scaling character width and condensing spacing

• Jul 6, 2016 - 04:44

In my word processor, I can select characters and then scale their width down by any percent I choose and also condense the spacing by tenths of a point. Up to 5% and 0.5 pt it is barely noticeable. This has solved a lot of problems for me in making posters, song sheets with words alone, etc. It would be a great help with lyrics. Could this be available in MuseScore? When I copy scaled text into a score, it reverts. I saw reference to Ariel Narrow somewhere, but no such thing seems to be offered by MuseScore. The nearest thing to a narrow Ariel or FreeSans I have found is QuickType II Condensed, and it is radically and very noticeably narrower. Suppressing hyphens would also allow one to fit more on a line sometimes, but I can't find a way to do it. A more compact lay-out is often more readable than the spread-out one often produced by straightforward MuseScore lyric entry.

I got lost in the kerning and font threads. Is there a bottom line? Ariel is much better spaced (kerned?) in my word processor (OpenOffice) than as lyrics in MuseScore 2.03. For example, the extra space after w in the latter doesn't occur in the former. In fact, it seems to be spaced much better if entered as text than lyrics. How come? Someone mentioned OpenSans, but 2.03 doesn't offer it to me. If this is just for techies, I don't need to know. I do have experience preparing text for elderly eyes, though, and Ariel is the best I found of the standard fonts for any given true size.


Kerning is a typography term which refers to reduction of unwanted white space between certain pairs of characters such as AY, AV, AW, space which results from the fact the actual width of a letter with slanted sides is larger than its visual width. Kerning in its true sense applies only to specific pairs of letters, not to the entire font, and only the second character in each pair is moved (backwards). A word processing or typography program can apply standard rules to any type font to deal with this, but at smaller text sizes (as opposed to headline sizes), the extra white space isn't usually very noticeable in a well-designed font. In typography programs, the ability to manually adjust the spacing of two adjacent letters is generally available, no matter what size font is being used. Most basic word processing programs do not offer this capability.

Character compensation, which is erroneously called 'condensation' or 'expansion' in many programs today ('condensed' or 'expanded' fonts are physically drawn narrower or wider), is a setting which specifies the overall spacing of the characters. (In music typography, this setting is referred to as 'stretch'.) Digitally reducing the width of a font distorts the shape of the characters to make them narrower; it does not alter the actual character compensation or 'fit' so that more characters can be set in a given lateral space.

This is a problem for both legibility and readability. In true typography, the various fonts are actually drawn differently, not just digitally modified by an algorithm that is applied to the base weight Roman font. A condensed type font is drawn so that the height-to-width ratio is different, but the weights of each line and the radii of the curves are also adjusted by the font designer to preserve legibility. Bold fonts are drawn with wider vertical strokes and eased radii; digitally 'bolded' Roman fonts are fattened up uniformly, making them harder to read and less attractive. Italic fonts are generally drawn very differently from Roman fonts; they are not simply slanted over sideways with a 'skew' command, rather they are drawn with swashes and ligatures to enhance the elegance or urgency of the type design.

All that to say that for MuseScore to offer true typographic control of text (something I would truly love to see, but don't expect to anytime soon) would require the program to come with individual fonts for each weight and style for each typeface it offered. While this is entirely possible, there are a number of issues involved, not the least of which is cost. Most type designers license their work through a number of organisations such as ITC; I do not know if the 'free' or 'collective commons' licensed faces available today comprise all the appropriate fonts or if they rely on digital modification to produce bold or italic fonts.

Another issue is whether or not those installed fonts would propagate to PDF exports of MuseScore files, if those fonts were not also installed in the PDF reader/editor on the user's computer. I know that at least one of the fonts I use on a regular basis in my scores (Monotype Corsiva) does not print its bold font when exported to PDF.

Finally, control of lyric setting is highly complex and involves both maximum and minimum spacing between such elements as melismatic dashes. Simply adjusting the character compensation in a type font (assuming this capability could be offered) would not affect those parameters; separate control parameters would have to be offered to the user to make that possible.

Re: "Ariel is much better spaced (kerned?) in my word processor (OpenOffice) than as lyrics in MuseScore 2.03. For example, the extra space after w in the latter doesn't occur in the former. In fact, it seems to be spaced much better if entered as text than lyrics. How come?"

First, I would strongly urge you to update to LibreOffice; was discontinued a while ago, and Apache OpenOffice is more or less discontinued as well, while LibreOffice picked up right from where left off and has continued to make the program better with no signs of slowing down. If you're fuzzy on the details of open-source office suite family trees, you can learn more from their various Wikipedia pages, or… or….

Regarding kerning in lyrics in MuseScore 2.0.3, this is something of a mystery for the moment (#117191: [Windows] Font kerning issue with lyrics in 2.0.3 not present in 2.0.2), but one thing that seems clear is that this problem only exists in the Windows version of MuseScore. If you don't have access to Mac OS X or Linux, you can use your account to create properly kerned PDFs to print from:

1. File > Save Online... from within MuseScore
2. When the popup says "Finished!", click the "Go to my score" link
3. Click the Download button on the right, and choose PDF

Finally, if you want to try OpenSans, you can download it from here: But I'm not sure if supports that, though it definitely does Arial.

In reply to by Isaac Weiss

Thanks for so much help. It should enable my son, who advises me on operating systems and office suites, to figure out what I should do about them.

Regarding kerning and spacing, which seem to get discussed together, I was never concerned with kerning per se, but with the kind of spacing problem exemplified by the difference between Ariel in staff text and lyrics and documented very well by others. Apparently there is a bug, but FreeSans solves that well enough for me.

I am, however, still wondering about narrowing characters, condensing spaces, and suppressing hyphens to allow another measure to fit on a system. This would be extremely desirable, for reasons I mentioned before. I guess these are feature requests. Even if redesigned fonts were an option, it would hardly make sense to redesign for each scaling from, say, 95(1)99%. OpenOffice enables one to scale any font. Does it simply eliminate the necessary number of vertical slices? And its space condensation, which I would think might be even easier, is extremely effective. The results are completely satisfactory.

