Plans for More Staff Spacing Freedom?

• Jan 17, 2023 - 04:59


I've been loving MuseScore 4 so far, but I still find myself wanting more control and freedom over how the staves are spaced on the page. Both Finale and Sibelius have drag-able boxes which make fine tuning the page layout so easy and intuitive, and I feel like MuseScore could seriously use this feature. The amount of time I find myself futzing around in the page layout dialog box is frustrating, even more so in that the only way to adjust staff spacing is a global parameter - save for inserting manual spacers and page breaks. It would certainly make formatting a lot more customizable (and streamlined!).

I hope you add this to the list of all the other awesome projects you all are working on! Thanks so much for all of your effort, the new MuseScore is fantastic.

Attachment Size
Sibelius Staff Spacing.gif 1.26 MB


I can't speak to any plans because I'm not involved in that, but I can say, resorting to dragging things should not normally be necessary. Usually there are much better solutions, like simply tweaking a setting to provide the desired spacing score without constantly fiddling with each and every staff. So independently of any future workarounds that might also be implemented, I'd love to help you solve whatever problem you might be having that makes you want to resort to dragging staves. I recommend asking for help in the Support forum and attaching the specific score you are having problems with and what exactly you are wanting to accomplish by dragging so we can show you more efficient ways of getting the job done.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Hi Marc, thanks for the reply. I was able to fiddle with the page layout dialogue enough to fix the specific issue that I was having, but on the whole, I think it's a clunky system that would do better with the addition of more interactive score elements. Every one of the musicians and composers who I've talked to about this have cited it as a weakness of MuseScore compared to other softwares like Sibelius and Finale; I know personally that I constantly drag staves around to achieve a specific page turn, or to fit an extra line on one page while giving more space to the next, or to give more space for expression text between staves.

In nearly every score I've made in musescore, I have run into this issue - similarly, the ability to group measures on a line rather than the 'stretch' key. I just think MuseScore's layout system is lacking in control for the user, and the automatic settings don't always get it right. I really believe that customizability should be the goal here, and that it would be a very valuable feature addition.

In reply to by Nicholas.Saether

No doubt there is room for improvement, and if you have specific proposals, feel free to describe them so they can be discussed further. Probably best to do that on GitHub which is where the developers and designers would be more likely to participate.

But meanwhile, again, it should not normally be necessary to resort to dragging spacers around or fiddling with stretch to achieve the spacing you want. In isolated cases here and there, sure, and that's why these features exist, but usually there are much better ways. Again, I'd love to assist, but I'd need you to attach a specific score and describe what you are trying to do and why, then I'd be able to help.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Hey Marc, I found a score that illustrates my desire for this feature. Here's a fugue I wrote for a school assignment recently. Attached are three versions, one with no formatting changes (besides adjusted measure spacing), one with a padded "minimum staff distance" in the style -> page settings, and one with vertical justification disabled and adjusted staff and system distances. The closest I got to what I want is in the "Vertical Justification OFF" pdf, but even so, looking at the two pages laid next to each other, I want to drag both grand staves on page two down, and get them slightly closer together, which is not possible.

While I was able to adjust the default settings to fix the tightness within grand staves and the distance between them, it felt like a very rigid process. When the settings dialogue box is open, none of the other elements of the document are editable, and for such a GUI oriented software it feels clunky to fiddle with number boxes rather than working directly with the score.

As for the GitHub, I did some poking around! What would be the best page over there to make a post like this?

In reply to by Nicholas.Saether

If you attach the actual score instead of just pictures, we can advise better. Also describe in more detail what specifically you'd like different. Most likely it can be done in just a couple of settings within the style dialog, much simpler than having to manually drag around dozens or staves around. MuseScore does provide spacers for the cases where you do need to resort to manual overrides but the vast majority of the time a few simple style settings should do the trick much more easily and accurately.

As an analogy, consider if you were in a word processor and wanted a smaller font size, and instead of just having a spin box, you had to manually adjust the size of each and every letter. Making settings is much simpler; having to do things manually case by case should be a last resort, not a go-to.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Ok, here's the score attached below. The only change I would like to make is to drag the staves on the second page slightly downward.

I hear your point with the word processor analogy, that makes a lot of sense for a global parameter. What I'm advocating for is that those global parameters for staff spacing become integrated into the GUI side of things, with the addition of manual overrides for case-by-case problems.

