Placement of key signature and repeat bars

Here’s an extract from the start of a Haydn Trio that goes with a Menuetto, with the normal type of key signature change that is expected. Is there any way to have the repeats merged into a single double sided barline and the key signature on the right of that?


I’d rather not have the key signature in a sandwich.

Yes, you just have to create that in musical synbol and put it in place of the first return bar and delete the second repeat bar.

Well, this has been discussed at length in the past. Gould states that this is the way it should be (and I understand why), but it’s not what we’re used to seeing in the (not so modern) litterature. Never heard of Laurent’s trick, but it might work!

Thank you Marc,
I just answered the question but for me what I see is correct.
At the beginning of a piece the alterations are also before the repeat bar.

One closely related example from the archives:

I don’t understand this at all. Can you elaborate? I need the repeat bars to be real so the playback works - but I just don’t get what you are saying. What does ‘create in musical symbol’ mean?

FWIW, I think the Dorico/Gould style is “correct” here, but it takes no time at all to find plenty of examples by various publishers done the way the OP wants:

It seems like Dorico should have a bit more flexibility with how it handles repeats and key sigs here.

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I have devised a workaround to achieve the appearance you want and also keep the playback sounding as it should. Please excuse my total lack of imagination and creativity in the example.

To achieve this I did the following:

  1. Create the back-to-back repeat barline.
  2. With the newly-created barline selected, create a 129/128 time signature using [1+32+32+32+32]/128 .
  3. In one of the players, enter a 128th-note rest, then the notes and rests you want as if the bar was a normal 4/4 bar from that point onwards. Do the same procedure for the remaining players. Make sure that they all have the 128th-note rest at the start of the bar.
  4. Select the barline at the end of the 129/128 bar and create the time signature which you want for the following bars (in my case, 4/4).
  5. Select the note AFTER the 128th-note rest, and create the key signature you want. If you select the rest, the key signature will separate the two repeat markings and position itself in between them - we don’t want this.
  6. Select the 128th-note rests at the start of the bar in all the players and go Edit > Remove Rests.
  7. Select the 129/128 time signature and the 4/4 time signature and choose Hide time signature in the Properties panel.
  8. Go into Engrave mode. Select the key signature which you have just created. In the Properties panel, under Common, change the X Offset until the key signature has moved to where you want it. NOTE! The key signature’s position might change if the page layout (spacing, etc.) changes. You will probably need to check that before printing.

The addition of a 128th-note worth of time to the music should be virtually unnoticeable in playback as it is equal to 1/32 of a quarter note. I played back the example above at 𝅘𝅥 = 24 and I could not tell.
If the music is in 3/4 time, then the time signature would be entered as [1+32+32+32]/128 .

The procedure I described above might also work for clef changes. I haven’t tried that yet.

I am compelled to say as a professional engraver that while Gould is regarded as a singular expert on notation rules by many who strictly follow her, there are always different ways to set music and I do not take her word as gospel. So many counterexamples can always easily be found, and so quickly. It’s a useful reference but I don’t regard it as commandment engraved in stone (pardon the pun).

Correct as what Dorico does may be, it’s ugly, hard to read, and in fact I hardly ever see this!


I completely agree! Dorico’s inflexibility with key signatures is one of the more maddening aspects of the program for me. Gould is great for a certain style, but there are many genres/styles that fall outside of her prescriptions that should be accommodated. In addition to your request (of which there are countless examples) Dorico can’t easily handle key signatures for the marching band style:

the “Real Book” style:

instrument changes in Broadway/jazz:

or easily accommodate the exercise book style. (The “official” way would be to use hundreds of flows for this book)

I really wish Dorico had more flexibility with key signatures and positioning even if not “correct” according to Gould.


Perhaps we should learn to write better and more correctly.
If it has been written it does not mean that it is the reference.
This is not a criticism but I would just like to raise the issue.
I don’t have the good answer.
I would like to know what @dspreadbury thinks

“Correct” is largely irrelevant if an engraver is asked to replicate a certain format or practice.

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A repeat is not a barline and can come at any place in the bar. When a repeat falls at the beginning of a bar however, it often serves the same purpose as a barline. The catch is that in these situations the clef, key sig, and meter should be placed after the barline but before the repeat. I’m pretty sure we’d all be in agreement this looks fine at the beginning of a system, right?

