In this Lilypond-generated score, the whole notes are in different positions. The first is slightly to the left, the middle one is approximately centered, and the right one is slightly to the right. Is there a reason for this?

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1 Answer 1


Whole notes should appear near the beginning of the measure. When other notes are present, it should be vertically aligned with the first note/rest in the bar. This is a good example from PianoAndSynth.com:


You can see that each first note is approximately the same distance from the left barline or key signature, whether a whole or otherwise, and no matter how wide the bar is. This is to make it easy to see exactly when the note should begin to be played — you can rely on the type/shape of the note to know how much of the bar it should occupy.

For a bar with just a whole note, you would make the bar thinner but generally not so much that the note would end up centered (and definitely not any thinner than that).

I can only guess that your example varies due to a bug.

  • 1
    I went looking for said bug but found instead a mistake in my Lilypond score. The time signature was in 3/4. After changing it to 4/4 the whole notes appeared as you described.
    – Jason
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 4:26
  • 2
    Interestingly, note that whole rests are placed differently. Whole notes align to the first beat of the measure (like in m. 2 of @Matthew Read's example), and the dotted half in m. 1 is aligned with beat 1 as well. But note that the whole rest is put right in the middle of the measure.
    – Richard
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 4:46
  • 1
    The grouping of the rest in the first bar is incorrect. it should be a minim rest and next to it a crotchet rest.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 6:46
  • 2
    @Sam there are two different uses of the "whole-note rest" symbol. One is to show a rest for a whole measure. That is drawn in the center of the bar, and the duration of the rest depends on the time signature - it may be longer or shorter than four quarter notes. The other use is to show a rest that is exactly four quarter-notes long and does not occupy a full measure, in time signatures like 3/2 or 4/2. In that case, the symbol is drawn in the same position in the measure that a whole note would occupy.
    – user19146
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 17:58
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    There is a subtle engraving issue here, though it is irrelevant to the OP's problem which he solved for himself. If a measure contains only a single whole note or whole-bar rest in every stave of the score, the whole notes are sometimes engraved in the center of the measure. The reason is simply because it looks neater on the page when all the notes and rests line up vertically. But If some staves have shorter notes, this does not apply, and the whole-notes are positioned to align vertically with the other notes at the start of the measure.
    – user19146
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 18:08

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