How to expand vertical spacing evenly

I have a basic problem I get very often and I can’t find a decent solution:

I have f.e. a choir score with 4 staves per system, this gives me 3 systems of 4 per page.
Now, on some pages dorico makes very big spaces between the 3 systems and very small spaces between the staves. I would like to adjust this: reduce the space between the systems and expand the spaces between the individual staves evenly.

Maybe (hopefully) I am missing something, but so far I found no acceptable way to do this.

Of course, it is possible to set all spacings for each line individually, but doing this by drag and drop is hard to get evenly and to do it for a whole score is very tedious and annoying. Other possibility is, to calculate it: reduce the big spaces a given amount and adding this evenly to all other spaces and enter these values in the vertical space page. This gives a good even layout, but it is even more tedious and annoying. I don’t want to work that way!

Pressing Alt while moving a staff gives the possibility to compress the spaces between staves evenly when reaching the bottom margin of the page, but there seems to be no way to expand the spaces evenly.

When I use the global settings and increase the minimum margin between systems, I get the problem, that many pages will only get 2 systems, and I have to sort out the mess on a lot of other pages, which in the end is also annoying. (Also: this seems to be the wrong way, because the minimum margin is fine the way I have it, the problem I have exists mainly on pages, that do not need as much vertical space as others)

So, to all you experts out there:
Is there some way, to expand (and reduce) the spaces of a given group of staves evenly in an efficient manner? This seems to be a very basic every day task, but somehow I can’t find a good way to solve this.

Any help would be very much appreciated!


Take a look at the vertical justification thresholds in Layout Options (see Changing the vertical justification of staves/systems). You’ll need to cross-reference these percentages against the percentages shown in the frame fullness indicator at the bottom of each page, within Engrave > Staff Spacing mode.

Thank you for your ultra fast reply!

I set the option “Justify distance only between systems when frame is at least …” to 100%, this eliminates the big gaps between systems.
This is a big impovement: thank you very much!

However, sometimes it still is necessary to do a little fine tunig manually.
So: is there some way to expand/reduce a group of systems evenly manually?

Not really. There’s a concertina drag thing (Alt-drag or Alt-J/Alt-K) , but generally speaking you’re better off getting the Ideal Gaps and Minimum Gaps in Layout Options to do what you want them to do.

There’s also a dialog at Engrave > Staff Spacing > Copy Staff Spacing that copies all the values from one page to a range of other pages, if that’s useful.

The common exception is the situation where you find yourself unavoidably with only two systems on a final page. In these instances you may find (dependent on your Vertical Justification thresholds) that either the systems are squished together at the top of the page, or one’s at the top and the other’s right at the bottom. In these instances, though it’s a bit of a cheat, the quickest way is often to go into Engrave > Frames mode, grab the bottom of the music frame and drag it up. This will result in increasing the frame fullness percentage - it’s the same amount of music but in a smaller page - so that your justification thresholds are (b)reached. Note that this will cause a page override, so it’s something to do once all the other layout decisions have been made. For that matter, all manual staff spacing adjustments are tied to the individual page, so make sure that if there’s a title page or front matter to add, you get those pages sorted before you touch Staff Spacing mode.

If you have lots of these pages in a project or (multi-flow?) layout it’s worth defining separate master pages with short music frames, so that you can quickly call these in as necessary. Again, Master Page Changes are tied to the individual page so this is one for after everything else is basically set in stone.

Thanks for the explanation, eventhough I find the situation disappointing.

May I strongly suggest to add such a feature in the future? The concertina drag can unfortunately only compress staves and only against the bottom of the page. Ideal would be a way to compress/expand all selected staves evenly by scroll wheel or arrow key or similar. This seems to be a rather easy task for a computer…

I really like working with dorico, but this is one of the problems, that annoys me most, because I am confronted with it regulary:
In my opinion, it is impossible to get all layout right automatically. So, very often I have the situation that I need to regulate manually, this is everyday work.
Now, f.e., if I have two staves that need much more space between them, it is not done only by expanding the space between them manually. After doing this, I have to somehow regain the added space on other places, so the page fits. Most of the time the best and only way is to add/substract the space evenly from the rest. But this seems not to be possible in an easy way.
This is a real issue for the workflow: The correction of the space between two conflicting staves is done very quickly, but the necessary adjustment on the other staves is very tedious.

So I would be very happy, to gain such a feature in the future.

If you can give an example of a situation in which you need to drag a stave, someone will likely be able to give you a better solution to the problem. I work in Dorico anywhere between 10 and 70 hours a week and dragging staves just isn’t something I find myself doing at all often.

That’s not to say that there aren’t situations in which one needs to drag staves, but if it’s something you’re doing all the time there’s probably something wrong with your settings.

I work a lot on choir and symphonic scores.

On choir scores, especially on the excerpts for the choir, the readability of the notes and text is more important than the “correctness” of the spacings.
Two typical problems:

  1. A very low alto voice (f.e. low f three lines below the staff) add the end of a phrase. So you have a low note, a text syllable below, the tenor in the system below has a dynamic indication an accent above etc. If you layout this correctly, without conflicts you get a monstrous gap between the two staves. So you have try to solve this with minimum spaces. This may require the dynamics of the tenor system to go through the slur of the alto. This is not correct, but in some situations this is perfectly readable, in some other situations it is not. I don’t think, there is any way to automate this.

  2. General readability: Sometimes there is the problem that the text can not easiliy be destinguished from the notes above, this means you need more space between text and notes and less space to the staff below. Other times it is more difficult to distinguish between staves, than you need more space between the staves. Again: This is something that cannot be automated, this has to be judged optically by experience.

On symphonic scores I also have similar experiences.

I think the problem is: When you make the notes small enough that you have enough space everywhere, dorico works fine. However, on big symphonic scores, and on choir parts, where the text etc. has to be read, you want to keep the notes as big as possible, so you use every trick in the book to layout this readable.

So, I do not think there is a way to solve this automatically. One needs the possibility to adjust manually, and the manual adjustment of one space automatically requires the even readjustment of others, and the latter is the problem in dorico.

I may add that I come from the old school and worked a lot with the venerable “score”. And of course, the layout possibilities in score were very primitve, but the staff spacing was solved very simple and efficient. With the “H” command you could adjust the space height and you could specify which spaces should be used for the adjustment. So you could add/remove space where needed, by applying the page height change only to one space. By returning the height to the normal value on all spaces you got everything fixed perfectly. You could also use this to expand/reduce the spaces between groups in big scores etc.

As I already stated: A simple solution to readjust the spacings of a whole group of systems evenly would make me very happy!

If anybody has a solution, how to do this with dorico today, I would be very eager to know!