Lyrics and automatic slurs for melisma (feature wish)

Not sure if this has already been asked for.

I wish there would be a layout option in Dorico to switch on, so that Dorico automatically places slurs over melisma in lyrics.
This would even be better than the plugin in Sibelius (what is nevertheless very comfortable).

OT: the email notification doesn’t work anymore for me on this chat-page.

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+1 on this!

One issue: how would dorico handle multiple verses that do not have the same length of melisma? Indicate first verse only?

That’s a good question, I would say yes, on the first verse. But I think it should not be completely automatic. Just a function that adds the slurs to the selected bars. After adding, they will be ordinary slurs that can be manipulated by the user.

What would be really cool is if there was a “slur to lyrics” (others will want a “beam to lyrics”) option that calculated slurs based on the first verse, and then upon a second pass, analyzes if other verses differ, and changes any affected slurs to dashed slurs.

Slurs over lyrics is the first thing I would like to see deleted from modern editions.
They are not necessarily helpful, and restrain your eye and brain from seeing the text structure, words and syllables.
This may be not everybody’s opinion though…

By contrast, I rather like slurs that are no longer than 6 beats or so… any longer than that and I skip them, but small groups of 2, 3, & 4 I find helpful. OTOH, I think that syllabic beaming is the devil. (I know classically trained singers who are acclimated to it prefer it, but I find that it tends to obscure the rhythm so bad as to be intolerable.)

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Really! I don’t think I know any.
(Complete agreement with you.)

And I don’t think I have ONE vocal score that doesn’t show syllabic beaming. Professional opera singer here (Verdi, Puccini, Donizetti, Bellini, Gounod, Offenbach, Bizer, Massenet, Mozart, Lehar, Moussorgsky, Tchaikovsky…)
I mean, everything I’ve been singing for almost 25 years, but Rogers and Sondheim…
Every time I have tried to deliver a beamed score, I’ve been asked whether it was possible to change it to the usual way.

Without wishing to generalise (…) I’d say that ‘Continental European’ publishing still favours syllabic beaming, whereas Anglophone publishing has moved more towards rhythmic beaming on vocal lines.

You’re not going to see rhythmic beaming in a Ricordi score, for example.

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Elaine Gould (Behind Bars, 435) writes that “instrumental beaming (i.e. beaming into beats) is now used in vocal beaming together with syllabic slurs”. The two examples that follow are identified as “traditional beaming” and “contemporary beaming”.

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I think this is just a system of tradition and reproducing new editions in the same style as what has come before. I really do believe syllabic beaming is deficient; it really makes dense or complicated rhythms harder to read. This (to me) feels like one of those traditional conventions that just needs to fade into obscurity, like antiquated clefs. But, as I said above, I do know some people prefer it. (I do wonder if this is not the source of the old trope about how singers can’t read rhythms though!)


It is mine.

Also, if I never see a piece of vocal music with dashed slurs again, it will be too soon. What a way to muck up a score with multiple verses. Hymnals do fine without them.

Dashed slurs to indicate certain bowing as I learned 60 years ago is fine with me.

That’s because the texts are very carefully written with (and chosen for) consistent syllabification from one verse to the next. That’s why you can characterize most hymn texts by their poetic meter, e.g., with very few in the “irregular” category.

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Really? That’s because?


In the old days, hymnals were not capable of dotted slurs. Through the early 20th C., many were printed on movable type so no slurs either. Nowadays, people like I sit on committees and check for readability. Dotted slurs never make them clearer.

Singers are actually pretty smart about what works and doesn’t. Often, inexperienced engravers with access to new toys do not know this.

The good thing is that software engraving is reversible. When someone with a PO contacts an arranger or composer telling him/her to clean up the score and re-print or our checkbooks remain closed, we generally get our way or select something else for our ensembles. This began about the time that Sibelius added dotted slurs (I think they were the first) to the toolbox.

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Is 1964 the old days? The Oxford Book of Carols has dotted slurs. I don’t think there’s a technical bar to dotted slurs in pre-computer engraving.

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For me, it depends. There are times where you could end up with more dotted slurs than regular and that can indeed be quite cluttered. If there are mostly normal slurs and only one spot where things change, a single dotted slur can help give a visual cue to pay attention in that unique bar.

Another method I’ve tried on occasion that I think can be helpful (again, depends on context) is to italicize the extra syllable. Then you’re not messing with slurs but there is still a subtle visual indication that something is out of the ordinary. (This example doesn’t exactly apply to the discussion of slurring; it’s more to demonstrate how the italicized word can help cue the singer.)