Creating a SMuFL font

The Bravura font is released on a SIL font licence, so anyone is free to copy or modify any glyphs in it for their own font, (which must then be issued on the same licence). So it’s kind of surprising that there aren’t more open source SMuFL font projects going on.

Though with over 3,500 characters in Bravura, the scale of the task can seem daunting. However, there’s probably a bare minimum of around 750 that would cover a large proportion of ‘standard’ repertoire, and several of those are simple geometric shapes like circles, squares, lines, etc.

Furthermore, because you can set a font style for Dynamics, Figured Bass, Chord Symbols, etc, it could be useful to produce a SMuFL-compliant font just for those elements, while keeping Bravura as the ‘Music Font’. Similarly, a SMuFL-compliant font could just contain a few noteheads, clefs or other symbols that you want to patch in, in the Music Symbols editor.

So, during a rainy lockdown with no internet, I decided to take Florian Kretlow’s unfinished “Sebastian” font, and convert it to be SMuFL-compliant.
After a couple of weeks, I now have a functional (but limited) font in Dorico, using the Sebastian glyphs (460 of them so far!). It’s been a useful learning experience.

Anyway, Florian and I have been discussing how to work collaboratively on a font, and think we’ve got a setup on github working. So if anyone would like to get involved, do send me a PM. Ideally, you know your way around FontForge or similar app (must be able to export UFO3 format).

Alternatively, if anyone wants to make their own SMuFL fonts, then this thread can be a useful conversation point.

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Great to hear you and Florian are working together on this, Ben.

Very interesting!

I would really like a SMuFL compliant designed specifically for contemporary music, similar to the neueweise font (which I love, but cannot use).
I love the bold flags and slim accidentals.

Since some time I was playing with the thought of trying it on my own, but I have no idea how to do that or where to start.
So I’ll lurk here a bit, and who knows, I might geht very inspired!

Someone (else?) mentioned the Neueweisse font recently.

Here’s the table of its glyphs:

You could create much of its effect already just with Bravura, as I think these glyphs are all there, and you can use straight flags.

Thanks I didn’t know that chart!
I read about it lately but never got it to work.

Of course there are many other things about the font and it’s quite time consuming to change every beam… But thanks :slight_smile:

My estimate of 750 glyphs was pretty accurate: I’ve now reached 750 glyphs, and that has covered a large proportion of ‘standard’ notation. I’m still missing a lot of Dorico’s default Playing Techniques for various instruments – that would probably push it up towards 1000. And then there’s all the noteheads…

Because many glyphs are variations on the same symbol: e.g. Treble Clefs with ottava numerals, inverted, mirrored, small size, etc, etc.; or 10 different sizes of ‘trill wiggle’ :grimacing: – it’s actually pretty quick to do a whole bunch.

Anyway, I hope to have a version available for testing soon. Here’s a sample.

Slice 1.pdf (45.6 KB)


Congrats, Ben, this font looks very good!

So is the plan to dump Bravura into the font to fill in the cracks? Or are you striving for a wholistic set?

I love this project, and it’s one of my favorite fonts to use in LilyPond.

I’ll gladly donate money to this font when it’s finished! I wish I could help a different way.

Well, of course you can use Dorico’s Music Symbols editor to substitute any missing symbols you need from other fonts. But there are some symbols where it doesn’t really make sense to do it differently just for the sake of it, particularly where those symbols are just simple shapes, rather than more nuanced aspects of 19th-century engraving tools.

More news soon!