Hyphen suppression seems to be possible by typing a word without a hyphen and pressing the space bar an extra time, but this seems dangerous and takes time to do after the fact when one discovers one wants to. It would be nice if one could highlight the syllable before a hyphen and ask that the hyphen be removed, while leaving the syllables attached to the appropriate notes. This would just carry one step further what is already done about hyphens.

In reply to by jwpratt

Lyric spacing is, to a large degree, driven by the spacing of the notes above each syllable, so you can control lyric spacing by adjusting 'stretch' (select the section you want to squeeze or expand, then type { a few times (to squeeze the notes closer together) or } (to spread them further apart). Note that when a syllable is so lengthy (say, something like 'fraught' or 'brought' that it will not fit in the space alloted to the anchor note above it, the program will automatically spread the notes further apart to accomodate that syllable.

Hyphen suppression happens automatically whenever the available space for the character is smaller than a certain hard-coded minimum; the hyphen will automatically reappear if more stretch is applied later or if the line and system breaks change during page make-up and the music loosens up to fill the line. The program will also generate additional hyphens for a long melismatic passage if the space between the hyphen and the next syllable is wider than a certain hard-coded maximum.

In reply to by Recorder485

Thanks. Yes, I've done a lot of { and } in many contexts, not just with lyrics, and they have all kinds of side effects, so much so that I have often wished I could just fix the bar lines where I want them. But that's another story. By the way, when and how moving notes by which of the various methods is going to move bar lines is a mystery I have not found explained.

For narrowing 'fraught', which I would love to be able to do, { and moving notes of course do nothing. I would have hoped to be able to do in MuseScore what my word processor will do. Apparently this is not feasible to implement, but it would not be a good use of your time to explain to me why.

For hyphen suppression, { does far too much, since it applies to the whole measure. If one were going to suppress hyphens by squeezing, what would be wanted is to pull the adjacent notes together just enough to suppress the hyphen. However, sometimes that is not even possible (when there is more than one line of lyrics), and even when it is, it takes trial and error to find the minimum move that suppresses the hyphen, and the notes sometimes become unattractively spaced. What I really want is for MuseScore to 'optimize' the way to do it, or if not that, to simply take out the hyphen and move the adjacent syllables together.

In reply to by jwpratt

For narrowing 'fraught', which I would love to be able to do, { and moving notes of course do nothing. I would have hoped to be able to do in MuseScore what my word processor will do.

Please don't take this the wrong way, but you do NOT want to do that. One of the worst things about offering users the ability to distort letter forms digitally is that they take advantage of it without realising what an unreadable product they are creating by doing so. The human eye and brain are not well adapted to assimilating many different shapes simultaneously; when you use too many different typefaces or fonts in the same piece, the reader's impression is one of confusion, and he will soon abandon the attempt to appreciate the content... which is, after all, what it's all about. Graphic designers should learn this in art school. If they don't, it won't be long before some Art Director will hand them their heads on a plate because their over-complicated designs look like unwrapped garbage.

Good graphic design is based on a consistent and coherent look. The best graphic design is literally transparent; it simply presents the content in the form best suited to it, and the reader never notices that someone actually worked hard to design that book or magazine or musical edition. But the plethora of faces and fonts and--today--the ability to modify any of those digitally, is very, very alluring to the tyro in the field. Changing the typeface or font or size just because you can is a trap that too many people fall into, and the result is always bad.

For you to distort the type of the lyrics or squeeze together the notes in your score just to eliminate a hyphen you think shouldn't be there is bad. You will wind up with something that the singers can't read easily, and that will adversely affect their performance of the music. Remember that performing music is a dynamic act; while you can look at your score in a static environment while you are working on it in the computer, the singers don't have that luxury. For them, it is all moving past their eyes at an inexorable speed, and anything you do to make reading the music and words more difficult is not good.

Lyrics need to be set in a consistent type font and size so that the singers can assimilate what the words say without thinking about it. Their principal task is to sing the correct syllables on the right pitches at the proper time. If they have to struggle through a changing visual 'text-scape' on every syllable, they won't be able to do their job properly.

In reply to by Recorder485

Please don't take this the wrong way, but you do NOT want to be so rigid. I can assure you that I have looked at lots of printout with the kind of slight narrowing and/or space condensation that I am talking about (not a change of font) and it was much better than the alternatives. In straight text without music, it allowed me to get lyrics in 22-point Ariel onto one line where otherwise they would have gone to two, a pain in itself and often resulting in two pages instead of one for a song. Same story in 8.5x11" concert listings (16-point). The situation is similar in music with a melody line and lyrics. It is possible by entering the words as staff text to get something more readable, in larger type (all one font), and yet more compact than MuseScore lyrics provide, but the effort required to get notes and words to line up well this way is enormous, which is why I am content with the MuseScore lyrics. The tiny hyphens look like mistakes, by the way--quite distracting. Both removing them and slight narrowings would sometimes allow another measure in a system in a way that would improve both the readability of the system and the page layout. It is unfortunately not true that MuseScore (or any other) lyrics are consistent, because some are inevitably more spread out than others, for all sorts of reasons, not least the problem of fitting measures into systems. So the visual 'text-scape' is bound to be changing. I don't have any voice left, but I do understand the problem of singing from a score. Keep swinging!

In reply to by jwpratt

... it allowed me to get lyrics in 22-point Ariel onto one line...

It is possible by entering the words as staff text to get something more readable, in larger type (all one font), and yet more compact than MuseScore lyrics provide,

Sorry; I seem to have missed that you were working on material for visually-impaired people. Just forget most of what I said; there are specific guidelines for producing this kind of work and here is a good place to start:

I also seem to have missed that you were using Staff Text to put in the words instead of Lyrics, apparently to increase the size of the lyrics or change the font? This is much easier to do using the Lyrics Text Style dialogue. You can adjust the size, face, and font of the lyrics in MuseScore from the main menu.

