Can lyrics cross barlines?

• Feb 16, 2021 - 00:25

Lyric positioning with MuseScore can be challenging, so I've resorted to manually adjusting most lyrics which is a pain, but is what it is. Usually, I am writing 4-measure per system "lead-sheets", but as a result I end up with very distorted measures because there are constraints to lyrics layout...
My primary question: I have repeatedly encountered situations where, say, the last note of a measure ties into a note of the next measure.

If I want to move that word to prevent such layouts, the lyric ends up pushing the entire measure backwards instead of allowing the word to stretch across the barline:
(Similarly, there are times when, at the start/end of a system, I wish for the lyric to extend before/past the measure-line into the blank gutter space.)

Is there any way to allow a lyric-syllable/word to "stretch across a barline?"


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You shouldn't have to be adjusting lyrics that much - normally the default layout should be quite good already. If you attach some actual scores rather than just pictures, we can understand and assist better. But it's true that in those special cases where you happen to want a lyric to extended over the barline, you might need to force the issue. Easiest way is to disable autoplace for that syllable by press "=" or using the Inspector. This might have other effects you don't like as much, so you might need to do other adjustments to make up for it. In some cases you might find it more useful to adjust leading space on the barline or notes that follow, etc. Again, if you attach an actual score we can assist better

BTW, do note that the lyric extended mention above is not really optional, it's considered important for people reading the score to know the lyric extends to the next note. When barlines are not involved, it will also allow the lyric to overlap the next note, so if you are omitting these routinely, that could be why you are finding you need to adjust as much as you are. Or it could be you only omitted it here because it didn't seem important to make the point, but it's definitely worth mentioning because it is relevant to the spacing.

This does need a extension line / melisma underscore thingy, but that actually does not solve the spacing issue:
(Normally I'd wait for OP to post their example score, but since this is one of my major issues with lyrics autoplacement, I've attached my own. I hope this is distinguishable enough from OP's example to avoid confusion, since I'm only guessing we're having the same issue.)

The best workaround I've found is to select the barline, and reduce its Leading Space to a negative value (under Segment in the Inspector.) Rather than just eyeballing it, you can try to reduce it to the point just before it starts to squish the preceding notes instead of just affecting the barline:
~~(Another method is to disable Automatic placement on the lyric, but that carries more unwanted side effects.)~~ EDIT: see Marc's post above me
This gets me a more reasonable spacing, but now the extension line has been swallowed. (In more annoying cases, it just becomes so short it looks like a period.)
The best solution for this I've come up with is faking one by inserting underscores (Ctrl+Shift+_), and a bunch of manual tweaking:

This is roughly where I'd want it to be, but I'm not a professional engraver and have not consulted reference or Behind Bars here, and I'm open to criticism.
I haven't timed myself, but I'd wager I spend more than 10% of the time (from entering the first note to exporting a finished PDF) when engraving vocal+piano scores (e.g. Tom Lehrer) on such tweaking, unfortunately...

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In reply to by snieb

Elsewhere I asked for more real world examples, as I'm still not understanding why you are feeling the need to tweaking lyric positions. I'd still like to some, as other than this one case of a lyric extending over a barline, manual adjustments really should not be needed much at all. It could be you are missing out something easy in terms of just adjusting a setting to achieve the look you prefer, or maybe you are just trying to no non-standard things, but either way, we'd love to help save you time.

And really, even in this case here, much what you are doing isn't necessary. There really isn't a reason you should need to show the melisma line if the lyric covers the notes completely already, for example - Gould specifically discusses that case. And there are those editors that do go out of their way to pad measures to prevent lyrics from crossing barlines. Gould recommends crossing barlines only "if necessary" but doesn't define what conditions that might be; her examples show she is willing to do so when it suits her but other places she's clearly padding. One consideration to keep in mind, allowing the lyric to cross the barline won't be good if the measure ends a system, so one way or another, you're going to have places where the padding is needed.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Unfortunately, most of my work is on copyrighted (copywritten?) materials so I am unable to provide an example from my work. Generally I am often writing out 4-measure-per-system music, so the spacing requirements are completely different from a "correct" piece of published music and that is why I'm asking about these things. There are times where I want a measure with a single whole-note to take up way more space than would make "logical" sense because I am looking for a symmetrical balance on the page as a whole.

Mr. Sabatella, I do appreciate your help, as well as your continued efforts on behalf of the many forum users. However, as I have noted in the past, I often feel that you seem dismissive of people's inquiries. The above is the 3rd post I've seen where you've written "There should be no need to change the default settings". Users have their desires. Our inquiries are not usually about whether or not we should, but rather if we could. Though again, thank you.

In reply to by El_Riz

There should be no copyright issues with posting excerpts, so I do encourage you to do so.

