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  • SEBC
  • NWC2 User
Spacing out endings
Every now and then I revisit the topic: Should I switch from using NWC to one of the more common programs? Mostly, it does everything I have needed to do so far.  One thing that annoys me is having to figure out the best way to evenly space out the endings. Is it possible for someone to develop a tool that would do this automatically? I know how to use the "insert" method, but it takes a long time sometimes, and if I have single staff prints, sometimes I end up redoing them multiple times to work better for different instruments.


Re: Spacing out endings
Reply #1
Every now and then I revisit the topic: Should I switch from using NWC to one of the more common programs? Mostly, it does everything I have needed to do so far.  One thing that annoys me is having to figure out the best way to evenly space out the endings. Is it possible for someone to develop a tool that would do this automatically? I know how to use the "insert" method, but it takes a long time sometimes, and if I have single staff prints, sometimes I end up redoing them multiple times to work better for different instruments.

It depends what you mean by "space out the endings". Do you mean the final system of the score?  If so, there's a fairly easy trick for that: just put a bar line at the end of the score, with its properties set to "Force System Break".

If you are talking about something else, perhaps you can share an example, that we can fix.

Re: Spacing out endings
Reply #2
    ... there's a fairly easy trick for that: just put a bar line at the end of the score, with its properties set to "Force System Break".

    I think @SEBC talks about beautifully evening out the end, so that the last page is filled approximately with an "equal note density" - because this is quite some work. What I do (with choral, quartett, and larger scores, i.e., 3...10 and even more staves):

    If the last system spills over to a new page:
    • First, I add spacers after all whole rests, starting from the end;
    • If this is not sufficient, I start putting spacers after whole notes, half rests, half notes, etc.
    • With choral scores, often the text extends measures so much that spilling over happens; spacers are not very useful then, because the text can overlap, so typically I make the lyrics a little smaller (tricky, as one can enter only integral sizes; but with resizing of the main size, one can get in-between sizes - explained somewhere else)

    If the last system is too wide, i.e. there are too few notes in it:
    • I count the average bars on the systems above - let this number be N (typically 4...8 ); and start adding forced breaks at every N-1th bar line counting from the end - this will "even out" the measures over the systems.

    If single voices should be produced from the same score, the formatting spacers should be set to Visibility "Single Staff Prints" or "Top Staff Only" (the latter is more consistent with the behaviour of the forced breaks, which also do their work only if they are on the top staff).

    But doing this manually is actually un-nice work - some tool that would at least do some of the work heuristically (and, moreover, undo it if too many such formatting gimicks are spread over the last page or more) would be really nice ...


    • SEBC
    • NWC2 User
    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #3
    Exactly right, Hmm! I want beautiful, even scores without having to spend hours making those types of changes you describe, only to discover that they don't work when I have a single staff print, and so have to redo them again, gritting my teeth.

    I'm looking for that magician who knows all the tricks to figure out a way to do this. :)

    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #4
    Currently, there is a checkbox on the Options tab in Page Setup labeled "Increase spacing for longer notes". When the box is checked, the score will have a "standard" density, with the amount of space after each note in proportion to the note's length. (But not directly proportional: I'm sure there is some formula that dictates the spacing, but I don't know what it is.)  When the box is unchecked, there is a bare minimum of spacing after each note.

    In another thread, I (or someone else) suggested it might be nice if the checkbox were changed to a numeric value or slider, so we could adjust the note density. Or maybe a group of settings, one for each note/rest duration. This might give the user the ability to make the "beautiful scores" that @SEBC and @hmmueller are talking about. Of course it's possible to do this by manually adding spacers, but as they note, it's extremely tedious to do it that way.

    It seems to me that it would not be terribly difficult to make a user tool that would assist the user in doing this. You could highlight a range of notes, and then run the tool to add a particular spacer after each note, or before each bar line (or some other rule). If you didn't like the results, there could be an option in the tool to remove all of the spacers in the range. Or, if I recall correctly, the "Undo" mechanism should also work.  However, one of the pain points in using spacers to adjust note spacing in this way is that you often need to add them in each staff of a multi-staff score. But, not always! (There is probably a simple rule which dictates when they are needed in each staff, or in just one staff)

    • SEBC
    • NWC2 User
    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #5
    If you are able to figure this out, then I think you should change your user name to MiketheMagician.

    Could it apply to the entire score rather than one staff at a time?

    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #6
    On my commute, I thought a little bit about the specification of a "spacer tool". Here is what I came up with.

