Crotchets tied across beats two to three in 4/4

I have a simple notation question that I had when copying a rhythm from a lead sheet.
Why does Dorico replace a minim with tied crotchets within a bar. If I want to write the rhythm as it was written in bars 1 and 2, I have to use the force duration tool to get the minim in bar 2 where there are quavers following it.
If not using the force duration tool, Dorico will change the minim to tied crotchets as in bar 5.
Is the latter a notation convention?

Dorico’s original intent was to follow the custom of showing the middle of a measure in 4/4 time, with an exception for certain syncopations (quarter-half-quarter, for example). Replacing the quarter with eighths (or other divisions of the beat) currently throws off this exception.

IIRC Daniel has suggested this may not always be the case, but so far the Team has not had the time to address the issue.

That’s quite a complicated reply, but thank you. So the tied crotchets in bar 5 are to show the middle of the bar?

With my settings I get the result you have in your first 2 bars without using Force Duration, so there is a setting buried in there somewhere to allow this. Check out the options at Notation Options / Note Grouping. It’s likely one of these:

Thanks. I’m only trying to get to know Dorico via Dorico SE 5 to see if it’s for me going forward. I don’t think SE has these options. Do you know if these options are in Elements or only Pro?

Hmm, I’m not actually sure. From this comparison chart, it looks like the Notation Options are fixed in Elements, but I just started my Pro version as Elements (hold down Alt key) and I seem to have these options available. Maybe someone from Steinberg will chime in and state if these are actually now in Elements or not.

Thanks for trying that on your system.

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I think they are actually editable in Elements now. It worked when I started Pro as Elements, and they are visible in this video around the 1:05 mark at the bottom of the dropdown.

Someone should probably update the comparison chart if Notation Options are now in accessible Elements.

Looks like it might be? There’s a note grouping category listed at 1.25

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I have a similar issue with note grouping. I have a case where in the same bar (2 stave piano arrangement) the right hand groups as in bar 2 above, and the left hand splits the note with a tie.
I get that there are options to manage this, but surely whatever the settings Dorico shouldn’t behave in two different ways, i.e. bar 2 and 5 should be the same one way or another.
Or have I misunderstood.

Just out of interest, what happens when you paste from one stave to another?

Can you post a cutdown version of the file that exhibits this? I can’t reproduce that. Obviously if you’re in 4/4 and the half note falls anywhere other than beats 1,2, or 3 then it should be split, but if it falls on beat 2 and is split in one hand and not in the other, then that certainly warrants further investigation!

Although you should be able to do what you want, orchestration books and classes have taught me not to let a major beat fall in the middle of a note because it makes it harder for players to follow a conductor. Your example is pretty straightforward, but with a complicated rhythm, fast tempo, etc. it’s hard for players to match the conductor’s baton to the music,

A pop lead sheet would be OK, but an editor would change that half-note to tied quarters in an orchestra piece.

What editor would do that? It’s overly fussy and completely unnecessary!

An editor at G. Schirmer wouldn’t (pg 75):

Elaine Gould wouldn’t at Faber (pg 171)

I couldn’t find a rule in the Boosey & Hawkes guide, but they don’t split it on page 86.

It’s so obvious to Ted Ross that he doesn’t even bother discussing it in the Syncopation section of The Art of Music Engraving, but he uses that pattern when discussing spacing on page 78 …

… and 86.

Musicians have no problem recognizing 1-2-1 relationships in a bar.

Each of these syncopated examples cites quarter-half-quarter, a rhythm fully supported by Dorico. None of the examples given swaps out one of the quarters for an eighth-note pair, which is where people who have difficulties accepting Dorico’s solution are surprised.


I know it bothers some people, but I personally have no problem with it. I tend to go with Carl Rosenthal’s prescription here:

If you read between the lines in his and other similar prescriptions, the rule is basically a 1-2-1 relationship is fine as it will be instantly recognized by the performer. If the “1” is overly difficult then maybe I’d break the 2 if needed for clarity in a meter like 12/8, but generally I don’t.

