How to Work with Note Spacing in Dorico

🎬  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 Note Spacing in Dorico”…

Hi, I’m Anthony Hughes, and in this video I’ll be showing you the new features for editing Note Spacing added here in Dorico 1.1.

Dorico uses complex algorithms to lay out your music on the page and this includes determining the note spacing that should be used, so that the music is as legible as possible. Sometimes you may wish to have the freedom to increase or decrease the space between certain notes and Dorico 1.1 brings new special editing features to Engrave mode to support this.

The toggle to switch on Note Spacing editing can be found at the bottom of the left-hand panel in Engrave mode.

Once enabled, dashed lines with handles appear on the score to show all of the spacing columns Dorico has created to cast off the music.

With Note Spacing enabled, it is not possible to select music items, protecting you from making unwanted edits.

You can make two kinds of adjustments to the horizontal position of notes and chords and other items positioned on the stave (for example, key signatures, time signatures and so on): spacing adjustments, which increase or decrease the amount of rhythmic space to the left and right of the item, and which affect the whole spacing column (in other words, all items that start at that rhythmic position across all staves);

and graphical adjustments, which move a selected item on a single staff only, in a way that does not affect the spacing of other items.


To make a spacing adjustment, select a square handle, hold down Alt and use the left and right arrow keys. You can add Ctrl (that’s Command on Mac) to adjust the spacing in larger increments. The handle and dashed line will turn red to indicate it has a manual adjustment applied.

You can navigate between the handles by using the arrow keys on their own. Adding shift when navigating makes a selection to which you can apply multiple spacing adjustments at once.

(review  tutorial video starting at 1:47 to see this in action)

Pressing Delete will remove any adjustments from the selected spacing columns.

To make a graphical adjustment, first select the square handle above the staff, then select the circular handle that appears on the middle staff line, and use the same key command of Alt+ left and right arrows.

Again, adding Ctrl (or Command on Mac) lets you make larger adjustments. You can switch between selecting related square and circular handles by hitting Tab.

When you make a graphical adjustment to an item, a horizontal red line is drawn joining the item’s circular handle to its original position (i.e. the position at which it is still considered to be for the purposes of spacing).

You can delete graphical adjustments by selecting the circular handle and pressing Delete. You can also select the note or notes in Write mode and choose Edit > Reset Position.

When multiple voices are active at the same rhythmic position, you can adjust the position of each voice column independently. A set of handles appear for each additional voice column, allowing you to make spacing and graphical adjustments for the notes in each column independently of the first column.

If you find that you need to make an adjustment to a voice that is currently sharing a voice column with another voice, you can move it into its own voice column using the Voice column index property,

which will allow spacing and graphical adjustments independently of other columns.

When you make any spacing or graphical adjustment, Dorico automatically creates System Breaks at the start of the adjusted system and at the start of the next system. This locks the affected system, ensuring that the spacing adjustments will not cause the casting-off of your layout to change.

When editing note spacing, a new indicator at the right-hand edge of the system shows you at a glance how full each system is, expressed both as a percentage, and as the number of spaces occupied out of the total number of available spaces.

When a system is too empty, the indicator is coloured purple; when it is more than 70% full it is coloured green; and when a system is over-full (in other words, more than 100%), it is coloured red.

Two large square handles appear at either end of each system: one at the top left, one at the bottom right. These handles allow you to indent either end of the system from the frame, using the same key commands for the other types of handles.

I’m Anthony Hughes, thanks for watching.


Wie man in Dorico mit Notenabstand arbeitet | Neue Funktionen in Dorico 1.1

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 videos like this one. ~robert puff

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