Large type lyric 2.png

[ETA: Sorry; the column width appears to have truncated the illustrations, at least in my browser. Click on it to see the whole thing.]

The lyrics in this example were set in 18-point Franklin Gothic Demi Condensed. The demi-bold and condensed fonts of that typeface actually exist; the Roman font was not digitally distorted to make it narrower or bolder here. Click on Styles>Text>Lyrics Odd Lines (Even Lines) and you will get a dialogue window allowing you to set the text style for all your lyrics. (Alternatively, when you are not in lyrics-entry mode you can right-click on any lyric and then click on Text Style. That will bring up the same dialogue window.)

As for those 'tiny hyphens' which look like mistakes when they get squeezed in, yes, that can be a problem (as can the opposite case--not enough hyphens in too much space under a long melisma). The best approach (for now; see below) is to spread the music out using stretch, and/or manually adjust the position of individual syllables.

Large type lyric adjusted 2.png

In this second example, I've stretched the first measure so that the melismatic dashes in 'mi-ghty' and 'for-tress' have enough space to appear properly, and the syllables 'tress', 'is', and 'our' have each been moved laterally slightly to equalise the white space around them somewhat. Stretch you already know about; manually moving a single syllable of a lyric is done by exiting lyric entry mode (ESC), then single-clicking on the syllable you want to move. Once it turns blue, you can move it incrementally up, down, left, or right with the arrow keys.

As a matter of fact, Miwarre, one of the regular contributors to MuseScore, proposed and wrote a revision to the code to fix the 'hyphen' problems about a year ago, but there were some conflicting issues (which I, as a non-developer, don't fully understand), so it didn't get merged. We can only hope that the code conflicts will eventually be resolved and better control of melismatic dash spacing will appear in a future version of the program.

Please don't take this the wrong way, but you do NOT want to be so rigid.

You'll pardon me, I trust, if I practise my 'old curmudgeon' act (just in case I manage to live long enough to get old). But actually, I rather do. There is a difference between welcoming positive change and allowing standards to slip. I do the first prudently and the second only when confronted with force majeur. The digital era has brought many changes in the graphics and typography fields and the most positive ones provide incredible savings of labour and reduction of production costs. But along with that comes the ease with which anyone with the price of a cheap laptop can start 'setting type' without having the least idea of what they are doing. The result is visual garbage that offends the art of typography, and what's worse is that well-intentioned people like yourself are now so accustomed to seeing stuff like that everywhere that they come to think it is normal and acceptable. Somebody's got to rail against that, and it might as well be me. ;o)

In reply to by Recorder485

Lehrer melodies 062916.pdf NOT FOUND: Lehrer melodies [inline:concerts BH Apr-May 2016r.pdf 062916.pdf] Mikado melody r.mscz
First let me assure you that I love your 'old curmudgeon' act. At 84, I have the first part well under control, but I can only aspire to your curmudgeon level. To clarify a couple of things, when I moved to a retirement community three years ago, I did some sing-alongs in the nursing unit. I handed out words only, a sheet at a time. I looked at a website much like the one you suggest, if not the same one, and even downloaded a special font, APHont, but it was ugly and not enough better than Ariel to use. I experimented with a kind, very dim-sighted resident (you can do much the same by putting the paper far away) and concluded that Ariel 22 was the best compromise. Bigger meant too many lines wouldn't fit, and how many people could read 23 but not 22?. At the time I think I didn't know about squeezing characters. More recently I have done posters. An exampl (pdf) is attached. (Maybe not, but why not?) You will consider it too busy, and a busier one I did once definitely was too busy, but there are reasons for the colors, clefs, etc. (I am competing with other posters, BFM needs to be distinguished from the activities department, etc.) I often find just a little squeeze lets me get on a line what I want to. The reason this is relevant is that your stringent strictures apply as much (or little) to straight text as to lyrics in scores.

As to the latter, the advantage of staff text rather than lyrics for me is that one can fit more on a line with any given font. I know I can change fonts in lyrics and I know the other tricks you mention, though I tend to forget, for example, about the possibility of moving a syllable in non-lyric mode. But in the Lehrer attached (again maybe not, why not??, printed Album, I think). I am pretty sure Lyrics would not fit without going to a smaller font and it would not look as nice, although the attachment of syllables to notes would be tighter. At the time, I had given up on Lyrics, but, tiring of all that work, I decided to give Lyrics another try (the Mikado attachment). The third line from the bottom of p2 is staff text, because the text won't fit in Lyrics mode. Occasionally it works to delete a Lyric word and put it in in staff text instead (same size but more ability to reduce space).

MuseScore doesn't offer Franklin Gothic Demi Condensed (nor does my work processor). Franklin Gothic Medium is available and an interesting possibility. I don't think I ever tried it. It is not what 'Gothic' suggests to me. It seems to be close to the same width as Ariel. Is it recommended (generally or by you) for readability given size? It looks heavy aesthetically but slightly better by my distance test. In my Mikado it leads to two extra lines in one place and one in another, but maybe that could be fixed. :-)

In reply to by jwpratt

Heh-heh. ;o) Thanks for the compliments on my 'old curmudgeon act'. I'm only about five months shy of 65, but I've been mudgeoning curs wherever I find them for as long as I can remember. Great way to Lose Friends and Alienate People, as Simon Pegg might say....

I've looked at your two scores (the poster didn't come through for some reason), and I wouldn't mind giving you some tips on how to improve the presentation, but I don't want to shove anything down your throat if you'd prefer sticking with your own methods. So take this as you will; I approve wholeheartedly of your motives in encouraging people to sing.

There are a couple of issues here that should be dealt with right off the bat.

First, if most of your singers are not musicians--that is, they are not people who can actually read music and sing the notes printed in the staff--you are probably wasting your time preparing an actual musical part for them. Most non-musicians who like to sing for fun are more than happy to have just the lyrics printed on a sheet of paper. They will listen to the pianist play the tune, and sing the printed lyrics along with the piano. They don't need the music itself; they are singing by ear, and the only thing they really need is the words.

