Adventures in Hymnal Design (glitch reports)

Hello Team,
I’ve been designing a bespoke hymnal for my parish and have encountered many blessings and a few hindrances in Dorico. As you know, the ‘flow’ concept is positively brilliant in terms of designing a hymnal. Being able to have many hymns in the same project with all the same settings, margins, etc… a time saver to say the very least! The ability to achieve consistency is simply phenomenal. That said, I have noticed a few quirks and have a few requests.

1.) I would love to see dedicated hymn templates for melody only and SATB. Hymnals in the USA seem to be a relatively standard size so I would assume they are elsewhere (I could obviously be wrong about that). This quirk is easily remedied by setting whatever size you want so it’s not a big deal by any means. I was surprised, however, to not see such a template considering some of the more seemingly obscure templates. Again, if nothing comes of this particular suggestion I’m totally OK with that since it is so easy to define document size.

2.) Better handling of verse numbers, especially for hymns that have refrains. In attachment #1 (“Be Joyful Mary”) you can see there is a Latin phrase sung in all 4 verses. I could obviously type it into each verse however I love the implementation of chorus and chorus translation. It is positively brilliant that you allow each verse (or chorus) to have a dedicated translation line right beneath it. I make use of this a few times for latin/english hymns. It is most excellent when the lines are all 1:1. But as you can see in the example, there is no way, even in engrave mode, to shift the verse numbers that I need to be present on every line for some of the longer hymns. It is rather confusing and the numbers would be much better shifted after “Gaude Maria”.

3.) Another hymn specific problem: the numbers are shifted over on the first line due to the time signature, but then they do not line up with the rest of the subsequent lines that lack the time signature. It would be rather cumbersome to shift, via note spacing, every other line of each hymn for a whole hymnal.

4.) There seems to be a related glitch to number 3 in that phrases that start with a long word can result in the verse numbers being pushed beyond the left margin. (Example 2) As you can see, a.) this shouldn’t happen and b.) it looks very sloppy having three different left margins for verse numbers on the same hymn. Perhaps a future version could have a “hard justify” for the verse numbers that shifts everything else right as necessary?

5.) Master pages seem to glitch when implementing multiple lines of tokens. I currently have my template set so that there is the flowTitle and flowSubTitle with things set to center justify (vertically). On hymns where there is no subtitle, Dorico justifies to the TOP of the frame and even will clip the characters of my current font. (Example 3) You can see at the top of the O in the title that there is some frame clipping going on. I would suggest that when there are multiple lines of tokens set to center justify, the token text should center justify in the absence of one of the fields (ie- ignore the second token if left blank or at bare minimum still justify as if text was typed in the second field). I am also concerned that the frame clips text by default. The only fix to this is to add a single “space” character into the subtitle box in the project info, which then causes the title to shift down and center justify as appropriate (second half of example 3.)

6.) As a side note- I would love a way to better edit the info input by tokens. By that I mean, I wish, once generated, we could then click on the text in engrave mode and rich-text format it. Also, there really needs to be a mechanism for entering line breaks in the token fields. And since I’m spouting my wish list, I’d love custom token fields such as {@flowUser1@} {@flowUser2@} etc. (and “Tune Name” for that matter.) I’m currently using multiple tokens incorrectly relative to their programmed labels just so I can have multiple lines. In general I quite love the idea of tokens and I really like the project info pane. That, in and of itself, is tremendously useful to me, to the point that I have created a custom key command for calling up the dialogue.

7.) Mirrored master pages have a funny glitch: since they attempt to automatically mirror each other after you edit text fields, this poses an interesting problem, namely, when you try to have the page numbers in opposite (outside) corners, you cannot justify left and right as appropriate. If you change the right page number to right justify, it causes the left master page number to right justify when you need it to left justify. I have yet to figure out a solution to this apart from center justifying them both and making them small boxes close to the margins. It still doesn’t look as neat as it should.

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I suppose I should finish up with the fact that I am loving Dorico for this project (glitches aside). The automatic booklet generation, for example, is yet another wonderful, useful feature. I wouldn’t want to attempt this project in my old programs. So, as always, thank you!

(another example of hymn numbers extending beyond the music margin; it is hard to tell but when I zoom in I can confirm the numbers of the middle stanza do indeed extend beyond the staff)

If stanza numbers are too far left, try Left-aligning the longer syllables on the first note of the system.

