Breaking beams on vocal parts

I discovered the optional “break beams” which allows me to clearly write vocal parts with different syllabs. As for now, I could not find another way to achieve this than right click on each note and apply the break beam option. Is there a shortcut ? Is it possible that this option could be integrated in the software — each time a vocal part has different lyrics on different notes, the beams could automatically break ? This would save me time AND mistakes !
Thanks Daniel for your patience :wink:

[edit] For those who find this thread with advanced search, it is absolutely possible to marquee select a whole bunch of music and untie beams with right click. It saves me A LOT of time

There’s currently no way to make beaming follow lyric syllabification, but it’s possible we might introduce this in a later version of the software.

I realize that it’s no longer considered mandatory to treat vocal music this way, but in the interests of preserving some grand old customs I think it would be great if Dorico could do this easily. When inputting vocal music printed in the ‘old’ way, I’d prefer to make my input ‘authentic’ in this manner.

So I vote in favor of MarcLarcher’s request.

As a singer, I much prefer the “modern” method of beaming across rhythmic groups rather than syallabic groups, as the the rhythms are much easier to read in real time. (Think of several bars/measures of semiquaver/sixteenth runs in Bach or Handel.) This is the approach favoured by Elaine Gould (page 435) and Gardner Read (I’m too lazy to look up the page number). This is particularly true where one has original language (say, German) and another (say English) underneath, where the syllable breaks come in different places. For me, a score should avoid anything which makes rehearsal or performance more difficult - it shouldn’t get in the way.

Having said that, I’m in favour of Dorico being as flexible as possible, so if L3B and MarcLarcher want their traditional way of doing things, let them have it!

Michael Aves

I agree that singers should see music beamed the way all other musicians do (and would even hazard the remark that beaming to lyrics plus a lack of note-value proportionality is responsible for a lack of rhythm amongst a lot of singers!). While accurate placement of syllables should make it no longer necessary to beam to lyrics, I still agree that Dorico should be able to do it.

why should a singer sound like an accompaniment?

A singer should sound like a musician. Besides, most of the time, singers aren’t being ‘accompanied’, they’re part of an ensemble. Being unaware of the rest of an ensemble doesn’t make you a soloist!

Honesty, I prefer reading a vocal score of the old fashioned way. I could read it the modern way, yet it helps to have a clear view of groups of notes being one syllable when I come across them. I thank you all to back my suggestion up :slight_smile:

That’s what slurs are for, to show the groups of notes per syllable. Don’t you need to have a clear view of groups of notes according to their rhythmic function? Nevertheless, I still agree that beaming to syllables is something an advanced program like Dorico should be able to do.

it is not as easy as it seems. Just think for example of Italian the language which is so beautifully been used for singers. The sillables are wrapped to the music in a much looser way than you would probably like :wink:
You can not simply put sillables 1:1 to the music, and that is the beauty of it.

Dear k_b, I do not know whom this answer is directed towards… There are so many different points of view in this thread ^^
All my Verdi’s vocal scores edited by Ricordi have the beams in the syllabic way I was asking Daniel and his team for. All my Puccini’s too. I just checked my Bellini’s and Donizetti’s. And Rossini’s. And guess what ? Beam cuts per syllable everywhere. Maybe that’s a flaw from Ricordi ? Ok, then let’s check Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte published by Bärenreiter in a beautiful edition. And Don Giovanni ? Die Zauberflöte — ok, that’s not italian any more… All the same !
It might not be an absolute rule… but all my vocal scores are engraved this way !!!
Maybe your answer was directed to Vaughan Schlepp, with whom I disagree. Beam cutting allows the singer to have a very clear indication whether a syllable will last more that a note or not. The slurs can be used to group different notes that are devoted to a syllable, just as a tied beam would. I often find both at the same time, which is redundant. But it can also tie different notes together that form a word made of different syllables or be a musical indication, just as a normal slur for an instrument would be !


