Entering lyrics

Lyrics are entered in a special input mode, which can be introduced by the keyword \lyricmode, or by using \addlyrics or \lyricsto. In this special input mode, the input d is not parsed as the pitch D, but rather as a one-letter syllable of text. In other words, syllables are entered like notes but with pitches replaced by text.

For example:

\lyricmode { Three4 blind mice,2 three4 blind mice2 }

There are two main methods for specifying the horizontal placement of the syllables, either by specifying the duration of each syllable explicitly, as in the example above, or by leaving the lyrics to be aligned automatically to a melody or other voice of music, using \addlyrics or \lyricsto. The former method is described below in Manual syllable durations. The latter method is described in Automatic syllable durations.

A word or syllable of lyrics begins with an alphabetic character (plus some other characters, see below) and is terminated by any white space or a digit. Later characters in the syllable can be any character that is not a digit or white space.

Because any character that is not a digit or white space is regarded as part of the syllable, a word is valid even if it ends with }, which often leads to the following mistake:

\lyricmode { lah lah lah}

In this example, the } is included in the final syllable, so the opening brace is not balanced and the input file will probably not compile. Instead, braces should always be surrounded with white space:

\lyricmode { lah lah lah }

Punctuation, lyrics with accented characters, characters from non-English languages, or special characters (such as the heart symbol or slanted quotes), may simply be inserted directly into the input file, providing it is saved with UTF-8 encoding. For more information, see Special characters.

\relative { d''8 c16 a bes8 f ees' d c4 }
\addlyrics { „Schad’ um das schö -- ne grü -- ne Band, }

[image of music]

Normal quotes may be used in lyrics, but they have to be preceded with a backslash character and the whole syllable has to be enclosed between additional quotes. For example,

\relative { \time 3/4 e'4 e4. e8 d4 e d c2. }
\addlyrics { "\"I" am so lone -- "ly,\"" said she }

[image of music]

The full definition of a word start in lyrics mode is somewhat more complex. A word in lyrics mode is one that begins with an alphabetic character, _, ?, !, :, ', the control characters ^A through ^F, ^Q through ^W, ^Y, ^^, any 8-bit character with an ASCII code over 127, or a two-character combination of a backslash followed by one of `, ', ", or ^.

Great control over the appearance of lyrics comes from using \markup inside the lyrics themselves. For explanation of many options, see Formatting text.

Selected Snippets

Formatting lyrics syllables

Markup mode may be used to format individual syllables in lyrics.

mel = \relative c'' { c4 c c c }
lyr = \lyricmode {
  Lyrics \markup { \italic can } \markup { \with-color #red contain }
  \markup { \fontsize #8 \bold Markup! }

  \new Voice = melody \mel
  \new Lyrics \lyricsto melody \lyr

[image of music]

See also

Learning Manual: Songs.

Notation Reference: Automatic syllable durations, Fonts, Formatting text, Input modes, Manual syllable durations, Special characters.

Internals Reference: LyricText.

Snippets: Text.

LilyPond Notation Reference v2.25.16 (development-branch).