Still trying to understand how to work with fonts

After spending hours trying to set up fonts and font styles in Dorico, I am still very confused with how to work with them. I know there is extraordinary flexibility in the system, and this should be a good thing I’m sure. But I just can’t wrap my head around what I think each component should do and what it actually does. I am continually confused with how “font styles” and “paragraph styles” interact, how new fonts are added, how “parent fonts” work and are created, etc.

As an example, I have opened a new project and edited the pedal line “ped” font. I tried a few different appearances, some using a font called Kalam, some with Golden Age, etc. Since doing so, I notice that Kalam appears in the list on the left in the “edit font styles” dialog. I see it listed four times in fact. I don’t know why this is the case, and I also don’t know why the font size is set at 20 pt. since at no time have I provided any font size for Kalam. I have read other threads about duplicate fonts but still cannot wrap my head around how they are created, why I can sometimes resolve them and why at other times options are greyed out (I know they are greyed out because the fonts must be in use somewhere, but where and how did this happen?).

When I go into the music symbols dialog to edit the pedal glyphs, and add glyphs using the Kalam font, for example, the glyphs appear about twice as large as the glyph normally appears with Bravura. However, I don’t see any place to adjust the font size. I can use the “Scale” function, and perhaps that’s the only way to do it, but I’m not sure if that’s the correct way. Regardless, my assumption is that something I did somewhere along the way has given Dorico the idea that the Kalam font should default at 20 pt., which is really large.

If I then go back to the font styles dialog and change one of the Kalam fonts to 12 pt., and then reenter the music symbols dialog to enter the Kalam glyphs again, they still look very large. I assume then that either a) the adjustment to size in the font styles dialog does not have any effect on the font size in the music symbols dialog, or b) I need to change all of the many instances of Kalam sizes in the font styles dialog because the one being called up in music symbols is not the one I changed. Of course that makes me wonder what happens if I change a different music symbol later on—will it create yet another iteration of Kalam in the font styles list, and will I then have to change that size again in the font styles list? And if I do change it in the list, will it retroactively adjust the changes to characters I’ve added in the music symbols?

Add to the above that I have been working on adjustments with chord symbols and fonts and have found that to be likewise quite hard to understand (changing the sizes of chord roots vs. alterations vs. extensions vs. the slash in inverted chords, etc.).

And also: why do some fonts have “parents” and others not? Where are parents created? What do they actually do relative to each of the dialog boxes? Is there a setting somewhere to create a new parent font?

I have faith that the above is not a series of problems with Dorico but rather my inability to understand the ways in which these separate components interact. It also makes me very uncomfortable when I am working to design a house style with the intention of creating templates and adjusting the styles of existing projects via library imports, and when I do not understand how these things will behave down the line. For example, will I one day end up with a project that has 50 iterations of a single font, and if I then need to change it, will I have to find the one iteration that is connected to a single text item? Will it need to be changed in the font styles box or the paragraph styles box? I want to make sure that I can set up a project cleanly and prevent these issues but I just don’t know how to do that and have not found a resource that can really help me understand this stuff. I have read through the manual on these topics several times but it isn’t working for me. Are there any resources that can really get to the heart of this stuff?

Typically you will end up with a font style that shares a name with the font that it is using when you create new music symbols (e.g. via Library > Playing Techniques), or when you use Library > Music Fonts to change the music font. As I recall, when you create a new music symbol, Dorico will only make a new font style if there isn’t already a suitable font style (same font, same style, same size), though it won’t necessarily then give a unique name to each new font style that ends up being created.

If you’re able to plan ahead, it can be beneficial to create the font style you will use for a series of music symbols ahead of time, i.e. go to Library > Font Styles and actively add a font style with a name you’ll be able to remember later, and then when you design your playing technique, you can choose your custom font style. This will avoid Dorico needing to create one on its own.

As for the parent-child relationship between font and paragraph styles, this is intended to allow an easy way to flow changes through without needing to modify every style yourself. Because in general it’s a good idea to use as small a number of different typefaces in a project as possible, we have most of the default styles set up to inherit from Default Text Font (for font styles) and Default Text (for paragraph styles).

However, there’s nothing special about the styles that are parents and those that are children. Any style, including one that is a child of another style, can be the parent of another style. A word of warning, though: Dorico isn’t able to protect you against circular dependencies, so if you set two styles to be mutually parent and child of each other, bad things will happen.


