Centered beams

I was happy to discover how easily Dorico does centered beams:
Centered Beams 2.png
But when the situation arises later in the piece, I thought I had lost my touch, because the middle stems didn’t reverse as they should:
Centered Beams 1.png
After I tried every conceivable selection of note heads and stems without success, I began to see that the stem only reverses when the notes are on the third line or higher. Do I just not understand the technique, or is this a limitation imposed by Dorico? And if a limitation, is there a workaround? I retain this beautiful style of notation from the original sources because it brings out the phrasing and voice-leading.

Thanks, pianoleo. The topic that you cited ended rather inconclusively. Should I interpret that to mean that it is not possible to use centered beams in my second example?

In the citation, Daniel mentioned a fourth apart as a limitation. Knut showed an interesting case where the notes in a centered beam are only a second apart. In my first example, the notes are an octave apart and the Edit>Stem>Force Centered Beam worked fine.

The limitation seems to be that all the down-stemmed notes must be on or above the middle line. Perhaps this is how Dorico was able to read my mind to reverse the stems in the first example. In any case, in the second case, this approach doesn’t work, and I need a workaround. But how?

FWIW Lilypond has the same restriction that the notes must be either side of the center line to create a centered (aka kneed) beam

The examples in Gould (page 26) also straddle the center line, but the text doesn’t say anything about that requirement.

I don’t think you can reproduce this (engraved in 1745) in Dorico, with both notes on the same side of the center line:
kneed beams.png

Thanks, Rob. That example is rather like Knut’s Brahms example.

Well, without this capability I am dead in the water.

I’m pretty sure you could fudge this by:
a) creating a new notehead set
b) fiddling with the stem attachment points within the notehead set editor
c) setting just the “wrong” noteheads to use the new notehead set

Yes, Rob and others are correct that Dorico cannot currently create a centred beam for notes all on one side of the middle line of the staff, or where the interval is smaller than a fourth. We have some tasks on our backlog to relax these restrictions, but I can’t say for sure when we will be working on this.

In the meantime, I think Leo’s right that you can produce the right result with a custom notehead set. The thing to be aware of is that when you move the ‘Stem up SE’ anchor point onto the wrong side of the notehead, you need to inset it from the edge of the notehead to account for the width of the stem, which will otherwise poke out to the left of the notehead. Take a look at the attached quick and dirty example. The two noteheads on the second space use the ‘Larger noteheads (stems on the wrong side)’ notehead set. (312 KB)

Excellent! I will try that out tomorrow. Thank you very much, Daniel and pianoleo.

Well, yes and no. I’ve created some pretty extreme centered beams in LilyPond. The restriction you speak of is based on the default value that (dis)allows it. You can change that value to something smaller at anytime to encourage the centered beam to be placed automatically and you can force it do any angle you with some simple overrides.

Daniel, I’m reporting back. I had only partial success and was left with several questions:

  1. Is “Larger Noteheads” the default that came with my 30-day demo? I could find no indication of what notehead set is in effect in my file, like a check next to the set under Edit>Notehead, but it appears to be the Larger Noteheads,

  2. When I added a new notehead set based on Default Noteheads and using your settings in the Notehead set editor, I had success in reversing the stems, but the noteheads are smaller than the others, which also seems to be the case in your example.

  3. When I tried the same settings on a set based on the Larger Noteheads, it reversed all the noteheads throughout the piece. I had hoped that the comment at the top of page 674 in the documentation was incorrect, but apparently not. So is it true that one cannot create a completely independent set of noteheads based on one of the given sets?

  4. Should I now edit the size of the set based on the Default Noteheads to be the same as the Larger Noteheads? I am asking because I am not quite sure what the result is going to be.

Along the way, I discovered how to change the grace note slash design. Very nice!

Yes, “Larger” is actually the default.
Don’t base a new notehead set on the regular one; create an entirely new notehead set. Then create a new notehead within that set and set that to be the default notehead. If you play with the existing “Default” notehead even in a new notehead set, it will apply the same changes to the “Default” notehead in the “Default” notehead set.

You might need to read that a few times…

Thank you, pianoleo.

  1. I created a new Notehead Set by clicking the large +.
  2. I renamed it “Larger Noteheads Reversed Stems”.
  3. I created a new notehead which had the name noteheadBlack.
  4. I edited the new notehead using Daniel’s settings and enlarging the notehead to 120% as an approximation of the Larger Notehead and clicked OK
  5. I renamed the Notehead “noteheadBlackreversedstems” because now there were two items called noteheadBlack to pick from for the “Default notehead.”
  6. I selected "noteheadBlackreversedstems as the Default notehead
    See the resulting final window here:

    But all that happens when I select a notehead and then select my new “Larger Noteheads Reversed Stems” in the Edit>Noteheads menu is that the notehead shrinks to become a smaller “Default Notehead” and the stem doesn’t reverse.

Complete success this time. Step 3 was not correct. One should apparently not create a new notehead within the New Notehead set but edit the one noteheadBlack that comes up by default. I probably misunderstood your instructions, pianoleo. In any case, I find it impressive that Dorico is able to deal with an issue like this in such a sophisticated way. Bravo!
Correct centered beam.png

I had this on my list of threads to come back to, with the intention of working through your steps and finding the error. I shall tick it off my list and I congratulate you on working it out yourself :slight_smile:

Looks great John!

Plus it provides an excellent lesson to those wishing to achieve similar results.

Thank you so much pianoleo; I am glad I lightened your load a little.
Sadhaka, I really appreciate that. I should have mentioned that I enlarged the Default Notehead to 110% to equal a Larger Notehead. This looked OK to me but may not be the exact relationship.

If you look at the stem attachment points for the default and larger noteheads, that suggests the relative sizes are 1.32 / 1.18 which is almost exactly 112%, not 110%.

A better way would be to copy an existing notehead set and then edit the copy. Select the Larger Noteheads set and click the “+ in a box” icon to the right of the “+”, at the bottom of the list of sets.

(I’d like to add my 2cents, surely take it or leave it. I’d like to politely suggest that you should avoid this type of beaming whenever possible, even if reproducing an historic score. This type of notation is much more difficult to read in many to most circumstances; more often than not it is actually unnecessary and simply an aesthetic choice. You are certainly free to make it! (again, just my 2c here…) but in all honesty, I believe most KB players, even those who are traditionally-oriented (I’d limit myself only to baroque repertoire if I could) would agree it’s still a pain. Musicians are used to modern beaming conventions (I take issue with “traditional” vocal beaming too!) so the older stuff just makes it more difficult when in these cases progress was indeed that: progress.). To conclude, I mean this in all collegiality and you didn’t ask my opinion so feel free to ignore me completely!

Hi Romanos401. I read your opinion about centered beaming earlier. I was also concerned about reading issues when I did my edition of the Bach Inventions and Sinfonias, since it reproduces the beaming exactly as in Bach’s manuscripts and intermediate students would be using it. To my surprise, not a single student of mine has complained about it or had reading problems because of it since I published the edition in 1999.

In my opinion, important information is lost when one modernizes the notation of the greatest composers. I have written about this extensively at And it is interesting that a notational chain reaction starts once one starts modernizing. I believe that Brahms made a somewhat angry comment to the effect that “once it starts, where does it end?” when an editor of Schumann’s complete works began modernizing the notation.

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Thanks Rob. I will change that to 112%. I believe that I tried your approach (see 3. way above) but it changed all the noteheads in the piece. It’s all very mysterious, however, so I am just happy that I found something that worked and will now move on to the remaining challenges of Dorico.