Lines and ligatures, playing techniques and coloration - hoping you can refine these ideas

…or suggest different, better ways to create ligatures and colorations that ideally carry over to part layouts without adjustment and don’t get altered when notes are edited and the number of bars in a system changes. What I’ve done below works much of the time, but needs occasional adjustment.


I discovered a Horizontal Lines property that I’d not noticed before that’s available in both Write and Engrave Modes:
Horizontal end position > End immediately before following note

Here’s a ligature on two notes that’s a solid line with inward-pointing hooks (start and end attached to rhythmic position) added to just the first of the two notes (the b) with this property applied, also set in Engrave Mode with an End offset of X=4 to take it the right distance beyond the second note.

This is the Full score.


Here’s the C2 part with no further adjustment needed:




Making coloration marks has all been a bit complicated, but I can’t find a better way to do this. Sigh. (I bet there’s a much simpler way of making them!) At least now it’s done I can save the PT as default and use in other Dorico projects.

I used Playing Techniques, which attach to a single note. Boxed Text has a couple of characters U+250C and U+2510 that are close to what I was looking for (thanks for recent postings on this), though I didn’t need the Unicode reference since I found them in Word using Insert > Symbol:

I made a small Word document with “┌ " and " ┐” with four spaces added (in Word) before or after the symbol as padding to make the PT offset appropriately.

Here’s the sequence I used:

I created a new PT in Library > Playing Techniques and made it Type > Glyph.

Clicked Edit (pencil icon) and copy and pasted the text I wanted from Word:

Clicked Add text, OK, getting:

Clicked OK. Job done.

Cheers, Chris - keeping my mind active while going through Covid :woozy_face:

If you’ve got this far, thanks for your interest and perseverance! What a fantastic forum.

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I use Lines attached to rhythmic positions. I can get this without any adjustment of properties:


The very first Engraving Option for Lines is set to Zero.

The line is probably ‘a quaver more than a minim’.

I’d be surprised if Coloration couldn’t be done with Lines, similarly. I’ll have a look in a bit.

While these generic box characters probably work, there are dedicated symbols in the SMuFL definition, at codepoints U+EA0C (mensuralColorationStartSquare) and U+EA0D. (mensuralColorationEndSquare). There are also rounded variants.
They don’t display here on the forum, but inside Dorico, they will work, when you pick them from a SMuFL-compatible font like Bravura Text.
See Medieval and Renaissance miscellany - Standard Music Font Layout (SMuFL)

Thanks, Ben

I’m clearly missing something.

Here’s my method without adjusting any properties:
Select the two notes
In Lines choose “solid line with inward-pointing hooks”

I get this:

However I want the line to end soon after the second note, not just before the following note.

The Engraving Option you mention brings the start of the line slightly closer to the first note, but that’s all.

Here’s a file with the notes:
Dorico ligatures forum question.dorico (445.2 KB)

Thanks for any enlightenment!


You’re making the line span the entire duration of the 2nd note.

I make the duration of the Line “the first note, plus a quaver”.

Select just the first note, click on the line, then Shift Alt Right.

Magic. Didn’t think of that.

Here’s a very quick hack at Coloration. I’ve basically made a dashed line that has dashes of 1 space (at each end) and a very large gap of 8 spaces inbetween.

If your line gets too short, you get a solid line; if it gets too long, you get more dashes.


Dorico ligatures forum question.dorico (479.2 KB)

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Thank you so much, Pjotr. That’s exactly what I was after.

I’ve created Playing Techniques based on these, which you’ll find in this project.

Coloration Playing Techniques.dorico (417.5 KB)

And here’s a screenshot:

I’ve set Engraving Options > Playing Techniques > Minimum distance above staff for symbols to 3/4 spaces.

I believe that you can copy and paste the PTs if they’re useful to you.

You can have a look at how I created the PT, if you like.

I finally found a way round the fact that setting the X-offset negative (to try and offset the Left symbol before the note and the Right symbol after the note) doesn’t work.

The trick was to add 4 spaces as text, making a composite symbol. Since PTs are centred above the note this worked well. This screenshot showing the added spaces may help.

Thanks too to Ben for keeping with me in my investigations. Much appreciated!


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Right, I’ve nailed it.

After watching a quick Anthony Hughes™ video, I’ve managed to create a Coloration Line that uses the SMuFL glyphs as Line Annotations at each end of a 0-width line.

Works for any length.

