A praise to good engraving

… as an example I‘ll post the view an orchestra string player (who shares his desk with another player) has onto professionally engraved music.
I blurred the picture slightly to emulate poor lighting conditions.
To the left you see a modern, computer engraved edition, on beautiful ivory paper of quite a large size. The page is slightly bent, as it happens, when music is still quite new.
The music is hard to read and to follow, despite the fact, that they used large paper size and a generous staff size. The music isn’t difficult either, a viola part of Joseph Haydn’s “Seasons”. An orchestra string player, sharing a desk, has a viewing angle of about 45° degrees.
In my opinion the note spacing is much too narrow, it’s a very unbalanced view onto the page and in a way annoying for the player.

As comparison to the right we see a little inlay, on DINA4 (small) paper of simple home print quality. The music has been typeset with Dorico by an “amateur”.
Still it’s much easier to read.

With this comparison I want to point out that even big publishing houses can nowadays still produce bad editions, despite the fact that they use costly paper of big size. It just needs typesetters, who don’t understand, what makes out a good edition. Sometimes the typesetting might even be outsourced to keep costs down, I don’t know. In the 19th century we had wonderful editions by Breitkopf or Peters (not Peterson’s ;-). In my regards they are still 10 times better, than what we see is been produced nowadays…


I agree with you that such a page would have been much, if not immensely, better with one more stave and a wider note spacing.
Sad to have been able to recognise the publisher’s label…

I still believe the creamy-coloured paper is crucial for professional music printing, and that A4 is a very poor page size. Your example to the right would be very hard if not impossible to bind. It would require more margins but, at that point, you would get so little music per page that you would be forced to lower the staff size, etc …

Very few selected big publishing houses have chosen to keep their standard high, and to keep a proofreading team active. No matter how good your engraver is, without proofreading it will be all for nothing.


I am guessing the bound part was produced with Finale. (Clues: eighth-note flags of the Maestro font, and the pale italic 3 of the triplet.) With Finale it is quite possible to produce good spacing, but it takes both extra work and specific knowledge. With just the defaults, spacing is often miserable. In Finale I always fiddled with the beat chart of each bar by hand – deleting beat-handles where notes should be equidistant, and adjusting both measure widths and overall spacing.

The note spacing of the Dorico page is of course far superior. As a player I would want a little more vertical space in case of markings – but not as much as in the cream-colored part. I also agree with Michele about the paper color and size, but both of those are moot when reading from a screen! as is the case increasingly often.

On the Dorico page in bar 10 the viola slur intrudes on the line of the lyrics above. While not actually a collision, they should be separated a bit for legibility. Similarly, in bars 20–22 the staves are so close that the lyrics are closer to the Viola than the voice. It goes to show once again that rules will get you only so far with good page layout; the human eye is required.

[Edit:] On further thought, I’m guessing that those last 2 bars were forced onto the page, and the user was lucky there were no collisions. Dorico doesn’t squish staves together that much normally.