Breath Marks

Hi Daniel,
I appreciated your Development Diary, part 15 very much!
I’ve got one question concerning Breath Marks. In music for choirs breath marks like the attached ones are quite common (at least here in Germany). Will they be (easily) possible in Dorico? In Sibelius it’s always quite a hassle.
And even more: when there are two voices in one staff and they have got different breath marks, the mark for the upper voice ist written on the top line and the mark for the lower voice is written on the bottom line.


That looks more like a caesura than a breath mark: at least it’s positioned that way. At the moment we don’t have a single-stroke caesura but you could use the straight caesura with two vertical strokes until we can add it.

These short strokes, which can also appear slanted, are NOT caesuras. They are also standard in hymn books in scandinavia. Their meaning is to breathe by shortening the preceeding note, and the pulse of the music is not affected.

I didn’t say it was a caesura: I said that it looks like a caesura, and until such time as we have implemented support for this specific symbol, you could use a caesura to account for the absence of a breath mark that is positioned in this way.

fair enough, but the caesura is much too big/high, so it will cause confusion. I assume a better workaround will be to add these marks as text, somehow, if Dorico allows for that…

Hi Daniel,

I’m trying to find a workaround for the breath marks I was asking for (see above).

Example 1 is a part of a piece without any marks:
without breath mark.PNG
In Example 2 I added the “breath marks” as text (shift + x) and moved them in Engrave mode:
with breath mark.PNG
The problem is, that Dorico changes the staff spacing although there is plenty of room and no need for the extra space. This makes the layout very uneven. Any suggestions for a workaround? There are too many of these marks, so that it is not a solution to change every staff spacing manually.


You can try and play with the options for vertical distances between staves and objects in Layout Options. It solved a similar problem for me recently.

Related, or even quite the same thing: I work for a composer who uses comma shaped breath marks like the one Dorico offers, but he insists on placing them on (not above) the top line. I can replace them in engrave mode, but if I could tell Dorico to place them there by default, that would save me some work (in addition to the huge amount of layout and spacing work that Dorico already saves me…!). Perhaps at some point in the future…? It’s a very small thing but I’d appreciate it.

I like to support the request of HeiPet for the little breath mark. This symbol is very often used in organ music of the 20th century, as example a piece from Hugo Distler.

Florian, do the breath marks sit with the bottom of their descender touching the staff line, or do they straddle the staff line? Could you attach a picture so I can see exactly what you’re asking for?

We will certainly try to add the little vertical stroke breath mark in future. The only workaround for now to prevent Dorico from adding vertical space is to disable collision avoidance for text on the Text page of Engraving Options, but depending on the amount of text in your project, that cure may be worse than the disease.

Here you are:
breath mark.png
I admit that I prefer placing the comma outside the staff as well, it’s a bit clearer. But in some cases, we do what we’re asked for… thanks for considering.

For what it’s worth, I had to adjust a few breath marks similarly at one point and all I did was add them all and then select them all using ctrl/cmd click and then used the alt down arrow commands to move them all precisely the same amount. Didn’t take all that long to adjust when you’re moving multiple marks at the same time. I definitely like the idea of supporting fkretlow’s picture by default, but at least you can still accomplish what you need in the meantime.

Hi Daniel,
as everyone is writing his wishes for Dorico 2.0 into this forum, I want to come back to this topic.
At the moment I am working on a publication with about 150 pages. Entering the breath marks as text (Shift + x) runis the vertical staff spacing (see above) and I can’t use the brilliant automatic avoidance feature of Dorico. I want to make three suggestions in this context:

  1. (my favourite!) I would be great, if you could add the straight (single stroke) breath mark in Dorico as an alternative to the existing breath marks. That would solve all (or at least most of) my problems.
  2. It would be helpful, if one could switch of the avoidance feature for single elements in the properties panel (a bit similar to Sibelius, where you can swtich of the Magnetic Layout feature for single elements). This would save me a lot of time at the moment.
  3. I want to suggest, to add the single stroke straight breath mark as an alternative to the SMUFL Standard in the category “Holds and Pauses” similar to the Caesura (single stroke).

Would be great! Thanks for considering!


+1 for all the suggestions, especially the second one.

Hi Daniel,
I just read through the version history of SMUFL 1.3. Coming back to this thread, I want to ask, if it would be possible to add the single stroke caesura (straight) as an alternative to U+E4D3, like there is uniE4D1.salt01 as an alternative to U+E4D1? I’m not sure, where to post this on GitHub, so I will stick to this Forum and hope for the best …


That’s the direct link to the page I refer to.

I think it’s fine to request the single-stroke caesura as its own thing, rather than as an alternate. I’m not sure it’s any more of an alternate than, say, the bold caesura or the curved one. What I suggest you do is add an issue on GitHub requesting the addition of the single-stroke caesura (which you do here), and we’ll consider it (though not for SMuFL 1.3, which is done and more or less dusted at this point). Please include one or two citations for where the symbol appears in published music if possible.