Engraving a canon

Hello everybody!

I have been using Dorico for more than a year now and have followed this forum for the most part of this time as a very helpful and insightful resource. Now, I have finally registered as a user, because I have the following question:

I want to notate a canon in Dorico with all four voices vertically aligned.

My aim is to achieve a notation like this (my music example is the famous canon “Frère Jacques”, probably by the French Baroque composer Jean-Philippe Rameau):

This example is done in the software that must not be named (the S-word …). All four voices are notated in a single system; I have hidden the initial barline and input a repeat sign as a symbol at the end of the fourth staff.

Now, in Dorico (the software that is allowed to be named …) I have tried a similar approach, but have not been able to solve the following two problems:

  1. I cannot hide the initial barline (in Dorico it is called “systemic barline”).

  2. When I input a repeat barline for one time signature at the end of the fourth staff, this does not align with the normal barline of the other three systems.

Here is my canon in Dorico (every staff has an independent time signature in order to hide the time signatures of the second to fourth staves):

The “normal” way of notating a song with one staff per system does not work, because the music is not vertically aligned (see the start of the four lines!):

Are there any tips or tricks?

Thank you very much in advance!

Welcome to the forum @User_4729 !

I’d probably recommend sticking with the “normal” way, as that most accurately reflects the way the music should be read/performed.

You could try adjust the note spacing values and ratio for the layout to make the default horizontal spacing in each system match more closely. If needed, you can then use the Note Spacing tool to adjust individual columns.

A Custom Spacing Ration of 2 will make 1 minim = 2 crotchets.

Here’s my interpretation of “Frere Jacques”
It’s one flow of my 4 Hands Piano book part II,
(Fantasy Variations on old songs),
which I’m now trying to give a good layout.
Some parts in the book are not as easy to play like this one.
The last 4 pages in this piece had 6 systems per page.
I now changed it to 5 systems, which looks far better.
with thanks to @benwiggi, who showed me (in another topic)
better to work with note-spacing.
I still have to do some note-spacing here.
I have to admit: I’m not a very good layout-man.
Engraving a Canon Issue.dorico (1.3 MB)


What a nice piece, so relaxing., especially the last page.
makes me courius about the other pieces.
needs not too much time, to learn.
many thanks. That layout is ok for me.

Indeed, very relaxing, compared to so many other “hurriing” pieces.
well done!

Hi @Lillie_Harris, thanks for your quick reply.

I have carried out a short search of published editions of canons (ie. rounds):

Some editions indeed engrave canons the “normal” way.

But there is a considerable number of editions (at least in Germany) that prefer vertical alignment, most notably the standard publication “Das Kanon-Buch” by Schott (see the music examples on the product page) and the “Evangelisches Gesangbuch” (the common hymn book of the German Protestant Church, see the example below).

Interestingly, American publications tend to use an approach with one system and initial barline (= systemic barline): see eg. MacDonald, M. R./Jaeger, Winifred: “The Round Book: Rounds Kids Love to Sing” as well as “the king’s singers Book of Rounds, Canons, and Partsongs” (p. 9, 11, 15 …).

Unfortunately, Elaine Gould does not say anything on the topic.

Speaking for me personally, I still woud prefer to engrave canons vertically aligned, since this notation reflects the simultaneity of the voices.

If I understand you correctly, at the moment there is no solution in Dorico for the two problems mentioned in my initial post (ie. hiding the initial barline, and vertical alignment of the barlines at the end of the system). So if I may make a request, I would be happy if these issues could be addressed in a future update of Dorico (the first one might possibly be adressed together with the possibility to engrave incipits mentioned by @dspreadbury in this post; the second one seems to be a bug?).

Thank you very much in advance.

By “normal way”, I meant in a continuous stream of music, rather than 4 staves in 1 system being played, in Dorico-land, simultaneously.

Two minutes.

You can select BOTH anchors on the lower two systems, and move them together under the first note of the top staff; and then bring in the end of the last system, to compensate for the extra space of the repeat.

Set the Custom Spacing Ratio in Layout Options to 2, so that a half takes up 2 x a quarter.

Thank you, @benwiggy, for this nice idea.

I have tried it out (with the option “Make space for lyrics” switched off):

As can be seen comparing the position of the first barline of each system, the vertical spacing of the first and the last lines are still different from that of the second and third lines (apparently because of the space calculated for the time signature in line 1 and for the repeat barline in line 4).

But your solution has one merit: The amount of necessary manual tweaking is reduced considerably, because one only needs to correct the spacing differences caused by the time signature and the repeat barline – so not every single note needs to be adjusted, but only the beginning of the second, third and fourth lines as well as the end of the fourth line.

Also, the vertical spacing of the first line looks more balanced in your version (Spacing ratio = 2) than in the first example of my initial post (Spacing ratio = 1.41 [default value]). – This might be another argument in favour of engraving canons the “normal” way (ie. without vertical alignment).

Thanks, @benwiggy, for your second post (“Two minutes […]”). I read this only after completing my reply to your first post, but as far as I can see you are saying exactly the same as I, only much shorter and faster …

Still, I have the hope that one day Dorico provides a way of engraving canons with vertical alignment that does not need manual tweaking of the note spacing. The prospect of as little manual adjustments as possible is, after all, the reason why I use Dorico …