Second: If they do have enough musical training to be able to hit a B-flat when there's a B-flat printed in the staff, then you do want to give them a real part. Especially if you are giving them individual harmonic parts rather than asking them to sing in unison. But in that case, you need to give them a part that's printed in standard vocal notation, because that's what they're used to seeing. In other words, you need to follow the conventions of music publishing, and not attempt to 're-invent the wheel' on your own, tempting though that might be.

Finally: MuseScore makes this easy. The 'Lyrics' tool allows you to set the lyrics type as large as necessary to accomodate your visually-challenged singers, and the program will automatically stretch out the notes to accomodate the width of the lyrics whatever size you set them. Let the program do that, and then make only those few positioning adjustments you really have to make for a good visual presentation. What you need to do is accept that you canNOT force each poetic line of lyrics onto one printed line of music. Aligning each line of the lyrics works (usually) well enough on text-only lead-sheets; it does not work in a musical part and you can't force it to do so without making an unholy mess and driving yourself round the bend in the process.

Singers used to singing from actual choral parts are accustomed to seeing melismatic dashes between syllables; they are also used to seeing the words placed below the notes on which they must be sung. They do not mind if that means the whole phrase of the verse doesn't fit on one staff line of music. That is normal. Don't kill yourself trying to 'fix' it because it's not broken ...and the result wouldn't help your singers anyway.

In reply to by Recorder485

Thanks. I think we are actually on the "same page" (sorry). What I am doing is essentially what you suggest, I think.

The 22-point texts are golden oldies for people who don't read music. The songs are so familiar that music would be superfluous. It is here (text-only lead-sheets) that I want lines to fit. Texts in 22-point type of almost 200 songs are available free from Noteworthy Sheet Music, btw, as are arrangements of quite a few of them, prepared in older versions of MuseScore.

I am also doing Lehrer and G&S for people who do read music. We are singing in unison. The melodies are on the edge of familiar but not in all detail, so the melody is a big help. I found I wanted it myself when someone else was accompanying. Furthermore, we are using the Martyn Green Treasury for G&S, because it is transposed, but it also has cuts and adaptations, making the actual score hard to use. Here I am not trying to make text lines fit, but letting MuseScore Lyrics do its thing at a size I think reasonable, just as you suggest. Ariel 11 (or Franklin Gothic Medium) seems about right. No smaller, because not everyone has 20-20 vision, and people might sometimes be sharing, etc. (Green's words are much smaller and italic to boot.) But page lay-out can sometime be enormously improved by fitting a bit more on a line here and there to avoid a short final system, or especially an orphan, to get a new section to the beginning of a system, etc. For a time (as in the Lehrer) I was using staff text, fitting more or less what would fit easily on each system, and adjusting the notes and adding hyphens as needed. It didn't make an unholy mess. In fact it looked better than I can get with MSLyrics, and was a bit more compact and at the same time more readable (see the Mikado line I mentioned). However, although it didn't drive me round the bend, it took an inordinate amount of time. I have a lot, but not that much. So I expect to use MSLyrics in future, I think in the manner you suggest.

In reply to by jwpratt

I had a couple of hours this morning so I went through that Mikado score of yours and fixed up the formatting and got rid of the main problems you'd created by trying to squeeze too much onto one line or page. The result is now one page shorter than your original, and it is much more readable.

Mikado melody REFORMATTED.mscz

This is not up to our publishing standards--I don't have the time to make all the needed micro-adjustments--but it ought to be fine for your resident choristers. I'll explain a bit what I did and why so you'll be able to use the same methods to work over the Tom Lehrer on your own.

1. Those measures in your score which overprinted on top of other measures and lines of music which ran off the edge of the pages were mostly the result of you reducing the stretch in those measures to 0.00 (although using staff text as lyrics also contributed to the problem). In addition to being completely unreadable, that sort of thing makes the measures themselves very difficult to select so they can be corrected. I selected one clear measure at the beginning, called up the Measure Properties dialogue, and used the 'next measure' arrow to go through the whole score, checking the actual stretch you'd assigned to each measure. I was then able to reset it to a normal value (usually between 1.00 and 1.20).

result of zero stretch.png

2. I set the Lyrics text style to 12-point Franklin Gothic Medium Condensed, which you said you have in your computer so it should print and export to PDF properly. This font is a true condensed font; it saves lateral space while maintaining legibility. It should be a good deal more legible for people with vision problems than the Free Serif you were using.

3. I got rid of any staff text you used to replace lyrics that hadn't fit the way you wanted the first time, and put the words back in as true lyrics. You cannot mix those two types of text in the way you did, because every time a the program re-does the page layout (which happens constantly while you work on a piece), the lyrics will adjust their positions relative to their anchor notes properly, but the staff text won't. It just doesn't work.

4. I inserted a section break before the beginning of each new song; which restarts the visual numbering of the measures (I also turned on measure numbers so they will show and print). In additon, if the new song started part-way down a page, I inserted a 5.0-sp.-tall vertical frame. I took out the staff spacers you used; they are harder to see and select while editing and laying out the score.

5. I removed the random horizontal offsets you had applied to the staff texts you used for song titles, and I standardised the vertical offset at -3.00 sp. If you want the song titles 'out-dented' to the left, choose a standard value for the horizontal offset (negative values move it left) and apply that value using the inspector (F8). Don't try to do it by clicking and dragging the text to where you think it looks good; you can't be precise enough that way. If you use a mouse, every title will be in a slightly different spot.

6. I set the lyrics top margin to 3.0, and the lyrics bottom margin to 6.0, both with a vertical offset of +5.00. This keeps the lyrics close to the notes to which they are to be sung, and inserts additional space below the lyrics to help the eye track from one staff to the next without getting lost.

7. The program's page-makeup algorithm is fairly good, but it is (naturally) literal-minded. I manually forced page and line breaks in a few places to get a better overall result and avoid single lines of music at the tops and bottoms of pages.

