How can I finesse this system?

This is a system from a hymnal setting of “O Filii et Filiae.”

You can see it’s painfully tight. For various layout reasons, I can’t split this into two systems. And the system width is non-negotiable. I’ve done all I can with spacing:

I’m wondering if there are any subtle typographical tricks I might employ to ease the eye a bit here? For example, could I apply a slightly narrower notehead set to this system only, such that the difference from the rest of the hymn were not noticeable? Suggestions welcome.

It looks just beautiful to me, TBH – no pain. Perfectly clear, as nicely spaced as possible.

Obviously if it’s a big contrast to the spacing in the rest of the score, that would stand out. But I doubt anybody reading would complain. Typographically, I agree the biggest space hog is indeed the noteheads – this default large size reads better with music more spaced out (as it too often is nowadays). I usually use the ‘spec’ noteheads myself, but I doubt you’d want to make that obvious a change for only one system or section. “Narrower” as you say would be a subtler change. Are you into making a font for another notehead set?


Thanks Mark. Text fonts are fine, but I don’t understand SMuFL and such.

It is indeed quite different in compactness from the rest of the hymn, but it can’t be avoided!

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I’m sure it’s something you already use, but I describe it for the sake of our fellow users who don’t: since 4.3. we can change the paragraph style used for selected lyrics. Each time I have an horizontal overload, and I have already used 3.5 as a note spacing value, I select the lyrics and use my lyrics condensed paragraph style. It’s the same font I use for regular lyrics, stretched at 93% instead of 100%. It solves most of my problems (and when it doesn’t, I consider taking other options in my breaks).


Yep, this has been a lifesaver for me many times. I typically do 98% stretch and -0.1 letter spacing.


It does look a bit cramped, but to me it is definitely acceptable. If you are able to reduce the notehead sizes just a fraction it would help.

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I think the spacing’s acceptable, too. I’d adjust the beam angles, if anything! :laughing:


The only thing that caught my eye was the missing extender like from the first “-ia” and that perhaps the first and second “ia” could he nudged a teensy bit to the right. Otherwise I think you’ve made the best of a cramped situation.

Thanks. I almost never use extenders in hymnals. They quickly get messy!

Is there a legato missing at the end of the first bar in the vocal staff? Since both notes belong to the “al-” syllable, I would think that they should have a slur, shouldn’t they?

(Wind band composer here, not too experienced in this whole singing-thing :wink: )

The convention I’m following here, which is common in hymnals, is that melismas are not slurred if all the notes in them are beamed.