Breath Mark vertical placement

I was surprised that Dorico places breath marks relative to the staff rather than relative to the noteheads.
breath mark vertical.png
In this example, it seems to me that the yellow one is completely wrong and the orange one could be better. The only Dorico control I can find for this is Engraving -> Holds & Pauses -> Vertical Position.

IN every piece of engraved music I can recall, the breath mark is higher than the notehead. It seems Gould is silent on this issue. I realize I can move it in Engrave mode, but it seems to me there should be at least an option for the breath marks to be vertically positioned relative to the noteheads.

I should mention I always found breath mark positioning terrible in Finale. I had to adjust every one manually, horizontally and vertically. Here I only have to adjust a few, but it would be nice to have the program automatically move the mark up for notes above the staff. The horizontal placement seems very good to me, except on that orange one.

Thanks for the feedback. We’ll consider this for future versions.

Gould mentions it on pg 187. Ross on pg 208 says “it is always placed in a very conspicuous place above the staff.” Roemer on pg 23 says “Breath Mark: a comma placed slightly above the top line of the stave and between the two notes” but his example doesn’t involve ledger lines. Personally, I think the “conspicuous” description is most important. If a player is reading a lot of ledger lines, then a comma immediately above the staff is too easy to miss. I too would like to see positioned more in line with any ledger lines that might be involved to make it more noticeable to the reader.

“Conspicuous” is a moving target. Between two ledger-line notes would likely be vertically close to the original note, but between a ledger-line note and one within the staff, the breath mark might be more conspicuous close to the staff and the following note.


Yes. I had seen that. It seems specific about horizontal placement, and Dorico is just right in this regard, I think. But she is unclear about vertical placement. I agree with the various comments here about “conspicuous.” I guess that is part of the art of engraving.

I certainly agree with your example. I think most of us would agree what Dorico is doing today is fine for any cases where the adjacent notes are on the 5th line or anywhere below. In other words for notes on the staff or below the staff, the breath mark should be slightly above the staff.

The problem is only when one or both of the adjacent notes are above the staff. For these, I imagine a straight line running through the middle of both noteheads. I think the tail of the breath mark should be a little above that imaginary line. I think the current horizontal position Dorico uses by default is perfect.

I was just pointing out that the vertical placement constitutes a programming challenge dependent on context rather than a change to a fixed value.

Funny, this is exactly what I was going to suggest…

I’m not sure that it is a huge challenge. For most cases. the current algorithm is fine. For the case where one or both of the adjacent notes are above the staff, then the baseline for the breath mark should be basically the weighted average of the vertical positions of the two notes with the second note having 3/4 weight and the first note having 1/4 weight. And if that is lower than the top line, then revert to the current algorithm.

I’m sure that’s an over-simplification, but something like that might be a single line of code like:
max( STAFF_TOP, (Note1_Vpos * .25 + Note2_VPos * .75))