or basic-distance if wanted.

There are many ways of altering vertical spacing. A key point to remember is that the spacing between objects in a StaffGroup (like GrandStaff or PianoStaff groups) is controlled by the spacing variables of the StaffGrouper. Spacing from ungrouped staves (like Lyrics and Staff) is controlled by the variables of the VerticalAxisGroup. See the Flexible vertical spacing paper variables and Flexible vertical spacing within systems for more details.


LilyPond Learning Manual v2.25.17 (development-branch).