I had to make the staff super small to fit four bars on one stave... and no wonder, look how terrible this spacing is

• Sep 8, 2023 - 04:22

I'm mostly just here to complain, but any suggestions are welcome. I'm not the only one who thinks this looks awful, right?

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Screen Shot 2023-09-07 at 19.22.33.png 433.15 KB


"I'm not the only one who thinks this looks awful, right?"
Maybe you might be on your own there... ;-) The MuseScore staff have laboured to improve the spacing algorithm with every major release.

But if you attach your score (the .mscz file), explain why it looks awful and exactly what you want to be different, I think you will get some suggestions. Is your complaint that MuseScore is only managing to fit four bars onto a system? If you remove the system break at the end of bar 4, that might help.

In reply to by DanielR

I actually went out of my way to get four bars on each system instead of three. I had to make the staff size quite a bit smaller in the page settings menu. I'm always a little worried that this will make it too small and difficult to read when printed out. In general, I find that Musescore 4 seems to be allergic to having four bar phrases all on one system. I find myself constantly making the page wider or making things smaller, or getting really specific with the auto-place function in the palette.

My two main issues with the layout and spacing are:

1: the 16th notes and the 16th note rests at the end of the bar are uneven, and they could be closer together to conserve space. Especially the very last one in bars 1, 3, 5, 6, and 7.

2: there seems to be way too much empty space to the left of each quarter rest at the beginning of each bar. I get that this is because the whole notes in the top stave with all of their accidentals are taking this space, but I think that it's silly that these notes in the top stave are effecting the spacing of the notes in the bottom stave as much as they are... especially when the notes in the top stave are whole notes. They could go almost anywhere and still be pretty unmistakeable. In this case I don't want the notes in the top stave to effect the spacing of the notes in the bottom stave, especially when what I want to prioritize is fitting a four bar phrase in one system.

In general, too much empty space. It's not helping legibility, it's harming layout.
Sorry for the complaints. I appreciate the effort that's been put into the spacing algorithm so far, but I can't say it's been working very well for me.

In reply to by -Stef-

The space to the left of the quarter rest on the bottom staff is absolutely correct. You can't change the laws of physics here, nor does MuseScore break the rules of notation. Those top staff accidentalsd take room, plain and simple, and all notes/rests on the same beat are required to align.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I'd love to have the ability to override that. In bar 11 of the score I've attached, I'd love to be able to move the stack of whole notes to the right so that the accidentals don't intersect with the barline without the program splitting these four bars over two systems. I have autoplace turned off for those four bars but I still don't have the freedom I'd like to be able to move things around without inadvertantly adding another system.

In reply to by -Stef-

Sorry, which specific comment talking about which specific note of which specific score?

You most certainly can move notes and break the rules of notation if you like. The most effective way depends on exactly what sort of experimental notation you are trying to create.

Here isn't much we can tell from just a picture, but it does appear that you've done things to override the default spacing. If you attach your actual score instead of just a picture, we can understand and assist better.

The main thing I notice offhand is that the dotted-eighth / sixteenth is spaced differently from measure to measure. That's exactly the sort of thing older versions did poorly with that is pretty much completely solved now. And as you say, the sixteenths at the end of the measures look weird. I've never seen anything like that by default in any version, which is what makes me think you've done something unusual here, so we need to see the actual score to understand more.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I think that the only thing I did was make the staff space smaller in the scaling section of the Page Settings menu. It's 1467, which is the max I could go before I couldn't fit all four bars on one system. This score has changed a lot since posting, but I'll post an updated version with a similar issue:

My main problem with this version is bars 10 -13. I'd like them all the be together on a system, which I've managed by disabling auto-place and dragging things around. It still looks like a mess though. I'd be curious to hear if you have any tips!

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LunarWilds_Voicings.mscz 42.77 KB

In reply to by -Stef-

Well, this score has a third staff with content that naturally changes spacing, as is correct. So, rather hard to compare to the original. Also, you've really done some strange things to this, pushing accidentals over barlines, running notes right into each other to the point of overlap, etc. So really, in order to talk about how we the default layout can be improved, we'd need a score actually using the default layout. As it is, it's hard to tell what you actually did here.

I tried selecting all and resetting all manual adjustments - including leading space and auto place - and don't see any obvious issues. Also looks fine if I hide the top staff - the weirdness in your original picture are gone. But indeed, four measures don't fit on a system in most cases.

If you don't mind the results looking overcrowded and hard to read - although you should mind - you can force those measures onto a system by selecting the "group measures" icon on the Layout palette. MuseScore will perform whatever shenanigans it needs to make it work - but again, at some point it's unlikely to be readable as the rules of notation and the laws of physics probably won't allow that many notes to fit without breaking musical alignment or creating collisions/overlaps.

You can to some extent also get more to fit by reducing the "spacing ratio" and/or "minimum note distance" settings in Format / Style / Measure.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Ah, group measures! Thank you for that.
Now that I've grouped bars 10-13, I'm able to move the stack of whole notes in bar 11 to the right to stop the accidentals from intersecting with the barline, but I can't move the two eighth notes that are on beat 2 of the bar below any further to the left. And yes, I understand that there are reasons why this is a bad idea from a readability perspective, my point is that I would like to have the freedom to do this.

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Screen Shot 2023-09-08 at 12.04.39.png 373.01 KB

In reply to by -Stef-

Clicking and dragging is available as a way to adjusting spacing indeed - but it works to do so correctly - no misalignments. If you wish to confuse your readers by creating incorrect notation, then you need to use the Properties panel. The idea is, the common / normal things to do are made easy, the unusual / incorrect things are just slightly harder to prevent people from creating bad / unreadable notation accidentally.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Ah, Offset. Actually, I don't think you mentioned that specific part of the properties panel previously. That more or less solves my issue, although I don't love the process of adjusting the offest for each element in this manner. Thanks for your help.

FWIW, hard to read is largely contextual. In many scenarios, being able to accurately read the rhythm in each and every bar is not so important, while being able to see the whole phrase on one line is much more helpful. Most musicians that I work with would view it as "incorrect" if the phrase were split across multiple systems in favour of legibility for a rhythm that never actually changes from the first bar and doesn't even need to be strictly adhered to. I find this to be the case with a lot of music that is largely improvised, or not meant to be interpreted strictly. The chart is mainly meant to be a reference for the form and harmony of the piece. Ideally, the phrases should be obvious at a glance and system breaks are the best and most commonly used way to do that. If, visually, the top line doesn't line up rhythmically with other ones, that's not a problem and doesn't make the chart any worse/less useful.

In reply to by -Stef-

Again, you don't have to adjust any offsets of any notes at all - just the ones you want to be incorrect. I can't stress this enough - the result of this adjustment is objectively incorrect and harder to read., This thread was originally about incorrect spacing, and that would be bad enough if it were to happen (but so far no score posted here is showing any incorrect spacing except the ones you've modified). What you're proposing here is far far far far worse, though - it's not just incorrect spacing but incorrect notation. Seeing how the notes align is crucial to reading rhythm correctly, and absolutely will lead to performance errors.

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