Aleatoric Boxes!

For the handful of composers who need a reliable way to make boxed notation:

I made an admittedly long-winded tutorial on one of my aleatoric workflows. The main goals were to make a box that would be attached to the rhythmic grid, easy to copy/paste, and that would propagate to parts with minimal adjustment. The main drawback is this method requires the line editor in version 3.5 but really, the update is worth it for granting access to Big Mango.

The TL;DR is you make a custom line with long, inward-facing hooks. Oh and I’ve provided timestamps in the video description for those of you who are pressed for time. This way you can navigate straight to the point, circumventing my babbling.


Love this! I’ve been trying to figure this out so thank you! And yes, can’t wait to see the Dorico team’s implementation…

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Thank you for posting this. I’d thought it should be possible but not got round to doing it. You’ve saved me a week…

Thank you for the interesting hint on how to create the boxes!


Thanks guys, I’m happy some of you are finding this interesting!

Oh, this is excellent. I needed this the other week, and ended up going with repeat signs instead of the box because I couldn’t figure out a good solution. I was trying to make it work with the text border method (though I was using staff attached text, not text frames, so slightly more workable, but still not great). This will make so many new things possible. Wooo! :slight_smile:

Actually, I made a set of single line repeat brackets using the lines tool. You have to set their height every time using the properties panels, but It’s a huge time saver!

Oh, hm, sorry, Claude, I think I wasn’t being tremendously clear (though what you’ve got there looks immensely handy as well :slight_smile: ).

I was trying to make the aleatoric boxes work via the text border method (which I found not too workable) and ended up just using repeat barlines with barline attached continuation lines instead (which was tremendously easy, relatively speaking; it just wasn’t a box like I wanted). That said, my repeat barlines were just standard, and not your fancy winged single-line repeats, so I’m just gonna go ahead and make a little mental bookmark of this thread :wink:

Thanks a lot!

I noticed that the box remained at the same vertical position not adjusting to the pitches. Can it be adjusted vertically in Engraver mode? And is that visible in Write Mode?

I do hope that aleatoric boxes will be included in Dorico soon. Why not in a way similar to the Bar Repeats which are very nice!

Can it be adjusted vertically in Engraver mode?

This is a good question. It’s easy to make the box smaller by moving the lines inward on the Y axis (towards the staff) in Engrave Mode. If you move the lines outward (to make room for higher/lower notes), the end caps will not meet. The first solution I can think of is to make the end caps (what I called 'box hook") longer. Then the box might be too tall some of the time but you can easily make it shorter.

So, short answer: it’s easy to vertically shrink the box in Engrave Mode. It’s a little trickier to stretch it vertically.

Having said that: my usual use for this notation is random, unspecified pitches, so I tend to keep the notes within the staff.

This is fabulous, thank you @John_McKinnon !! Just to add - I was trying to make this work on top of a line with measure numbers and couldn’t get the top box to come down – Screenshot 2021-03-16 at 12.43.30

but when I shifted it a by a demisemiquaver, it worked:
Screenshot 2021-03-16 at 12.45.00

however it still looks kerfuffly in the reduced full score (this is an interplay between two flutes):
Screenshot 2021-03-16 at 12.46.47

I suppose we’re asking for too much to have aleatoric boxes magically reduced into a score… :slight_smile:

any thoughts?

Unfortunately lines are not currently included in condensing, though this is something we plan to add in a future version. When we do include lines in condensing, however, I would not expect this kind of ersatz frame notation to be reproduced correctly when the music is condensed. We are planning to add a dedicated feature for frame notation in due course.


thanks, @dspreadbury ! Would this be something that could be mitigated by changing condensing rules in areas of the score where box notation is used? (e.g. by turning off condensing in these spots?)

You certainly could do that, yes, using condensing changes.