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They are.

Help > Guided Tour exists for this.

Reading from the manual for beginners’ steps is quite bad because when searching you’ll have preconceived notions of how the software works. I’d recommend watching the Dorico youtube videos as it is way more efficient.

I don’t understand why vertical dividers would make a difference to the horizontal boundaries of what defines a system.

Erm? The horizontal boundary is the page width. Once the system extends beyond the page width it wraps around to create a new system. There’s a layout option to make this separation explicit by showing the system divider.

Apologies. But I am mystified why you find this concept so hard to understand. Perhaps I’m not good at explaining.

Let’s try again. A system is all the staves that play together. When they reach the edge of the page that system finishes and a new one starts below. This repeats until the page is full.

In Dorico, a system is defined thusly in the glossary. (If you ever come across a term you’re not sure the meaning of in Dorico, check the manual: there should in most cases be an entry in the glossary, or a larger page elsewhere with that term as the title.)

That’s unlikely to change, so if you’re used to “system” meaning something different outside of Dorico, you’ll work smoothest in Dorico if you can get used to what it means within Dorico.

There are other tips we can offer in relation to getting your score looking good, but you’ll probably end up with the best results if you share an excerpt of how it looks now.

Only one bar per page makes it sound like the music is either extremely rhythmically dense, or the staff size is relatively large. Some more context of what you’re working on will get you the best advice.

(Although in general, Mark’s suggestions of reducing the minimum note spacing and staff size are a good place to start.)

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I do not know how Sibelius defines systems, but this same approach to defining a system has been standard in Finale since it debuted in the late '80’s, making it pretty much a standard in notation software for more than 30 years.

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Hi Lillie:

Thanks for the follow-up. I’d already moved past this issue, but as I’d mentioned, my confusion stemmed from the fact that the term “system” apparently has multiple definitions, depending on the source: one in which a system’s horiz boundaries are the borders of a single published page; and the other defining those boundaries as extending from the first measure to the final measure of a score.

The latter definition seems more common in English-language texts, and the page-width definition that Dorico uses, derives, I’m told from pre-20th Century Germany. Live and learn.

Thanks for mentioning the glossary – very helpful! But its “system” entry doesn’t expressly distinguish between the candidate definitions: “A horizontal span of music that is played together [that usually spans] the full width of pages.” – uh, yeah, OK. I realilze that the key concept is the vertical scope, but even so, I suggest less ambiguous wording along the lines of: “Each system in Dorico, regardless of which players it includes, spans the width of one page.” My 2c.

Mucho thanks to my buddy P, the guy who finally sorted this out for me (off forum) by identifying conflicting references and the context of the conflict. I’d consider him the definitive resource because – gulp! – he was the lead designer of a one of the first (and arguably most popular) sequencing/scoring programs and spent many, many hours over the years accumulating expert knowledge and a shelf full of reference texts. FWIW, the most authoritative source he cited defined a “system” as extending through the entire duration of a piece.

Derrek, I appreciate you taking the time to respond, but as a one-time Finale affictionado myself – I was one of the original Windows-version beta-testers back in the Wendy Carlos days – I hardly consider an arbitrary choice by Finale’s designers to define an industry-wide “standard.” I understand that this is “an issue upon which reasonable minds may differ,” but given Dorico’s unconventional approach to computer-aided scoring, it would hardly be a surprise to discover that Dorico did not conform to a Finale convention.

Again, I appreciate everybody’s efforts to answer this question. In the end, I finally resolved the issue, not by referring to Dorico documentation or resorting to an Internet search, but by direct observation of the operation of Dorico’s “extend selection to beginning / end of system” feature. That answered my question in a few seconds.


I’d love to see the references and sources where it states that a “system” is the entire piece.
While Dorico has a definition for it, it doesn’t define it arbitrarily. You’ll find more notation softwares with the same definition in mind, since that’s what it is in music, whether it is in composition, music theory, performing.
So, if your friend defines a “system” in the context of music in an unconvencial way, he’s simply wrong.

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Yes, I too would be interested to see the source(s) of the latter definition.

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I can sort of see what you’re getting at but there are some very clear examples given after that definition. Wouldn’t you agree?

The glossary in the Dorico manual serves functionality in Dorico. A key reason it was added was to differentiate between “staff/stave” and “system”, a subtle distinction that can cause confusion when used interchangeably.

In Dorico, a system is a system, even if it doesn’t reach the full width of the page. Frames by default fill the width of the page, but they might only be half the width, with a text frame with explanations on the other half. The music in this half-width frame is still a system.

I could rewrite the glossary to include reference to frames, perhaps. It’s not my top priority, though.


I don’t mean to be argumentative, and I’m also not deluded enough to think that I’ve read every text out there on music notation, but I can say that I have never in all my days heard the word “system” used to refer to the entire score. I really don’t think this second definition of “system” is used at all widely. Dorico uses the term “system” in exactly the way it is widely and generally understood in English when used to describe music notation.


… except perhaps in galley view :grin: /kidding/

In French too :wink:

Can confirm in Portuguese as well :smiley:

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…and Dutch…

I’ll ask for P’s previous citation to the text his company considered to be the standard reference for score notation.
FWIW, P was pretty specific and IMHO, I consider his opinion to be authoritative, since he has a broader and deeper understanding of this topic than any other person I’ve met in my long life.
But I’m just repeating what he told me, so please don’t shoot the messenger. As I said, this is a non-issue for me at this point, but out of respect for all the help you’ve given me over the years, I’ll try to pin this down & get back to you.
Since we’re still talking about this, can you provide a reference that clearly supports the definition of “system” used by Dorico? That is, something that’s clear, enough to be definitive and doesn’t use vague terms like “a line of music” or mismatched verb numbers? If I’d been able to find anything like that, I wouldn’t have even started this thread; and I’d be keeping that reference handy to address future questions.

Although not “definitive”, a simple Google search reveals multiple sites that describe a system in this way.

Another thread from this forum:

Is there any chance a “system” that your colleague has referred to is simply the method of notation? I.E. the 5-line staff is one system used to represent music on a page?

<a system is a system, even if it doesn’t reach the full width of the page>

Wait, what? At this point, I don’t want to even consider throwing application-specific terms like “frames” into the mix. Arg.

But seriously, what I think you’re trying to say – and I hope I have this right – is that if a score’s page format does not display music notation all the way from the left to the right boundaries of a page, that the horizontal scope of a system comprises a contiguous subset of the score comprising all adjacent measures that are at the same vertical position on the page. Does that sound like a correct interpretation?

OK, here’s an example of what I mean: Consider a solo piano score in which each page is formatted into two snaking columns, each containing six rows, with each row containing three measures – 36 bars total. I think what you’re saying is that such a page would contain 12 systems. For example, bars 1-3, 4-6, 19-21, and 34-36 would each be considered one “system,” even though 1-3 and 19-21 have the same vertical position on the page. Yes?

Now I suspect you are just being silly… But Yes! each column would contain six systems.

Normally the “it doesn’t need to reach the right side of the page” observation is limited to the final system, which may or may not be justified to fill the final row, because normally music is not laid out in multiple columns on a single page.

This thread seems to have transformed from trying to understand the program to simply counting coup. The issue of how to deal with the program was established long ago.

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