Horizontal beam's vertical positions are inconsistent

In these situation, why are vertical positions of two beams in each bar different? I think these should be aligned in the same vertical position. The engraving options setting is Factory Default(Reset to factory).

inconsistent beam vertical position.dorico (366.3 KB)

Because Dorico uses the average position of the notes in each group to calculate the beam position. 2C+1D is lower than 1C+2D.

If you think they should be the same, how would Dorico decide between the two options?

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Regardless of what the beam height “should” be, I find the difference helps call attention to the change in pattern.


For such a horizontal beam, I think it’s better to consider only the note closest to that beam as a reference. And if the note closest to that beam is the same, I want the beam position to be the same (In my example of previous post, the closest note from the beam is D in bar1-2 and G in bar 3-4).

This is an example from Brahms’ Op.40, 1st movement, bars 101-102, the lower staff of the piano part.

Peters edition, IMSLP #13596, Youtube link

The positions of all beams are the same.

However, when I try this with Dorico, it becomes like this. The positions of the beams are inconsistent in Dorico.

brahms op.40 mov.1 m.101 inconsistent beams.dorico (368.7 KB)

Looking at the other editions of this piece on IMSLP, all the beam positions were consistent.

Breitkopf & Härtel Edition.

Simrock, First Edition.

J. Hamelle Edition.

Simrock 1928 Edition

Given the traditional notation rules, I’m not convinced by the behavior of Dorico for these beams.


I agree with you that it doesn’t look right. I’m also used to patterns like this having the same beam height throughout.

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This bothers me, as well, and I’m still hoping for improvement in stem lengths and beam angles. I’ve posted several examples of inconsistencies over the years and when I get enough time, I’ll collect and repost them. The fact is that many of us have been trained using traditional editions which adhere to certain standards and when printed music departs from these, it can be unpleasantly distracting or even confusing. I’m not talking about poor editions or many of the awful engraving examples which have been floating around since the advent of notation software, but high-quality traditional editions like those from Henle, Wiener Urtext, Bärenreiter, etc. which a notation application should be emulating. Interestingly, the Patterson Beams plugin for Finale could actually emulate good stem lengths and beam angles very well.
Another problem I’ve occasionally run into, and which is also happening in this thread, is that when I bring up examples of a discrepancy between the common practice which can be observed in reputable editions and what Dorico sometimes does, I’m met with explanations of why Dorico does it this way as well as a defence of it, none of which is actually relevant.


I’m not sure how you could possibly think that an explanation of why Dorico does what it does irrelevant. Perhaps that’s not what you mean, but it’s a bit of an odd thing to say.

In this specific case of a level beam with repeated notes, I believe it is the case that Dorico takes into account the “balance” of the staff positions, in other words it’s governed by the repeated note. The developer with the most knowledge about the beam positioning and snapping algorithms is currently on a well-earned holiday, but I’ll discuss it with him when he returns.

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Hi Daniel

My view is that this particular issue is to do with a contextual adjustment of stem length so the pairs of beamed groups which oscillate between two pitches will have the same beam position.

The problem mostly arises when there are an odd number of notes in each beam group.

Dorico’s outcome for each beam group on its own is fine and in my view uncontentious (if not the only possible ‘correct’ possibility), but I would like Dorico (and I guess this is a feature request) to take account of the surroundings in such a way that it would align the stem lengths when two or more groups sit next to one another, as in the various examples shown here.

Oh, and I think @Vaughan_Schlepp’s complaint is actually reasonable, if acerbically expressed: if he requests that Dorico should be doing something which it doesn’t, that is done in reputable published engraving, then explaining or defending Dorico’s status quo doesn’t address the request.


Well, by that token, nothing short of changing the software will address the request. But alas it’s not as simple as “from your lips to the software development gods’ ears.”

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Yes perhaps (though I don’t want to put words in Vaughan’s mouth). But it would be fine to me if the lack of a particular feature was noted, without promises of it being included in the future.


Hi Daniel,

Forgive me, but it seems that if Dorico has intentions of becoming the defacto engraving tool for major publishing houses, being able to accommodate these kinds of things should be paramount. But maybe I’m misunderstanding some aspect of what Dorico ‘wants to be’. Personally, I’m not that worried about it.



Interestingly, here is the way a Finale default file (no special settings, no manual alterations, and no use of Patterson plugins) handles this situation:beam example Finale


You can get the desired effect in Dorico by changing Engraving Options > Shortened stem length for eighth notes to 3 and 3/8ths.

In fact 3 and 3/10ths will do it. It seems to fix the first example, too.

Though I don’t know if this will have unpleasant effects elsewhere.

Other things I don’t know include whether you can achieve that effect locally in the Properties panel on selected notes somehow.


Further messing about with the Engraving Options, you can set the Shortened stem to 3 and 1/8, (only 1/8 away from the default of 3) and change the Stem Shortening Staff positions to -3 and 2 (from their defaults of -2 and 3…!)


That also gets you the desired effect. Again, I don’t know if this will have unpleasant effects elsewhere. You may have to choose which unpleasant effects you want to deal with manually in each piece of music.


Thanks for your support. It is useful to have the option to position the horizontal beam based only on the note that is the shortest distance from it.

Thank you for telling us an interesting workaround, @benwiggy . I also knew that certain combinations of beam and stem engraving options could correct the misalignment of certain beams. However, changing these options would affect other parts of the piece that were already okay (as you say), so I didn’t want to do it as much as possible.

The examples given so far have been patterns that include three notes(chords) in one beam. However, this problem also occurs in patterns that include four notes. I think this pattern is more likely to occur.

common time inconsistent beam.dorico (365.5 KB)

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As I said earlier, Dorico uses an averaging algorithm. The first 4 notes have a higher average than the second. This is to be expected and is not inconsistent.

Please do stop referring to these as ‘problems’. If they offend you, @benwiggy has shown you how easily you can change Dorico’s defaults to suit your own personal preferences. But apparently the Dorico defaults work fine ‘for other parts of [your] piece’. Such are the dilemmas of any default behaviours.

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Here is the way Finale handles the 4/4 pattern:

Finale 4:4


I would personally agree with tomotomo2 that this actually is a ‘problem’. As he said, changing the defaults would affect other parts of the piece which actually look fine. It simply does not look good if the beams are at different heights when the notes are all in the same range. If it is the algorithm that is deciding this then presumably the algorithm will have to be adjusted. I’m sure the majority of people engraving music for publication would agree that this behavior is a problem, and I expect that it will be changed in due course.