Meter Changes

Can the collective tell me the best approach to move between these these two images. This sort of edit come up a lot in film scoring, I’m wondering what Dorico “best practice” would be.



You can just add and delete time signatures and/or bar lines wherever you like.

Make sure you are viewing the signposts for time signatures, so you can see any hidden ones. Dorico considers some “non-obvious” things (like non-standard bar lines) to be “time signature changes with the time signature hidden”.

Dorico doesn’t mess about with the rhythm of the music when you do that. It won’t pad out bars with rests, or refuse to make a tempo change because of “tuplets split across barlines” (as in another notation program). If you want to insert or delete some rests when you change the time signature, you can do that using “insert mode” in note entry.

It might be worth mentioning also that (1) any time signature in flow can have a pickup bar, not just the first one, and (2) pickup bars can be longer than a normal bar, as well as shorter!

See the documentation for things like alternating time signatures (e.g. successive bars of 3/4, 4/4, 3/4, 4/4, etc) and similar options.

Hi Rob,

Thanks for all the advice, couple of questions, does Dorico only make time changes up to the next time change ?
This particular score is about 150 bars long, so how would you change just those two bars from both being 4/4 to 5/4 and 3/4 (you’ll notice in the second image Sibelius “forgot” to add another 4/4 time signature after the 3/4.
Just trying to get some ideas of workflow here “best practice”

Many thanks



If you want a time signature change to apply for only one bar, insert a redundant time signature the bar after it, then go back and make your time signature change. You may have to delete partial bars. At least that’s the best way I know how to do it.

Dorico’s handling of time signature and key signature changes over a set range is not what I prefer, but at least the time signature bit comes from the non-destructive aspect of how it thinks about meter. A quarter note is a quarter note, no matter how many beats exist in the meter.

You can always change the bar as desired, then change it back immediately after. This works if the bars that follow are empty, not so great if they already have music.

If they do already have music, you can also choose “select to end of flow” and alt-arrows to shift the following selections as desired to fit your new meter.

Thanks for the input.
In an ideal world I’d like to select the two bars, and then use a pop over to change it from 4/4 + 4/4 to 5/4 + 3/4
I like all the nondestructive ideas, but I feel I need a way of “restraining” it to a certain portion of the score
Just checking really to see if there were any “workarounds” I’d missed so far in my “learning curve” !


Dave Hage

I agree, and I have a feeling this functionality will expand in the future. Meanwhile, the required steps aren’t all that tedious, and to me, the non-destructive philosophy is more of a help than a hindrance.

this used to be rather confusing, so couldn’t resist … :slight_smile:

Since Dorico doesn’t play games with the rhythm of the music, you don’t have to set a time signature at the end of the two bars and then go back (though you do have to do that in some other notation software!).

You can make the edits in any order you like - if you want to change three bars of 4/4 into 3/8 time for some reason, temporarily rebarring the rest of the score after that point in 3/8 will probably look like a complete mess, but adding a second time 4/4 time signature will put it back the way it was before. In some software, it’s quite likely trying to rebar the rest of the score in 3/8 would just fail, because things would be split across the barlines - but Dorico can do horrible things like the attachment without getting confused (and that is probably more than you or I could do without getting confused - though Dorico’s triplet at the start of bar 2, consisting of just one note, seems an unnecessary complication)

It’s going to take me a long time to “trust” that Dorico can re-meter a 150 score after a certain point, and them re-meter it back and nothing changes !



Well in that case add the 4/4 meter to bar 12 first, and then go back and fix up bars 10 and 11 in the knowledge that nothing will change from bar 12 onwards.

The only way to get that trust is to try it and see. Just hit “save” before you try, if you aren’t confident about it - but I would bet my own money that it will work properly.


Coming from Sibelius, I was also very cautious about trusting Dorico to do this stuff. But after a few experiences – sometimes by accident – I’m convinced. And I now use it routinely.

This is the big payoff that comes from Dorico’s fundamental separation between the rhythmic duration of a note and the way it’s expressed in notation. You can rebar a 4/4 passage into 3/8, 12/2 and 3/4, before putting it back into 4/4, and it will look just the same at the end as it did at the beginning. One small caveat: lyric extension lines (melismas) don’t disappear as they should when a tied pair of notes becomes a single note.

The same applies to using Insert mode and/or shift+alt+arrow keys to correct input errors. If I don’t look at the screen often enough and accidentally hit the wrong note value key once in a long sequence of keyboard entries, the entire passage can look utterly horrendous when I next glance at the screen, with a mess of tied notes everywhere. In Sibelius, this takes forever to fix: basically it’s almost always best to delete the passage and start again. In Dorico, just select the passage and nudge it, or turn on insert mode and correct the duration of the one note you get wrong, and suddenly everything is beautiful.

You may also lose the Force Duration property of notes, if Dorico needs to re-notate them as tied notes over a barline. But other than that, yes, it’s amazing to see Dorico ‘magically’ repair whatever got out of sync by a typo.

Based on some feedback from a certain Hollywood film composer that modesty prevents me from naming, the next update will have some small changes in behaviour for time signature editing, inspired by this very kind of situation.

I agree with everything that has been said about making sure you have a “stopper” time signature in place before you start changing the time signatures in earlier bars. Although it’s technically unnecessary it reduces the mental burden of the operations that are going on. You may know that when you add a time signature, if you have Insert mode on, Dorico will ensure that you end up with a complete bar immediately before the following time signature. For example, if you have a bar of 3/4 followed by a 2/4 time signature and you want to change that 3/4 bar to 4/4, if you switch on Insert mode, when you add the 4/4 time signature, you will end up with a bar of 4/4 with a beat rest at the end, instead of a bar with a 4/4 time signature in it but only three beats, which is what would happen if Insert mode is off.

The change coming in the next update affects what happens if you delete a time signature with Insert mode on. In the case I just described, assuming you had a prevailing 4/4 time signature before the 3/4 time signature, when you delete the 3/4 time signature with Insert mode on, Dorico will ensure that there is a complete bar of the prevailing time signature before the next time signature change.

Thanks for the update Daniel,


Dave Hage