I had to create separate page number fields to align them left and right as appropriate; fortunately you can crate them below the top of hte page and then drag them over the existing centered field to size and position them.

I reattempted the page numbers and was able to do it. I’m guessing I originally made one and used the copy layout feature to the other page which must have linked them. This time around I created two separate boxes and did the editing manually and I have no problems.

I’ve also adjusted some of the word spacing manually as well as adjusted a few note columns. Both of these things produce acceptable results however I do still think it is an error to allow verse numbers to exceed the margin boundaries.

I will say this, however, there appears to also be a subtle spacing issue with the #1 in each first verse. Even on hymns where there are not spacing issues, it appears to be slightly left in the column relative to other verse numbers. I’m wondering if this is a quirk of the font I’m using… Sadly, the verse numbers cannot be nudged in engrave mode.

  1. There’s a workaround for line breaks described in this thread.

  2. In the ‘Paragraph styles’ dialog, you can set the alignment to ‘Outside edge’, which should solve your problem. The ‘page number’ style is defined this way by default.

I do have to voice one major complaint: I had made the mistake of engraving a few hymns; this included some manual stave spacing overrides since D seems to get hungup on certain hymns and push verses off the bottom of the page. [Edit: I discovered this was due to my justification values in layout settings.] I went back and altered one of the early hymns and it caused a cascading effect. The hymn was based on plainchant and I decided to change the way I transcribed a rhythm by using insert mode. This briefly caused the hymn to go to two pages. After completing the edits and properly re-situating the hymn on one page, I lost ALL of the spacing changes. I understand that staff spacing is linked to the -page- rather than the bits of score on said page, hence, when the music gets shifted to a new page, Dorico has another go and deletes the overrides. That said, I would love to see a script implemented that recognizes when this type of situation happens and restores the spacing edits when the music returns to the proper page.

To add to my edit above, it would seem that justification settings should include the vertical value of any text placed below a stave and consider it part of said stave. As I was experiencing, my pages were full enough to trigger the justification settings, which would in turn push my text off the bottom of the page.

Also, is there a setting to include the minimum distance allowed between the last verse of one stave and the music beneath it?

I’ve run across the same issue as before while preparing things for Easter and wanted to put it back on the radar for consideration for V3:
Verse numbers should have an option to vertically align. This really looks rather distracting. First staves may need to be exempt since they also have a time signature, but the rest could align.
Thanks for considering.

PS- if anyone has any tips (workarounds) on how to avoid this in cramped situations I’m all ears.

(I’ll add that I’ve tried text boxes before, but since there is no control over line spacing yet (baselines), it’s very difficult to get the same spacing as the verse lines depending on the settings you’ve set in engrave mode.)

I’m following this thread with great interest. I’m about to start another major hymnal, which I can’t yet do in Dorico (mostly due to vertical lyric baselines, which have been discussed elsewhere), but I’m eagerly awaiting the day…

I’ve never used Finale’s automatic lyric numbering. I’ve always added a hard space, and left-aligned everything. Then I usually need to nudge those first lyrics to the left so the syllable is centered under the note, but the numbers are left-aligned.

My issue isn’t within each stave itself as Dorico already does this. What I’ve noticed in many hymnals is that the verse numbers align going down all the staves (excepting perhaps the first stave). I like your idea of just doing it manually (a neat trick if you want to label verses MEN: WOMEN: etc.) in some cases, however that still doesn’t solve my problem. If you look at the screen grab from my last post it just looks so very sloppy. The printed result just doesn’t look nice at all, I’m afraid. I love Dorico and ditched all my other programs over a year ago… but this is one major blemish for my liturgical workflow.

As an aside, I’d really like the option to be able to tick a specific lyric as bold in the same fashion as the italic preference.

I’m reviving this thread because I’d like to make a request for D4:

I’d love a command to “condense rhythms” or “simplify rhythms” or “minimize voices” or whatever you’d call it… Essentially, a key command that would take two voices and merge as much as possible to join stems à la American hymnal style. It makes a lot of sense flow-wise to input S.A.T.B. separately (upstem/ downstem voice 1’s on each stave) but it is a real pain to go back and change the downstem voices to upstem 1 every other beat where they can combine. (I know, I know… just use all four voices! (and the organist in me likes this) but it’s simply not the norm here for better or for worse.)

Here’s an example with “Pleading Saviour”. I’d love to be able to select the whole group of measures and press one command and have the highlighted notes merge where the rhythms are shared. (With double stemmed unisons where appropriate.)

