Bring on that sweet figured bass!

I understand figured bass to be as large a project Chord Symbols have been. Infinite variations on infinite chords combined with infinite conventions…

I believe a workaround exists whereby figured bass can be entered as lyrics. If this is the case, what is the best font out there to make this happen.

In the next year, I will be assisting in the creation of an archival edition of a Alessandro Scarlatti oratorio produced in 2013 for the first time since 1710. The present edition was put together on Finale, but when I think of having to futz with that figured bass again, I want to stop thinking about it.

As for my limited (so far) experience with Dorico, I’m having to adjust to different numbers from Finale for note durations re keyboard shortcuts. Twenty years of muscle memory - lol

But when I think of being able to have a keyboard shortcut for 128th notes, I can see why the Dorico crew (and on Sibelius before that, now that I think of it…) wanted to make crochets the key 6 and not 5.

All that being said, I cannot find in the key-bindings dialogs where to change these numbers for keyboard commands. These are the only things I would go ahead and change with Dorico re hotkeys.

Beaming over barlines… Finale’s ‘workaround’ is frankly hokey at best. After twenty-five years of development, it’s still shocking the little things here and there that software still cannot do easily.

Dorico will have its own quirks down the road. Every software does, but the best of my day today is discovering beaming over barlines is not only easy with Dorico, but also native to the product. What a concept!

Thanks so much, Daniel and everyone, for the work of mythical proportions you’ve put into Dorico so far.

I sincerely hope not.

Infinite variations on infinite chords combined with infinite conventions…

We are talking about Baroque style here–not the music of Stravinsky or Boulez, and the possibilities are certainly limited. In my experience, the most complicated figured bass is encountered in Bach, and there are not many people who can play that at sight! Sibelius already does an adequate job of representing most figured bass, though the method of input is tedious.

Just typing 128 in the search box finds “1/128 note” for me, and the others are in the same place.

If that doesn’t work for you, go to the NoteInput category, then the Set Note Durations sub-category.

You will probably want to add some more key commands when you get tired of using the menus, even if you don’t change the existing ones!

Note that the Dorico key commands are context sensitive (hence the categories and sub-categories in the Key Commands dialog), so for example you can define B as the shortcut for some command to do with bar lines or beams, but still press B to enter the note B from the computer keyboard.

Probably not the best font, but a possibility for now until the team comes up with a proper implementation.

I heartily recommend Florian’s Sebastian Figured Bass font.

I’ve used it in Finale with my own chord suffix library for a while, and it works very well. I’m interested in trying it out in Dorico as a lyric.

The figures in Bravura are very nice, too, but difficult to use. I’m not a big fan of “Times” style figures. Too modern!

There are several different “styles” for writing figured bass, though probably not as many as for chord symbols.

For example accidentals before or after the figures, slashes through the figures instead of accidentals, the use of a natural sign or a sharp/flat signs to raise or lower a note that is affected by the key signature, left/right/center justification of the individual entries in a stack of figures, formatting of “continuation” lines (i.e. do the lines start immediately after the figure they are continuing, or if some figures change and others don’t, does the line start under the changed figure) etc. (I could probably think of more if I spent a bit of time on it!)

There is also the question of vertical justification when different numbers of figures are stacked - figured bass can appear either above or below the staff, or between the staves of a grand staff…

I would guess the Dorico team are planning to handle those style variations semantically, the same way as for chord symbols, displaying gradual dynamics as text or hairpins, etc.

Figured bass is (relatively) simple if you ignore the semantics and just format the figured bass “text” as you want it, but that’s not consistent with “the Dorico philosophy” of how to do things.

  1. you may assign a lyrics line (f.e. lyric translation) to a Figured Bass font like Opus Figured Bass (if you happen to have Sibelius installed on your computer). You can work quite effectively, but you will be only able to input one line of Figured Bass numbers. You will have to fake the second or third line with text input via Shift-X and adjust these numbers in Engrave Mode.

  2. you may simply input the Figured Bass numbers as text objects with Shift-X, choosing Music Text (Bravura text), when you input the numbers. Copy/paste the Figured Bass numbers/symbols from
    To make your life easier, once you have pasted a symbol, just copy/paste it from within your score to the next location. Once you have input these text objects, select/filter them, switch to Engrave mode and position them (f. e. underneath the stave).

  3. you may also use the above mentioned font (Florian’s Sebastian Figured Bass font) as another workaround. It is a bit more complicated to handle, but it consists of Figured Bass symbols of one, two or three lines/stacks:
    GitHub - fkretlow/sebastian: Sebastian font for music notation software

  4. and last not least: you may wait patiently for Dorico to have Figured Bass implemented in a perfect way - unless you have a deadline for your project.

Unless you need real lyrics you can also use one verse for each stack of figured bass numbers.

