Align staves and systems on opposite pages

• Aug 2, 2017 - 10:01

How can I align the staves/systems on opposite pages when the second page is incomplete? For instance, in a piano score in which the even page has 6 systems and the odd page has only 3, the system distance is larger in the odd page. Sometimes that's OK, but what if one wanted them aligned?


Setting min and max to be literally equal would give you aligned systems, assuming there are no lyrics, spacers, or other elements that could affect spacing. In general, though, it wouldn't really be standard to force this. Pages that are less full *should* be allowed to have more space. The trick would be finding a compromise that produces pleasing results for any given score. So a max value that is somewhat more than min but so big that three grand staves fill the page is what you'd be after.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thank you both for answering. This probably works, but I don't grasp the rationale for the second page presenting a different spacing when it is far from being bottom justified. If, for instance, the left page had 6 systems and the right 5, the difference would have an explanation, i.e., the convenience of aligning the bottom staff on both pages.

In reply to by fmiyara

It's not just about alignment, it's about spacing in general. For pages that are pretty much full already, you want them stretched out to fill the page. So one page with 5 systems might fill the page, another age with 6 systems might *also* fill the page. And obviously the spacing would be different for them - the page with 5 is looser than the page with 5. But if the next page has only 2 systems, how should the spacing be there - exactly the same as the page with 6, exactly the same as the page with 5, or perhaps somewhat looser than the one with 5, just as the page with 5 is looser than the page with 6. but not so loose that it fills the page. This is the normal / standard / correct way to space systems. The best way we found to allow for this is to give a min and max spacing, and to also have spacers for manual overrides where necessary.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I agree, and it is what I myself have said, that in the case 5 vs 6 it is better to stretch out the 5 to fill the page. In this case the slight lack of alignment of systems on opposite pages is compensated by the "gestaltic" appeal of seeing both pages full.

The problem is when there are only 2 or 3 vs 6. No stretching will fill the page without a severe esthetical impairment, so... why stretch it at all?

I think the way it currently works is not the standard or correct way. I have just reviewed dozens of collected works (such as sonatas, preludes and fugues, or other piano pieces) and I've found that, unlike the case of books, where the end of a chapter may fall anywhere on the page (except perhaps the first line), Music scores most often (if not always--I have still to find a counterexample) are sort of "end justified", i.e., the last page of a movement ends aligned to the bottom. This is possible in scores because measures are much more flexible in size than are characters and inter-character spacing.

So the "standard", if any, is to fill the page--most often--. It would be desirable to have an option to get this layout automatically, i.e., that each section ends at the bottom of the last page.

Currently it is possible to achieve this through laborious trial-and-error stretching or shrinking measures but iIt would be nice to have it as a native option.

Do you think this qualifies for a feature request?

In reply to by fmiyara

As far as I can see this problem occurs only at the end of a score--or very rarely when there is no other way to arrange for feasible page turns.

Either way this can be fixed in two ways (single or combined):
1. Move a system or two from left to right (page break) to even things out.
2. Add a vertical frame at the end of the second page and adjust its size (this has already been mentioned).

Neither of these two ways is laborious at all.

BTW there are examples where the end of a movement does not fall at the end of a page. Sometimes it is better to start the next movement (especially if it is long) near the bottom of a page, exploit a "strategic" rest for the page turn and bring the rest of the movement on the new double page. Better than scrunching everything together to make it fit two pages.

In reply to by azumbrunn

I couldn't move the top edge of the vertical frame to push up the systems.

Moving a system has been of some help, thank you for the tip. But in order to keep the overall esthetics it is necessary to also tweak somewhat the measure distribution adding here and there some system breaks as well. It is laborious since you must check consistency of many customizations. Particularly, customized slurs suffer when measure distribution is changed (*), and the same applies to pedals, ottavas, and so on.

(*) Customized start and end slopes sometimes change sign after an edit that changes measure distribution, starting and/or ending backward instead of forward, which looks awkward.

In reply to by fmiyara

Again, what does it mean to not stretch at all then? Same spacing as the 5-system page, same as the 6? Or the actual minimum value that would have applied if say there were any spacers or frames involved as well? Or the actual maximum that would have applied if maybe there are a page with 4 systems that were stretch to fill the page? Basically, it could be any of these, or something else entirely. There is no specific reason to assume tjen3-sustem page should match any other page in particular. The standard is to give them a decent amount of space, and that's what we do. If you want to change the space, add a spacer to fill out to the bottom of the page and size it how you like it.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Situation 1: Even (left) page 6 systems, odd (right) page 5 systems ---> stretch system separation on right page to fit the page.

Situation 2: Even page 6 systems, odd page 3 systems or less ---> keep in the latter the same separation as in even page.

Situation 3: 6 vs 4 ---> I'm not sure... it would take some experimantation, I guess.

If the space was decent for the even page, then it should be decent for the odd one as well.

However, this is not the standard, as is not the standard either to stretch "a bit". And it is also not esthetical, since the eye tends to look for continuity patterns, one system aligned with the corresponding system of the opposite page.

A vast corpus of scores (at least classical and contemporary ones) shows that most houses choose to completely fill the last page of a movement or piece, so I guess this is the standard.

In the case 6 vs 5, the lack of alignment of the intermediate systems is tolerable since the top and bottom systems are aligned.

In reply to by fmiyara

Let me be more specific.

Let's say a page with 6 systems ends up having 9sp of space between them (a totally made up number). A page with 5 systems ends up having more space - maybe 11sp - so that both fill the page. Let say another page has 6 systems also, but includes a small text frame as well, so you actually have only 8sp of space between systems. You now have some pages with 8sp, some with 9sp, some with 11sp.

