Position "entrance" dynamics to the left of notes

I’m entering some IMSLP orchestral scores into Dorico, and I’m noticing that in order to save vertical space, certain markings, such as dynamics, are sometimes offset to the left. (Gould also recommends this on p.103.) However, Dorico has the dynamics centered below the notes, and this can make a tutti entrance look very widely spaced. Worse still, when condensing, player labels on top of dynamics force the staves apart even more, or encroach into neighbouring staves’ whitespace, causing ambiguity if they’re not empty.

I understand that centering dynamics and other markings is the least rhythmically ambiguous, but at an entrance, there’s no music preceding it, so it’s still clear. Further, I’d argue that any ambiguity resolved by centering is lost when the marking is placed too close to an adjacent non-empty staff.

I suppose I could just space things out a bit more by changing the rastral size and other settings, or I could manually set beat-relative position, X-offsets, and staff spacing everywhere that this should happen, but perhaps Dorico could do better? Check if a dynamic has more than a half-bar of rest preceding it, and adjust accordingly under tight conditions? I wonder if a plug-in could be written for this.

This is a HUGE issue for choral music. By “issue,” I mean, “requires a ton of manual adjustment.” Dynamics are often slightly offset above the staff and to the left, nestled closer to the staff to reduce vertical space. I’ve wondered the same: is there a way to automate this.

Oh yes, +1. I don’t think the developers would go for a plug-in situation but it might well be a Layout Option. The problem could be, and you’ll see this on IMSLP as well, that when a traditionally printed score does this it usually looks fine and feels somehow justified, but with modern digitally-engraved scores the expectation is that everything always lines up exactly, with enough room to spare. As soon as the dynamics stray from their place it will easily start to look, to quote a certain Irish youtuber, janky.

This is probably my number one manual adjustment…

+1 here. just look how much space is being taken away, when one has additional elements such as trills.

Plus one on Steve Parker’s post, except for me it isn’t just probably. It’s definitely. I almost NEVER leave them where they go automatically.

I agree with the above comments. The olde engravers knew what they were doing. Composers often place dynamics to the left of the centre of a note in their manuscripts, and as a conductor and player I find it more natural to read them when so placed. It appears to be one of the things that the artificial intelligence that is employed by Dorico (and Sibelius) is unable to handle.

It is frequently necessary to move dynamics for this reason, and the modern fetish for white space around every element of the score is also a mystery to me. You have to look hard at a hand engraved score to realise that dynamics and other elements were frequently printed over the stave lines, without penalty and with a consequent saving of space. The average musician reading such a score doesnt notice it, because it is quite clear.


I’d very much like to add my vote for a feature like this. It’s most certainly not only in choral music, but piano music would often benefit from having [at least] the first dynamic offset to the left. This also goes for notes outside the staff or with additional elements, like in klafkid’s example. With dynamics after the beginning, I sometimes get around this by reducing the grid value and entering the dynamic before but as close to the note as possible in order to minimise or avoid Dorico’s increase in vertical compensation. This is made more difficult by the fact that Dorico intelligently refuses to allow editing dynamic placement to any spot other than a note (in Write Mode), so I have to get it right or keep repeating the process until I do. With dynamics at the beginning, there’s nowhere to move or insert the dynamic before the first note, and one is left with a lot of manual adjustment, as Dorico doesn’t recognise shifting this dynamic in Engrave Mode as reason to adjust the vertical justification.

If you insert a note, add the dynamic, and then delete the note again, the dynamic stays put.
[Edited to add:] Just checked to be sure …it’s still there after re-opening the project.

I think your last sentence is the most significant one for me. I don’t mind moving elements; I expect it. But vertical staff management doesn’t take these manual changes into account, so the workload in that regard is double.

Vaughan, either I’m misinterpreting something or you’re missing something. In the unlikely event that it’s the former (and with the hope that it’s the latter and this will help someone else in future) dynamics can be entered anywhere from the caret, and moved anywhere along the grid using Ctrl/Cmd-Alt-Left/Right.

This doesn’t helpf for dynamics on the first beat of a flow, granted.

I learnt something new and useful today. Thanks Leo!

I’m glad someone’s benefitted, Peter :wink:

Of course Leo is right about the ability to place precisely a dynamic anywhere in the rhythmic grid. This is a very important asset Dorico has (I tried that in MuseScore, and guess what? Maybe it’s time to design a caret, Martin!)
The problem Vaughan is talking about is the fact that, no matter how you tweak dynamics placement in Engrave mode, Dorico will not recalculate vertical staff placements. This is what I understand from this thread, and it’s something I experience too.

The problem with the vertical justification of the first note + dynamic remains. For later spots, I’d neglected to use Cmd-Opt-left arrow to move the dynamic by the grid value, instead of just Opt-left arrow, which moves the dynamic to the previous note. Once again, thanks, Leo!