Fermatas / Breath Marks Override not Working as Expected

I want to start by saying I’m aware of Dorico’s feature making it impossible to have a fermata and a breath mark at the same rhythmic position. We use this feature to our advantage a lot for recit.-like passages, so the orchestra can have one measure with a fermata, while the singers can have all sorts of things. (FWIW, we edit the music symbol “Breath Mark (Tick-like)” to not show anything, so it works quite well for our purposes.)

This feature has stopped working in one particular file:

After saving-as and resetting everything in Library Manager to the factory default, the issue persists:

But in a new, unedited file, the feature works as expected:

I cannot find any documentation of this feature being altered in recent updates; the documentation still reads:

You can combine holds and pauses in the following ways:

  • Fermatas cannot exist at the same rhythmic position as any other hold or pause. Breath/Curlew marks override fermatas, causing them not to appear on the corresponding staves. Caesuras and fermatas permanently replace each other.

We could attempt to use a fake fermata playing technique for this to work, but since our use case is exclusively in measures where the orchestra is tacet, aligning the “fake” fermatas over the bar rest would be tedious. I’m hoping I am missing something simple!

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I do not see the problem. Just put the breath mark/ check mark on a subsequent rhythmic hash mark.


Hi Derrek,

Thanks for your reply. I should have been clearer — we don’t want the fermata to be shown in the vocal staff, only on the orchestra staves. Typically adding a breath mark at the same place as the fermata allows this to happen. But in this file, that override doesn’t occur as expected, and I cannot figure out why.

You can enter it as a local mark shift-h , alt-enter. and then alt-click into any other stave you want it.

Perhaps I am mistaken, I don’t believe fermatas can be created as local marks.
The issue isn’t with the fermata being global, but rather the normal system of overriding the global fermata on one staff (adding a breath mark at the same rhythmic location) doesn’t work in this particular file.

Sorry, I thought you meant the breathe mark.
(Obviously a fermata has to apply to every stave)

All good! I appreciate your help regardless.

The only way I know to have no fermata in one staff is to drag it outside the page in Engrave mode:

CleanShot 2024-05-05 at 20.26.49

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I’d be interested to know how that is performed.

Here you go. I would say it sounds as expected… ? :slight_smile:

[Edit: sorry, I realised just now that maybe you mean how it is performed live by humans? Because indeed the singer not having a fermata would not wait very long.]

So the singer can reach the C# while the accomp is still holding the E chord? How long do we suppose the accomp holds the chord after the singer reaches the C#?

It’s not off-topic to say that this is confusing and incorrect. The reason it’s not OT is because that’s precisely the reason it’s not easy to accomplish in Dorico.

You should not give a fermata to one player and not to another. My two cents!

If you really want to do this, I’d recommend making a custom playing technique that mimics a fermata.

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Just for curiosity, is interesting to see how Dorico handles the fermata (that even if “hidden” outside the page still works normally in the playback) and the breath mark, visualising the played durations and the tempo track, with automatic gaps etc…
(I changed the melody so the voice notes are not hidden behind the piano notes).

I agree.

For instrumentalists, absolutely. But many times in opera scores you find the instruments all have a fermata, while the vocal line is not marked because it is expected to be freely interpreted. Perhaps the singer is the only one taking a breath, or might embellish, etc. The conductor is following the singer in that case.

For this case I would drag it off the page as Christian showed.

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It’s not a use case that comes up all the time (and we always do this after discussion with the composer and, typically, the premiering conductor), but it can help remove a lot of empty downbeats when the singers have extended unaccompanied passages.

The thing that confuses me is that it is possible in Dorico in general, quite easily — if I create a new file, adding a breath mark at the same rhythmic position as a fermata removes the fermata from that staff. But in this particular file, it doesn’t work, and I can’t figure out why.