Inconsistent system/staff spacing in a full chamber score

I’m a new user of Dorico Pro 5, but have learned a good deal on note input and format, and have nearly completed entering a String Quartet.

I am now encountering confusing mismatches in the full score, with staff + system formatting:

I’d like every page to have 2 systems (vertically). Most do, but some have jammed in 3 systems.

In addition, even for pages with 2 systems, some have a large vertical gap (well) between the 2 systems, and use shorter system height (staffs in a system close together). But most pages have 2 systems with larger system height (and smaller vertical gap).

There are even pages of the full score with 2 systems, where one system has compressed vertical height and the other larger vertical height!

I’m a bit at a loss. I’d just like a uniform “look”. I realize Dorico makes micro-adjustments depending on the actual music, but the non-uniformity is extreme and makes no sense. 3 systems per page quite packed and hard to read, and 2 systems per page either with good vertical height per system or small vertical height per system.

I’ve looked through the manual, but it’s hard to get the basics on this. Can someone help? Listing detailed simple steps would be appreciated.

Thanks -

It sounds as though on some pages the content is just over the vertical justification threshold and on other pages it’s just under.

See Fix inconsistent vertical spacing? for instance (and Lillie’s useful reply).

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Then set the Casting Off options in Layout Options to fix 2 systems to the page.

You’ll need to change the Vertical Justification Settings, also in Layout Options. I’d suggest that you want Dorico to increase the space between the staves, to avoid a massive gap between systems. You can set the Ideal Gap value between the systems, and I’d suggest these settings:

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This is all very useful, thanks both of you! It is helping a lot.

I see also an Ideal Spacing control, both inter-staff and inter-system. Is this worth adjusting in addition to the suggestions you have made?

Yes absolutely. But bear in mind that those are the gaps BEFORE the page is justified. So gaps will always be larger than those values, if there’s spare space to stretch into.

Understood. And setting an Ideal Spacing for inter-system can then restrict or limit the spreading out enabled by the Vertical Justification setting (incl. of inter-staff spreading), correct?

The interaction gets complicated.

That’s correct. On the whole you should always set the “ideal spacing” gaps (which should more rightly be called “minimum spacing” gaps) to the smallest values you’d be willing to accept in the tightest of conditions, and allow Dorico to space things out using justification. Values as small as 4 spaces or sometimes even smaller can be used there.

If you look at hand-engraved music you’ll see that staves are often much closer together than we are used to in the days of computer engraving. I think that something about unevenness in spacing on the screen looks “wrong”, because the patterns are irregular, but once you get the music printed onto paper and are reading it from the proper reading distance, the ability to have a larger staff size at the expense of irregular staff distances can still give you a more legible page overall.


Very useful and interesting, many thanks Daniel.

All of this input has been very useful for my full score. However, when I check out the individual parts (e.g. Violin I), there are strange patterns with the layout format.

In particular, several pages have > 100% fullness. Some are about 101%, others 120+%! In addition, text on some staves (dynamics, tempo, etc.) overlaps text on some other staves.

I’m not using “casting off” fixed # of staves per frame. I am also keeping “Ideal Gap” for staff-to-staff and inter-system to be 4 spaces, i.e. quite low (I believe each staff is treated as a “system” in a single string part). And for “Vertical Justification”, I use ~60% in first entry and 95-100% in second entry.

Why would Dorico allow such over-full frames? and overlapping text between staves?

I can fix somewhat by radically changing ideal inter-system gap to 9, but you are suggesting this shouldn’t be needed.

Any input appreciated.

It’s hard to know without seeing the project file itself. Some pages can be over 100%, for a variety of reasons.

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