If you want to have this printed in booklets for your singers, you can export it to PDF, then save that PDF on a thumb drive. Take the thumb drive to a local copy shop and ask them to print that file as a booklet on 11x17 paper. It will require 6 sheets of paper to print the 24 pages, and the last page (page 24) will be blank. If you want to design a cover for the score, go ahead and do that in your word-processor, then convert it to pdf and add that page to the score PDF as page 1. Then delete page 25 and save the result on the thumb drive. The copy shop's printer driver will take care of doing the page-to-sheet imposition.

ETA: PS--I suggest you don't mess with the stretch settings I've embedded in the score, because if you do, the line breaks and page breaks will likely all change and you'll have to re-do the page makeup from scratch. If you want to adjust the placement of a particular note or syllable, just single-click it, then use the arrow keys to move it incrementally left or right. Good luck!

In reply to by Recorder485

Thanks for your efforts. Unfortunately I don't know how to look at your files. And before I try to understand the details, a couple of things may be relevant. I have Franklin Gothic Medium, but not condensed. Even 11 point is wider than Ariel 11. 11 and 12 look identical in my MuseScore except that 12 results in more space between lines, at least when I simply switch between them. Oddly enough, 10 and 13 look very different, 10 not at all bf and 13 much bigger, which puzzles me. I have a very satisfactory (i.e. readable, not ugly, nothing running off pages) 12-page printout, so I don't see how yours can be shorter. I admit, many types of editing would be extremely hard to do at this point, though cleaning up things like the song titles would be easy. (I don't want to out-dent because the margins are already small.)

It is true that using bits or even lines of staff text is a pain, but I haven't been able to accomplish the same thing by moving notes or syllables, not to mention that moving notes sometimes moves bar lines when I don't want them moved. The 0 measure stretches result from desperate efforts to narrow measures when it is clear that doing so should get another measure into a system. It seems that when there are lyrics around, this is not effective, though I have done it lot with purely instrumental music. My editing instincts are the same as yours, though far less skillful. What I am afraid is that I am trying to make bigger adjustments than is possible in Lyric mode even though there is enough space for them.

I've used section breaks and have no problem with that idea, though I'm not using measure numbers at all in G&S because Green doesn't. Spacers are quicker to insert than frames, especially since I can't seem to keep vertical and horizontal straight. I agree they are annoyingly difficult to select.

I went with the default lyric margins, etc. Are they not appropriate?

Thanks again. If I get anywhere, I'll let you know, and I'll certainly have your suggestions in mind in the future.

In reply to by Recorder485

I, too, am curious to see your improvements; however, your attachment
Mikado melody REFORMATTED.mscz
gives me a load error when I try to open it in MuseScore. The ampersand in measure 78, and another in measure 80, are problematic. If I replace the '&' with 'and', I can open the file.
(However... I do not have Franklin Gothic Medium Condensed, so I'm not really viewing what you see.)


In reply to by Jm6stringer

Okay, I'm stumped (and very annoyed!) by the corruption in the uploaded file. I worked on that for quite a while, and it opens fine in my computer, but not when I click on the link in the forum. Drat.

I have converted it to a PDF and uploaded that. One may hope that whatever is wrong with the mscz file (and remember, the original file from which I worked was FULL of methylethylbadstuff) will not affect a static PDF.

Attachment Size
Mikado melody REFORMATTED.pdf 337.82 KB

In reply to by Jm6stringer

@jm6--Thanks; I'll go back and look at those ampersands. I did not have the time go through every note or lyric in this thing (that is beyond what I can donate to help this gentlemen out); I only worked on fixing the grossly obvious problems and doing a basic page make-up that he could start with.

Don't answer this message for a few minutes; if I can get that file fixed I'll edit this and attach the mscz file to it.

ETA: I can't find any ampersands. 'Which' measures 78 ad 80 do you mean? The actual measure numbers, or the logical ones in one of the individual songs? (And if so, which song?)

In reply to by Recorder485

Apparently, the font you use does not embed in the pdf file. I see 23 pages - so definitely not one page shorter than the original 12 pages.
Also, in the pdf, the problematic ampersands in measures 78 & 80 are left blank. (In the first song: vase jar, screen fan)


You need to make the pdf from an exported image of the score.


In reply to by Jm6stringer

@jm6--Not sure what making a pdf from an exported image means, but in the original mscz file I downloaded from the OP's link, those ampersands do not appear at all; they are 'blank' as you see them in the pdf. So my pdf is faithful to my reformatting of the original mscz I received.

When I first opened his file, it showed up as 24 pages. Now it's showing as 16 pages. (I just deleted that file and downloaded it again to double-check; it now comes in as 16 pages. Huh??) And that overwrite 'garbage' I posted as a screen shot was only one of several similar spots in the score, but apparently he doesn't see that in his computer. (That's still present in the repeated download.) What do you see when you download his original file? When I checked each individual measure in those areas (in the way I explained), it showed that they had had the stretch reduced to zero. Fixing that in the measure properties dialogue caused the measures to expand properly and stop stepping on each other.

In any event, something really strange is going on here. I don't know if the fact I'm running 2.0.1 has anything to do with it. The OP's file was created using the same version, so it shouldn't, but is it possible that is reading uploaded files using the latest (2.0.3) version?

Good grief. Yet one more illustration of why 'digital publishing' is such a bloody mare's nest....

In reply to by Recorder485

Not sure what making a pdf from an exported image means

Aha! Now there's the rub!

A music manuscript scanned into a pdf file has different characteristics from, say, one notated using a score writer (e.g. MuseScore) and then exported as pdf. There's kind of a litmus test to show the difference:
Using a pdf reader, if you open a pdf generated by a score writer and select/drag the mouse cursor across the page, you will see discrete elements highlighted. Here's the first page of your "Mikado melody REFORMATTED.pdf" which you converted within MuseScore:


Notice the discrete elements.

