Collision resolution

The note heads of notes in different voices with the same pitch, same note head and opposite stem direction are automatically merged, but notes with different note heads or the same stem direction are not. Rests opposite a stem in a different voice are shifted vertically. The following example shows three different circumstances, on beats 1 and 3 in bar 1 and beat 1 in bar 2, where the automatic merging fails.

<<
  \relative {
    c''8 d e d c d c4
    g'2 fis
  } \\
  \relative {
    c''2 c8. b16 c4
    e,2 r
  } \\
  \relative {
    \oneVoice
    s1
    e'8 a b c d2
  }
>>

[image of music]

Notes with different note heads may be merged as shown below. In this example the note heads on beat 1 of bar 1 are now merged:

<<
  \relative {
    \mergeDifferentlyHeadedOn
    c''8 d e d c d c4
    g'2 fis
  } \\
  \relative {
    c''2 c8. b16 c4
    e,2 r
  } \\
  \relative {
    \oneVoice
    s1
    e'8 a b c d2
  }
>>

[image of music]

Quarter and half notes are not merged in this way, since it would be difficult to tell them apart.

Note heads with different dots as shown in beat 3 of bar 1 may be also be merged:

<<
  \relative {
    \mergeDifferentlyHeadedOn
    \mergeDifferentlyDottedOn
    c''8 d e d c d c4
    g'2 fis
  } \\
  \relative {
    c''2 c8. b16 c4
    e,2 r
  } \\
  \relative {
    \oneVoice
    s1
    e'8 a b c d2
  }
>>

[image of music]

The half note and eighth note at the start of the second measure are incorrectly merged because the automatic merge cannot successfully complete the merge when three or more notes line up in the same note column, and in this case the merged note head is incorrect. To allow the merge to select the correct note head a \shift must be applied to the note that should not be merged. Here, \shiftOn is applied to move the top g out of the column, and \mergeDifferentlyHeadedOn then works properly.

<<
  \relative {
    \mergeDifferentlyHeadedOn
    \mergeDifferentlyDottedOn
    c''8 d e d c d c4
    \shiftOn
    g'2 fis
  } \\
  \relative {
    c''2 c8. b16 c4
    e,2 r
  } \\
  \relative {
    \oneVoice
    s1
    e'8 a b c d2
  }
>>

[image of music]

The \shiftOn command allows (but does not force) the notes in a voice to be shifted. When \shiftOn is applied to a voice, a note or chord in that voice is shifted only if its stem would otherwise collide with a stem from another voice, and only if the colliding stems point in the same direction. The \shiftOff command prevents this type of shifting from occurring.

By default, the outer voices (normally voices one and two) have \shiftOff specified, while the inner voices (three and above) have \shiftOn specified. When a shift is applied, voices with up-stems (odd-numbered voices) are shifted to the right, and voices with down-stems (even-numbered voices) are shifted to the left.

Here is an example to help you visualize how an abbreviated polyphonic expression would be expanded internally.

Note: Note that with three or more voices, the vertical order of voices in your input file should not be the same as the vertical order of voices on the staff!

\new Staff \relative {
  %% abbreviated entry
  <<
    { f''2  }  % 1: highest
    \\
    { g,2 }  % 2: lowest
    \\
    { d'2 }  % 3: upper middle
    \\
    { b2  }  % 4: lower middle
  >>
  %% internal expansion of the above
  <<
    \new Voice = "1" { \voiceOne   \shiftOff f'2 }
    \new Voice = "2" { \voiceTwo   \shiftOff g,2 }
    \new Voice = "3" { \voiceThree \shiftOn  d'2 } % shifts right
    \new Voice = "4" { \voiceFour  \shiftOn  b2  } % shifts left
  >>
}

[image of music]

Two additional commands, \shiftOnn and \shiftOnnn provide further shift levels which may be specified temporarily to resolve collisions in complex situations – see Real music example.

Notes are only merged if they have opposing stem directions (as they have, for example, in voices one and two by default or when the stems are explicitly set in opposite directions).

Predefined commands

\mergeDifferentlyDottedOn, \mergeDifferentlyDottedOff, \mergeDifferentlyHeadedOn, \mergeDifferentlyHeadedOff.

\shiftOn, \shiftOnn, \shiftOnnn, \shiftOff.

Selected Snippets

Additional voices to avoid collisions

In some instances of complex polyphonic music, additional voices are necessary to prevent collisions between notes. If more than four parallel voices are needed, additional voices can be added by defining a variable using the Scheme function context-spec-music.

voiceFive = #(context-spec-music (make-voice-props-set 4) 'Voice)

\relative c'' {
  \time 3/4
  \key d \minor
  \partial 2
  <<
    \new Voice  {
      \voiceOne
      a4. a8
      e'4 e4. e8
      f4 d4. c8
    }
    \new Voice {
      \voiceTwo
      d,2
      d4 cis2
      d4 bes2
    }
    \new Voice {
      \voiceThree
      f'2
      bes4 a2
      a4 s2
    }
    \new Voice {
      \voiceFive
      s2
      g4 g2
      f4 f2
    }
  >>
}

[image of music]

Moving dotted notes in polyphony

When a dotted note in the upper voice is moved to avoid a collision with a note in another voice, the default is to move the upper note to the right. This behaviour can be over-ridden by using the prefer-dotted-right property of NoteCollision.

\new Staff \relative c' <<
  {
    f2. f4
    \override Staff.NoteCollision.prefer-dotted-right = ##f
    f2. f4
    \override Staff.NoteCollision.prefer-dotted-right = ##t
    f2. f4
  }
  \\
  { e4 e e e e e e e e e e e }
>>

[image of music]

Forcing horizontal shift of notes

When the typesetting engine cannot cope, the following syntax can be used to override typesetting decisions. The units of measure used here are staff spaces.

\relative c' <<
  {
    <d g>2 <d g>
  }
  \\
  {
    <b f'>2
    \once \override NoteColumn.force-hshift = 1.7
    <b f'>2
  }
>>

[image of music]

See also

Music Glossary: polyphony.

Learning Manual: Multiple notes at once, Voices contain music, Real music example.

Snippets: Simultaneous notes.

Internals Reference: NoteColumn, NoteCollision, RestCollision.

Known issues and warnings

Using \override NoteColumn.ignore-collision = ##t will cause differently headed notes in different voices to merge incorrectly.

\mergeDifferentlyHeadedOn
<< \relative { c'16 a' b a } \\ \relative { c'2 } >>
\override NoteColumn.ignore-collision = ##t
<< \relative { c'16 a' b a } \\ \relative { c'2 } >>

[image of music]


LilyPond Notation Reference v2.25.13 (development-branch).