Adjusting system distances non-mathematically? :?)

• Nov 6, 2021 - 09:16

(re MS v3.6)
Hi guys,
I wanted to move a system closer to the preceding one, but dragging it had no effect. I thought this might be a way to keep people from inadvertently moving staves up/down while editing. Another way I’ve seen it done is by dragging the beginning or end of a staff up/down (making a control box appear in those places), but that didn’t work either.
To make it a bit more confusing, when I clicked an empty place in a bar to selected, then tried dragging it, the 4-headed "drag" arrow pointer appeared, creating the impression I'd be able to drag the selected system up or down. (When an item's selected, it’s a Windows GUI standard for the “drag” pointer to appear only when the selected item is draggable—not the whole page.)
I consulted the Handbook, but couldn’t find anything about changing spacing between specific systems, only ALL of them. The closest thing I could find was in “Lines> Adjust vertical position”:
> In Normal mode, apply one of the following methods:
> Click on one or more lines and change the vertical offset in the Inspector;
> Click on a line, press and hold Shift and drag it up/down with a mouse.
But neither of these applied to systems.
If you can Shift-drag lines this way, wouldn't it be reasonable enough to allow one to do this with the actual music—changing the mouse pointer to an “up/down” arrow when the user held Shift while hovering over a selected bar?
I still don’t know how to do it. Is it actually necessary to open a dialog box to change something like that, in decimal values, rather than clicking and dragging—you know, sort of why mouses were made? (LOL) Thanks!


Generally speaking, if there is a system you want closer to other systems than the default calculation computer according to your current settings, there's a reason you want that change, and adjusting the setting sis a far more precise and consistent way of doing it (eg, other systems would be changed in the same way automatically. So, best to attach your actual score and explain in more detail what the goal is,. "Eyeballing" these sorts of adjustments with spacers is possible but tends to lead to unprofessional-looking results and is not often recommended except for special cases not easily handled by simple settings changes.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Wow, Marc, I couldn't disagree more.
Every page of music is different. Every line of music, and how it's spacially related to the lines around it, is different. Thus creating a legible, balanced, beautiful page of music is more than a formula, IMHO; it's a kind of visual art.
I often see scores (for example, on with extra space between staves and systems that require the reader's eyes to jump unnecessary distances, or staves/systems that are too close to each other and create distraction.
You're no doubt familiar with the principle of kerning in proportional fonts (like this one). To look right, these characters can't be spaced a uniform distance from each other, because their shapes also leave certain spaces around them. So each proportional font has an embedded kerning table, created by its author, with the ideal horizontal spacing between every possible pair of characters (see "kerning" example).
That's how it is with staff/system spacing, too—depending on how many notes are above or below a staff, how far out they are, and where they occur in relation to outer notes on the staves above and below it.
That's why, after entering music, I always hand-adjust vertical spacing, to make the page balanced, beautiful and easy to read.
In Sibelius, I could do this by simply dragging an empty place in a bar to move that staff to move it closer to or father away from the staff above it—or the top staff of a system, to move the system as a unit (see "staff dragging" screenshot).
In MS, you must open the "Breaks & Spacers" toolbar, drag and drop one of three (!) types of spacer tools onto a staff; then click and drag the tool. I've been using MS for weeks now, and I still can't remember which tool is for what.
Their symbols and names seem unintuitive. For example, "Staff spacer up" is a horizontal line with an arrow pointing up from it—so you'd think it'd enable you to move a staff up, right? But no—it actually moves the staff down.
If you drop "Staff spacer down" on the top staff of a system, it moves not only that staff down, but widens the spacing between all of the system's staves—and so on.
Why must something so basic be so complicated? Why can't we just drag staves and systems where we want them?
My only guess is that MS's authors don't want staves/systems to be moved inadvertently—so they made it require these very deliberate, extra steps. But you must do this for every staff/system you want to adjust. It takes so much more time, and is so much more complicated.
If inadvertent moves are the concern, why not make staves/systems movable only by clicking and dragging one of the control boxes that appear when you click the junction of a barline and its top or bottom staff line? (Control boxes, traditionally used for moving/resizing objects, do appear in MS when you do this—but they don't seem to do anything. Or allow it only on when clicking a box on a staff's/system's first barline (see "MS control boxes" screenshot). That'd deter inadvertent moves, wouldn't it? What else are they worried about?

Attachment Size
kerning.png 25 KB
staff_dragging.png 82.03 KB
MS_control_boxes.png 7.5 KB

In reply to by Andy Fielding

As I said, if there is a specific case where you feel there is unusual special need for inconsistent distances, please attach the actual score so we can understand and assist better. But, if the goal is consistency - as it normally would be - imagine how awful it would be to need to drag hundreds of systems around across a longer score.

That said, sure, for the unusual special cases where inconsistent distances are desired for whatever reason, it's possible to shave a couple of seconds off the current method.

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