Here's the same page, this time as a scanned pdf:


See? This pdf is merely a picture image with no discernible elements.

So... what's the difference?
Well, for starters any music conversion software will have an easier time with a score writer's pdf export - there's more information available to reconstruct a score. That's why an app like PDFtoMusic ( insist on PDF files that have been exported from a score editor software.
In contrast, an app like Audiveris - an optical music recognition software ( - can process the image of a music sheet. Audiveris is what MuseScore's pdf import uses - much more complex to get right.

Also, scanned image pdfs never have font issues from OS to OS and computer to computer. The image itself is 'locked'.

To be continued...

EDIT (continued):

What do you see when you download his original file?

Well, starting with jwpratt's "Mikado melody r.mscz" which is posted above, what I see is *exactly* this pdf:
Mikado Medley first half.pdf
Mikado Medley second half.pdf

The above file was generated by combining MuseScore's exported png images into a single pdf file. (Actually, I had to split it in 2 parts to meet the forum's single file upload limit.)
It is not the pdf file exported from within MuseScore.
As you can see, I get 12 pages - but I'm seeing it in MuseScore version 2.03, which I assumed you were. Newer versions have better layout, I guess, so I don't notice your 'zero stretch' overwrite. it possible that is reading uploaded files using the latest (2.0.3) version?

No, files uploaded on the forum are not available on


In reply to by Jm6stringer

Thanks; that's quite interesting. So if I need to save a file as an absolute image, independent of whatever fonts might be loaded in the viewer's computer, I can export as a png file. I'll have to see how my rather limited PDF editor likes the taste of those; the question has never come up here before because we do not do digital publishing. Normally, no one ever sees our pdfs except our editors, composers, and proofreaders. I use them as print masters, that's all.

Funny, though; I just tried exporting a png from the OP's original mscz file, and it crashed the program. (AppHang B2.)

That's not all that's been going wrong, either. I had created that 'reformatted' mscz I posted yesterday from the OPs original, and it was still open in MuseScore this morning. Just before the png export crashed the program, I had tried to bring up the layout properties dialogue in that file to check something, and doing THAT crashed the program. (AppCrash). Upon recovery, the program informed me that it could not load--at all!--my own file (which had been saved to to the hard drive). I got no option to ignore, no list of bad measures, just 'Cannot load'. So I'm curious how you managed to open my file but glad you could (and thanks for posting the repaired version of it, too).

As Jojo guessed, I am indeed running 2.0.1. I had no idea these inter-version layout bugs existed, but it seems to explain why I saw something completely different when I opened the OPs file. The confusion over the number of pages I saw versus what you saw is explained by the layout errors causing four single lines of music (each of which were followed by a hard page break) to skip over onto a new page. That added four new pages, 12+4=16. As for the rest, I must have been misremembering when I stated I saw 24 pages upon opening that file; it's more likely I got 24 pages after the first modification I made, which was to kick the scaling up from 1.4 to 1.9. Occam's razor, and all that, you know....

The one thing not yet explained is why, when I opened the OP's file, the file properties 'INFO' box shows that it was created in 2.0.1 if he was indeed using 2.0.3.

file properties mikado OP version.png


In any event, it's a very good thing for me that I did NOT install 2.0.3; all our published editions are formatted using 2.0.1 (and it took six months to reformat our older 1.3 files in that version when we first installed it). If I had to do all those files over again for 2.0.3, I'd probably go back to Speedballs, India ink, and staff paper...and invent a whole new dictionary of cuss words.

In reply to by Recorder485

...I'm curious how you managed to open my file...

Well, in a nutshell, a MuseScore .mscz file is a compressed (zipped) version of the .mscx file format - which is basically a text file.

Here's more:
An .mscz file can be uncompressed (first re-named to .zip, if needed) into an .mscx file.
That .mscx file can be opened (re-named to .txt, if needed) in a text editor, where it can be manually edited.
Notepad++ is my text editor of choice for this purpose as it is geared towards troubleshooting - more so than the regular (Windows) Notepad.

Opening your (corrupt) Mikado melody REFORMATTED - using in MuseScore 2.0.3 - gave me read errors (yes, as per Jojo, there were, in fact, three):
XML read error at line 3012 column 20
XML read error at line 3070 column 20
XML read error at line 8692 column 20
(These are the locations in the uncompressed MuseScore text.)

Here are the actual score locations:
In the first song's lyrics: 'vase & jar' @ meas. 78
In the first song's lyrics: 'screen & fan' @ meas. 80
In the second song's closing lyrics : 'shreds & patches' @ meas. 98
(You can view the actual ampersands in my posted pdf: Mikado Medley first half.pdf )

I changed the ampersands (a known issue) at those locations to the word 'and', reloaded into MuseScore, then saved.
(You can see the 'and' in the corrected Mikado melody REFORMATTED2.mscz - posted in my other comment below.)

Regarding inter-version layouts:
Once MuseScore got the 'basics' of music notation under control, newer versions (besides adding new features) also tweaked the layout parameters - thereby (hopefully) reducing the need for manual adjustments. So, there's likely to be differences (not really bugs) when opening a file in different versions - especially after you have saved lots of manual adjustments.
Other software, like media players for instance, mainly improve 'ease of use' via changing the app's 'front-end' graphical interface - not a problem when opening something like an mp3 file in newer versions of the app.


In reply to by Jm6stringer

That information may one day save my bacon, my dear sir. Thank you very much. I managed to copy the corrupt file without opening it (it won't open in 2.0.1, period), paste it back into the directory, and rename it as a .zip file. I don't have Notepad ++, but I got it to open in Wordpad. ('Regular' Notepad just gave me gibberish.)

On the diffs between versions for layout, etc., the fear that that sort of thing might affect finished scores in our files is the primary reason that stopped me from updating 2.0.1 when the subsequent versions became available. I wouldn't have expected the level of corruption I saw in the OP's score when I opened it, but even a single measure tweaked to a different line by the program can play havoc with a finished edition if it goes unnoticed until we reprint. We have to be able to rely on the files not changing by themselves when we re-open them for minor corrections or whatever; otherwise the whole lengthy proofreading process would have to be done all over again.

