Am i missing something? Dynamics engraving looks like trash by default

I imagine there’s a simple solution I don’t know about, but I’ve been searching around and can’t find it.

I have an opening orchestral passage where I want everything to crescendo from piano to fortissimo. I highlight all of the notes, open up the popover with shift+d, type p<ff and get this monstrosity.

why are hairpins and dynamic markings happening in the middle of staves?

even if i don’t do this, let’s say i just want the flute to be piano, it defaults to putting the p right where the second flute part is.

Any help? Thank you!

Your Layout Options are “trash”. Specifically, the combination of page size, staff/space size and number of players is incompatible with getting a good layout. Assuming you’re happy with the combination of instruments, you need to either reduce the space size/staff size or increase the paper size. Dorico won’t do that for you automatically.

tbh i don’t know anything about page size, staff/space size or anything. i’m fairly new to writing for this many instruments in general. i just assumed dorico would be kind enough to fix all that for me as I added players. so my settings are just whatever the dorico default is.

what should I change them to?

From a picture I can’t know what either of those currently are. The defaults differ from template to template and my saved defaults are probably different from yours (whether yours are custom or factory).

Your page size should be whatever size you eventually envisage printing on. If you have no intention of printing on paper, it doesn’t really matter what it is; it just needs to be larger than whatever it is at the moment. If it’s currently A4 or Letter and your Staff Size is 7mm (Space Size) 1.875mm, try knocking it down to 5.5mm or 6mm, then hit Apply and see if that looks better.

Sorry not to be more specific - paper sizes are completely different from the US to pretty much everywhere else, and my chosen measurement units probably aren’t the same as someone who lives in the next street to me!

thanks for the help! now i understand there is a whole other rabbit hole I can go down, as this is the first i’ve ever thought about page size, staff size, etc…it never even occurred to me.

is there a handy guide somewhere? or general rules of thumb for what the sizes should be i.e. for your average orchestral score? so that i don’t have to play around with these every time? out of curiosity, what are your defaults set to and why did you choose them?

It really depends on the size of the ensemble. Even with the largest orchestral forces I’ve never gone below a 3.7mm staff size, and I’ve worked for publishers that really don’t like less than 4mm, even if that means printing on A3 or even SRA3.

Roomy scores with large page sizes and overly small staff sizes are very easy to keep neat, but generally publishers and conductors prefer scores with slightly bigger staff sizes that cram things a little closer together.

what do A3, B4, A4 etc. mean?

Paper sizes


That is a very handy graphic Mr. Murray. Thank you!

(1) Orchestra Librarians Pt. 3A: Format & Page Turns - YouTube Guidelines for page and staff sizes, page turns etc.

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Pardon me for asking and I most certainly do not mean to be impolite, but what country do you live in that is not aware of ISO standard paper sizes? I am curious - I did not think there were any. Even America where US Letter is the norm, A4 is also well known.

I’m in the US and have just never heard these things :man_shrugging:

I’m just new to the world of orchestration and arrangement. I used to play in/write songs for a rock n roll/psychedelic band, so I have a lot of experience with music, recording/production and composition in general. But putting a bunch of notes to paper that are to be played by other musicians is entirely new to me. I wasn’t aware I should at all be concerned about paper size until about a week or two ago.

Not to worry.
It will be a fun but occasionally bumpy ride, we all learn something new every day, even about Dorico…
Just keep asking questions (nicely doesn’t hurt… :wink: ), read up a little on notation in general and you will get there.

Have a great day,

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Most of my friends have no idea about paper sizes other than “computer paper.” They have no clue about paper weights or any of the other paper specs that we who deal in printed music have learned how to handle. They don’t think about using an ivory shaded paper instead of bright-white for printing music that’s easy on the eyes.
And only people in the U.S. who participate in online forums like this with people from other countries are aware that there are paper sizes other than 8.5"x11." A4? Ask most people in the U.S. what A4 is and they’ll either say “what’s that?” or at best “isn’t that a major highway in Great Britain?”


In the U.S., Tabloid size paper (11" x 17") is a common paper size for (informal) orchestral scores.

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To change the space size that pianoleo mentioned: In Write mode select “Library” from the menu, then select “Library Options…” from the drop down menu. A dialog box appears. In there you scroll to the section named “Space Size”. Click on the field next to “Rastral size” and try the different options. Choose one that is below the one that is currently selected. So, for example, if the current setting is Size 4, then try Size 5. Click on “Apply” and check if your page now has enough space for the hairpins. If not, try the next size option which is Size 6 in this example.

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The score you picture has double winds, 4 horns and strings. If you turn condensing on (combining pairs onto a single stave), you end up with 11 staves. That would fit easily onto a letter size sheet with a generous staff size, probably the same size pictured.


Confession: even as a part-time professional engraver, I don’t really know my paper sizes. I deal almost entirely in 9 x 12, 6 x 9, letter, and tabloid. I have to look up sizes like A4 when it comes up, but it’s not very common for me.

Certainly changing the size of the staves is crucial to getting everything not to collide on the page. It is also possible to fine tune it all in Engrave mode where individual objects can be moved by clicking and dragging. One problem I have encountered with changing the staff size is that the last page is often incomplete i.e. only part of the page is filled and I cannot always fix this by fine adjustment of the staff size. I imaging there are other ways.

As well as condensing it is also possible to hide empty staves to reduce the number of pages used and get more than one system on a page. This is an example of a score on A3 which has been considerably engraved to sort out all kinds of collisions that occurred, even collisions between systems. It ran to over 90 pages in A4 and I had the kinds of problems Codester mentions.

You do one thing in Dorico and it can cause other problems but it can usually be sorted out. The basic algorithms do not do everything right in every circumstance. In the score below I actually dragged staves apart (click and drag) in engrave mode. The resulting score on A3 was just 20 pages.

For your info @Codester (although this is not at all an exclusive reference for this sort of thing, by any means!), the Page formatting section of the manual, which includes brief intros to the “big hitters” when it comes to getting music fitting nicely on pages, with links at the bottom for how to work with these things in Dorico specifically.

You might also like John Barron’s videos on staff spacing and generally-getting-music-looking-nice:

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