Overriding metric divisions

I want to use Renaissance metric indicators such as imperfect prolation - looks like alla breve while the ‘measures’ will change length. Is there a way of accessing the metric symbols without applying them as metric modifiers?

Not really at present, no, because even if you could write them in as text, you can’t easily create any space for them to go in.

I’ll bump here too. I know little about old music and its notation, but let me see if I can explain (possibly the same as CarloGesualdo):

I am transcribing a piece by Praetorius. At one point the meter changes to “alla breve” – the C with the vertical stroke – but the bars should actually be 4/2 of length. This was the way it was notated back then, I think?

Is there a way to make this archaic meter work in Dorico? Is hiding every other barline a workaround, or am I creating a lot of trouble for myself if I do?

It’s possible with a bit of cheating.
Create a cut common time signature with a pickup of four beats (‘cutc,4’ in the pop-over). In the next bar create a 4/2 time signature and hide it.

Thanks so much, I’ll try it!

The next update will include the option to set the ‘Common/cut common’ property for any half note (minim) denominator time signature, so you can make e.g. 3/2 or 4/2 show up with the “cut c”/alla breve symbol.

That’s a very welcome new feature. Will it also work for the common C instead of the alla breve? Like in the first example (Monteverdi, Maria Vespers), where the time signature is C, but the bars are actually 4/2 (or 8/4)?

In the same piece I also encounter time signatures as shown in the second picture. It’s a combination of C and 3/2, but the actual bars are 6/1. Thanks to fkretlow for the pickup trick! I typed “4/4 = 3/2,24” into the pop-over, then setting the separator to ’ ’ (i.e. nothing) and checking the Common/cut common checkbox. It gave me the required complex time signature of C 3/2 and a pickup of 6 whole notes (24/4). It’s funny that the pickup can be any length, even longer than the meter itself.

[edit: apparently my pictures didn’t make it, I hope the text is clear]

No, I’m afraid not, Pjotr: a time signature with a half note denominator, e.g. 4/2, will only be able to show the cut C, rather than the C. I would be interested to see the picture you tried to attach – the forum ended up over quota for attachment size, but hopefully you should be able to attach your picture again now.

These were the examples I wanted to post earlier.

  1. The meter C being 4/2 is very frequent in the Maria Vespers:
    Another example, from the original 1610 edition:
    To be fair, many movements in the original don’t have barlines at all, but modern editions add them for convenience. Still, the bars marked C are musically really in 4/2 meter anyway, definitely not 4/4.

(BTW, I’d like to point out another peculiar notation in the Laudate Pueri: where a dotted note extends past a barline, the dot is written in the next bar. I’ve also seen this with Brahms, occasionally).

  1. Time signature with combination of C and 3/2, but actually 6/1:

One thing I find really useful in Finale is being able to define a different time signature for display only. Often this has to do with beaming: common or cut time with different 8th beaming than the time signature would suggest, or extended passages in 6/8 which need to be beamed as 3/4. Sometimes it concerns what one often sees in early music: cut or common time which is actually 4/2, or as in example 2 above. Would that be a feasible feature for Dorico sometime in the future?

Pjotr, those pictures of the 17th century music – are those genuinely the modern “common time” symbol, or is it the case that some modern editors have decided to write the prolation symbol using the modern glyph instead?

In the future we could perhaps make it possible to extend the current single ‘Common/cut common time’ property so that it could allow you to choose between common time and cut common time. Vaughan’s idea of showing a completely different time signature is a good one, too, but I’m not quite sure how that would fit with how things work at the moment. Food for thought for the future, certainly.

I don’t know if this helps or muddies the issue, and I can’t answer for Pjotr, but I do know that in the 18th century (1741, specifically), a similar notation was used, and my editor and I are pretty sure it genuinely is a “common time” symbol followed by another time signature:

As best we can tell, it’s the exact same symbol he uses when there’s a normal common time:

So in our edition, we went with the actual common time symbol followed by 2/4 or 3/4, which could not have been more of a pain to deal with in Finale. It would be so lovely if at some point this was supported in Dorico.

As far as Finale’s ability to use an alternate time signature for display, it is a feature that I’ve used many times over, and I don’t know what I would’ve done without it. That said, my main use for it was, similarly, defining beat groupings (e.g. display 3+2+2/8 as 7/8), which Dorico does natively (and saves me just boatloads of time). Other than that, there’s the case of needing to remove a beat from a final measure when there was a pickup at the beginning of the piece or section (does Dorico support this, btw?), and maybe an odd edge case here and there.

Soo… I guess what I’m trying to say is that I love how Dorico has generally removed the need to display the “wrong” time signature, and that’s probably the better avenue to pursue for most use cases, but it would be nice to be able to get under the hood and tell Dorico to do “wrong” thing from time to time when those few edge cases do come up.

I’m intrigued by the notation chosen in that score: what do you and your editor suppose the composer meant specifically by writing C followed by 2/4 or 3/4?

Dorico does not automatically balance the final bar of a flow with an anacrusis at the start of the flow, though it’s very easy to perform this balancing yourself, as you have probably found: simply insert a barline at the appropriate position in the final bar, and the leftover bit will vanish.

I would guess that the C is being used to indicate “not alla breve”. Interesting notation which shows how our concept of metre has evolved over the centuries.

Monteverdi’s music still shows many characteristics of the old mensural notation.
For example this note color change to indicate a hemiola (Maria Vespers):
Schermafbeelding 2017-12-08 om 15.20.35.png
A perfect prolation, from the Madrigali Guerrieri (1638):
Schermafbeelding 2017-12-08 om 15.54.11.png
(Note also the color shift to indicate a syncopated rhythm)
I would guess that in Monteverdi’s time, C and cut-C were still perceived as prolations.

Well, it’s hard to say for certain what the composer (John Ernest Galliard, in this case) meant, but my best guess is that it indicates that the tempo is slow. Depending on what theorist you looked to at the time, some indicated that 2/4 or 3/4 by themselves were fast meters. Loulié says that by joining C to another meter, it was an indication that the beat or tempo was as slow as that of quadruple meter. That’s on p. 60 here (p. 62 of the pdf):


Note also (if my French serves me correctly), that Loulié points out that at this point, while some foreigners were still using the old mensuration symbols, the French only still used C and cut C (“C barré”), which I think means that it’s fair to then use the modern versions of C and cut C in engraving these sorts of things from the time. I suppose that’s debatable though.

A resource I’ve found on the subject is George Houle’s Meter in Music, 1600-1800, and he talks about the above on p. 36. Though proceed with caution; I’m not sure how accurate his French translations are. My French is really very rusty, but as best I can tell, Houle has mistranslated exactly what a C or cut C mean when joined to another meter (I believe it’s more accurately translated as I have above, i.e. something along the lines of “as slow AS quadruple meter.”), and I think he gets wrong what foreigners are still using in their works (he says it’s C or cut C joined to meters given as fractions, but I’m pretty sure it’s, again, as I have above, the old mensural meter symbols). My French being what it is though, I could be wonderfully wrong about all that…

Here’s a link to that source, though, you may have to fiddle with it to get p. 36 to show:


A more general look at the topic I’ve found is this, though I can neither endorse nor not endorse the scholarship here as well:


Regarding balancing final bars against initial pickup measures, yes, duh, silly me. The minute I posted that, I realized that the answer was almost certainly yes and that the solution was almost certainly very simple (alas, I didn’t have my usb licenser on me at the time to be able to check though). Thanks!