The obvious complication with this is that some rhythms that are allowed in 2/4 are then not allowed in 4/4 as they are no longer a 1-2-1 relationship. People tend to think of rules about eighths, quarters, and beats and miss that key relationship element that professional readers instantly recognize.

While the rhythm in the 3rd bar above is clear and comes up in the literature all the time, it’s not usable in the the 5th bar with the exact same note values as the eye loses the beat placement due to the fact it’s no longer a 1-2-1 relationship. The 6th bar must be used instead of the 5th, even though the 3rd is fine in 2/4. Overly notated bars like the 2nd slow the sightreader down as there’s more unnecessary visual elements to process.

I know over on the MET FB group people are neurotic about showing all the beats (2-level parsing rule, etc.), but it’s not really helpful for the reader when a common 1-2-1 pattern is easily recognized. Bar 3 above is perfectly readable even though 2 levels up from 16ths would mean to show the quarter beats. Professionals recognize rhythmic patterns in chunks of information, and don’t read strictly from left to right. We don’t place a half note on the & of 2 in 4/4, because it will break the recognized patterns in the bar, even though it might not matter to a beginner who is counting literally from left to right. As 1-2-1 is an easily recognized pattern as well, breaking it to overcomplicate it slows a professional reader down.


I think this is the key point, clarity in fast-moving situations, and a certain amount of flexibility is called for. The question is whether computer algorithms (to date) are likely to make the best decisions in a majority of cases. Until they are, I can understand Dorico preferring a single standard while allowing users to override it when another option is clearer.


Agreed! I have my personal pet theory about this, which I’ll spoiler tag below as it’s getting pretty far away from the original post.

Notation rant

Prior to the 1940s or so, it’s pretty easy to find all sorts of rhythmic groupings in print that we now consider “incorrect.” In 4/4, dotted quarters on 2, half notes on the & of 2, etc. While there are quite a few books from this time on the history of notation, and a few on actual engraving practices, there surprisingly aren’t many on actual notation rules. The few that exist are generally pretty simplistic and not very comprehensive like we have now with Ross, Read, Stone, Gould, etc.

I think the 1950s-60s heyday of the studio orchestra changed this and codified a lot of the rules we follow now. Notation rules with grouping, stemming, etc., evolved to greatly favor the reader. Mistakes were now permanent in the recording era, so readability was of primary importance. Much of the music being written would no longer be thoroughly rehearsed, but sightread as an actual performance “take.”

In the 1960s-80s there were a ton of notation books published that set out to explain these rules that were solidified in the previous couple of decades. Everything that we now consider a rule, really had evolved to favor the sightreader. I think I own close to 50 notation books as collecting them is sort of a hobby of mine.

Even with all the amazing advances in the computer notation era, I think it’s possible that we’ve slipped and regressed a bit in terms of favoring readability with things like beat grouping and stemming. People tend to accept computer defaults without understanding why they are defaults and how certain notational elements evolved. That’s not a knock on any of the major notation programs, which are just tools, but rather the users who don’t understand the why/when/how of notation. Of course the overall notational level is much, much higher now, but there are certain notational oddities that have taken hold due to an influential book or influential message board or group (ahem … irony), that don’t actually favor the sightreader.

A large amount of music written today will never be performed by actual human musicians. Composers/arrangers are often missing that critical feedback step that comes from performance and talking to musicians or librarians, who see what the musicians are penciling into the parts. A lot of my own notational preferences have been directly shaped by seeing what mistakes have been made at rehearsals by professionals who have been tripped up by inadequate notation. I’ll acknowledge there may be a different aesthetic standard for music that will never be performed by human musicians, or music that will be practiced over and over until essentially memorized, but I always try to come down on the side of favoring sightreadability.


Here is my example.
As mentioned above there seems to be a conflict in the 3rd bar between the grouping in the right hand and the left hand.
I Can’t Escape From You - Extract.dorico (1.1 MB)

I probably should attach the pdf instead
01 - Full score - I Can’t Escape From You.pdf (22.7 KB)