Time signatures

Can dorico deal with complex time signatures and mixed meters?

Yes, and yes. Dorico natively supports alternating time signatures (e.g. a bar of 3/4 followed by a bar of 6/8), additive time signatures (e.g. 3+2+2/8), composite time signatures (e.g. 3/4+4/4, where a single bar is divided into “sub-bars” of 3/4 and 4/4, delineated by a dashed barline), interchangeable time signatures (where you specify a number of different time signatures, and each subsequent bar uses one of those time signatures, but does not display the actual time signature in each bar), and open/unmetered music (i.e. where there are no barlines, unless you explicitly insert them).

Does Dorico support time signatures like 2/3 or 4/5?

Just to check: could a composite time signature also be, e.g., 2/4+3/8, mixing different denominators?

Yes, though the issues around metric modulations between time signatures of a power-of-2 denominator and these non-power-of-2 denominators are yet to be worked out, so I’ve no idea what will happen during playback.

Yes, indeed.

How about big time signatures? (placed above or on groups, rather than on individual staves)

And I’m assuming, then, that it will be possible to have different time signatures/bar lengths for different players, where bar lines do not coincide.

Difficult to do in Sibelius and always a bit of a faff, with lots of formatting issues.

These are not yet implemented, but they are of course in the plans.

Not in the first version, no, but this is likewise planned.

Watching Daniel’s NOLA keynote (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jswPADssvhc) at 43:33, there’s a Meter/Time Signature assumption that I hope will be more subtle with the full time signature parameters. In the example, a switch of time signature to 4/4 caused a measure of three quarter notes to become quarter, eighth-tied-to-eighth, quarter. This is of course one correct interpretation of the implication of 6/8, but just as in 4/4 I would never tell a student to rewrite quarter-half-quarter as four quarter notes w/ the second and third tied, there is a lot of music (starting with Bernstein “I want to be in America” from West Side Story) where the hemiola rhythm is so common that I would much prefer that three quarter notes be allowed w/o being rebeamed in 6/8.

Of course if we set up the time signature first and then enter the notes, I assume that this will be no problem, but a lot of my work (transcribing Medieval music) involves making different versions of passages in different time signatures, or shifting one part over by half a measure after a mistake is discovered, etc., and the quality (=flexibility) of an automatic beaming/splitting algorithm becomes really important.

My colleague Chris Ariza and I wrote (perhaps too much) about how many different duties the poor Time Signature is pressed into in one of our music21 articles ( https://www.academia.edu/243059/Modeling_Beats_Accents_Beams_and_Time_Signatures_Hierarchically_with_music21_Meter_Objects) – just wanted to send it along in case it gives a smile to anyone on the development staff; Figures 12 and 13 are probably the most common headaches for me.

In the case of “America”, I believe that piece is notated with an alternating time signature of 6/8 3/4, which Dorico would handle natively, i.e. you would automatically see eighths beamed in dotted quarter beats in one bar, and then beamed in quarter beats in the next, and so on.

In general, notes input in Dorico are input in terms of their underlying length, rather than being concretely e.g. “a quarter” or “an eighth”: instead, you are telling Dorico to input a note a quarter in length or an eighth in length, and Dorico has the freedom to notate that however it sees fit according to the prevailing metrical structure.

However, there will also be a way of telling Dorico that, all things being equal, it should respect your choice about what note values to use for notes of a specific duration, but if you subsequently rebar the music, or insert more music into that voice, in such a way that your specified durations can no longer be notated, then those forced durations will be lost.

I’m just scoring some Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, fighting with a grand staff of 2/2 against 9/4 and vice-versa… :confused:

If only we could do this in Cubase! A popular request from years ago!

Looking forward to Dorico though!

I want to add that it’s not just modern “classical” or academic or art music compositions that call for more flexible time signature capabilities. I’ve also done some children’s music where multiple time signatures were needed. It’s a part of a lot of music nowadays, so it’s great to hear that Dorico is up for the task. Don’t like doing it in Sibelius, so I often do it by hand. Not so fun in 2016 almost '17. Dorico is fantastic…love the work flow! Can’t wait for the time signature functionality. And perhaps Steinberg will clean up Cubase in that regard (BTW Cubase 9 has some great workflow improvements).

Reading this old thread I think of a feature that I still miss in Dorico: composite bars with sub-bar dashed line BUT showing the usual time signature (5/4 and not 3/4+2/4)

At this moment I have to write (and hide) the “right” time signature (3/4 + 2/4) and replace it with an inserted graphic (as in the attached example)
5-4 «gráfico».png
Any chance of updating in this area? It would be a beautiful gift, even if it doesn’t arrive for Christmas :wink:

All my respect and admiration for Daniel and the entire Dorico Team.

Gerardo Delgado
Buenos Aires, Argentina

I’ll make a note of this suggestion for the future.

Thank you, Daniel!

My best wishes for you and your team in 2020.


Is there any improvement about this feature?

Welcome to the forum, mstferngzl. No, this hasn’t yet been implemented, but it remains on the backlog for possible future implementation.