Option to prevent automatic stem direction?

Hi Dorico team,

Dorico has great automatic stem direction handling, but sometimes I don’t want stems to automatically change direction. This is especially true with hymns, where the convention used by some hymnals is, well, more rigid.

In many (correction: some) SATB hymnals, the stems never flip based on the position of the note on a staff (whether high or low). With two staves, a treble staff for SA and bass staff for TB, the notes on the top staff should (almost) always have stems up, and notes on the bottom staff should (almost) always have stems down. The only exceptions to this are when you need to distinguish between the two different voices on a staff (two parts singing in unison, singing a second apart, or singing different rhythms). For examples of this convention, see https://hymnsonline.org (all engraved in Dorico; tremendous thanks!).

This puts me in the unusual situation of needing to “undo” Dorico’s intelligent stem direction choices. Fortunately, I’ve been able to automate a work around with a script which forces stems up for up-stem voices and down for down-stem voices:

local app=DoApp.DoApp()

I use a single up-stem voice for SA and single down-stem voice for TB, and then an independent voice for A or T whenever it needs to be distinct. But I must remember to re-run this script as a finalization step before publishing anything.

What do you think about adding an option to Dorico to prevent automatic stem flipping within a voice and, instead, always keep up-stem voice stems up and down-stem voice stems down? I bring this up because, even with my automation script, there are times when I still accidentally publish a mistaken stem direction, and it would be wonderful if I could just set this once in Dorico’s options and never have to worry about it again.

Adam, are you referring to US hymnals? I’m not aware of any mainline hymnals currently in print that follow this practice of stem direction (though of course that’s not the final word on this). Can you point to some that do?

I certainly wouldn’t say it’s “many."

EDIT: I’m wrong. I did find two publications that use this practice. I think it looks odd, but of course that’s a matter of opinion…

Dorico does actually provide a setting for a voice to force its stem direction regardless of the staff positions of the notes, but since it’s so rarely required it’s not exposed in the user interface (one of those options that I would generally not want to see used, as it could lead to confusing and incorrectly – or at least unconventionally – engraved music).

But you could reasonably easily set up custom shortcuts to change an existing voice to have all of its stems forced up or forced down by default, so you don’t need to select all the notes and force their stem directions after input. Here are the commands you can add to the kGlobal or kMusicEditable contexts in your keycommands_en.json file:

						"Edit.ChangeVoiceDirection?VoiceDirection=kForceStemsUp" : [ "Meta+U" ]
						"Edit.ChangeVoiceDirection?VoiceDirection=kForceStemsDown" : [ "Meta+D" ]

Obviously you should change the shortcuts to whatever you actually want to use. Be sure to run your JSON file through a JSON linter after you have edited it to make sure it’s still valid.

Excellent, thank you Daniel.

Hi Dan Kreider,

You’re absolutely right; I should have only said “some” hymnals, and I’m not even sure how many there are which do this. The more I investigate this, the more it appears to be a niche practice. It is, admittedly, somewhat strange.

I was thinking mostly of some hymnals used among Churches of Christ in the US, such as:

But even within this religious tradition, there are other hymnals used, such as Songs of Faith and Praise, which do not follow the fixed stem direction convention I described above.

Hymnals are an area in which diverse practices abound, some of them egregious (I’m not saying this particular one is). In fact, you’ll rarely find two hymnals that follow the same engraving practices.

The important thing seems to be legibility and consistency within a publication. Of course if you’re under orders to reproduce what you’ve been given, all those decisions are moot.

Hymnals are a great passion of mine, and I’m glad to see others using Dorico to produce them!

Daniel, I just wanted to say thank you again for this bit of inside info. It works perfectly for what I need. Glad to have this potentially-dangerous feature without needing a “fully advertised” UI option.