Dorico Coloration.dorico (448.4 KB)



We now have two methods for ligatures and two for coloration. Amazing.

To take this just a little further, I’m keen on PTs rather than Lines because I sometimes want to hide them. For example, ligatures and coloration (and figures, which can already be hidden) are essential food for the continuo player, but pretty much clutter up a singer’s part or choirbook that includes the continuo line.

It turns out that you can convert lines into “text playing techniques with continuation” that work in the same way as lines.

Here’s a file that includes two PTs that I made this way, and a Line that’s used in the coloration PT.

PTs for ligature and coloration.dorico (523.0 KB)

If you’d like more thoughts on this then read on.

You’ll need to set:
Engraving Options > Playing Techniques > Horizontal Position > Horizontal offset for text playing techniques: -1 1/2 spaces (or whatever is needed)

To create a new Playing Technique that converts a line
Name: [your choice]
Type: Text
Text: type in 3 spaces
Click the Continuation tab
Continuation type: Line
Duration line: [the pre-existing line that you want to convert]

In the file you’ll find two PTs that I’ve made:
You need to make these default PTs in your Dorico setup to be available in other projects.

For the ligature PT I’ve used the usual line “solid line with inward-pointing hooks”

For the coloration PT I’ve used Ben’s brilliant Coloration Line (available higher up in this thread) that I’ve adapted slightly by changing the X and Y Scales of the music symbols to 120 and called:
You need to make this a default Line in your Dorico setup to be available in other projects.

Using spaces as the Text of these PTs makes them hard to see!
When you open the PT panel you’ll see blanks instead of icons. Hover over one and you’ll see its name.
If you select just one note before choosing a PT you’ll see an attachment line and maybe a small orange box on-screen (holding the 3 spaces). As you extend the PT with Shift-Alt-right arrow the Line will start to appear and will then extend. If you go too far then maybe change the grid to something smaller and use Shift-Alt-left arrow to retract.
If you select more than one note before choosing then the PT will appear fully formed.

Don’t forget to set the Engraving Option that I’ve explained above in every file where you’re using these PTs.

I’m pleased with how well these PTs carry over accurately from full score to parts, hopefully without needing any adjustment.

And they can be hidden!

In my latest project I’m using your Coloration Line, Ben. Works a treat!

However now I’m ready to print the project I’ve run into a problem making PDFs with ghost lines appearing between the coloration marks.

I’ve made an example file (attached below). In this screenshot on the left is what I see in Print Mode in Dorico, and on the right what I see in Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Here’s a close-up:

I exported to PDF from Print Mode
It’s the same using Color.

Any thoughts?

Here’s the file:
Ghost lines.dorico (402.1 KB)

That looks like an Acrobat bug to me. I’ve generated a PDF file from your project and examined it in Affinity Designer, and there’s no visible line between those two coloration marks.

Users of AutoCAD can have the same problem, apparently.

If I understand it right, the Line used here between the left and right coloration symbols is zero-width (Dorico calls the Line Body Style “None”). It seems that the specification for PDFs does not support such lines, storing them as lines one pixel wide, though I can still print them directly from Dorico to my printer.

So… I cannot achieve coloration using a Dorico Line as I need to export my files to PDF, sadly.

For me it’s back to using the two Playing Techniques that I created for left and right coloration symbols. They are quick and easy to use (and I can hide them in parts if I want to).

Earlier in this thread I shared a file that includes the PTs.

Edit: Maybe you can’t copy and paste, but I’ve just brought the PTs into a new project using Library Manager.

I don’t think it’s a limitation in the PDF specification, but it certainly could be a limitation in some PDF rendering/rasterisation engines.

Actually, it is in the PDF spec.


A line width of 0 shall denote the thinnest line that can be rendered at device resolution: 1 device pixel wide. However, some devices cannot reproduce 1-pixel lines, and on high-resolution devices, they are nearly invisible. Since the results of rendering such zero-width lines are device-dependent, they should not be used.

That was my creation, rather than Dorico’s.

I’ve fixed it!

Changing the “None” Line Body from a solid line of zero width to a dashed line with dash pattern 0;0 removes the line.

(At least, it no longer shows in readers that used to draw a very thin line.)

Dorico Coloration.dorico (458.1 KB)

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Marvellous indeed!

Not only a solution to my particular needs, but a virtuoso moment in deep Dorico.

Poor wording from me. Better perhaps:
Dorico’s Line Body Style “None” is a zero-width line


Full credit and respect from me, Ben.

Thank you!