Ledger lines for mix of small- and full-sized notes on same stem sized incorrectly

• May 18, 2013 - 13:12
Reported version
P1 - High
S3 - Major

1. Open attached score (produced in 1.3).

Result: The ledger lines for the small notes are the same as the ones for normal notes.

Notes: In page 569 of 'Behind Bars', it is stated: "Ledger lines for cue notes should be the same vertical distance apart as full-sized ledger lines (although they are thinner) since it is important that cue notes are on the same level above or below the stave as full-sized notes."

Using MuseScore 2.0 Nightly Build (c22aca9) - Mac 10.7.5.


I couldn't see anything about the stem, but I think it's too big - it is protruding the inner part of the notehead.

Does anyone know of rules for this?

I know very little about "rules" (old editions from reputable publishers are my primary source of info), but I believe that:

1) Ledger lines, stem and flags "do not belong" to the note, rather to the chord as a whole: several notes in the same chord share the stem, the flag and (some of) the ledger lines (this is different from accidentals: an accidental cannot by definition belong to more than one note).

2) If some notes in the chord are set to "Small", this should not affect the properties of the chord and of its parts (ledger lines, stem, flag(s)...).

3) If the chord as a whole is set to "Small", ledger lines and hooks should be scaled down in both directions (thinner and shorter) and stem should be thinner (but not shorter: stem length is governed by other "rules") by the same percentage (currently 70% is the default).

If this can be agreed upon, then induce some uniformity in the current formatting should be relatively easy.


If this information is true, then it is my assumption that there is something wrong with how ledger lines behave in the current 2.0.3 version of MuseScore.

1. Right now, this is what ledger lines look like when there are two notes, and neither one is small:
Ledger Lines and Small notes1.png

2. This is what it looks like when there is one small note. The ledger line gets shorter on the right of the full size note. The middle chord is significantly harder to read when only part of the ledger line extends from the full size note.
Ledger Lines and Small notes2.png

Title Ledger lines for small notes aren't thinner Ledger lines for small notes sized incorrectly

True, That's related, but actually a different issue. The original issue is actually no longewr an issue - if you make the whole *chord* small, the ledger line gets smaller and thinner just as it should.

However, if you make individual *notes* within the chord smaller, it is much less clear what should happen since ledger lines are shared by the whole chord. Probably ledger lines should stay full size to avoid the issue you show. Right now it seems a bug that making a note on the staff small affects ledger lines that have nothing to do with that note.

As such, I'm changing the title to reflect the current situation. Master behaves same way.

Hah! Yeah, looks like we check the bottom note of the chord only rather than, well, just about anything else would be more reasonable. There's a loop a little further down that goes through all notes; we could be calculated "hw" there instead by taking the maximum width of any note head that actually needs a ledger line. Bonus points for doing this independently for ledger lines above and below the staff.

Slight correction: the loop goes until broken (you can look at the boolean), so not all notes are gone through. In #4 you state: "Probably ledger lines should stay full size to avoid the issue..."
If that is the expected behavior, we probably would have to do something different than just go through the notes (what if all the notes are small, but the chord isn't?).
In #7, I guess you are saying that the expected behavior is that ledger lines on one side should be smaller if all notes that require ledger lines on that side are small?

Ledgers lines should be small only if all notes that require them are small. So if all notes above the staff are small, then the ledger lines above could be small, and ditto for below. Or, simply base the ledgers lines on the widest head period - I don't know that this is "wrong". After all, we don't really shrink other elements of a chord just because one note is small.

Personally, I'm good with just keep ledger lines full size unless the chord is marked small. But would be good to understand real-world use cases better. I would also say you probably can't go wrong with basing ledger line on widest notehead.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

As Chen Lung quoted from Behind the Bars the real use case is cue notes. It is rare to have cue notes and regular notes on the same line, so I would say the the ledger line should only by smaller if only cue notes are used. The pictures from the discussion are weird looking. See especially #2 here

Based on the example above, the expected result for this particular use case seems to be, make all ledger lines full size up to the highest full size note, then if there are small notes above that, makes those ledger lines small. But that's really extrapolating a lot from a couple of chords in a single example from a single publisher, would be good to find other mixed use examples and see what rules they seem to be following.

Title Ledger lines for small notes sized incorrectly Ledger lines for mix of small- and full-sized notes on same stem sized incorrectly
Severity S1 - Blocker
Frequency Many
Regression No
Reproducibility Always
Workaround No

Hi, I just downloaded the newest version, and it is still making ledger lines small for full-sized notes when the bottom-most note on the stem is set as Small. In case there is any question, every full-sized note on a ledger line needs a full-sized ledger line, full stop. There is never a musical condition in which a regular sized note-head needs a small ledger line. If I knew how to code, I'd help fix it myself, but I'm just a composer. I am begging, please fix the code. I don't even know how to categorize my comment so it reaches the right developer/coder/fixer-of-program-things, but I definitely do know how printed music is supposed to look, and it's not like that. Please, please help. Please.

Workaround No Yes

I think line identified in https://musescore.org/en/node/21131#comment-494036 is indeed why we currently are always using the bottom note, which is just obviously wrong. A simple fix would be to take the bottom note if stem is up, top note if stem is down. But in the responses below that comment, there are other more sophisticated alogrithms suggested that would really require we think harder about the expected results in different cases. Meanwhile I'd be fine with just making the simplistic change for now.

Meanwhile, since we know it's the bottom note that wins, a workaround is to add an invisible note below the others. Another is to enter the small notes in voice 3.

Actually, since we build the ledger lines from outside in, it's easy to do something better still: have the ledger lines be long enough for all notes on that line or further out:


While arguably the ledger line for the small note on the second chord could be made small too since the note actually on the line is small, , this doesn't seem right - that ledger line also needs to "support" the note above it.

If people are OK with this, I'll submit the PR.

Fix version