Aligning measures horizontally

I am using Dorico Pro 4. I want to align my measures horizontally so they can all line up. At the moment, the first line measure is indented.

You set this in:
Library>Layout Options>Staves and Systems>Indent first system of flow by…

Remember, these settings are specific to each layout, so ensure you have selected the ones you want from the list on the right before you make changes.

Can I make the rest of the measures line up with first staff mesure?

If you mean you want all the measure lines in every system to be directly beneath those of the staff above, the simple answer would be “no,” at least not without a difficult work-around.

As this is not common practice, Dorico does not have a way to do it automatically.

If I have misunderstood your request, please explain further.

It is just weird because I saw some examples of it all lining up together but I don’t know how to implement that.

If you have bars that all contain the same rhythms, and nothing that could cause the spacing to become uneven (e.g. accidentals or other similar things that are inserted between notes), then the spacing will be identical for every system, but this isn’t generally a good thing.

I want the rest of the measures to match up with the first like this…

There’s not an easy way to do this, and for good reason: it’s not advised.

How come?

Un-indent the first system like Janus said in post #2. If you have 5 bars per line, 5 does not go into 12 evenly, eh? You can also set a fixed number of bars per system if you want.

But why are so many users suddenly complaining about trying to align empty bars with no music in them? This is music copying software. Try putting in some music, and then see what you might want to change about the layout. Dorico is not staff paper.

What Daniel and Dan said above about not aligning barlines is a comparatively fine point in music engraving. Lilypond actually de-aligns barlines on successive systems of identical rhythms, by default. This is for legibility, so you can tell one system from another and not get lost. I doubt you’re going to run into this problem.

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If all the measure lines line up (in a “normal” score as opposed to, say, an academic worksheet), that increases the likelihood someone reading the music may lose track of which line (system) they are on and skip one by mistake.


While I typically do not have a need to align bar lines exactly from system to system, there are some situations in which it is common—in “commercial” music, fake books, etc. Sometimes when writing slashes with chords, it’s preferable to have everything spaced equally (according to the phrase structure) and manually adjust the chord symbols horizontally to fit. It would be nice to be able to achieve equal measure spacing automatically if it is not currently possible. Another, less desirable notation app, does this with a feature called “time signature spacing”.

And why would anyone prefer this? It’s because those hand copyists universally laid out the bars first and then wrote the music into them. This practice is completely outdated now. Before the mid-20th century scores and parts never had bars like a grid, all uniform. It’s even quite rare that all the bars on one line will be exactly the same width. It’s harder to read – it’s just easier to write by hand that way.

This reminds me of Finale again. Finale approaches layout more like hand copyists, starting with measure widths and working inward to adjust spacing. Sibelius and Dorico have never done this, and I doubt they ever will. But, as I said above, if you can have a fixed 4 bars per line in Dorico if you require it.

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I see your point, but I don’t entirely agree when it comes to writing solo changes for jazz charts. In my experience, most players would prefer to see even spacing because it requires less focused reading from the page. In other words, it’s more comfortable to be able to look away from the page and then look back and feel confident you can find the exact measure and beat you’re on. Of course if the chord symbols are sufficiently long/complex and you need the extra space, it’s not always possible to do this. Sometimes a measure will have to be wider than others to fit the symbols. But sometimes it is preferable to space the measures and beats evenly and then make some minor adjustments to how the chords align with the slashes.

FWIW, Elaine Gould’s book, “Behind Bars”, which is the standard reference for music notation, has:

Kurt Stone’s “Music Notation in the 20th Century” has:

Ted Ross, “The Art of Music Engraving”, has:

“However, if measures in several successive staves are similar, as sometimes happens in bass parts, do not cast off so that the staves are exactly alike. […] Do not cast off so that barlines are placed directly in line with barlines above and below.”


If all you have are slashes and there aren’t any chord collisions, then the spacing will be even now, as there’s nothing additional for Dorico to space.

I find the fixed width hand copying style much more difficult to read.

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(A little “Trinkle Tinkle” cheers me up on a crabby day! Thanks.)

@FredGUnn I agree, the second example is not fun to read! But I also would not want to read this, either:

And it’s worth noting that in the first example, the bar lines are aligned exactly, as one would typically do in a chord chart. @benwiggy , as much as I agree with everything in the three examples from the trusted experts, those things do not typically apply to chord charts. A glance through some of the lead sheets in the Chuck Sher books will reveal numerous examples where bar lines are in exact vertical alignment even for melody passages. Perhaps we all should avoid vertical alignment, but it’s reasonable to have a way within Dorico to accomplish the alignment quickly. In my example above, I cannot figure out how, using the tools in Engrave mode, to space quickly and easily all measures and beats evenly. I may be missing a feature (my experience in Engrave mode is still fairly basic, mostly because Dorico already does such a good job automatically in most cases) but when I try to even things out using the horizontal spacing tool, all sorts of proportional adjustments occur beyond the one thing I’m trying to move.

I wouldn’t want to read it because the accidentals for the alterations are so small as to be illegible in a poorly lit club situation, but wouldn’t have any issue with this:

I see stuff like that all the time. What other options are there? If you keep the bars the same width you end up moving the chords up out of the way vertically which disrupts the L to R flow of the eye and makes it harder to read IMO. I don’t mind doing that for analysis, like the score reduction below, but would use that only as a last resort in a part.

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In the case of the top line, I’d space the second measure like the others and then adjust the alignment of the chords so that they’re more centered above the beats. For the second line, I’d probably make an exception and use a triangle for the major-9 chord to recover some space, and then make similar adjustments. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I don’t mean to suggest that it’s always possible to maintain even spacing; rather, it seems preferable—again, in my experience and in many of the parts I’ve read—in some cases to try to keep things evenly spaced in these kinds of chord charts. I completely agree that adjusting horizontal spacing is certainly preferable to adjusting the height of chords above the staff.