I’ve been thinking a lot about note spacing when lyrics are present, and how that could be improved.
To me, both for the sake of aesthetics (relative) and sight-reading (more objective), it’s important that note spacing in a bar be somewhat proportionate: that is, steady quarters should all be the same spacing, and a eighth note doesn’t need exactly half the spacing of a quarter note, but it certain shouldn’t have more. Furthermore, I tend to think of these relationships within a bar: depending on the width of the lyrics, some bars need more space, and some need less, but inside a bar, the spacing should not obscure the rhythm.
Typically this is mostly a matter of horizontal lyric offsets. In this example, which took quite some time, besides some slight note spacing, I mostly just added horizontal offsets to the lyrics.
Of course it’s not just hymnals that need lyric offsets. All vocal music needs offsets from time to time if decent note spacing is to be achieved. Here’s an example with some note spacing applied to avoid disproportion (that is, the dotted quarter being at least longer than the quarter, and the quarter longer than the eighth). First, the default:
…which I think really obscures the rhythm, since the first three notes all take roughly the same amount of space. Adjusting the note spacing slightly to fix this:
It’s then possible to achieve a balanced result by shifting through 3/4 space to the left and dark 1/4 space to the right:
I admit this is subjective, but in my view it’s much clearer.
My reason for posting here is because I wonder if some of this could be improved automatically. Proportion of lyric width for horizontal adjustment doesn’t seem to help. I’ve tried a range of values, and I don’t see much difference. In the example above, setting it to 2 1/2 gives me this, which is a bit of a head-scratcher:
I think it would be more effective to set a max value, in spaces, that lyrics could be offset. This setting could interact with Minimum gap between adjacent lyrics to achieve a more pleasing result.
In my opinion, it would also be helpful to have a setting in Note Spacing that would prevent the disproportionate spacing I mentioned above: that is, a smaller rhythmic value should never be given more space than a larger one within the same bar. Furthermore, it would be helpful to be able to set a value that would allow a sight-reader to immediately see that the differening spaces clearly showed the rhythms were different values.
This is admittedly lyric-specific, but I think it would be broadly helpful to address a common challenge in spacing music with lyrics. It would likely still require some manual work for detailed engraving, but perhaps it could do a significant percentage of the work.
PS: it would also be helpful if lyrics in different stanzas could overlap horizontally. For example, in the first screenshot, penultimate bar, “prayers” and “from” collide when viewed purely vertically, but of course it’s no problem since they are in different stanzas…