Stem lengths and beam angles

Warmest congratulations to Daniel and his team for getting this project up and running so swiftly. It looks extremely promising, and I look forward to cross-grading at the earliest opportunity.

By and large, I follow the rules for stem lengths and beam angles set down by Leland Smith for Score. As a Sibelius user, this involved extensive manual adjustments. How will Dorico approach this aspect of notation?

If you can tell me chapter and verse what Leland’s rules are, I can tell you how best we can support them.

We have reasonably extensive support for these areas in our engraving options. You can specify the ideal length of an unbeamed stem (the program automatically extends them when flags get involved, of course), and by how much a stem should be shortened when multiple voices on the same stave are in play and the note is moved towards the outer stave positions (i.e. towards the top of the stave for stem-up notes, and towards the bottom of the stave for stem-down notes). You can specify the desired slope of the beam for every interval between a second and an octave, and also specify under which sorts of circumstances figures with e.g. concave shapes or repeated notes should produce a flat beam rather than a slope up or down. Dorico will automatically fall back to shallower slopes even for larger intervals if the notes are short and/or closely spaced, and you can specify these fallback slopes as well.

Hopefully the above options give you the answer you need, but since I don’t have a good feel for Leland’s rules I’m afraid I’m somewhat in the dark as to whether or not this will help.

Leland’s handbook includes seven pages of ‘Beam charts’ (p. 23-29), in which each beam position (start and finish), from a 2nd to an octave, is defined in relation to the staff as ‘straddling’, ‘hanging’ or ‘sitting’. Even for those who never used Score, it makes a lot of sense. I’ll be happy to scan and upload a page or two if anyone is interested.

The guide lines for Dorico sound flexible enough to bring things in line with the Leland system. Ideally, though, it would be wonderful to be able to set his parameters as default. However, if the beaming of eighths, sixteenths etc. in Dorico is defined by slope rather than by stem length (as in Sibelius), manual adjustment will still be necessary.

I’m interested!

This is the same terminology used in Ted Ross’ The Art of Music Engraving and Processing, and adopted by Daniel in this blog post: Leland’s calculations might differ from Ross’, but the fundamental principals is likely the same, in which case Dorico seems to be equipped with the ability to replicate these settings.

Your point about slopes vs. stem length is a good one, and it would be nice to know if Dorico’s calculations for each interval is based on degrees of beam angle or difference in stem length between the notes.

If you’re willing to upload them, I would very much like to compare some of Leland’s beaming rules to those of Ted Ross.

Dorico calculates beam slopes according to the difference in stem lengths, so all of the various engraving options that determine the slope are specified in terms of the difference in vertical position between the tips of the first and last notes in the beamed group.

Here are two pages from Leland Smith’s handbook for Score. It would be interesting to know how closely his scheme corresponds to that of Ted Ross.

Thanks, Antony.

Ross’ adds or subtracts .25–.5 space to the stem lengths of most intervals compared to Smith, resulting in somewhat steeper angles, and no wedges whatsoever. Smith doesn’t seem to mind wedges or hanging beams on the last notes of ascending/first note of descending intervals.

I definitely prefer Ross’ approach myself. Here’s a poster illustrating his entire rule set:
Beam Slant poster.jpg

Thanks for this, Knud.

I guess these things are largely a matter of taste. My chief concern (and my reason for starting this thread) was to put in a plea to the Dorico developers to set things up so that tweaking beam angles and stem lengths can be kept to a minimum.

The optimal slope for a specific angle will depend on which notes are assigned to a line or a space (Ross: p. 111).
Does the beam settings in Dorico include a maximum and minimum setting for each interval?