Well, an innocent (in Haydn's sense, perhaps) inquiry about shrinking has certainly led to exotic territory. To put it in perspective, originally I decided as an experiment, and to learn the Lyrics feature, to see how quickly I could put the Mikado words and melodies in Green's Treasury into MuseScore, with no thought of elegance and no 'house' style or standards. Of course, once I started trying to improve things, I wished I had thought more carefully first, an old story. Here's where things stand.
Mikado melody r.mscz Mikado melody r.pdf
(I am pretty sure I was using 2.03 from the beginning, btw. I certainly am now.) I grant you it would be nice if the systems were a bit further apart, but I wouldn't want to go to anything as curmudgeonly as 23 pp. My preference as an amateur pianist who has to turn his own pages gets me in the habit of crowding things. Also I had in mind adding quite a bit more. (Green has over 100 songs.) I have actually looked a little at spacing the systems a bit further apart, but the page breaks seemed to work out badly. :-(

I hoped as a sop to 485 at least to locate the song titles numerically as he (I hope not a female curmudgeon) would like, but the horizontal location is relative to an un-numerical point, so I was thwarted in that direction. Vertically they have sometimes to clear something, sometimes not.

Am I the OP? Old Pest? Other Person? Outside Personage? Original Perpetrator?

In reply to by jwpratt

I feel sorry for the 'old curmudgeon' ;-)
He spent all that time - and his attachment, "Mikado melody REFORMATTED.mscz", can't be opened!

Well... if you're interested, here's his MuseScore (mscz) file with the two loading errors corrected:
Mikado melody REFORMATTED2.mscz

You should be able to open it in MuseScore and you will see, it definitely is not one page shorter!
I have no idea what Recorder485 saw as he corrected your original!

P.S.... OP = Original Poster

In reply to by jwpratt

originally I decided as an experiment, and to learn the Lyrics feature, to see how quickly I could put the Mikado words and melodies in Green's Treasury into MuseScore, with no thought of elegance and no 'house' style or standards. Of course, once I started trying to improve things, I wished I had thought more carefully first, an old story.

Indeed, an old story and a common one. Reminds me of the time I bought a hammer and a few power tools and decided to rebuild my tiny cottage into a 3-storey house. I got through that hare-brained project alive thanks to the patience of experts who took pity on my 'innocence' and (more gently than I deserved) steered me in the right direction. I'm just trying to pass that on; a few extra karmic points never did one any harm, or so they say.

I grant you it would be nice if the systems were a bit further apart, but I wouldn't want to go to anything as curmudgeonly as 23 pp. My preference as an amateur pianist who has to turn his own pages gets me in the habit of crowding things.

Heh, heh. That is a very bad habit. An old saying puts it succinctly, if somewhat bluntly: Don't try to put 10 pounds of 'rice' into a 5-pound bag, or you'll wind up with 'rice' all over the place. In this case, the extra white space between the staves is more important to the readability of that material than is increasing the actual size of the lyrics or music. Even people with good vision get lost between the end of one line of music and the beginning of the next if there isn't enough separation between the lines. The human eye doesn't track very well laterally when the overall impression it has is of one big mass of type. Look at this:

lorem ipsum.pdf

In other words, you need to use a big enough bag. ;o)

As for the rest of your comment, I don't understand; what you posted is not a piano part, it is a vocal part, simply the melody with the lyrics. Only an experienced continuo player could play from this, and then only if he knew the songs well enough to improvise the harmony without any bass figuring. If you extracted that vocal part from a piano score that you created, you can format those two elements differently. But in your situation, I would think the simplest thing to do would be to have the pianist play directly from the original Martyn Green score that you have.

Finally, you should not think of adding more songs to that same file; it is already too long as it stands. Everytime you input a new note or anything else, MuseScore parses the entire file and re-evaluates the page makeup and layout. When the files get too large, this slows down the whole process and soon you're waiting a few seconds (or longer) after every keystroke for the computer to respond. I have a very fast computer, and when I was working on your file, I noticed a distinct lag; if you add more songs to that file, it will become unworkable. Just divide your files into no more than a few songs each; it will make your life easier all around.

In reply to by Recorder485

First, I started a reply, looked at something else, and my start disappeared. This has happened before. Do unfinished replies go somewhere where they can be found?

Of course I was not expecting the accompanist to play from words and melody. All I meant is that I got in the habit of keeping things tight because I work a lot with piano scores where I want good page turns and a minimum number. This is easiest to accomplish by starting tight and loosening. Ditto good layout generally, I would say. MuseScore automatically supplies a big enough bag--just big enough if asked.

Since my amateur effort has attracted so much interest (is it Mikado?), here is a 15-page version for you to enjoy mudgeoning, heh-heh. It seems to me about the right compromise. Following Marc Sabatella's advice, I got here by Album-ing smaller files, but final corrections are quicker to make and layout easier to judge on the combined file. I wish there were a way to get the compiled file updated from components like a score from parts.

When I speak of enlarging the file, I mean the final product. I will certainly work with components. If I were to do the whole Green Treasury (unlikely), it would be about 6 times what I have done, 60 pages in my original style, 90 in the style attached, and 138 in curmudgeonly style, another reason I resist expansive layout. As do newspapers, btw. And just for the record, I never expected to be carrying this anywhere near so far.

When I went to fewer systems on a page, I noticed that when MuseScore has extra space on a page, it spaces systems equally even when different systems have different numbers of lines of lyrics. Is the an easy way to equalize the space between lyrics and the next system, or compromise?

Finally, since you are full of opinions (I didn't say 'opinionated'), do you like alternate lines of lyrics in different fonts? Even with three, it seems to me top, middle, and bottom are easily found and different fonts unpleasant.
Mikado melody rx.pdf Mikado melody rx.mscz

In reply to by jwpratt

First, I started a reply, looked at something else, and my start disappeared. This has happened before. Do unfinished replies go somewhere where they can be found?

