I handwrote this score a while ago I'm trying to transcribe.

Handwritten score segment

You can see that all the noteheads are to the left of the stems, regardless of which way the stem is pointing. Lots of old handwritten manuscripts have this, but I want the effect on purpose so I can use one cross-staff stem to connect simultaneous notes on the top and bottom staves, align the notes horizontally, and put the beam in between the staves.

I've been trying to transcribe this in LilyPond, but I'm running into great difficulty doing two things:

  1. Putting all the noteheads to the left of the stems, regardless of stem direction
  2. Creating a cross-staff beam in between the staves (or allowing two beams from opposite staves to collide)

Anyone have an idea how to do this? The closest I've come is this:

  1. Include the Span_stem_engraver in the GrandStaff Context
  2. Set both staves to \stemUp
  3. Enclose the bottom staff in a \crossStaff block
  4. Beam the bottom staff and not the top staff
  5. Put \override Stem.length = 0 in the top staff

This gives a basically correct rendering for the excerpt I've shown, but it has two problems:

  1. It doesn't work if there is a note in the top staff but a rest in the bottom staff, because the beam and the cross-staff stem don't extend properly in that event.
  2. It puts a tiny extra bit of stem length next to the noteheads in the top staff.


Attempt at rendering the excerpt in LilyPond

Does anyone have a better idea on how I can do this?

  • @CarlWitthoft Lilypond is correct. I tried to put [Lilypond] at the start of my description, but the automod thingy said to delete it and just use a regular tag instead (which I did).
    – DWW256
    Commented Apr 19 at 2:05
  • @DWW256 While adding proper tags is correct, also mentioning the software in the title (you don't need square brackets, just put it in the context of the phrase) or, at least, the question body is always better. In any case, your query is a bit controversial. Can you please edit and improve your post by explaining exactly why do you want to do that? I've seen such attempts in the past, and even if they were somehow "justified" by their authors, that notation is quite awkward and normally needed for very specific (and, frankly, extremely well motivated, which I haven't seen so far) cases. Commented Apr 19 at 3:21
  • 1
    "Lots of old handwritten manuscripts have this": some old engraved scores, too. I wonder whether the practice of inverting arose from the use of movable type. On second thought, probably not, but still. I particularly associate the "backward" stem position with English publications, probably late 18th to early 19th century, but I may be remembering incorrectly.
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 19 at 9:42
  • @musicamante please read this. This is the semi-official policy of whole Stack Exchange. Perhaps on some sites having duplicate tags is accepted and won't be challenged as much, however "is always better" is just wrong. Commented Apr 19 at 14:16
  • 1
    @DWW256 Are you completely sure about that notation choice? Even imagining your handwritten example as properly engraved, I'd find that distracting and confusing. The issue is not really about the notehead position, but the common beam for both upper/lower notes and multiple bars. Is this intended for a single player (possibly a percussion set)? If you do want to share the same stems, maybe a better choice would be to just put the beams on top or bottom, but I still don't see the need to use just one single beam. Commented Apr 19 at 16:35

1 Answer 1


In this case, it might be easier to not use \ crossStaff / Span_stem_engraver.

For the upper staff, instead of setting the stems up and making them have zero length, set the stems down, and move them with offsets and an extra-offset.

Manually beam the semiquavers (in both staffs) with brackets, and then make the beam in the upper staff transparent.

For the lower staff, set the beam positions.

\version "2.24.1"

\new GrandStaff {
    \override Score.TimeSignature.stencil = ##f
        \new DrumStaff {
            \override DrumStaff.StaffSymbol.line-positions = #'(4 0 -4)
            \clef "varpercussion"
            \override NoteHead.style = #'cross
            \override Stem.X-offset = #1.25
            \override Stem.Y-offset = #1.5
            \override Stem.extra-offset = #'(0 . -1.5)
            \override Beam.transparent = ##t
            \drummode {
                tomfl8[ r8 tomml8 tomml8 r8 tomfl8 r8 tomml8 |
                \bar "!"
                r8 tomfl8 tomml8 r8 tomh8 r8 r8 r8] |
        \new DrumStaff {
            \override DrumStaff.StaffSymbol.line-positions = #'(4 0 -4)
            \clef "varpercussion"
            \override NoteHead.style = #'cross
            \override Beam.positions = #'(4.5 . 4.5)
            \drummode {
                tomfl8[ r8 tomml8 tomml8 r8 tomfl8 r8 tomml8 |
                r8 tomfl8 tomml8 r8 tomh8 r8 r8 r8] |

Percussion staves with both staves sharing a central beam, and the stems in the upper staff going down on the righthand side of the noteheads.

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