I think that different publishers have different preferred styles. I’ve actually found an example of a publisher changing from syllabic breaks to rhythm breaks. This is Schott, in Tippett’s A Child of Our Time. The vocal score, published 1944, has syllabic breaks; the vocal score for the five spirituals from that work for a cappella mixed chorus, published in 1958, has rhythm breaks. (The text is in English, of course, but I don’t think that makes much difference). Also, publishers are not likely to re-engrave a score simply to change from one beaming style to another, so a lot of current editions of older works are printed from old plates, even if the covers have been modernised.

I prefer rhythmic breaks because it is much easier to see the main beats in the bar, which is precisely Elaine Gould’s point. This is particularly true where you have a lot of mixed quavers and semiquavers (eighths and sixteenths) in a long bar (measure). This style does make it crucial to have the lyrics accurately placed under the notes, with clear and consistent spacing, hyphenation and extender lines, but that’s part of the skill of the good engraver. Dorico handles this well, from my very limited experience so far.


Take a look at Finzi’s Clear and gentle stream, from his Seven Songs of Robert Bridges, published by Boosey & Hawkes in 1939.

Metre changes between 4/4 and 12/8, and the 4/4 has some triplets whilst the 12/8 has some duplets. Rarely do the singers do this at the same time. And no beams. It’s a nightmare, as a sight-reader, trying to identify where the beat is.


Dear fellow engravers,
I must admit you make a point : one of the first things I do when I have to learn a role and if there are too many semiquavers (eighths and sixteenths) is to write down on the page big vertical lines above the vocal staff to clearly see where the beats are ; this is proof the old fashioned way of cutting beams with syllables is not perfect. Each method has its drawbacks and advantages !

Indeed! Accompanying traditional recitatives is made really difficult by beaming to the lyrics, as the notes are often not printed at all proportionally and you have to try to see at a glance which of the equidistant notes are 8ths and which are 16ths and try to catch the singer at the right spots.

hm, they must have had brilliant artists in the past, being able to deal with miserably engraved music :wink:
It is probably a matter of training and habituation. For example, some musicians nowadays honestly like to play from the “ancient” diamond type of notation from the 17th century (Dorico :wink:) and do get along quite fine improvising…
OT: I like, if singers can feel independent from the exact rhythm, like the speaking voice not being rhythmically exact (exept when rapping…)
And in recitativos this is espiecially true, this is where the singer “speaks” and thus has to feel free from rhythmical boundries… So may be after all, the oldfashioned way of single beams isn’t that bad after all in this context…
From a musical and scientific point of view, opera started as drama with added music. Bit by bit the music took a more important role… and sometimes taking over the whole thing…

I’m a bit late to this conversation, but I’d also like to cast a vote in favor of this feature. I don’t deny that it’s a matter of preference, but it has significant historical precedent, and some, like me, are more accustomed to reading that way. Further, to @Vaughan Schlepp’s point:

It isn’t always helpful to co-opt slurs for this purpose. For instance, in Bärenreiter’s urtext edition of BWV 244, only the slurs from Bach’s autograph are printed (except some editorial slurs, marked with dashed lines). It would be undesirable to use slurs as syllable indications in an edition like that, but the syllable beaming is clear and pretty well unambiguous (helped by the fact that the score’s rhythmic spacing and lyric typography are both clear as well). In any case, it would be very nice for Dorico to support lyric beaming for the purpose of reproducing scores of this style, even though it is no longer the prevailing convention.

Just adding my vote to this. It’d be good to have the ability to select beaming / no beaming for individual instruments and then not have to worry about reformatting.

I’m just having the same problem here. Interesting to read this thread, since both sides make interesting points. My handwritten original script has broken beams but I’ll suggest to leave them as rhythmic breaks. If my client insists on syllable beaming, I’ll simply add it later (rhythm is quite simple in this case, so nothing really bad). But even for this approach, a preference to toggle this would be great, so again +1.