Final system won't budge

The sixth system is supposed to join the other five on the first page, but remains orphaned on the second page despite the fact that there is no frame break. What am I doing wrong? There are many other pages in the file with six systems on them. Why doesn’t this one work?

The next page has the frame break:

I’ve run into this before after doing complex page formatting and had to completely redo all of formatting from scratch to get it to work. I would like to avoid that this time.

If the frame break at the start of the first page doesn’t have “Wait for next frame break” activated in the Properties panel, then it’s probably because Dorico has calculated that there isn’t enough space on the page to fit the sixth system.

You could try reducing the ideal system-to-system gap, or other appropriate spacing values.

I would also recommend watching John Barron’s sessions on this topic, if you haven’t already:


Thanks Lillie. The first frame break doesn’t have wait for next frame break activated, nor does the frame break on the following page.

I don’t understand why vertical spacing would suddenly be an issue when there are many previous pages that have even seven systems packed on them:

I tried scrunching up the systems using the staff spacing controls and nothing changes. The sixth system refuses to budge.

If it’s not activated, then the frame won’t be forced.

Your new screenshot shows overfull systems horizontally, and an overfull frame vertically (the system/frame fullness indicators are red).

You’ll have to work against Dorico if your default settings are sufficiently large to require forcing.

Try instead reducing the note spacing and vertical spacing. All the relevant info is in the link and videos I posted above.

Note that manually moving systems vertically in Engrave mode will never prompt Dorico to re-cast off. That tool is for minor tweaks, really.

Thank you. Lillie.

I changed my ideal gaps and that immediately fixed the problem. And I think that answers my question about the other full pages. I must have crossed the ideal gaps threshold with this section. The other pages all have narrower distances between the staves within the systems even though there are more systems on the page.


(If you have a system break on every system, then there’s probably something awry with your settings)

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Hi @John_Ruggero , @Lillie_Harris already anwered this. Here with other words (hopefully not confusing :slight_smile: ), in case it can help further:

As you can learn viewing and studying the videos linked by Lillie, the Ideal gaps are actually minimal gaps: they define the minimum distance that you would like to accept, that Dorico uses for staff spacings. Dorico uses this information dynamically to “admit” or not, a system in the page, based on the space needed by each system in that frame (that’s why some systems are narrower, till they reach the “minimal distance”: Dorico calculates that there is enough space to put another system in the frame and will allow this, if the “minimal” distance can be respected. If there is plenty of space, Dorico spreads the systems more, dynamically as needed, also depending on the Vertical justification settings).
If you use “Wait for next frame break” on a Frame Break, causing eventually an overfilled frame, you can force the frame layout to put all the systems between the two frame breaks, into the frame, and so eventually locally bypassing the minimum distance (ideal gaps) settings, in case the resulting frames are overfilled. This can be sometimes useful/desirable, but there are several (other) ways to obtain the systems distribution…


Thanks for that explanation @Christian_R . Thank you for taking the time. I had actually experimented with Ideal Gaps awhile ago and the setting I choose seemed to be working well until this page, where some of the engraving forced wider than usual gaps between the staves, and I have now learned the unfortunate consequences of that. I will try the waiting for next frame break strategy again. Somehow that didn’t seem to work.

@Janus , I am sure you are right about my settings. However, I do a lot of hand page layout because I place a premium on ideal page turns. Dorico often gets it right, but sometimes not.

Your workflow may be different, but for what it’s worth, I find it easier to work in Dorico by setting the default spacing values (both horizontal note spacing and vertical staff spacing) to be on the smaller side. It’s quicker to push bars or systems onto the next system or page, than it is to pull them back.

It also gives Dorico more flexibility in allocating space for the “neediest” sections. Always forcing bars and systems without adjusting the underlying defaults can result in distorted spacing.

It’s also perfectly common to need to adjust these values on a project-by-project basis.


Thanks for that advice, @Lillie_Harris

I have my default note spacing set at 4 spaces for a quarter note and 1 3/5 for short notes. However, I change that as needed. In the case of the very densely packed areas of this piece I changed that to 2 5/8 for both values and that seemed to correct problems. In other cases, I set only the short note value to 2 5/8 and that solved the issues.

The ideal gap between the staves in each grand staff system had been set to 5 spaces. I set it back to 4 and that solved the original issue above. Perhaps it should be smaller?

Are those values along the lines of what you were suggesting? I am finding that setting the right note spacing values in particular is a shot in the dark. I just try something and see what happens. But experience is a good teacher. Actually the best in my case.

Sounds pretty good to me. I tend to reduce note spacing to 3.5-3.75, and insert system breaks as needed. Likewise, particularly in ensemble scores, I often put braced staves at c 4.5 spaces, and reduce everything else by about a space.

The “Ideal Gaps” at the top are in practice “minimum” gaps, because you can set them quite small and still achieve good spacing. This is because Dorico adds extra space on top of these values as needed: to accommodate high/low notes that extend beyond the staff, dynamics, other markings that add height, etc. Dorico can also add additional “minimum gaps” between staves that have protruding notations.

The best part is tweaking those values, then watching the recalculation – the joy of seeing all the potential manual work you could be doing taken care of is quite something!


Thanks, @Lillie_Harris I’m glad that I am not too far off with my settings.

I’ve experienced the joy you’ve described and one of the things that makes working with Dorico a real pleasure!