Specific Systems Collide

Dear all,

I can’t figure out why some systems collide and others don’t. I set the inter system gap to 20 but somehow that doesn’t affect the systems that collide while it does affect the systems that were in place anyways…

Vertical spacing calculations can be tricky - there will be previous posts in this forum about the circular problem Dorico has: the horizontal casting off affects the vertical calculation, because music requires different amounts of vertical space at different times; both the horizontal casting off affects the vertical spacing and vice versa. Sometimes therefore, Dorico ends up with pages with one fewer system than could fit, other times with one more than should fit. The gap for inter-system won’t affect these overly-full pages because it’s the spacing within each system that’s pushing them together (i.e. the intra-system spacing needs to be lower)

If twiddling with the gaps between staves in Layout Options (and these are minimum gaps in the top section - any extra collision avoidance between staves is added on top of that gap) doesn’t solve these places, you can use system/frame breaks or manual staff spacing if really necessary.

Ahhh, I sort of almost get it… :slight_smile: Thank you!

Ha, that possibly wasn’t the clearest explanation. You could think of staff spacing for each system as like building a wall: layers of bricks (=content) and layers of mortar (=spacing) make up the wall (=system). The mortar is Dorico’s “wiggle-room” - if the 2 systems on the same page have a lot of mortar between the bricks, Dorico has a lot of room to squish the layers of brick closer together if you increase the inter-system gap (by taking out excess mortar). But if the 2 systems are basically all brick (and lots of it) Dorico can’t really squish them any closer together, regardless of the inter-system gap.

(Is that any better?)

I’ve done a great deal of twiddling with the vertical spacing options, but I haven’t cracked it yet. I’m wondering whether this has to do with the fact I’m working on the vocal score for a large opera, in which some of the flows/scenes have just one singer and the piano, whereas others have anything up to a double choir and a number of soloists (though, naturally, some of the pages of even those may have nothing but a piano and/or one singer on them). Both experimenting with the numbers in Layout Options on the one hand, and forcing page breaks on the other, are akin to dealing with wallpaper bubbles - the numbers are fine for, say, flow A but not flow B, but - if I change them so that flow B looks right - then flow A gets messed up. Add to this the requirement for a large number of stage directions and it all becomes quite a challenge - and it’s not always just about squished or overlapping systems: I have ‘avoid collisions’ set for text items, but this doesn’t always seem to get applied. What I’m getting at, I suppose, is this - is there a set of vertical spacing options that are considered to the best choice for all conditions? I’ve changed them all so often that I now can’t remember what I started with. BTW, I’m using 6.5mm staves for this vocal score, but would welcome advice as to what is the smallest acceptable size. I have lots of vocal scores in the house, and they vary wildly in their rastral sizes, with (e.g.) Britten ones being positively huge.

For general advice, take a look at Elaine Gould’s “Behind Bars”, she has some helpful recommendations on minimum-maximum stave sizes for different contexts. For staves that singers will read from, I think she says around 5.5mm is fine.

It’s very hard to give universal advice, because it really does “depend”. But although Layout Options apply throughout a layout, you can do local tweaks - e.g. you can set different staff sizes from system/frame breaks, such as to have larger staves in flows with fewer players. Generally set the defaults to what works best in the most cases/flows, and adjust locally for the remaining cases/flows.

Because the “Ideal Gaps” in Layout Options are really the “minimum gaps”, and those only get used on pages that aren’t justified or where the systems are justified but staves within systems are not, you can otherwise rely on vertical justification to “fill in the gaps”. For consistency, you might prefer to set the “only justify systems above” threshold very high, around 90-95% so that even quite full (85%) pages justify both staves and systems, which to my eye produces a more consistent effect overall.

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My own advice for how to approach vertical spacing in Dorico is to use the smallest values you would be willing to accept for the various values in Ideal gaps in Layout Options – as Lillie says, this are really minimum values more than they are ideal values, so they govern how close staves are allowed to be positioned, but of course most of the time the gaps will be larger because there will be some leftover space that can be justified.

Certainly it can be challenging to come up with a single set of values that will work universally well for a long layout in which the number of staves per system is changing very frequently. I hope that in a future version of Dorico (though sadly probably not in the next one) we’ll be able to introduce a “staff spacing change” feature (comparable to the existing note spacing change feature) that will allow you to change the vertical spacing values from that point in the layout onwards, which should make it a lot easier to produce good results without manual intervention.


Great advice, Lillie! Thanks. The ability to reduce staff sizes for part of a flow looks seriously useful for the big scenes. And - considering that Behind Bars is constantly at my elbow -it was a really ‘duh’ moment when I didn’t think to consult it about the staff size matter. BTW, reducing the global staff size to 6mm made a big difference. Getting there!