The house style of many publishers (esp. 19th century - early 20th century) was to use the repeat as the barline when they coincided in the middle of the system and place these elements after, which is why it is so easy to find examples of what Andro is requesting. Dorico/Gould can say this is incorrect (IMO it is incorrect) but the fact remains that this is an established style with no shortage of examples in print by reputable publishers. It seems like something Dorico should support, even as archaic notation.

It also seems odd to me that Dorico will easily separate barline/clef-key-meter/repeat but links double barlines and repeats so they are not separate elements. For example, I can correctly have the repeat come after the key change at letter C here, but it is impossible to have a double barline at C.

It would be great if Dorico could be more accommodating in all of these matters.

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You’ll get no disagreement from me that the conventions described above are all used. Sadly software development is not exempt from the laws of the universe that govern all creative work, namely that everything takes time and money, and everything that you choose to work on prevents you from working on something else. So in the fullness of time you can certainly expect us to provide further options in this and indeed every area you can think of (and no doubt many others that you cannot). You will, however, need to be patient, as we are stretched very thin just at the moment. Thanks for your understanding.


Hello Andro.
Is this the appearance you want?

If so, please refer to my workaround which is higher up the page.

There are quite a few steps to go through, but (for me, at least) the look can be achieved, albeit with a bit of subterfuge.

You mean like this? :


I’m using Dorico 3.5.12.
I selected the barline, made it a repeat bar and then created the key signature. The double barline happened without my having to do anything extra.

In Engraving Options > Barlines > Key Signatures I did have the double barline option selected.

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Oops, my bad, you’re right of course. It’s mid-system meter changes, not key sig changes, that make a double barline impossible in Dorico. I mixed them up and should have double-checked that before posting.

It’s impossible to have a double barline in the above image without creating it graphically. (Line, playing technique, etc)

There is a way, but it comes with two caveats.

Start with something like in the first picture. Add some notation to the bars before the double barline and also in the bar after the repeat barline. Select the final note in each player in the bar before the double barline and go Properties Panel > Notes and Rests > Ends voice. The whole-bar rests in the following bar should disappear and the space they occupied should close up. Select the first note/rest in the bar after the repeat barline and go Properties Panel > Notes and Rests > Starts voice.

The caveats are:

  1. The space in between the double barline and the repeat barline is still counted as being one full bar, albeit devoid of notation, so bar numbers will need to be adjusted if they are important, and playback gives a bar of rest at that point;
  2. If you delete all of the notational elements in the bar after the repeat barline, the bar becomes blank - no whole-bar rest - as the note/rest which started the voice has now gone. There might be a way of remedying this using explicit rests or another voice maybe - I don’t know, as I am reasonably new to Dorico and am still getting my head around some of the concepts and procedures. Anyhow, if you can live with these two limitations, it might be a usable workaround.

Regarding the bar of silence, especially if that will really mess up playback - it is possible to make it into a pick-up bar of very short duration, such as a 1/64 note or even a 1/128 note, but still showing a 4/4 time signature. You will probably need to do the Ends voice bit again to make the rests disappear. A silence of such a short duration will very likely go quite unnoticed.

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My hot take is that while Gould should indeed serve as a standard and reference point (which ultimately benefits us all), there are in fact many musical conventions that happily coexist in their own corners of the music world, and thus they are not “wrong” per se, but just employed at different times.

Sometimes we get entrenched in our preferred method (I’m not accusing Fred of this, just making a general observation which includes myself as well) and assume that the other way is ‘wrong’, when in reality, that convention can legitimately be used elsewhere, especially where there’s long-standing tradition. As to which traditions should be supported and others phased out… well, that’s above my pay grade. But I’ve been corrected so many times on this forum by other users with plethoræ of examples that show how various conventions coexist that I’m often reticent to comment at all on certain things.


The problem is that there is no universal rule because no one has been willing to work on the subject to reach agreement.
This is a shame.
Now you have to know that just because a lot of known publishers have done it a certain way doesn’t mean that they are necessarily right.
I’m in favour of simplifying the writing as much as possible for readability.
That’s why I think that even composers like Mozart or Beethoven should be rewritten in modern notation nowadays.
It may be shocking but I think it’s the future.
Composer is one profession and engraver is another.
You can see on this link what I am thinking about.