Q: While I was reading your article about note spacing in Sibelius and Finale, an interesting idea came to mind: Do you think it is possible to recreate the exact note spacing of a certain publisher from a printed page or pdf file in Sibelius?
A: Great question! I assume you are referring to punctuation (the word used to describe the horizontal spacing between music characters).
Note spacing, or punctuation, works in tandem with the physical layout of measures on the systems / pages, which is historically referred to as “Casting Off”.
For starters, it’s worth noting that duplicating a publisher’s *exact* horizontal music spacing (punctuation) involves more than consistent numerical settings. This is partly because there have been so many different types of processes for engraving music over the years:
- Punched on plate
- Autographed (drawn)
- Music Typewriter
- Acetate and Rub-off sheets
…and partly because punctuation, as it turns out, isn’t necessarily an exact science, and can fall into three basic categories:
- Mathematically perfect
- Mathematically imperfect
In addition, other factors besides notes can affect note spacing. For instance, accidentals, note flags, articulations, material in other voices etc …
However, in spite of the variations which are inherent in all of the above processes and categories, it should be possible to closely approximate the punctuation (horizontal spacing) of a particular published piece in either Sibelius or Finale by taking some measurements and setting up your software to duplicate these.
Note that you can even apply different rules to different sections of a score to increase or decrease spacing widths, or approximate the “mathematically imperfect” and “lyrical” punctuation categories above, or address a specific concern where some circumstance requires a special consideration. More on that in a moment…