How much manual work should I really be doing?


I am currently rethinking my approach for future projects after realizing how much manual adjust I have been doing in my large scale wind ensemble work.

Now, the project is attached. I found it hard to find a staff size for the piece because of the large number of instruments, and even once it got really tiny, so many adjustments needed to be made. In retrospect, now that I already did all the manual spacing, I realized I could have messed with the vertical spacing settings and saved some headache.

But, even if I did that, I still have to go outside of the margins to fit everything. I ended up manually spacing just about every staff in this project. On top of this, is it normal to have to individually align most dynamics across a system?

I find this is where a bulk of my time goes when engraving my own large scale works, since I write a lot more stuff than the people I actually engrave for. But there are always things clashing and things not aligning in my music. How much of this is my fault?

More examples are that the time signatures above the bar were often not at the same level. This required manual changes. Rehearsal marks and tempos are not always at the same consistent horizontal alignment. This required manual changes. The place I put performance text in the parts would never naturally place next to dynamics like I wanted.

Help me out here. Would love to hear your comments.

What is your page size? Perhaps you need a large size to accommodate all the instruments at a readable staff size.

It’s hard to say for sure without digging into what manual changes you’ve made in the project file itself, but in general:

  • You could save a chunk of vertical space if you allow single-stem unisons in condensing (although I know retaining separate stems can be a stylistic or practical choice)

(case in point – )

  • Vertical spacing is almost always your best friend – set the “Ideal Gaps” to the smallest value you would be OK having, and let Dorico add extra space for stuff that extends beyond the staff, between staves that have inter-staff content, and distribute any leftover vertical space in the frame through vertical justification. John Barron has done two excellent videos on vertical spacing, I’ll post those below; here are the explanations in the manual, but there really is nothing quite like experimenting and getting confident you know how to manipulate things to suit your needs.

  • Ditto, you could (if you haven’t already) decrease the minimum gaps between various items and the staff in Engraving Options, e.g. allowing things like dynamics, lyrics, and playing techniques to sit a bit closer to the staff can make a big difference on vertical pressure.

  • Aligning dynamics: you’ve got two options, 1) the “semantic alignment” known as grouping, and 2) “graphical alignment

  • Time signatures above the staff: you could adjust the default gaps in Engraving Options > Time Signatures? But otherwise no there isn’t an “align within system” option for time signatures at system object positions. Ditto rehearsal marks and tempo marks (except for pairs of gradual/immediate tempo marks that abut, which are automatically aligned)

  • Text next to dynamics: if this is a separate item, then no it won’t go next to dynamics automatically. If your performance text that you wanted next to dynamics should appear in italics and isn’t a playing technique, perhaps you could use a dynamic modifier, using the Suffix property?


I concur. It looks to me like the page size is all wrong. Typically large ensemble scores are designed for big paper, 10x13 or 11x14, etc. That would give you a lot more space to work with.

The PDF is 11…7 x 16.55 inches. Presumably the Dorico file is also.

There seems to consistenlty be too much white space between staves. It seems increasing the staff height would be possible. Also, I’d condense many passages with opposing stems into common (single) stems, when and where possible.