Sorry you feel I have been dismissive. That's not my intent at all. I've trying to help you use MuseScore as effectively as possible, and to produce the best music you can with it.

When I said there should not often be a need to spend time making manual adjustments, this is based on tons of experience and the realization that often many users simply don't know about the more efficient ways of doing things. For instance, many people don't realize you can customize stye settings to achieve defaults more to one's own personal liking, rather than needing to adjust each element individually. Also many users don't understand traditional engraving practice and they get confused with things like why some lyrics are centered and others are not, and they to "fix" this through manual adjustment when in fact it's completely correct already. I know and assume nothing about your own experience level with MuseScore or with music engraving practice, so I am not trying to insult you here, just to offer help.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Hello Marc. In fact lyrics placement is quite bad in MuseScore. But it is similarly bad in finale and Sibelius. The problem here is the collision model deployed by these programs. For reasons of computation speed these programs use Columns to space out the score. The advantage of this is that you only need to align these columns, the problem is that nothing in one column may protrude into another column — even if there is space for it. Thus lyrics will always be placed under the note they are aligned to. This means that if one syllable is wider than the column it is attached to, the column will be made wider. If you get a melisma MuseScore is intelligent enough to place the text within both columns, unless the melisma extends over a barline.
Consider this example:
Now, this is standard placement of musescore, and the first melisma on thing is quite fine (although sometimes it just has a little stub of the melisma line). But the second melisma ple... just adds unnecessary space at the end of the bar. This appears to be limitation of the sibelius like approach of musescore, that is thing in bars.
As Comparisation, here is how Lilypond handles this case:
this becomes more important the longer our syllable becomes:
This means that Lilypond allows this
while in MuseScore this produces

So while MuseScores Lyrics are not bad, they surely not perfectly fine or anything. Just for fun: This is how the horse would look in Lilypond:

And yes, it is not exactly clearly defined whether lyrics should cross bars, but in many cases it is necessary, and MuseScore does not offer a non hacky way of doing it. So this question does have a reason to exist.


In reply to by pulltheo

Yes, as noted, this one very specific case of a lyric that represents a melisma carrying over the barline is not handled well by default. We've acknowledged this and explained some of the reasons why and how to work around it.

But when I asked for more real world examples, I wasn't talking more examples of about this one specific type of case. I meant, where else other than this one specific type of case are people feeling the need to perform manual adjustments.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Ah, okay, I misunderstood. Well, as I said, MuseScore’s lyrics are not too bad. They generally have a problem with measures, such as in
which should look somewhat like this
(note the unnecessary space at Gezweig).

Generally the lyrics suffer from MuseScore’s Spacing, resulting in unnescessary holes, like
as compared to
(note how the spacing of half and dotted halb notes creates holes like at ”Und blauen“.

Sometimes clashing syllables will lead to too tight spaces, such as
as compared to
(look at the distance between omnium and populorum. Also note the hole in the middle that stems from MuseScore padding out the barline too much).

But as I said, lots of these things are tied with the general spacing of MuseScore and are really hard to address.

In reply to by pulltheo

Thanks for the pictures. If you post the actual scores, it's easier to understand and investigate. As it is, there seem to be very many differences between MuseScore's output and what you consider the "correct" output, but it isn't at all clear to what extent the differences are due to lyric placement versus font size or note spacing or any of dozens of other differences, So best to focus on specifics, a single lyric in a single measure and discussing what you think should be different.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Okay, I can do that, but I have to warn you: The Score is an old MuseScore 2 file that is not well usable with MuseScore 3 (I’ve been using MuseScore mainly as composing tool the last years, while using Lilypond for the final Engraving). The relevant bar is 45/46 were we have the Lyrics -zweig (as well as the nem__ in Soprano II), which is not allowed to pass the barline, resulting in lots of unnecessary space. Maybe we could have an option ”Allow to pass barline” for Lyrics, which is automatically true if the Text is part of a Melisma between the bars?

The other examples are just examples of how MuseScores spacing struggles with spacing out Lyrics evenly. But there is not much one can do there with reasonable effort. Personally I think it would be possible to have a set of more expensive Scripts to optimize the layout, that can be called just after you entered the notes to improve the defaults.

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In reply to by pulltheo

OK, again, there is no debate on the point of lyrics crossing barlines, we all agree this would be a nice thing to support without needing the workaround of disabling autoplace. It should also be reiterated that this workaround does work pretty well in many cases, with a single keystroke allowing the lyric to do what is desired here, although it does occasionally require further adjustment especially if there are then changes to the layout that affect the vertical position of the lyrics on that system.

So still, I'm looking for specific examples of other cases - not just more examples of lyrics crossing barlines - where it is believed that there is some kind of lyric positioning or spacing issue. I'm not saying there are no such cases, just that we cannot start to look at making improvements without specific examples of things that need improvement.

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