Now you have a page with 3 systems. How much space do you think you'd want here? Do you literally decide that since you don't want to stretch to fil the page, you won't stretch it at all? So you keep it at 8sp, meaning the page with 3 systems actually has *less* space than the pages with 5 or 6? Does that *really* make sense?

Or are you saying, just choose the same amount of space as the facing page, so if the facing page had 5 systems go with 12sp but if it had 6 go with 10sp? But what if there is no facing page?

I think when you really think these scenarios through you will see why it doesn't make sense to say, if you can't stretch a system fully, don't stretch it at all. It just would not produce good results (pages with 3 systems being tighter than systems with 5 or 6). It's a subejctive enough thing that there's basically no single algorithm that would give the results everyone wants all the time.

So again, we do what seems pretty standard in the industry by default - letting a page with 3 systems have more space than one with 5 or 6, but not so much that it fills the page. From there, you can tweak the specific amount of space by using spacers, so if you prefer less space, you can get it by using a spacer to fill to the bottom of the page. So if you want to try to match the spacing of the facing page, you can do so.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I believe I have been very specific. The only case of interest is that of facing pages. If there is no facing page, then there is no need to do anything. Should be other pages with more or less space, that wouldn't be an issue since they are not visible. If I have a page with 3 systems, it should imitate the spacing of the facing page. Or at least there should be a way to do that easily and accurately if one wants so.

However, I think my original question is no longer relevant, since in the process I've discovered that a half-full page is so far from being standard in sheet music, at least in classical and contemporary music (admittedly, there may be some examples, of which I haven't see any) that I've decided to make every effort to fill all pages. This approach has a rationale:
1) Taking advantage of all available space improves overall readability, since not only the page with less systems is looser but other pages are potentially looser as well; and
2) Aligning top and bottom systems improves esthetics.

In reply to by fmiyara

It is true that half full pages are extremely rare to non existent but movements ending or beginning somewhere along on a page are quite common, especially in parts, much less in scores of course.

You are right about your priorities. Something I do sometimes is add a little stretch to (part of) the movement in question--just one time pressing "}". This spreads out things a little, helping readability and filling space by creating a system or two extra on the last page of the movement. I don't think any reader would even notice the difference if you stretch only part of the movement this way, it is just too small.

It has always been obvious that your concern was about facing pages. If I seemed to suggest otherwise put it down to clumsy writing on my part.

In reply to by azumbrunn

Thank you for your comment. I confirm this solution works. Indeed, except in the case of a very regular writing such as in some Bach's Preludes, it is very difficult to notice the difference. One possible problem is when there are very few measures per system (for instance 2 or 3), so "}" doesn't really work except when pressed several times on a single measure so that it widens so much that it manages to push a measure to the next system.

In reply to by fmiyara

I understand you are talking about facing pages. I am just pointing out that this would be inconsistent. That is, it result in the exact same page of three systems having different spacing depending on the contents of some *other* page. No doubt it would be possible to special case things this way, but again, it isn't really standadd in the industry, and if you do desire that result, you can achievement easily. And this case isn't particularly uncommon. As mentioned, whole piano music might arrive to avoid half full pages, they are very common in ensemble parts as well as fakebook's, etc. I just looked through my.bookshelf and had no difficulty finding music where the last page was not full, and in none of the cases did the systems align with the facing page. On the contrary, as I have suggested, the less full pages have more space between the systems.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I think the inconsistency you mention is irrelevant since it would be very rare in a single piece. It would mean that two independent parts or movements end exactly the same twice. Just to mention a frequent precedent, it often happens that some passage is repeated verbatim at two moments of a work and they are presented with different layout. No one would complain about that. Probably very few people would complain about lack of alignment either, but I have presented arguments based on esthetics.

As to the fake books, I'm not very familiar with jazz or learning books, so I acknowledge I may have been generalizing too much from my restricted universe of classical and contemporary academic music. But it is a huge universe indeed, it suffices to consider the 122000 works declared by IMSLP. So I think that such "other" standard deserves to be acknowledged and honored by providing a simpler way to achieve its characteristic "touch and feel" of end-justification.

Please, note that all this thread is a suggestion only, I'm not a GUI programmer and cannot do much more than suggest and support what seems to be a possible improvement. By no means is a criticism to a piece of software that not only is great and much more than just useful, but has a luxurious community and team support system.

In reply to by fmiyara

Irrelevant or not, my concern is that nowhere else does MuseScore do this sort of special casing. A page with a given set of page layout and style setting and three grand staves will behave exactly the same regardless of what happens to be on another page. It seems weird to me that page 3 of a piece might look different depending on whether the first two pages are 6 and 5 systems or 5 and 6.

To me, this would only make sense if there were clear evidence that this really is an established standard. But although you keep mentioning IMSLP, nowhere have a seen any specific example to show that any professional editions really do this sort of fiddling with spacing to try to align staves on pages with different numbers of systems. I get that it might suit your personal preference, but as I keep observing, you can already get that result today using spacers. We would only be likely to change the *defaults* if it wasn't just a question of your personal preference but instead were to help bring us into conformity with established industry practice.

I *do* get that most engravers go out of their way to avoid the problem of half-empty final pages in the first place by cleverly, expertly, and subjectively choosing where to put their line and page breaks to try to keep all pages reasonably full. That much is standard indeed, but as I suggested, not something that really is well handled algorithmically. No reason someone couldn't try to devise a plugin or other tool to add breaks according to some heuristic or other in an attempt to achieve this result. But it's not really something I'd be expecting to just magically happen by default.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

We can only marvel at the skill of engravers of old who managed so often to get it right and graphically appealing, even in long pieces. With Musescore you can enter the notes and then play around with the layout until you like the result. No such luck for hand engravers: They need to plan the layout of he entire piece ahead of starting the physical work of entering notes and symbols onto the plates.

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