Insert bars without time signature

So, dorico doesnt let you insert bars until you have defined the time signature. but just because i dont want a time signature doesnt mean i dont want bars. the two main genres of music i work with, byzantine and slavic chant, this is critical. in byzantine, for example, there is distinct meter, but no universal time signature. creating a custom time sig for each measure and hiding it is the crap i had to deal with in finale.
is there a way to do this i dont know about?
if not, consider this a feature request.

Welcome to the forum, @frm5993.


  1. Double click on the first rest in order to start typing notes. Then start typing notes - Dorico will automatically increase bar 1 to fit the notes.


  1. Click on the first rest (or double click; it doesn’t matter) and type Shift-B 100w Enter. That will give you the equivalent of 100 whole notes’ worth of rest. Then just put barlines where you want them.

Thanks, pianoleo
adding rests looks like it will do the job.
still, though, its sort of a workaround.

I don’t really see a good solution here.
If there’s no time signature, what should “adding bars” mean to you? Where do the barlines of the created bars occur? Would you expect that a 4/4 is assumed?

Adding time - in the form the Leo suggested - gives you what you need, doesn’t it? So I don’t understand why it is a workaround, as you don’t have “bars” of the same size anyhow.


Yes, I have to agree. It’s certainly not a “workaround” that in order to insert bars, you have to tell Dorico how long those bars should be. Just input your music in open meter and add the barlines when you when them to appear using the Shift+B popover. This is one of those unique workflows that is only possible in Dorico.

As someone who works quite a bit on Gregorian Chant transcriptions, I can attest that it is perfectly feasible to either just start entering notes or to arbitrarily add 30 quarter notes and then simply get rid of whatever you don’t need later. I also agree that it seems very odd to ask dorico to add some thing that is not quantifiable. I can also confirm that it is absolutely unnecessary to enter a time signature for any reason whatsoever and I have plenty of projects that do not have one.


I agree it’s better ultimately. Though at least for users coming from Finale, it’s a significant conceptual change. Finale always starts with a time signature and bars.

As my old music prof said, “People don’t know what they like; they like what they know.” Hence the overuse of the word “intuitive.”

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I agree with you there, but what I find a little bit funny is that I reacted the exact opposite to the OP: one of the things that attracted me to dorico was precisely the fact that I could work an open meter and not have to hide time signatures. I “knew” that I didn’t want to work that way because it was unintuitive; the trade off of course being that without a meter Dorito doesn’t add extra beats until you tell it to, but once you wrap your mind around this new way of working I find a vastly superior.

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I agree with both of you, or actually with everyone who has participated in this thread with the exception of the OP. I love the concept behind Dorico’s way of setting up documents, but there are undoubtedly still those who, whether or not they’re coming from other notation programs, would prefer their tabula rasa to look like manuscript paper with staff lines reaching to eternity. After all, a painter begins with a blank canvas on an easel. Imagine if all the painter saw was a tiny patch which expanded in each direction only as a reaction to a gesture with a paintbrush. That’s perhaps how the OP feels. It’s certainly how Tantacrul felt when making his Dorico-diatribe!

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Thanks for the replies. to clarify, i love how dorico handles meter. it is what i always wanted. my only problem is with the button for ‘create bar’.

what should it mean and how long would the new bar be? it would just be an empty measure with no beats in it, or one beat. it would expand as you write in it, just like the existing measure: maybe you could add infinitely to either, or maybe the button just means ‘next bar’, and sets the first one in stone.
i dont see why i should need to tell dorico how long the next bar should be; i didnt do that with the first bar. there is a button there, it might as well still do something.

the solution to add lots of rests is perfectly adequate. what makes it feel like a workaround is that the layout seems to establish the ‘add measures’ button as the primary mode of adding measures. therefore it feels weird to have to do something else entirely just to do the same in open meter. and the layout doesnt suggest how to do it either, as far as i see.

If you add a bar in open meter, how many beats should be in that bar?

Edit: the same number of beats that were in the previous bar, perhaps? That would make sense I guess.

I don’t really see how Dorico can win this one.

It strikes me, @frm5993, that you’ve considered one scenario for Insert Bars - a value of 1, and “End of the Flow”. What would you expect that button to do if you used it midway through a flow, or with the value set to a number greater than 1? It would have to be inconsistent.

In other words, (if I’m reading you correctly) you’d like the button to add a barline and an extra beat? Perhaps a little macro “shift+b, |, enter, shift+b +1q” might do the trick?

as I understand @frm5993 's request, it’s a very visual problem. Maybe, if there’s no time signature, the “add bars” button should be greyed out? Or give a hint to first add a time signature.
Simultaneously, a visual for “add time” as an equivalent could be useful (if one is not too familiar with the popover).

@pianoleo you are right, i didnt consider the other scenarios. if bars in open time all expanded freely, rather than just the last bar, then the other options would work fine; but that would be a departure from the current design. it could just gray out the quantity and ‘beginning’ options when in open meter, or it could just replace that whole little section with the new button. it seems silly anyway that it even allows you to select quantity and placement and press the button, only to then tell you you cant do that.

perhaps the most elegant solution would be to have just the button at first, corresponding to open meter, then have it clearly connected to the time sig, so that when you select a new time signature, the button is replaced with the current ‘insert bars’ setup. this would handily solve both my problem and the common confusion of not knowing you have to create a time sig.

@Romanos yes, that seems the most reasonable to me. macros work, but dorico shouldnt make me do that; it is a whole handful of keystrokes (which i need to remember), when there is a button doing nothing that should do it in one click. is there any other function that you can only do with hotkeys, and not with a gui element?

The button used to do nothing at all if you didn’t have a time signature. It now at least prompts that you need a time signature in order for it to function correctly.

There certainly are functions you can only perform via popovers, such as defining beat groupings and unusual pickup bars in time signature, but @Romanos’s example isn’t one of them. It’s just much quicker to type a few keystrokes than to go over to the right panel, click into the Bars and Barlines section, click a barline, click it into the score, grab a note or rest from the left panel etc., and the point of a macro is that you store the keystrokes in a file so that you don’t have to remember them.

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And welcome, @frm5993

The more I work with Dorico, the more I’m oblivious to most of the buttons, except when I use them to confirm which mode I’m in. I don’t think of them as the primary mode for anything, unless “I don’t use that feature much and I’m too lazy to look up the command” counts as a mode. :slight_smile:

Hi. I think I have found out an easy way to do it! Maybe you have said something similar but it wasn’t clear to me when I read it. Here are the steps:

1- Input your notes without a time signature.
2- Select the note that will begin the second measure.
3- Go on bar and barlines and select the barline you want: it will put the bar before the note you selected.

This is indeed how I often do it. I just enter notes for a good long while and then go back and plop barlines in where they are needed. Very simple.

(Alternatively, and if you’re handy with keystrokes, you can also input barlines as you go, since you don’t have to exit out of note entry mode to invoke the barline popover; you can call up the popover, add a barline, and keep entering notes all in one go.)