Oh, yes, they do go somewhere, but finding them is another matter! I am persuaded that those unfinished replies inhabit the unfathomable interstices of cyberspace and that they are all sitting at the virtual bar swilling down digital rotgut and laughing their over-nourished nether regions off at us poor mortals. One day they will Declare The Revolution, and we will be back to chipping e-mails into stone tablets and using our 'devices' for boat-anchors....

MuseScore automatically supplies a big enough bag--just big enough if asked.

Yes, it does, but as I said, it is (necessarily) literal-minded. You will always need to make manual adjustments to page-makeup to get a musician-friendly final product. Fortunately, MuseScore allows you to do this by inserting page- and line-breaks where needed. In addition, when you are trying to produce a specialty product--'large-type' music parts, for visually-impaired users--you will have to override the 'general population' assumptions built into the layout algorithm by the developers. We can't expect MuseScore to be structured for that one narrow market.

When I went to fewer systems on a page, I noticed that when MuseScore has extra space on a page, it spaces systems equally even when different systems have different numbers of lines of lyrics. Is the an easy way to equalize the space between lyrics and the next system, or compromise?

Not that I know of, unfortunately. You could set the 'maximum' and 'minimum' system distances to the same value--which, theoretically, ought to cause the program to set the systems at one fixed distance from each other--but I have never done so, so I don't know what the results would be. In music publishing, we have learned to accept the fact that it is not practical to insist on the sort of uniformity that is required for books, magazines, and newspapers. The nature of the content is too different to be treated in a similar manner.

Finally, since you are full of opinions (I didn't say 'opinionated'), do you like alternate lines of lyrics in different fonts? Even with three, it seems to me top, middle, and bottom are easily found and different fonts unpleasant.

I much prefer being accused of being full of opinions to being accused of being full of (ahem!) something less appetising. ;o) But in this case, I agree with you that setting alternating lines of lyrics in Roman and Italic fonts results in an 'unpleasant'-looking product. The truth is, there is no really good graphic solution to this. Alternating different fonts for odd and even lines of lyrics--especially for hymns, where there are often six, eight, or twelve verses!--is a traditional solution to the problem, but it looks horrible. It has the practical advantage of making it easier for a singer's eyes to track from each verse individually, but it makes the whole score look bad.

One possible alternative is to set the first verse and chorus under the music as usual, and then set all the additional verses in blocks of poetic text at the bottom of the score, separately. Many hymnals and popular-music editions do it this way, but for material as complex as G&S I am not certain how well it might work. The theory is that the singers learn the melody and breaks whilst singing the first verse, and then apply that to the subsequent verses.

The way I would do this would be to combine MuseScore output with wordprocessor output in a composite PDF, which would set the music and the text pages containing the additional verses on separate pages. If that won't work for you, you can create a 'text frame' within MuseScore and enter as much text as you like in it, but you will have to break each line manually. There is no automatic formatting within such frames.

...another reason I resist expansive layout. As do newspapers, btw.

Newspapers (and magazines) are VERY concerned with saving space, as editorial content is an 'expense' element while advertising content is a 'revenue' element. They solve this problem in a different manner than music publishers do (we solve it by charging what it costs to produce the edition, as book publishers do, but consumers don't like it!). Newpapers and magazines set the bulk of their content in multiple narrow columns on a page--anywhere from 11 picas to 22 picas wide--which means they can set the editorial content in much smaller type, with correspondingly smaller leading between the lines. Result: more content fits in less space. But music set in multiple columns on a single page does not work very well, and it is almost never done except in a textbook where 'A' versus 'B' comparisons are necessary for student comprehension.

All that said, I took a quick look at your revised 15-page-long version, and it is a good deal better than your earlier one. Unless you want to add a cover page to that 'edition', you might as well expand it to 16 pages, since booklet printing is done on 11x17 sheets, each containing four pages of original material. It would be great if you had access to an 11x17 printer to produce your parts, but even if you don't, pretty much any good copy-shop will have a big, 11x17 laser printer that can handle this sort of job. If they charge you $1.00 per sheet, remember that you're actually getting four PAGES of material for that price, so it works out to 25 cents per page...the same you would pay for ordinary 8.5x11 photocopies in most places.

In reply to by Recorder485

All very interesting. Not much mudgeon, but I can live with that. I'm not worrying about p16 because I plan to add more material. Management here hands out 11x17 sheets and I think I could get access to the printer. That will leave me the problem of getting the pages set up correctly or figuring out how the printer does it. I had a jolly time last year making a 5.5x11 booklet with ordinary printing (set up in 2-column landscape--why don't we use A4?), so this should be a piece of cake. Thanks.

In reply to by jwpratt

The driver for the 11x17 printer should be able to handle making your score into booklets. What you might need to watch out for is if the driver for your PDF editor/reader conflicts with the driver for the printer. A bit of experimenting will let you know about that; if the pages don't come out the size you set them to print, there's a conflict, so try using a different PDF reader.

Anyway, the way these things work is you set your paper size first, then select 'booklet' and 'two-sided' and 'fit to page' in the preferences. The driver will take care of ordering the individual pages in your continuous PDF so that they impose, or print, in the proper places on those 4-page sheets. Unless you have a four-page instrumental part that you need to fold on the right edge, just send the PDF file through with the pages all in numerical order. The driver will sort them out properly.

A long-arm stapler can be used to stitch the sheets into a finished booklet.

In reply to by Recorder485

Understood, thanks. The real fun I had was making a 5.5x8 booklet by printing left pages, flipping, and then printing right pages, the point being that some printers (like mine) are very slow when printing two-sided and some (like my previous one) won't do it at all. Of course I also couldn't resist taking advantage of the extra height. A4 people don't have that fun. And I bought my own long-arm stapler just for the purpose. I did not find a satisfactory page trimmer, however.

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