How does manual note spacing really work?

I’m easing into hymnal setting in Dorico. While I still need vertical baselines, I’m giving it a shot for a simple melody-only bulletin insert.

I continue to find the manual note spacing function (in Engrave mode) baffling. Could anyone help me understand how it works exactly, or point me to a tutorial that explains it?

I read the online manual, but I’m afraid it continues to stump me. Admittedly I’m used to Finale’s Measure Tool, which is completely manual: each rhythmic position is adjusted completely independent of every other position. I would love for this option to be available in Dorico.

I’m continually finding notes moving that I didn’t want moved, and vice versa.

I think what you may be missing is that it is all proportional. The grid shifts. You are not adjusting only the metrical columns you selected. When you create space between two adjacent metrical columns, you’re also pushing everything to its right slightly.

However, I find that this is absolutely fine, as the simile with type makes quite a lot of sense. I mean, you’re creating (or decreasing) space for a reason, right? If everything is fine elsewhere, then you don’t need to adjust it, whereas moving a single column would, in practice, change the distance between that column and the adjacent two.

The only occasion when there are significant shifts is when the system is overflowing. When you’re over 100%, there will be lots of movements, but even then, it seems to me that the software is trying to choose between the lesser of two evils. It really has to be pushed to produce atrocious spacing.

In all of the above, I’m talking about metrical columns: points in the system where there is a note value and, as such, voices will align. You can, of course, move individual voices away from their metrical columns independently.

(To be honest, most Finale wizards I know admit that Finale tends to deal with horizontal spacing pretty badly, or rather needlessly fussily…)

Can you illustrate what your specific experience is? Maybe we can help.

Thanks, that helps me understand it a little better. But I simply don’t want proportional spacing in these cases. I want to move a single rhythmic position precisely to the left or right without anything else moving.

Typically I agree about Finale’s clumsy handing of spacing. But where it shines (and this can be both a strength and a weakness) is that it allows you to turn off all automatic spacing functions and go full-manual. I need this.

But now I’m just re-stating my objection from my previous thread, sorry. I’ll try to identify a specific example.

Here’s one example among many:

I want to move the sixteenth note to the left to create a more proportionate spacing. Specifically, I want to be the one who decides exactly how that bar is spaced.

When I move the handle to the left, it compresses the entire measure, and expands the previous measure.

Yes, the system is full. But this is typical in hymnal settings… the system is almost always full! Hymnals are compact, thus requiring thousands of tiny micro-adjustments. There is no algorithm that exists (that I know of) that takes into account the trade-off between note spacing and syllabic adjustment… so we get it as close as we can, compress the systems with a density we think we can manage, and then go full manual-mode.
spacing tool.png

I’ve had a request some time back where the task was to try to get as close as possible to an old Score output. That was literally the only case where I can imagine someone needing that kind of fine control. And even then, when I tried to get it pixel-perfect, it was perfectly achievable with Dorico’s horizontal spacing features, which are, quite frankly, a great (and well appreciated) leap over Sibelius. As I said, if you need to move a single column, that means that the spacing is wrong or needs adjustment not in one location, but actually in two. That points to a larger problem, I think. And, either way, you can select many columns in one go and move them together. Or you can nudge one column to the right, and the first subsequente column back to the left, and everything will be as if only the first column has changed.

In the example you posted, you are well over capacity for the system, which I warned you about. It’s the only way music will shift noticeably (and even then, quite defensively, I’d say). From the snippet, it does not look cramped, so either you’ve got lyrics influencing the spacing, or you’re using altogether wrong values for the spacing and trying to fight them manually.

I edited my reply above just as you were replying, sorry. As I said in my edit, hymnal systems are ALWAYS “too full.” Hence the need for manual adjustment.

Do you see the little circular handle beneath the square one? Click on that and you’ll be able to nudge the 16th note without causing any spacing reflow.

Here’s a sample of what I mean by “too full.” This is a little on the tight side, but by no means unusual.

You can see that automatic spacing would be completely unable to handle this.

hymnal sample.png

Ah, that’s incredibly helpful. THANK YOU.

I do wonder if it’s problematic to load down every system with discrepancies between the “actual” spacing and the visible spacing? What would be the ramifications of this? Would it present any problems down the road?

Also, in the screenshot I posted earlier, when I try to move the measure to the left, I can’t. The barline moves, but the notes don’t, and the barline actually ends up overlapping with the dotted eighth. I then cannot undo it - I have to delete the spacing adjustment.

If spacing were proportionate, wouldn’t shifting the barline proportionately shift all the notes in the affected bars??

Dan, “too full” is one thing, tight is another. Are you just using the default note spacing settings?

I don’t think so, no. But bear in mind that you’re editing the offset of that voice from the column, not the column itself, meaning it only makes sense in homophonic settings.

That’s not what was meant by proportional. When editing columns, you’re editing the space between each individual column and the preceding one. For the kind of adjustment you describe, you would select all relevant handles, for all columns.

Don’t shift the barline. Shift the notes.

Ah, that’s better. Thanks Leo. And Luis. I hope it’s clear I’m willing to adapt to Dorico’s way of doing things. This is just one area that’s a struggle for me. I’ll continue to hope for a future setting that allows complete manual control of spacing.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think tighter note spacing values are meaningless when lyrics are involved, as Dorico won’t permit lyric collision.

Most of this could probably be solved if I could override that setting, and work out the lyric collisions on my own.

Following this thread with great interest.

When knocking out something quickly for a bulletin, praise band or choir, I find Encore easiest and fastest for all the reasons stated above. Ok, the downside is that the Anastasia font and many of the expressions look as old and dated as they are. 'Tain’t for publication, that’s for certain but, for knocking out hymn tunes and getting it right for maximum readability, nothing I use is faster. Finale is a close second when I have the time…

What about adjusting the minimum gap between lyrics and the minimum space for hyphens (Engraving Options | Lyrics)? I also am unsure what the “Proportion of lyric width for horizontal adjustment” does exactly. But it may help with some automatic spacing issues. (I also do a lot of work with hymns, and encounter similar problems with lyric and note spacing.)

That’s what Daniel suggested in the first thread I linked to in the OP, but it doesn’t work.

The reason is that lyric syllables need to overlap between stanzas. And syllables need to be slightly nudged to the right or left of center to strike a compromise between note spacing and lyric spacing.

I’ve done a lot of this kind of work, as well, and I always made extensive use of Finale’s ability to nudge notes individually or as a group (using Shift), including the ability to add or remove space in bars anywhere I needed it. I recently tried this in Dorico and discovered that for the tight spacing required for hymnals I had to reduce the settings for distances between lyrics, hyphens, etc. considerably, almost to zero. In this regard I find Dorico’s defaults overly generous, even for other vocal scores. In any case, changing those settings did help a lot, although I did miss Finale’s flexibility.