Ledger line thickness

• Jan 9, 2020 - 23:44

When printing, my ledger lines i.e. the horizontal lines on which the notes are placed are quite faint. This is so whether I print directly from MS (version 3.0) or from a score exported to PDF. Some (say, every 3rd or 4th line) are almost invisible, yet others are fine.
Is there any way within MS that I can slightly thicken the lines? Can't find any option to set the line thickness anywhere.
My printer functions normally in all other respects (and outside of Musescore) so I don't think it is a hardware issue - I have cleaned the print heads and nozzle and alignment.
Example score attached.
Alistair Wood


I should correct myself - when printing directly from MS, the lines are pretty much visible (unlike the PDF), but they are so thin!

Since your score shows very few ledger lines, perhaps you mean the staff lines.
Use menu item: Format -> Style -> Measure where 'Staff line thickness' can be found at the bottom.

If you mean the ledger lines that appear when notes are above or below the staff...
Use menu item: Format -> Style -> Notes where 'Ledger line thickness' is adjusted.

In reply to by Ali Wood

Which menu, what language setting of MuseScore (Edit > Preferences), if "System", what language setting of the OS (and which OS)?
Are you seeing "Bar" in some places, but "Measure" in others? If "Bar" all the way through, you're using a British English setting (or I made a mistake in the translalations, highly unliekly ;-))

In reply to by Ali Wood

If you look at the preferences menu under the "General" tab there is an area headed language. The top button by default says "System" but if you click on it a vast range of languages unfolds and for English you can choose US or GB varieties. That determines whether menus say "bar" or "measure". If it is left at System, it uses the language setting of your operating system which I assume is like mine, UK English.

Here is a link to some translations that help a bit. https://sites.google.com/site/ninagilbert/home/british

Can you try another printer anyhow? The default really should be very good already, and I've printed thousands of pages on dozens of different printers with no such problems.

In reply to by Ali Wood

I’m not questioning the quality of the printer itself. But if you’re having problems printing staves, something is going wrong. Could be a bad ink cartridge, could be a bad device driver, could be bad settings you’ve made in the printer properties, who knows. But verifying on another printer is an important step in solving the problem - you absolutely should not have to resort to using abnormally thick staff lines.

"Some (say, every 3rd or 4th line) are almost invisible, yet others are fine." - this sounds like rounding problems caused by a setting of low resolution (DPI) somewhere during printing, usually in the printer driver. Please check what resolution you have your printer set to; you talk of print head cleaning and ink cartridges, so I assume it is a household inkjet printer; in that case there is little reason not to set it to the highest resolution it natively supports, it won't use less or more ink either way.

Your sp size is 1,475 mm, your staff line is set to the default 0,08 sp, so your staff line width comes out to about 0,118 mm or 1/215,2542373th of an inch. Which means, if you print at 300 DPI (dots per inch), you'll get a staff line width of 1,39 pixels (rounded to 1 or 2 pixels), at 600 DPI you get 2,787401575 pixels (rounded to 2 or 3), at 1200 DPI you get 5,57480315 pixels (rounded to 5 or 6 pixels). So at 300 DPI, you risk doubling/halving line widths depending on where exactly your staff line falls onto your printer's pixels. Raising this to 1200 DPI (a common baseline nowadays) will reduce line width variability to a 5-6 range (20%), which is much less noticeable/objectable.

Acrobat PDF Reader has some options to render thin lines in an anti-aliased way (where it approximates fractional line widths by proportionally shading neighbouring pixels, to give the same optical effect you would see if you had drawn the lines on paper with an infinite resolution device, say a fountain pen), but this is turned off by default. Not sure whether that takes effect for printing, but I guess yes, since it is the Acrobat PDF Reader that calculates exactly what pixels to show on the screen, so I assume it, too, is calculating the exact pixels to show on the printer. Worth a try checking this too.

In reply to by HuBandiT

Thank you for your detailed answer, very helpful.
I've compared again printing from MS direct and printing from PDF.
At 0.08 thickness:- MS = Very thin lines but all visible. PDF = lines missing
0.10 thickness:- MS = Fine PDF = Fine
So, 1) the problem is easy to fix using the 0.10 setting. 2) the problem is more to do with the PDF
However, I cannot find anywhere to change the resolution of my printer (EPSON Workforce WP-4535). I have struggled to even find the printer driver! - what options there are against it do not offer a change in resolution. There is no option to change the resolution when I select to print from MS or from Acrobat Reader. [Epson chatline is not open at the moment].
So that remains a mystery.
The other thing is, in MS, does the staff line thickness vary with the scale setting within the page settings? If so that could be a factor.
Thanks all for help.

In reply to by Ali Wood

To answer your question: staff line thickness does scale with the scale in page settings. To keep elements of the score display proportional, the scale setting scales everything that has a size setting in sp, including staff line width (and noteheads, and stems, and clefs, and time signatures, etc. etc. etc.).

The final staff line width is simply the staff line width in sp multiplied by this scale setting - see my calculation above. The same logic applies to most other elements to keep elements in proportion. If you want to keep your absolute staff line width the same when you reduce the scale, you need to increase the staff line width in sp (like you did, from 0,08 to 0,10). However this would alter the proportions between staff lines and other elements - which might or might not be desirable.

(hints to developers below)

This same scaling issue came up in the 70s to 90s when computers started describing typefaces in terms of arbitrarily scaleable curves instead of fixed size pixels: it was realized, that when typefaces are scaled down, some parts can become too small to see properly, hindering legibility. So instead of just mathematically pure scaling down of the letter shapes, parts of letters needed to be thickened or made bigger to still look good and stay readable. (Similarly, when scaling up mathematically, things also looked odd, and needed adjustment to look good again.) American computer scientist and polymath Donald Knuth did this in the 70s-80s with his metafont https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metafont package to arrive at beautiful (visually consistent, easy to read) type regardless of size for his mathematical publications that required many small symbols for superscripts and indexes but needed to stay very legible. The commercial market came to the party of curve-based typefaces later, in the 90s, and eventually realized the same thing: things need to be adjusted in shape beyond just scaling up or down. The prevailing solution was from then market leader Adobe called "Mutliple Master", of which the Wikipedia page has a demonstration: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_master_fonts - this has now been adopted into current typeface standards.

One would expect the same logic - that things need to change in weight when scaled to "look good", that is, be easy to read - would apply to scaling any kind of graphics to be viewed by humans, not just type alone. Including musical score notation.

MuseScore does not do such "optical" adjustment yet, and it currently scales things up and down purely mathematically. To put a long story short, this is why, when you scale your score down, some things - including your staff line widths - will end up being perceived as too small/thin.

In reply to by Ali Wood

The problem then is almost certainly not with the PDF itself, but with the program you are using to print it. Eg, Acrobat, Foxit, Sumatra. These programs will mostly have settings to control the resolution they print at but also how they handle fine lines in particular. The latter option may have the word "antialias" in it. Probably changing those settings will help. Or just try a different PDF program. Or just skip the PDF and print directly. Any of these are better than a 25% increase in the thickness of the staff lines (from 0.08 to 0.10), which will adversely affect readabiltiy.

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