How to Work with System and Page Breaks in Dorico | Engrave mode

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

Presented here in written form with the kind permission of its creator, Anthony Hughes, this tutorial is titled “How to Work with System and Page Breaks in Dorico”…


Hi, I’m Anthony Hughes and in this video I’ll be showing you how to work with system and page breaks in Steinberg’s new music notation software, Dorico.

Dorico uses sophisticated algorithms to determine how to layout your music on the page, and there are processes that calculate how to “cast off” the music and decide how much can fit across the width of the page—which is what ends up as a systemand then how many systems can fit on a page vertically.

(‘Casting off’ is the term used to encompass fixing the layout of pages of music, such as setting the number of systems per page. In Dorico, you can fix both the number of bars per system and the number of systems per music frame for each layout independently.)

Of course, different styles and genres of music require different amounts of space to be allocated both horizontally and vertically—for example you might expect to see tighter note spacing in solo piano music than you would, say, for an orchestral film score—and while Dorico’s defaults are designed to make your music look beautiful and elegant in all situations, you may find occasions when the allocation of bars to systems and pages in your project is not exactly what you are after.

Editors note: examples in the video are Beethoven – Sonata 8 Movement 1 and Star Wars- Episode IV A New Hope.

If that’s the case, the first approach to take is to make changes to the Layout Options. You can open the Layout Options in Setup mode by selecting the relevant layout or layouts and clicking this button.

You can also always use the key command Ctrl+Shift+L on Windows (that’s Cmd+Shift+L on Mac) from anywhere in the program and the dialog will be opened.

To modify the amount of space notes take up horizontally, choose the Note Spacing category and set the options to your desired values.

Then, select the Vertical Spacing category to change the amount of space between staves.

I’ve achieved some tighter spacing overall in this project for solo organ, though there may be a few places that I need to set the system and page breaks manually.

Editors note: example in the video is “Fantasia in G” by J.S. Bach.

To insert a section break, you need to be in Engrave mode (which you can do by pressing Ctrl+3 on Windows or Cmd+3 on Mac).

First, select the point [e.g. barline] at which the break should occur and then come over to the Format Systems section and click this button —

or use the key command Shift+S—to insert a system break.

Dorico adds a signpost to indicate the manual system break,

but don’t worry: signposts don’t print or get exported in graphics files. If you’d rather they didn’t appear at all, then you can choose to not show them by opening the View menu, selecting Signposts and unchecking System Breaks. They do have uses however, and we’ll come back to them later in the video. I’m going to leave them showing.

You can insert a system break at any point in the music — you’re not limited to barlines, and that includes breaking in the middle of complex tuplets if required.

If you have a system that you are happy with and do not want to be affected by future edits, you can lock it and that will keep those bars together as a system. Simply select any item in the system and press this Lock System button.

What Dorico does is add system breaks at the beginning of the current system and the next, then on the first system break it sets this “Wait for next system break” property,

which means that Dorico will not automatically insert any new system breaks until it comes across another manual one, and even if more music is added to that system, it will not break onto two systems.

You can also select two points (hold down Ctrl on Windows or Cmd on Mac to select the second item while retaining the first) and choose to “make into system” by pressing this button.

When it comes to page breaks, Dorico thinks of these a little differently. Because Dorico’s page layout system uses frames to display the music in your layout,

you actually want to insert a frame break. By default you only have one music frame per page and in that case a frame break is synonymous with a page break. However, it also means Dorico gives you the power to break between multiple frames on the same page.

Frame breaks work in just the same way as system breaks. You select an object and click the Insert Frame Break button, or press the key command Shift+F. Manual frame breaks also appear as signposts to show where they are inserted.

There are buttons for Lock Frame and Make Into Frame that work in the same way as the ones for systems.

Locking a frame also locks each system in that frame.

Returning to this project for solo organ, I’m thinking I could probably fit a fourth system on this first page. So, I’ll click this very first rest, then move over to the very end of the first system on the second page and click this note—or I could select the barline—and click Make Into Frame.

You can easily delete frame breaks and system breaks by selecting their signpost and pressing delete and if you need to change a frame break into a system break (or vice versa) then you can do this here in the Properties panel.

Editor’s note: you can now also do this by selecting the existing signpost and typing the keyboard shortcut for the system break or frame break.

Finally, you can change the “space” size at any frame or system break, giving you the flexibility to change the stave size for a specific page or set of pages should your project require it, perhaps because the final movement of a piece requires additional players and instruments.

If this video has been helpful to you …  subscribe to our Dorico channel to see many more videos like this one. I’m Anthony Hughes, thanks for watching.


I appreciate your support of the OF NOTE  blog. If you find it to be a useful resource, please consider subscribing to OF NOTE and . ~robert

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