I was able to get the score spaced out almost the way I wanted, but I found the process quite time consuming and fiddly, especially compared to how smooth MuseScore handles everything else. I think the labels within the Format -> Style -> Page window are difficult to make sense of, and I the fact that the score is un-editable while that settings window is open has been a consistent frustration - it just slows down the work flow.

The way Sibelius handles it, you highlight the whole score, drag the staves vertically, and the whole score updates. I find this way very simple and smooth, plus it allows for fine tune control of individual elements. I don't think there shouldn't be a settings menu anymore, I just think that there should also be a GUI element to these parameters. That's all.

I think I've made my case as best I can for now, but if I run into another specific formatting issue that illustrates the problem, I'll reply here! Thanks for all the quick replies :)

Attachment Size
3 Part Fugue in G Minor.mscz 36.26 KB

In reply to by Nicholas.Saether

This score is only two pages long, so it's tough to generalize, but my question would be, what is the rule you are following that tells you you want the staves on the second page to start further from the top of the page? Once you can answer that, we can easily direct you to the best answer.

If the rule is, "all pages that don't have a title page should have the music start 8 sp from the top margin instead of 7 sp as is the default", then simple, just go to Format / Style / Page and set the music top margin that way. Then whether you score is two pages long or 200, all pages will have that consistent rule applied. Isn't that infinitely better than needing to drag 199 pages downward and trying to eyeball it to get that rule applied consistently across all 199 of those pages? One setting to instantly get perfectly consistent results across 199 pages, versus 199 drag operations painstaking trying to make it consistent - it's a no-brainer.

But even if your rule was, "no matter how pages there are in the score, I want all pages but page 2 to start 7 sp below the margin, but I want page 2 to start 8 sp below" - so there aren't 199 pages to fix, but only one - then simply add a staff spacer above the top staff and make it 8 sp. Then the rest of the page will remain at the default, and only this one page will be changed.

The point being, having to manually drag things and eyeball things is far less precise and for score of more than just two pages, far slower, than simply nailing the setting. Understand the rule you are trying to follow, and the setting will follow.

That's not to say there isn't still room for improvement, but I think you drastic understate the power and simplicity of having a setting do the work for you, rather than need to spend hours painstakingly dragging things around system by system, page by page, in an effort to attempt to recreate the order MsueScore would have been happy to give in seconds automatically.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

AH, that was a great way to explain things. I see your point of view much better now. Also, I wasn't aware of all the options for adding vertical/horizontal spacers, and they really solve the issue that I was seeing in terms of a lack of versatility for tuning little details of a score. Thank you!

I do still think that the score not being interactable when the style window is open is frustrating, and it slows down the work flow, but I definitely see your point about changing "rules" for the layout. It's a much more precise way to create a unified score than than dragging by eyeball. Thanks for the responses.

In reply to by Nicholas.Saether

Gla dd that helped - thanks for the example! And yes, being able to work with the score with the style window open would be nice. This was actually implemented some years ago, but it turned out there were complications making it actually work correctly, so it had to be backed out. Hopefully it comes back someday, in a better-working form.

I think MuseScore's Layout System actually gives a lot of control
and that it is not clunky. However it is not very intuitive
and the most important settings are nowhere explained yet.
What confuses people most as it seems is the fact that
"Max. stave distance", which only few understand, is set to such a high level by default,
causing lot's of unnecessary space being added
between the staves of a system.
For most of my scores I prefere to set this setting close to zero,
while keeping "Max. system distance" at a fairly high level.
Thus the systems in themselves will stay dense but still fill out the entire page.

Hey again Marc, here's a score layout thing that you may be able to advise on. In the attached file, I would like to be able to scootch the bottom stave and text frame that reads, "Tone Row," slightly downward, but the stave seems to be ignoring the spacers I've tried to put on the top and bottom; they just don't register. Any tips?

Attachment Size
HW5 Atonal Piano.mscz 29.99 KB

In reply to by Nicholas.Saether

Here as usual, you want to ask yourself, am I making an exception for this text frame, or do I want all text frames to have more space than this. If it's the former, increase the gap above/below in the Properties panel. If it's the latter, hit the "Save as default style for this score" in the "..." menu. Even if this is as long as the score will ever be, it's still good to think in these terms, because if you ever write another piece in this same style, you can reuse this as a template or using a style file, and that exception/rule distinction will matter.

The text itself shouldn't have been dragged out of the frame, BTW. That interferes with the normal functioning of the automatic layout. Reset its position with Ctrl+R) before making any adjustments to the gap.

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