Equal spacing per beat?


I’m in the process of transitioning from Sibelius to Dorico at the moment. So far things seem great. But I was wondering about a few things, the first of which is a note spacing question I couldn’t easily find the answer to. I’m making a score in Sibelius now that has somewhat complex contrapuntal rhythms. For ease of reading, I want the spacing of each beat to be exactly the same, so that the spacing of the notes across the whole bar accurately reflects their duration/speed. In Sibelius, to achieve this, I fill the entire bar in one of the staffs in a hidden voice with 256th note sextuplets. It’s a bit ridiculous, but, it gets the job done, because these will be smaller than any other duration in the bar, so Sibelius will default to equally space these and then put everything else in the right place. A screenshot from Sibelius, with hidden objects shown in grey, is here:

Is there a way to achieve the same result in Dorico, yet, without manually moving everything around (with questionable accuracy, too!)?


You can get close to this by changing the note spacing. Either set the values in Layout Options / Note Spacing or add a Note Spacing Change in Engrave mode.

The key parameter is setting the Custom Spacing Ratio to 2.0. You may also need to reduce the minimum space for short notes, and increase the default space for quarter notes, because Dorico won’t allow notes to overlap however tightly you try to space them.

Wowsers, this opens up such a can of worms from an engraving perspective (ie, not software specific but engraving in general) which I’m hesitant to get into because it’s your prerogative to exert whichever specifications you want and then to use whichever method you want. Worth reading Gould p39 onward about rhythmic spacing, if you have’t already.

Dorico has some pretty comprehensive spacing settings which should go some way towards your aim. Go to Layout Options and then Note spacing and set ‘Custom spacing ration’ to 2.00. This spaces everything in a direct 1:2 proportion, so a semiquaver will take up half the room of a quaver, etc. This is a starting point towards what you ask for (though technically it’s not exactly the same as what you’re after) and there are further settings you can play with too.

Your example demonstrates the notevalue spacing, yes, but decent spacing also has to take into account the padding of non-metric items – so there’s more to it than just making a grid of tiny note values to force longer duration notes to be spaced semi consistently. So, for example, the dashed barlines are colliding with accidentals, rests and notes because it’s trying to fit in a tiny note value in each space. (Also, given the note values you’re working with in this example - surely you’d be better off working with a lowest common denominator - or multiple of? You would need 120ths (or 240th), so each crotchet would need to be divided into 30 equal notes, ie 10 quintuplets for every quaver/eighth triplet.)

The question was how to do something, not whether it was a good idea. But FWIW I know which one of these I would rather read (and it’s the easiest one to create).

Indeed! Hence why I steered well clear of said can of worms :wink:

Yes, it’s extremely clear which of these is better. Thanks for posting the example.

thank you for the clear answer, the advice, opinion, and example! super helpful :slight_smile:
best, phillip

Thanks very much for the thoughts, and the advice, and the reference in Gould… :slight_smile:
Best, Phillip