Open Meter, systems, note spacing, documentation

I’m having a bit of trouble with getting the results I’d like in open meter, and also having a hard time navigating the documentation to find what I need.

I want to be able to create systems of arbitrary lengths, and with no barlines, and to be able to control whether a system spans the whole page or is shorter than page width.

First and foremost, I’d like to be able to create a simple flow of one system that contains seven notes, and for those seven notes to be evenly spaced across the system, with no following systems. In open meter, I can input my notes, but the seven notes do not span the whole system width. If I select the passage in Engrave mode and choose Make Into System, I get the results I want, but then I get a second empty system,

Ideally, I’d like to be able to work with open meter to create systems of arbitrary length: passages of arbitrary numbers of notes that span a system; and also systems that extend for a partial page width but still have no barlines. I’m a bit confused about the creation of hidden barlines.

Apologies for the rambling post. Thanks for any insight you can share.

I need to do this sort of thing a lot. Unfortunately, this is not a strong natural area for Dorico. Here’s a partial answer to your need.


That’s A4 portrait, and in open time, and in Engrave Mode I used the Note Spacing Change menu item to make the crotchet spacing 20. Obviously the number would vary depending on your parameters. To get the single bar at the end I added an arbitrary time signature on the next line that you will get, added the barline from the bars panel, and then shift-B -99 (or whatever) to delete the bars, and voila.

Tedious and a bif of a hack, but it works.

Now, as to having bars the exact length you want, as far as I know neither Dorico (nor Lilypond even, the power tool of engraving) can do fixed length barlines. I don’t know about the other two major programs.

You don’t need to create hidden barlines, because you can have a system break anywhere in an ongoing bar, and a bar can be of any length. You will, however, want to switch off the Snap system and frame breaks to barlines when creating option on the Note Input and Editing page of Preferences to allow you to freely create system breaks anywhere in a bar.

Contrary to Andro’s opinion, I would say that Dorico is better suited to this kind of music than any other music notation software, with the possible exception of LilyPond (which is what Andro uses in addition to Dorico), because it’s the only one that natively supports open meter and putting system breaks in the middles of bars of arbitrary lengths.

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Thanks for this, @dspreadbury . It’s interesting that this option is at the Preferences level, rather than in the Layout Options. I only need this functionality in certain scores. Does that make sense? Shouldn’t this be part of the Layout Options or the Engraving Options?

There’s also this option for whether Dorico automatically horizontally justifies the last system in a flow (which for a single-system flow is just its one system), and if so at what fullness threshold.

In terms of finding answers for this stuff in the documentation: I’d be interested to know where you would expect to find explanations / hints / tutorials? It should be the case that all the constituent parts (the settings you need and actions you might need to take) are all documented, but of course they are also useful in any number of other situations.

Edit -
“Make into system” works by inputting 2 system breaks: one at the start and one at the end of your selection. If you want to pull everything after a selected point into one system without adding another system break (and therefore another system) at the end, insert just one system break and then activate the “Wait for next system break” property. Info here.

Out of curiosity, I searched the manual using phrasing from your post as an experiment, span whole system width, which brings up the page about horizontal justification at the top result. Hopefully that’s helpful?

Thanks for your help, @dspreadbury and @Lillie_Harris . Maybe it will help for you to see an example. I apologize if I’m just not understanding your directions.

Attached is a chord chart in 12 keys (13, actually). Each key is it’s own flow. I can’t get the chords to justify, and some of the flow headings aren’t showing up for some reason.
7th Chords Open (1.1 MB)

No, I don’t think so (evidently, otherwise we would have put it there!). It’s a workflow option rather than one that affects the appearance of the music, so it really belongs in Preferences (or at a push in Note Input Options, but these types of options typically go in Preferences).

Your flow headings aren’t showing up because the first page has an override: right-click in the Pages panel and choose Remove Page Override(s).

The justification is caused by the fact that all of your flows are much longer than they need to be to accommodate the music you’ve written. Don’t use the Ends voice property: switch that off for the final chord in each flow. Instead, use Write > Trim Flow to trim the flow to the minimum required length.

@dspreadbury Fantastic! That’s exactly what I needed. Somehow all of the pieces were not clear, but now it makes perfect sense. Is there a video about this that I missed?

@Lillie_Harris It’s not totally clear from the documentation how to work with open meter. I see how to change the time signature style, but other than that, it’s a bit of a mystery. Now it seems perfectly obvious of course. Thank you!

Quite probably, though off the top of my head I can’t think of one!

What support would you be looking for? What elements of “working with open meter” are lacking, do you think?

Based on the examples you were describing, you might find that an open meter time signature isn’t necessary: just input the notes you want, without any time signature. This is mentioned in the introductory chapter to Dorico’s design philosophy, here.

We have written the documentation such that whatever issue you’re having, even very detailed ones, you should be able to search for that issue and find relevant information. That was why I gave you the example of typing “span whole system width” (which seemed to be one of your primary issues) into the manual’s search, which brought up the relevant page about horizontal justification quite near the top.

Thanks for following up on this, @Lillie_Harris . For example, I did a search for [open meter trim flow]. I get information about deleting empty bars at the end of a flow, but it wasn’t an obvious connection to me that this would apply to empty rests at the end of an open staff. Also, I didn’t think to search for [trim flow] until after Daniel had pointed out that that was the way to eliminate the empty rests (rather than deleting them, which is what I did originally).

So I think it’s just something that falls through the cracks. Or my search skills are just subpar…

That’s a fair point, I’ve made a note of that. Thanks.

Thanks, @Lillie_Harris ! Now that I have all the pieces put together, it is working flawlessly.