Is it possible to refer to notes by scale degree rather than their name in LilyPond? For example instead of c d e, set the key to c and use 1 2 3. Or using movable-do solfege syllables (do, ro, re, me, mi...)? Or can those syllables be defined as variables/macros? I'm completely new to LilyPond, and I'm finding it hard to answer this question on my own. I don't think I would use LilyPond if it only works with note letters.

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    I do not believe that you'll be able to get the note names as numerals (1,2 etc) -- lilypond syntax requires the note names be be comprised of letters; but you do have complete flexibility in what names get mapped to which notes.
    – Dave
    Nov 8, 2013 at 14:12

1 Answer 1


You can both load definitions that change the input name of notes (e.g. the German style definition changes the input syntax for a 'b' to 'h') and apply automatic transpositions (\transpose c e {...}). Between those two features, you should be able to notate anything in any way you want.

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    Thanks a lot. I edited the define-note-names.scm file and defined a custom movabledo language. Works like a charm!
    – Anthony
    Nov 8, 2013 at 14:55
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    It would be interesting if you would post your custom language or a link to it here! Sep 23, 2015 at 16:41

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