Another engraving question arised from the same book Sebastian Lee; Op. 70

In Nr. 40 there are two chords, containing half and quarter notes:

enter image description here

since this is a cello score, and you can not play three strings at the same time on a cello, I'm wondering if this should indicate that you only play the g in the beginning, as you would actually do. You would play g and d, then d and c at the same time for the first chord.

I have never seen this before, does anyone know what it is for?

and how would I engrave this with LilyPond?

so far I got:

\set fingeringOrientations = #'(left)
<g, d'-0 c'-2> <g f'-2 b-1> | %07

results in:

enter image description here

Sebastian Lee, Op.70 in LilyPond format on GitHub

2 Answers 2


Your guess is correct about the meaning of the notation. Usually, for strings this implies that you play the lower note briefly at the beginning and then play the double-stop with the upper two notes and hold that for the rest of the duration.

For Lilypond, I can immediately think of two common ways to do something like this.

(1) The simplest is to tweak the notehead and change the lowest pitch in each chord to a notehead for a quarter note.

\set fingeringOrientations = #'(left)
<\tweak duration-log #4 g, d'-0 c'-2>2 <\tweak duration-log #4 g f'-2 b-1>

The duration-log setting for the notehead uses 4 for quarter-note style, 2 for half-note, etc.

(2) If you have a more complicated situation than this which requires more than a notehead tweak, sometimes you'll need to use multiple voices. If you haven't needed to use multiple voices elsewhere in the score so far, no need to explicitly create them now. The most compact Lilypond notation to create this would be something like:

<< { \set fingeringOrientations = #'(left)
  \stemDown <d,-0 c'-2>2 <f-2 b-1>} \\ {g,4 s g s} >>

Note that the << >> signs are used to indicate music that is played simultaneously, and the \\ separates the voices. By default, when multiple voices are created on a single staff, Lilypond puts the stems of the first voice going up and the second voice going down. Here, forcing the \stemDown on the first voice will combine it with the (downward) stem of the second voice. (You'll get a "clashing note columns" warning from Lilypond, but the resulting notation will overlap the stems in a way that you want.) Here, the lower voice uses g,4 s g s where s is just a "spacer rest" (hidden), where nothing appears. (This is a useful trick to use in many places in Lilypond with multiple voices.) Thus, the lower voice only shows up on the first and third quarters of the measure, which is where you need it.

[EDIT: A more elegant way to combine the voices is described in Paco Vila's answer using \partcombine, which is a probably a better option if you only have two voices to combine.]

Note that Lilypond will usually reserve space for the hidden s rests, even if they aren't there, so the second option will result in a more widely spaced version. In this case, the second approach isn't necessary, but in more complex situations it can be helpful to have the two voices (and to tweak spacing if necessary).

  • I don't know anything about Lilypond but your engraving is fine: that's how it would appear in a piece by Bach. Yes, the chords have to be arpeggiated but with the highest pair held. As the G is an open string it'll go on sounding for the whole minim after the bow has left it, so I can't see the point of giving it only the value of a crotchet. Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 5:29

I would use the partcombine function together with the partcombineChords command this way:

\clef bass

  { \partcombineChords  g,4 }
  { <d c'>2 }

  { \partcombineChords  g,4 }
  { <f b!>2 }


lilypond result

Afterwards you shouldn't forget \partcombineAutomatic if necessary.

  • +1 - Thanks for this idea. I've used partcombine before, but I haven't experimented with many of the related commands. I didn't realize \partcombineChords would accept disparate note durations on the same stem. Another good option.
    – Athanasius
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 20:32
  • just working on the sheet again, and for some reason your suggestion gives me a pretty wide spacing... Comparison on LilyBin
    – nath
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 22:23
  • Yes, and there is a reason for it. The most common duration is now assumed to be the fourth note, so the half notes take much more space now. It can be solved by adjusting SpacingSpanner.common-shortest-duration in the context of Score, see the effect of this in LilyBin
    – Paco Vila
    Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 23:49

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