The documentation does a brilliant job of telling users how to do things the expected way.
What it can’t do is tell people how not to fall into particular traps that mean doing things an unexpected way.

In the case of your pedal example, the expectation is that you’ll be using a SMUFL music font, defined at Library > Music Fonts, for everything that looks, well, like music.

If you want to use regular text for “Ped”, you do that by going to Engraving Options and setting this option:

Then you go to Library > Font Styles > Pedal Line Font and set that to a font (and size) of your choosing, such as Kalam.

The way that you’ve done it, by overriding in the Music Symbols Editor, gives Dorico a problem - you’re using a font glyph that isn’t tied to any existing Font Style, so Dorico has to create a new Font Style.

I guess the main thing that I’m adding to Daniel’s post above is that the Music Symbols Editor is quick and dirty, so particularly when building templates for future use it should be treated as a last resort, when you’ve already been through Engraving Options to check that there isn’t a neater way to achieve what you’re trying to do.


Thank you very much @dspreadbury and @pianoleo .

This seemed not to be true at least in the case of adding glyphs in the music symbols dialog. When I opened a default “piano” template file, there were no Kalam font styles in place. By the time I edited the pedal indication, there were four.

Can I ask: Is there a way to set up a parent font? Would it make my life easier if there were one for each of the few fonts I might want to use? Or should I just add the specific fonts I want to use and not worry about parents? I guess I still don’t understand parents. When I choose “none”, I can select any installed font from the “font family” list. When I choose “bar number font”, I get the default bar number style but can override it with any other font. When I choose “Kalam”, I get Academico, and can then choose any installed font. I would think that “parent” would do something like limit my options in the font family list. Where are these parents defined, if not in the font styles dialog? Did I miss this in the manual?

I had forgotten that this was an option. That makes much more sense!

In light of all of the above, what might be the best approach moving forward? I think it must be: decide which fonts I will want to use (I really only need three, so that’s easy) and build a completely new template using those settings, first by manually adding the three fonts I need, making sure there are no duplicates. Since I already have existing scores with many engraving options I’ve decided upon during the process of working through those scores, should I then import those settings via the Library manager? I think so. But after that I suspect I will have to clean up a bunch of fonts from the font styles list because those will import from the existing score, duplicating those that I’ve set up in the template. (At least this seems to have been the case when I’ve done imports before.). Because I don’t always understand the effects of each individual importable option in the library manager (things like glyph primatives, text primatives) and since I can’t always remember every little adjustment I’ve made in an active score, I think I’ll just have to import everything.

For existing scores, I suppose I’ll have to put up with any legacy duplicate fonts unless I were to build the score from scratch, from a new template, copying and pasting the music from the original document. I know the layout adjustments will not copy, but this would at least give me a cleaner project in the event that I need to make future adjustments, right?

Sorry for all the questions! Especially because I know that very large files can cause Dorico to behave quite slowly, I want to be sure I’m not introducing any additional problems to projects that might rear their heads down the line. The other day I did a library import for some font changes, and it took over 15 minutes to render on my M1 mac.

A parent font becomes a parent font at the point at which you make *another font style" its child (by using the Parent Font dropdown in the top right corner).

The idea of parent font styles is that if everything’s basically using a single font, all the font styles can have Default Text Font as the parent font style. That way if you want to change the font in use everywhere, you just need to change the font used by Default Text Font. If you wanted to have three different fonts, you’d set three Font Styles with three different fonts, then decide which of the plethora of other font styles should use which of the parent Font Styles.

The parent child relationship works like this: a child font inherits every property of the parent font that isn’t switched on (overridden) in the child font.

For example, the Marker Text Font will inherit any changes that are made to Default Text Font except for the Default Text Font’s size, as within the Marker Text Font, size has been set explicitly to 10.0pt.

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Ah! OK, I get this, thank you!

For what it’s worth, this is such a clear explanation it might be helpful to have it in the documentation: " 1. Parent: Allows you to choose a parent font style from which the selected font style inherits settings. Activated options override the parent style settings. [then add] A parent font becomes a parent font at the point at which you make another font style its child."

By and large, you should only need to change the Default Text font in Font Styles, and the Default Text Font in Paragraph Styles, as those are the ‘parents’ for most of the others.