Just one more question - does the ideal/minimum space between staves, and the inter-staff minimum distance with content, take lyrics into account? This frame, for instance:

would be fine were it not for the lyrics. (A frame break at the end of the penultimate system, though, does relieve the pressure, as it were.)

Do you have the option for avoiding collisions between staves/systems activated? You can also tweak the minimum gaps between lyrics and the staff/other objects in Engraving Options > Lyrics > Vertical Position.

Yes, I have the ‘automatically resolve collisions’ activated. As for the Lyrics>Vertical Position setting, it seems at first sight to have to do with how far from their own staff the lyrics must be; I was hoping there would be a setting for the distance between the lyrics (rather than their staff) and the staff beneath them. But Insert Page Break works well for this situation in any case.

Incidentally, there’s a lot of discussion on this forum about how to make enough room for spoken dialogue (between chunks of music) and stage directions and the like. Following the instructions in one of Dorico’s excellent videos, I experimented with shifting the bottom of a music frame upwards, creating a new music frame (leaving a suitable gap, and ensuring that the flow is continued from one frame to the other), and then creating a text frame in the gap for my dialogue or any other piece of text that’d be tricky to fit in otherwise. This works so well that I’m wondering whether it’s not storing up problems elsewhere. Is it?

If you’re doing that locally on one page, that becomes a page override - it exists on that page, rather than being linked to the music. If you come back later and e.g. add in 8 extra bars in a previous flow, the music will “flow” around the override. You can swap overrides to neighbouring pages, but because of some of the complications this introduces, it’s generally best to either wait until the music is as fixed as you can make it, or design such pages as master pages (which can be more easily and reliably assigned to/removed from pages).

Ah, I thought there might be a snag. I think learning more about master pages must be my next assignment, particularly their use in the context under discussion.

I had also experimented with concertina-dragging a system downwards, creating a text frame for the resultant space, and writing the required text into it. It was only afterwards that I realised that the text frame stayed put relative to the page, and therefore was in the wrong place if I also added a frame break somewhere on the page. (But I can still shift the text frame afterwards of course.)

Possible diagnostic - I came across a frame that was complete chaos - overlapping systems, unfeasibly wide gaps between staves, the lot. So I made a frame break at the end of the last system. Then I deleted that frame break - and when the system was restored, everything was perfectly spaced. Is this, maybe, a consequence of MusicXML import?

Nope. While MusicXML can encode this sort of information, Dorico discards it on import.

Have you perhaps used the Make Into Frame button, or set one Frame Break to “wait for next”, then deleted the following Frame Break? That’s the usual cause of this sort of thing: the Wait For Next property tells Dorico to keep squishing stuff onto the page/system until it next encounters a Break. If you delete the next break, well, Dorico’s going to do as it’s told!

@Lillie_Harris Because of half a page of spoken dialogue that comes in the middle of a flow, I’m hoping - following your advice - to use a master page (terra incognita for me) to accomplish this.

So, is this the routine? - create a new master page (based on the vocal score, which is a custom layout?); put a text frame in the top, and a music frame below; insert a new page in the appropriate place in the layout; put the new master page in there and type in the required text?

If I then add or delete bars in the same or previous flows, what would then be the consequences of those actions? And do I need different master pages for this ‘dialogue’ page for the full score and parts?

I do wish I were quicker on the uptake on matters like this, but I am hoping that the eureka moment will arrive eventually…

In terms of the master page itself: master pages exist in master page sets. So it doesn’t really matter what layout type it is, just what master page set it’s using (and as long as it’s using the set you want it to be using before you add the new master page, you probably don’t even need to worry about that).

You can import master pages from other sets in the current project, so once you’ve created it for your score, you can import it into the part master page set.

Design your master page as you like. If you want to re-use the design, be aware that changing the text inside the text frame locally on individual pages will constitute a page override. Alternatively, you can put a token/tokens into the text frame that auto-populate with the corresponding information, such as a body of text you add to the “Flow other info” field in Project Info. Sometimes page overrides are the quickest and simplest way of achieving what you want, and if that’s the case here, that’s fine - just for you to be aware of that. (*Flow tokens, like {@ flowotherinfo @} - but without the spaces - refer to the closest flow below their text frame; to refer to a specific flow if the automatic one isn’t appropriate, include it in the token, like {@ flow2otherinfo @} )

Music flows through music frames in the same frame chain. So as long as the music frame on your dialog master page is set to the same frame chain as the Default master page (which is MA, usually) you don’t need to do anything specific. It should just continue from the previous page, into this page, and out the other side. If the amount of music before the master page changes, you might need to move the master page to e.g. the previous page to “keep up” with it. You can always swap page overrides with neighbouring pages.

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Lillie, much thanks. This aspect of the program deserves more close study than I’ve so far given it, but I know it will be time well spent.