From Plate to Page with Dorico

Following @John_at_Steinberg 's recent "Discover Dorico" session where he copies an actual metal plate from Henle into Dorico, I thought I would do the same.

Here’s the plate (mirror flipped):

… which is a page from a Liszt piano piece. Here’s a sample page of the Henle edition (from their website), which is clearly taken from the plate:

and here’s the result in Dorico:

I’d already adjusted my beams and slurs to be more like those of Henle (as close as consistent parameters will allow; but not quite as flat!)

I also had to adjust Engraving Options for

  • arpeggio lines, (Dorico’s extend slightly too far by default);
  • grace note slashes (Henle’s are a bit lower down and longer. Also a different angle, but that can’t be adjusted);
  • octave line dash length (Henle’s are much smaller. Also no arguments about abbreviation letters!);
  • pedal lines (no actual line);
  • double/final bars (closer, thicker);

and the minimum gaps in Layout Options.

There was still a bit of manual adjustment: mostly moving the systems closer together. Fingering had to be selected and italicised; some needed moving. Whole note chords in 77 and 79 were centred in the bar.

Stems had to be manually shortened between the staves, to reduce the inter-staff gap; and also on some of the beams (68 onwards) in the left hand to reduce the gap between systems.

There remain a very few limitations:

  • Dorico can’t move articulations like marcatos sideways, so that they can fit ‘inside’ a stem
  • Dorico can’t put parentheses around an augmentation dot (b.66) – I dare say you could fake it somehow if you really wanted to;
  • I can’t find an option for ‘split’ bar numbers to be in parentheses: only square brackets. (Henle has the wrong split bar number!)
  • I’ve had to drag the lower fermata and the Pedal continuation symbol off the page in bar 75, as they can’t be hidden/removed.

Henle has used every trick in the book to squeeze things as close together as possible, while still allowing enough ‘breathing space’ on the page. All the numerals (tuplets, fingering, bar numbers) are smaller than Dorico typically uses.

Dorico’s factory defaults are much looser and more open, but a good starting point. You’re likely to need different options for orchestral scores, choral scores, and piano scores like this. One size will not fit all.

While the options can be configured to get 90% of the way there, there’s still some manual work required for this level of work. You could probably achieve “Henle-style” output with much less manual work using a slightly smaller staff size, or putting only 5 systems on the page.

Sharper eyes with a greater tolerance for tedium may be able to improve on it still.

The Dorico project file is here, for anyone that wants it.

Engraving sample.dorico (1.1 MB)


Fabulous Ben!

I don’t know if my eyes are deceiving me, but in the Henle the long note stems have a tiny bit of irregularity to them which is only apparent because of the perfect verticals that Dorico gives them.

Maybe, as in playback, we need the option to program in a bit of randomness to the score rendering!

Great comparison! Just wanted to mention you can modify the Engraving Options / Octave Lines settings for “Octave line hook length” and “Vertical offset for top-aligned dashed line” to get closer to the Henle settings too if you wanted.

Henle sort of famously has pretty shallow beam slants. You mentioned you had “already adjusted my beams and slurs to be more like those of Henle.” Are those your standard defaults? Or did you modify them more for this file? Or do any manual beam adjustments to the angles, other than shortening stems?

This is a really good point that a lot of people overlook. Music that is intended to be practiced until essentially memorized can definitely accommodate much more compact settings than music that needs to be sightread.


There are some manual adjustments to the beams, mostly just to get very short stems at the end. I may have tinkered with a few options here and there…

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Now you just have to work out how to get Dorico to engrave it in zinc. :slight_smile:

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Or maybe in plastic in conjunction with a 3D printer.

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Exemplary work!! Clearly there are endless details to fuss over in music engraving.

This was the first detail I noticed. I’d rather see the noteheads in the very center, ignoring the arpeggio line. Both of their whole-note chords look too far to the right to my eye.

Interesting that the grace notes do not have slurs. (What are such slurs needed for?)

Is the roman-font fingering the composer’s and the italics editorial?

Yes, that’s just sloppiness on my part. It would be good if Dorico could automatically centre a single note in a bar. I don’t think any app does it natively, though there are probably plug-ins.

I presume so, yes.

You jest, but actually, it might be reasonably straightforward to produce a 3D image from a 2D PDF, which could be used to make a plate with a 3D printer. (Whether the resin could transfer ink in the same way, is another matter…)

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I have been asking for centred notes (and rests) for ages. [I’m loath to mention it, but Lilypond can do centred objects in a bar easily.]

And, as I repeat, this style is used in Baroque and modernism/post modernism a lot, so it’s odd that such a capable program as Dorico misses it.

I know Dorico is brilliant a starting rests at the exact temporal point where they commence, but often it is easier to read a centred rest in a bar - it often stands out more, and a lot fo composers do this.

There are many things that we all still want from the program – I have my own Xmas list of about 30 things. I usually get at least one in every new release, sometimes even in the point updates.

As said, you can’t centre single notes in Finale automatically, unless you run a plug-in over the score (and if memory serves me right, you have to pay extra for it!)


:joy: Music Zinkengraving! -JK

I think Dorico can mimic the Henle house-style by 99%. How about changing the values in the Engraving Options? (Slurs, Stems and Beams)… I will give it a try :wink:

Great work Ben by the way.

Well, here is a full screenshot, reproducing Ben’s Henle example in Dorico using a customized font:

Of course, one need to tweak the values in the Engraving options… not sure if this looks close to the plate or not, but fortunately, Dorico can do it!

Ben’s HENLE PLATE.pdf (72.7 KB)


Centered notes and rests were used through the Classic period, and centering a single note in measure is standard practice in many styles of music through the present.


Hi Nordine,

Fantastic job!
I bought a few great fonts from you including the Mezza that I thought closest to the Henle fonts so far. The one you showed in the PDF seems slightly different. May I know the font name (I would like to buy it!) and is it possible that you can share the Dorico project file so we can furthur study how and what to tweak to mimic the style? Thank you!

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In Dorico, the arpeggio lines are of course too close to the accidentals (things are only worse when there are flats involved).
It’s been acknowledged as a problem and it can be an awful lot of work having to adjust everything manually.

So, did you just change the font to “GHenle-Verlag”? Is that Henle’s actual own font, or one of your own?

Your stems have gone too short, I’d say, in 64 and 65. And some Academico has crept in!

It’s a private customized font not Henle’s actual own font. The font is kind of re-tracing from your score picture :wink:

Academico font seems to mimic what Henle use as a text engraving. It looks like they use some narrowed mono spaced serif glyphs?? not sure… Academico needs somehow to be stretched a bit to look closer.

In engraving options as I said, I changed the Beams angles, and played around the Stems length and stem shortening values. I set Slurs thickness to 1/5. I think one could go further more with the tweaks…it’s not easy!

I also believe that we need some option for a centred note or chord inside a bar. @dspreadbury please can you consider this a feature request? Huge thanks in advance.

Edit: Henle beams remind me the way Encore used to draw beams in a shallowed way.

I have to disagree! Academico is nowhere near Henle’s text. Nepomuk was originally based on Henle’s text, if not identical. Fonts like Monotype Modern, Old Standard, are similar.

Of course they stamped in each letter by hand, so the spacing is done by eye. :astonished:

TBH, there are things about Henle’s engraving I don’t like – their beaming is a little too flat for me. And there are some errors on the plate, like the needless collision of the octave line and slur.

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Ah!’re right, I forgot to use Nepomuk instead.

I’ve changed Sebastian’s 8-sided Pedal lift symbol to a 6-sided one!