What does staff-relative for font size actually mean

I am having some difficulty understanding the difference between staff-relative and absolute in the Paragraph Styles dialog. It’s also in the Font Styles dialog.


Searching for ‘staff relative size’ in the manual (hello @Lillie_Harris ) does not give a direct link to information about this. But I found this note in the Font Styles dialog documenation:

So that’s nice, but totally unclear to me, Call me dumb! In what exact way is the font size altered or changed? And how do you see that value or size? Say if I have a rastral size of 6, and I have 12pt as absolute, what does that get scaled to? What is the algorithm.

As part of this question I note that on one of my large projects (Dorico Pro 4.0.30) I have a paragraph style for directives 12pt staff-relative, rastral size 6, and the text appears to be 10pt, except that when I go back in to edit text it varies from 10.1 to 9.4 or, without having made any change to rastral staff size. So this latter point is either a bug or something I dont understand. Which is what led me to make this post to begin with.

Dorico uses a reference staff height of 20 points as “100%”. So if you have a staff height of Rastral 6 (let’s call it 15 pt), then a 12pt type would actually be 9pt.

Which does not explain why I see 10pt, and also the variation between 9.4 and 10 point using the same paragraph style. This is not fully explained away just yet :slight_smile: The System Text dialog clearly shows 10pt (and some with the variations).

I don’t know why you see an inconsistent size for Text objects. It’s consistent for me, and the font size is at the right scaling for the staff size.

Can you supply a project file?

@benwiggy the score is not available for public at the moment, but I will try to make a minimal working example (MWE to use lilypond-speak) to demonstrate.

And suddenly, now I think of it, recently I posted about Alegreya font from Huerta Typografica behaving what can only be described as very strangely in the playing techniques editor. This is the font I am using for text. I am beginning to form the view that there is some shortcoming in the font metrics for that font from that foundry. Will carry out some tests.

Have made quite a few tests. It’s some issue with internals of Alegreya I now can prove. Using other well designed fonts all the problems go away. I have swicthed to Maiola from the Adobe subscription and all works perfectly. Not something I expected, this issue.

Probabky I am the only user in the world with Alegreya text in Dorico, so it has not been observed before. Maybe!

I have been using all the flavours of Alegreya and Alegreya Sans in my engraving for a few years now, and have never noticed any irregularities.


Alegreya is also my standard text font. Quite happy with it overall, but I admit I never really paid much attention to possible absolute/relative size issues. If these issues exist, I didn’t notice them yet.

It is most noticeable when one does the piano score for a Piano/Flue sonata or the like with the flute staff on top at reduced size. The corresponding tempo mark is (or at least was in early versions of Dorico) reduced to the 75% size of the Flute staff rather than corresponding to the piano’s stave size.

The sentence above this on the page about the Edit Font Styles dialog describes the function of the option.

Size: Sets the size of the font. Allows you to choose whether the size of the font changes according to the staff size or whether it is always the set size.

I can make a note to consider spelling out even more explicitly that staff-relatively sized text appears bigger on bigger staves and smaller on smaller staves. However, just to manage expectations it might not be my top priority for a little bit.

Maybe you could explain how it is proportional to rastral, and perhaps give a numerical example. But also, searching for the term I used (see post above) does not lead easily to that page. Hardly important in the big scale of things, but when one is fussy about typography this led me to waste a lot of time trying to figure it out - possibly made complex by the defects in Alegreya font (seems I am the only one to experience this) (also see that topic I created recently) leading me to tear out one or two hairs.

Also … when setting rastral value you are shown mm (if that is your preference), and then the number of points is fractional to one decimal place, again leading me to wonder what on earth is going on with font sizes. [Since we all perceive through our mental filters, coming from lilypond I could make a staff exactly 18 points say, so my view may be somewhat skewed in the context of Dorico.]

That’s why I set the Units to Points in Preferences.

@benwiggy I created a new project, set unit preference to points and rastral size choices are still fractional converted from millimetres.


There’s something I am not understanding. I don’t see how one would get say an 18pt staff. Seems this is not the design model Dorico uses.

You would get an 18pt staff by specifying a 4.5pt space size.

Oh thanks @dspreadbury now that you have said it and I actually read the manual more carefully I discovered the ‘custom’ stting for rastral allows you to specify the space size. So that’s great. Ckearly I have to read the manual every day as a rigourous practice.


The ‘Staff Relative’ option in Paragraph Styles does not seem to work for the Title font. I tried using staff relative for Rehearsal Marks and Lyrics and this worked, but the Title font size remains the same regardless of this option.

“Staff-relative,” logically, works only for text attached to a staff.

I guess your right, or at least the only items that staff-relative applies to are paragraph items which are part of the score like rehearsal marks, lyrics, default staff text (shift-X) items etc. Anything outside of that like the Title, Composer names etc do not change. I just assumed that because that option was in paragraph styles for those kind of items , that it would do something, but it obviously doesn’t.