I grant that this is a relatively niche case.

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Yes! This would be a HUGE help.

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That is something you can already achieve with “condensing change”, but it’s not automatic. That’s nowhere near my “rhythmic compression” suggestion :wink:
I think having an automatic way to get this result could be useful though !

Condensing was a bit of a misnomer here… I’m actually putting two voices in separately into each stave of a “choir reduction” instrument, not truly individual staves. But I do think the same logic that is applied to condensing would be able to facilitate such a command. Basically, if the rhythm is the same merge, if not, keep independent voices, applied on a beat-by-beat basis, and then apply remove rests at the end.

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I hope that condensing will evolve in such way that we won’t really need to use that “reduction” instrument any more… but maybe my expectations are too high…

Daniel has certainly indicated he wants to improve condensing as it specifically pertains to vocal staves. That said, I’m not sure such improvements would be well suited for hymnal applications, although I’d be glad to be proven wrong. I really don’t mind using the “choir reduction” option; in fact I use it about 99% rather than piano.

Speaking of which…
I’d also like more control over the options for joining barlines… I default to choir reduction, but sometimes it’s nice to join staves at the end of a piece but by instrument groups like this:

Screen Shot 2021-08-10 at 1.08.23 PM

Currently I have to go to AP to do this. I don’t know why, but it just looks better. Especially since a choir reduction part is often played by a keyboardist of some variety. It just looks wrong without the connection in certain circumstances.

I thought about that here, but I feel like there is too much control needed, whereas condensed staves are a bit more restricted in what you can do to them. And in my case (and I imagine James’ as well), there isn’t a need to split them out into separate voices.

Exactly what James describes would be great: join voices where possible, and remove the resultant rests.


Since it’s not yet an automatic feature, what’s the most efficient workflow to create this voicing structure? Keyboard shortcuts I imagine but there’s probably more involved from a best-practices standpoint, like filtering or even a macro or two.

I’ve gone back and forth on my working model. Primarily I’ve tried two things:

    • enter each voice in independently and then go back and select specific notes with cmd/shift+click and then use the “change voice” option in the right click dialogue to put them into voice 1, and then go back and remove spurious rests with the remove rests command. The advantage to this approach is that entry is very fast since you can focus on one voice at a time. If you have a midi keyboard, this goes pretty fast. The disadvantage is you have to enter the rhythm for each voice, so that can potentially be four times as much labor on that particular front. On the upside, the data is pretty much always clean from the get-go.
    • enter any notes that can exist in upstem 1 (that means playing both S/A & T/B whenever they align, and only playing the top note when they don’t), and then go back and add downstem alternate rhythms wherever they apply, and finally remove spurious rests. I feel like the editing process is a bit faster this way, but (and this is a big caveat) you really have to be careful you don’t miss anything. It’s easy, when you’re staring at two pages of music (source and screen) to miss a random rhythm here or there because you aren’t entering in every note of every voice linearly.

To speed things up with option 2, as I said I enter anything that can be in the default voice, and then, once you are in the downstem voice, you can cmd/ctlr+arrow to jump from measure to measure which speeds navigation up. You don’t need to leave note entry mode; just pop around while you have that second voice activated.

Another thing I do, especially if the hymn is primarily monophonic or has relatively few passing tones, is just enter in the melody, and then copy that same line down to the lower stave, and then I go back to the beginning, put lock duration on, span the caret across both staves and then play in each beat all the way through. This saves you having to enter in the rhythm on each stave and it saves a ton of time. If the rhythm isn’t complicated, I’ll just put the caret on both staves and play it in chordally from the beginning. You can then go back and alt+n/m notes up or down as needed, and then add bits and bobs in secondary voices after.

Ultimately, I think it just depends on how you prefer to work. Obviously, if you’re designing a hymnal that uses independent stems, this is all moot. I just avoid this because it can save you vertical space.

Speaking of which, I’d love another engraving option in the future:
When using a choral reduction stave, I’d love it if, when the two staves share a single set of lyrics between them, if the stems could default to pointing away from the lyrics. This means having the lower stave mirror the upper stave, essentially. I always flip all the top voices up (unless there are two voices present due to polyrhythm, in which case a down stem is unavoidable) and all the bottom voices down. This breaks standard music engraving, but is essential for hymnals where you need to condense them as much as possible and keep the stems out of the way of text. Flipping stems down (again, only where voices can be combined) can sometimes result in drastic space savings.

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