Multiple Time Signatures with Different Barlines

Hello, I would like to know if Dorico can handle multiple time signatures with different barline positions. As an example, let’s say I have two instruments, one expressing a 4/4 meter and the second one a 5/4 meter. By wanting to use two different time signatures, the barlines would be therefore independent one from the other, coinciding every 5 and every 4 measures for the 4/4 and 5/4 measures, respectively. The first 5/4 barline would then be placed after the first quarte note in the second 4/4 measure.
Finale won’t allow this by default and requires a fussy workaround to tackle with such an issue; it will, instead, allow independent time signatures confined within the same measure length, thus forcing different meters to be on other’s metric tuplet. This, however, is not my case.
I purchased Dorico on the very first day it was released, without never dedicating the appropriate time for developing an adequate knowledge. I am now willing to fill this gap and will switch with no doubt if my issue will be efficiently handled by Dorico.

Thank you

Absolutely. Easy as pie.

Click on a staff, Shift-M, put in the meter you want, and close the popover using ALT-Enter (rather than just Enter). It’ll add the meter to that staff only.

Barlines are totally flexible and can be added or deleted anywhere. “Alt” is the rule of thumb for independent maters and barlines.


Thank you Dan, incredibly easy to do!

You know… I haven’t even tried this (or looked for it) can you get Dorico to behave the other way? I know the Dorico’s default is to off set-bar lines with different meters in the manner that MrAvenarius is looking to do, but could you do it the other way; the way that Finale would default to doing independent time signatures where the bar lines DO line up? It’s rare that I work with this type of metric complexity but every so often a scenario will appear where I may want to have 4/4 and 12/8 time signatures running parallel with matching bar lines.

You can do 12/8 against 4/4 with workarounds. It’s not pretty but it’s possible.

IIRC there was an article about this on the scoring notes blog about a year ago.

Edit: here. Masking meters and creating polymeters with metric modulations in Dorico - Scoring Notes

1 Like

In his first string quartet (1951), Elliott Carter uses different meters in the parts, but also uses tempo equations so that the bars of the parts line up. I don’t believe that Dorico can presently put different tempo equations (or different tempos) on individual bar lines. I tried entering some of this into Dorico by hand, so that I could hear individual parts of this complex quartet sound, but I had to use tuplets to get Carter’s effects. Will tempo equations on individual bars be a part of Dorico in future?

Yes, when Dorico has full support for polymetric/polytempo music.

1 Like

You can make this happen in a number of ways, but basically, the idea will be to enter to music all in the same “real” time signature than mark some barlines invisible and add others graphically.

I have a choral piece that requires 9/8 in the choral score and 3/4 in the piano.
I have changed the time signatures but I can’t get the bars to line up.
Any suggestions?

Rupert, the Scoring Notes article that DanKreider linked to, above, perfectly describes how to do this. Have you read it?

1 Like

Wow, thanks Dan. ALT-enter… applies it to one [selected] staff!

Now WHY isn’t this in the beginning time-signatures / popovers tutorials/help!?

Admittedly I’m just a beginner here-- but this specific type of control is Basic !
>> @dspreadbury >> you should not have to desperately dig through a forum to
[possibly never] find something like this. :face_with_monocle:

Welcome to the forum @N2ity. Sorry you had problems finding this information, but it is at least clearly documented on the page in the Operation Manual that details inputting time signatures via the popover, here.

It’s also mentioned in the “introduction” to time signatures here. It’s a good point about thinking to include a mention of this behaviour generally in the separate popover entries PDF, which I’ll make a note to do.

Seeing as this thread has resurfaced, I thought I’d be cheeky and ask if there’s a rough timescale for this…? I will of course understand if you can’t say :upside_down_face:


It’s not going to be soon, I’m afraid. It’s definitely in our plans, but it’s a really big job, and we have a handful of other large projects that we currently consider higher-priority.


Understandable! Thanks for the update!

Thanks for that. This is literally my first time trying the system! I really appreciate the wide scope of functionalities, I’m just starting out in the weeds…
I had reread that page a few times, but got hung up on [not understanding] the wording of things… like:


    • select an item that belongs to that staff only.
  1. Optional: If you want to input time signatures onto multiple specific staves at once, extend the caret to those staves.

Huh? How can an item belong to more than one staff? How can you drag? extend? the caret across staves?
Then glazed over that one sentence about the Alt–

I need a quick way to correct errors, which I will be making frequently. So what I thought would be a simple edit-changing of note values
[ in Bach, 9/8 over 3/4 ] turned into frustration.

Also in my panic, I saw no clue as to what or where “Undo/Delete” consisted of…
[but now I found out it’s Ctrl-Z!! ] Was this also stated obviously where I missed it?

Are you still stuck? It’s unclear from your post. Let us know specifically what you’re trying to achieve, and we can help you!

Thanks I’m trying it now…