How to Work With Large Time Signatures in Dorico Pro 2

🎬  This article is a transcription of one of the excellent tutorial videos posted to the official Dorico YouTube channel.

Dorico Pro 2 introduces support for two conventions for time signatures: the “commercial” larger time signatures used on scoring sessions, and the other for the concert hall. It’s straightforward to show a large time signature centered on every bracket, with three display choices: the traditional bold serif numerals, a narrower version of the traditional numerals, or tall thin sans serif numerals. You can also show time signatures above the staff, with complete control over size, position, and typeface.

Presented here in written form with the kind permission of its creator, Anthony Hughes, this tutorial is titled “How to Work With Large Time Signatures in Dorico Pro 2″…


Hello, I’m Anthony Hughes and in this video I’ll be showing you how to work with the new options for larger Time Signatures found in Dorico Pro 2, the advanced music notation software from Steinberg.

Time Signature Placement

By default, time signatures appear on every staff.

However, various conventions have developed over time that can help with the readability of larger orchestral scores. Perhaps they contain several changes of meter, for example. Thanks to new Layout and Engraving Options in Dorico Pro 2, these are now easy to achieve and tailor to your requirements.

I have a project open that contains several players, and I’m going to open the Layout Options, which are found here in Setup mode, by selecting the Layout we want to work with

and clicking the Settings button at the bottom of the panel.

You can also find the Layout Options at the bottom of the Setup menu

or by pressing the key command Ctrl+Shift+L (that’s Cmd+Shift+L on Mac) from anywhere in the program.

If you do use one of these other methods to open the Layout Options, do remember to select the layout you wish to edit in the sidebar.

There’s a new category in Layout Options all about Time Signatures and the first option here allows us to specify how Time Signatures are going to be positioned on the staves.

There’s an option to show just one large time signature for every bracketed group of instruments, or you can choose to display them above the staff at system object positions, which is where items like tempo markings and rehearsal marks are drawn.

Time Signatures centered on bracket

Let’s select the option to show time signatures once per bracket and when I press Apply we can see that indeed we do have just one large time signature for this entire woodwind bracket.

And the brass here are sharing a time signature, and so on. However, simply enlarging the regular time signature numerals in this way doesn’t make for a terribly pleasing result.

So now if we scroll down to this next layout option for setting the overall design, we can choose this narrower version of the standard serif numerals.

And immediately we’re creating a look similar to that used by composers such as Britten, Birtwistle and others around the middle of the last century.

If you’re aiming for the look of modern media scores, perhaps for film, TV or video game music recording sessions, then you might wish to use the narrow sans serif design.

There is also an option to use your own choice of font for time signatures. Choose Plain Font here.

Then in Engrave mode, if we look in the Engrave menu for Font Styles and then choose the Time Signature Plain Font style, we can choose any font that is installed on the computer.

I’d recommend choosing a narrow or condensed style for use with large time signatures.

Reprise Big Time Std w/ Dorico’s Petaluma font

A single time signature will appear for every bracket in the ensemble, by default centered vertically with the bracket. Single, unbracketed staves will still show a time signature, though by default it is larger than a normal time signature. Pairs of braced staves will likewise show a time signature on each staff, larger than a normal time signature.

Of course, this is Dorico, so you can modify all of these values to your heart’s content. To do this, open the Engraving Options, by pressing Ctrl+Shift+E (that’s Cmd+Shift+E on Mac) and selecting Time Signatures in the sidebar.

The options we are interested in are towards the end of the page. Firstly, we can modify the scale factors of time signatures centered on brackets. For example, we can see here that by default, time signatures on a bracketed section of four or more staves will appear 10 times the size of regular time signatures.

Other options here allow you to align the time signatures to the top of each bracketed group rather than the middle (as is often the convention with film, TV and game music scores), and also to treat all percussion and keyboard instruments as if they were grouped in a single bracket.

And remember, because the options for time signatures are layout specific, when we set up large time signatures in the full score, the individual parts remain unaffected. In fact, it means you’re free to set your preferred style for time signatures in parts as well.

Time Signatures at system object positions

Back in Layout Options, let’s try showing time signatures at system object positions, which means they will appear above the same staves as tempos, rehearsal marks, repeat endings and so on.

You’ll notice immediately that when time signatures are displayed above the staff they have the advantage of occupying no horizontal or rhythmic space. Of course, this is at the expense of occupying more vertical space, especially if you have System Objects set to appear above more staves than just the top one.

And that is also a layout option, found in the Staves and Systems category, near the bottom of the page. So, for example, if I select Strings and press Apply,

then you can see that in my layout time signatures are now also appearing above the 1 st violins.

There are also Engraving Options for time signatures at system object positions, allowing you to change the scale factors; whether they appear centered or left-aligned to barlines, and letting you decide how time signatures work with other system objects at the same position.

And these time signatures that live outside of the staff can of course be repositioned freely in Engrave mode, either with the mouse or with Alt and the arrow keys;

and the Edit > Reset Position menu item will always take them back to their original position.

I’m Anthony Hughes, thanks for watching.



I very much hope you’ve found this video transcription to be helpful. If you have, please subscribe to OF NOTE and follow me on for ongoing music notation news and info. And don’t forget to subscribe to the Dorico YouTube channel to see many more excellent tutorial videos like this one. ~robert puff

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