This project is maintained by kenakofer

Visual Studio Code as a Lilypond IDE

(Beginners should first work through Lilypond + Frescobaldi setup)

Visual Studio Code is a powerful open-source IDE with a dizzying array of helpful extensions. It’s straightforward to install Lilypond extensions to turn VSCode into a powerful Lilypond IDE. (Many thanks to lhl2617 for creating the extension and suggesting edits to this page.)


You will need:

  1. Install Lilypond 2.22:>
    • On windows, you need to change your PATH as described on the download page. For example, add this to your system path: C:\Program Files (x86)\LilyPond\usr\bin. This allows VSCode to find where lilypond is at.
  2. Install Visual Studio Code:
  3. Clone our website for all the song examples: git clone


To set up Visual Studio Code for Lilypond development:

  1. Open Visual Studio Code
  2. Choose “Open folder”, navigate to where the repository was downloaded, and click “Open” just inside. You should see a few files and directories, like and docs/
  3. Click on the Extensions icon tab on the left side of the screen (Ctrl+Shift+X)
  4. Install the VSLilyPond extension (This will automatically install several extensions). These extensions:
    • run lilypond whenever a .ly file is saved;
    • generate PDF and MIDI outputs in the same directory
    • provide error highlighting, autocomplete, and code formatting
    • PDF viewer, where clicking on a note will place your cursor on that note in the source
    • midi playback (see below for configuration)
    • midi input for note entry (haven’t tried using this yet)
  5. The installed extensions look like this: VSCode Extensions screenshot
  6. Exit and restart VSCode for extensions to take full effect
  7. Click on the Explorer icon tab on the left side of the screen (Ctrl+Shift+E)
  8. Open the file dropdowns and double click lilypond/songs/angels-we-have-heard-on-high/ (The code in the file should be colored by the syntax highlighter.)
  9. Try saving (Ctrl-S). You should see the angels-we-have-heard-on-high/ directory get populated with some PDF files and a midi file.
  10. Double click angels-we-have-heard-on-high-trad.pdf to open it. Optionally, drag the PDF file to the right side of the window, to open a second pane alongside the editor.
  11. Find and replace “Kenan Schaefkofer” with your name, and re-engrave to see the change. Now you are the one doing the typesetting and (hopefully) making your contributions free for all!
  12. Your setup may look something like this: VSCode Workflow screenshot
  13. Buttons to play, pause, and stop MIDI playback are in the bottom bar, BUT they won’t work until you install and configure a MIDI synthesizer, and then in VSCode, use Ctrl-Shift-P to run a command, and enter vslilypond.setOutputMIDIDevice, then select the synthesizer currently running.

Creating a new song

Now that you have everything set up, read about Creating a new song