Multiple lines of figured bass on a single bassline?

Is it possible to have multiple lines of figured bass for a single staff? I’m creating an historical edition where two sources have different sets of figures, and want to print one line of thoroughbass above, and another line below, the bassline. A good visual analogy is performing translations: imagine an engraving where stems-up notes have lyrics above the staff in one language, and stems-down notes have different lyrics in the other language, below.

I know we can use Local and Global figured bass to set different figures on different staves (this topic is a good resource), but I’m trying to do this with one staff (with or without multiple voices), not multiple staves.

Thanks, all!

P.S. Travel by rail whenever possible.

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I don’t think so: you’d probably have to do one of them as text.

With my editor hat on: this is presumably a critical edition where you’re highlighting all differences between the two sources, e.g. notes, rhythm, underlay? Is one source more authoritative than the other?

Something like that, yes. It’s not a fully critical edition — there’s no stemma or list of corrigenda — but I’d like to represent as much of the source material as I can, and performers can make of the different figures whatever they like.

I guess I could always do it as two separate bass staves, each with Local figures?

Do the figures contradict each other? You’ll know what your readership will want/need, of course.

If they don’t contradict, I’d just merge all the figures into one set. My experience of continuo material is: most are ‘incomplete’ – i.e. there’s plenty of notes with no figures that need them.
If you’ve got two or more sources that provide you with more figures, then they player will be grateful, whatever their source. :rofl:

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Yes, there are a lot of contradictions between the two! It’s a wonderful thing — so nice to see something different from the “fealty to the score” approach we were all taught to take in conservatory. Of course there are plenty of Baroque sources that say “I’m the composer, and I insist this piece be performed exactly as I say,” but at least, in Baroque cultures, the “Well, I’m the performer, and I have something to contribute you might not have thought of” angle carries heavy weight too. It’s a breath of fresh air.

And yes, in my experience most continuo players will just pick up the unspecified harmonies they need by grabbing a copy of the full score, or by ear in rehearsal. My preference is for fewer figures, actually, because if I see a big chunk of them, my brain’s first reaction is “Oh no! Play all those, quick!”, but if I only see one or two, my instinct says, “That 9–8 suspension is the important thing.”

If it’s really impossible to do two lines of figures without two staves, or only with Shift-X, I’ll have to figure out some solution… shucks. Using Shift-X is likely to result in a line that appears differently than the Shift-G line (or I’d have to spend hours at 800× zoom in Engrave mode). I suppose I could use lyrics for both, like we used to do before Dorico supported figured bass?

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I would have imagined that most figures would be similar. That being the case. Why not ‘ossia’ the alternata.

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I might — I fiddled around with it — but that would just create, essentially, another bass staff. What I really need is one staff and two sets of figures…

Here’s an unorthodox approach that I haven’t been able to get working:

  1. Create the bassline.
  2. Assign it figures, all as local.
  3. On the staff above the bassline, create global figures for the second thoroughbass line.
  4. Adjust the positioning so the second set of figures appears just above the bass staff, and relatively far from the staff to which it’s actually assigned.

The reason this doesn’t work is that Dorico can’t determine the bass note where there are rests, so any time the voice one staff up from the bass rests, Dorico won’t print figures. I could make a workaround with a custom notehead set that replaces note glyphs with rest glyphs, then create fake notes where that player actually has no music, just so the figures appeared (I don’t need digital playback to function). This would take hours, though, because as voices come and go — the piece is a dramatic work — different players appear as the staff above the bass staff. (That’s why I specified local and global figures as I did in steps 2 and 3.) I’d have to keep switching where and when figures appeared for which players, based on the casting off.

Anybody got anything better?

Do one set as figures with the figured bass feature (Shift-G popover) and the other as lyrics using the Figurato typeface. You’ll want to change the figured bass font in the Engraving Options to Figurato to ensure that things match. That ought to get you most or all of the way there, I would think.

I didn’t know about that font! Thanks! Good idea.

There is some trouble with Figurato since the changes to Lyrics in D4.2: they can appear massively far away from the staff, with all the consequences of that.

I did some preliminary work on Tallis’ Spem trying out different fig bass lines above and below the stave. My solution was to use lyrics with @dan_kreider’s MusGlyphs for the fig bass line under the stave.

I’ll attach the file and a screenshot showing how far I got. It needs more work to get the placing perfect, as you’ll see (no comments on the figures, please :grinning:). But maybe you can glean some ideas from it. I reckon it’s not far off what you’re after.


Two fig bass on one bass line.dorico (652.3 KB)


Hey Chris, just FYI… check out MusAnalysis. It’s designed for stuff like this, including leading lines, figured bass, and RNA.

Obviously Dorico’s figured bass is the way to go if possible, but MusAnalysis works well for RNA especially.

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