It wouldn’t be too onerous to make a new font with the Bravura figured bass symbols for easier input. You could copy the numbers to their respective unicode slots, bflat to b, sharp to #, natural to n… or something like that.
I imagine you could also use a macro program like autohotkey to replace a defined string like ‘fb3’ by the corresponding smufl glyph, but I’m not sure if that would work.

thank you fkretlow,
one question, the Bravura Figured Bass symbols are probably not yet quite complete?: I suspect, there might be more of them appearing (f.e. another slashed 6).

I’m having pretty good success using verses for stacked numbers as suggested by fkretlow on 7/31. I’ve used both Opus Figured Bass and Figured Bass MH fonts successfully. You have to adjust the minimum vertical spacing both between verses and between verse 1 and the music; you also have to set lyric text alignment to left for each one, which is tedious. If you want to have 2 successive figures for 1 longer bass note you have to fudge it by adding spaces. But until the team gets around to it, this produces pretty acceptable results, if not completely professional level…

Just looked at Sebastian, looks interesting. How do you get the figures in different stacks to occur in the same space as each other, as for example a 6-4 chord?

Sebastian: Most characters have zero width, so you can input the stacks one after another. (You’ll probably want to adjust the horizontal position of more or less each figure because of this, though.) It’s a bit tricky if you need more than one character in a stack, something like 6/3#. Here you would input the first column first, advance the imaginary caret with one of the space characters (y < Y < space) and go on with the second column. For more complex figures this can be awkward even with a german keyboard (the font was developed with a german keyboard in mind, so you can find and memorize the keys logically there), so I definitely recommend using different verses for different stacks. Unfortunately, # on the second stack won’t work at all with the lyrics tool because Dorico will always turn the straight apostrophe into a typographic quotation mark.

As you can’t see what you’re actually inputting in the lyrics pop-over, it’s probably a good idea to build more complex figures in a word processor and copy them across.

I use for Finale figured bass a third-party font, but I can’t remember which. I was able to make it work.

I’ve had great success using Florian’s Sebastian Figured Bass font with Dorico 2.
Screen Shot.png
First, I create a Paragraph Style for Figured Bass – 24pt, relative to staff. Centre aligned. Some slight alterations to improve alignment: 4.5 pt indent and 1pt Letter Spacing.

Then Add the figures as Text. So for 7 5, just do 7 5. (Other symbols have easy keys.) The text goes Above the staff by default; but I do a page at a time, then adjust in one go. Select and Filter the text, go to Engrave mode and click “Below” in the panel. Manually adjust as necessary.

One problem is that the leading for the font is enormous, compared to the letters, so each line down is miles away! You have to adjust the leading to 17%. (However, I leave this till last, as Dorico can’t select the figures easily after this – it seems to think they are somewhere else.)

Amplifying my post #10, I’ve gotten quite fast with this method—I can do a normal sonata movement in about a quarter of an hour. I move around (verse to verse and note to note) using the arrow keys, which is very fast. I’m now using Opus Figured Bass and have made a cheat sheet; it’s hard to remember all the character assignments. To get 2 figures on a long note it works better to convert the long note to short ones, input the figures, then reconvert back to the long note. For some wonderful reason, Dorico keeps the figures at the right rhythmic position. The one fly in the ointment is extension lines; I enter them as text but getting the proper length is hit and miss.

Ben, I’m very glad that you find the font useful!

I’ve been working on another figured bass font for Dorico. The idea is to use the lyrics popover as if it was a real figured bass popover (take a look at the attached gif).
I was planning to add parentheses and hyphens, and to allow the figures to be stacked downwards, and to allow accidentals to the left of the numbers… but I haven’t had the time to complete it yet. Making the opentype positioning features work correctly with more complex combinations turned out to be really tricky (if not impossible with reasonable effort).

When I saw your post earlier I thought that the font might be useful to you or to others nonetheless. So I took the time to upload it to my github repository:

Be warned though, I haven’t tested the font with the Mac version of Dorico yet. It may or may not work.
I’d appreciate your feedback!


Great news about your new font. I’ll have a look at it. However, because the music I produce has lyrics as well as figured bass, I prefer using Shift X for Text. It’s very simple, and parentheses around the figures works well.

I might see if your new font works that way, or if I can adjust your Sebastian font to reduce the leading height, so the figures are more easily stacked as text. I already gave them “width”, as they disappeared in Finale on screen when zero-width… :unamused:

Entering the figures as text is certainly easier than … other programs, and I can always change the font settings to suit another font (assuming the same character positions).

As soon as I have an opportunity to test figurato, I will let you know my feelings about it. Thanks for sharing!

I don’t use figured bass myself, but I’m very impressed with your effort and the result! From your gif, it almost looks like a native feature! (no offense, developers!)
Maybe this is something for a Scoringnotes article?

From what I can see, Florian is using the Lyrics Translation style which has its own designated font, separate from the other lyrics. That’s how I’ve been using lyrics myself for figured bass. I’ll test figurato today. Sounds exciting!