    The raw tool would have the following selections:

    • You can specify where in the score (in which range) the tool does its work; typically, it would work on all staffs present
    • You can specify at which places the tool does its work - both by specifying places by note lengths; or specifying the modification of previously created spacers.
    • You can then select how to create or modifiy the spacers (set their width)
    • Finally, the spacers can be "marked" so that "types" of spacers can be easily distinguished because besides the spacers for evening out, there will be other, "manual" spacers for e.g. placing texts which should not be touched by this tool.

    Here is a somewhat more precise writeup of my ideas, with remarks on some selections - I have no idea whether all this is possible ... but it might "come in handy":

    Select range (ONE OF, i.e., you can only select one of the following options):
    • Measure ... to .../END of score (-- i.e., all staffs; complete score is "Measures 1 to END"))
    • Selection on current staff
    • All of current staff
    • From marker ...text... to ...text... (-- I found text markers much more useful than measure numbers with my "copy" tool, mainly because they are more "stable" (don't change with score modifications), so I'd like to include them here. But this is a secondary issue.)

    Select locations (OR, i.e., you can choose multiple possibilities, which are then combined with a logical or):
    • After notes between 1/16...1 and 1/16...1
    • After rests between ... and ... (-- One could think about more precise note/rest selection, e.g. dotting etc. I don't think this is really useful.)
    • Before/after barlines (-- selecting the type of bar might maybe come in handy)
    • At spacers marked 1...4 (-- The width of NWC's spacers is defined to two decimals - which is clearly not necessary. Therefore, we can use the last digit as a "marker": E.g., "marking with 2" would create widths of e.g. 0.52, 1.02, 1.52 or 6.02 (see "Mark spacers" below). Here, we can select the tool to work only on specific spacers. I imagine that one would first add "rougher" spacers with marker digit 1, and then add more delicate ones with 2, maybe some specific ons with 3 - and one could then modifiy or even remove a specific "type" easily.)
    • At spacers with colour ... (-- Instead of (and in addition to) marking with last digits, one can also mark with colours. The advantage is that the type is directly visible. And as spacers are not "printed", the colour does not turn up in the printed score.)
    If a spacer is found in cases 1....3., no new one is created, but the found one is modified.

    Spacer width (ONE OF):
    • "Intelligent" with factor = -3...+3 (-- This would be some formula that takes the previous note/rest length and computes some "logarithmic" spacer width from it. The factor would indicate some sort of "compression"/"extension".)
    • Fixed with value (-- Set spacers to a specific value. Only first digit after comma is used, because the second one is used for marking - see above. Value 0 means remove.)
    • Increment/Decrement by value (again, value is only used up to one place after comma so that marker digits are not disturbed)
    • Remove (-- is the same as "Fixed = 0", added only for clarity.)

    Mark spacers (OR):
    • Last digit 1...4 (-- see explanation at selecting locations)
    • Colour
    • Visibility ( -- One can also select the visibility of the added/modified spacers, which is useful for scores used for printing single voices as well as full scores.)

    Now, such a tool would definitely overwhelm any user on the first usage. So, there needs to be a standard setting that is helpful for first experiments. Moreover, it might be useful to have a set of pre-defined (or even user-definable? how??) "profiles" that might be selected easily. Here is an attempt to define such a basic setting:

    = At notes between 1/2 and 1
    = At rests between 1/2 and 1
    = Last 15 measures
    = Intelligent -1 ("compress somewhat")
    = Marker digit 1
    = Colour "Hightlight 1"
    = Visibility "Multi staff prints"

    That's it ... now someone might implement such a beast; and then try it out in mulitple use cases to find out whether all that is necessary; and can be handled by the "average user" (or even by the "power user") ...

    • Last Edit: 2019-10-23 07:42 am by hmmueller

    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #7
    I've read the above post, and it has a number of very good ideas. Here are a few quick thoughts on the approach.
    • I like the idea of having some sort of "marker" on the spacer, so specific ones can be distinguished from each other for subsequent operations. However, I don't like the idea of using the hundreths position of the width as a marker. The color should be sufficient for this, since it has no effect on the score appearance.
    • I had another more radical idea, related to this, that might bear investigation. Imagine a custom object, which behaves the same as a spacer, except that it is "dynamic". Recall that custom objects can have a width, and that that width doesn't have to be a constant. Now, imagine scattering these objects around a score, and these objects can each have properties that control their behavior. They could even take cues from one or more StaffSig objects.

    Just something to think about.

    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #8
    Ha - a separate object - of course! Integrates nicely with a user tool for that object. And of course, the funny last-digit idea is not necessary then - arbitrary markers can be implemented and use. I won't have time to implement anything for the next 2 months or so (up to Christmas) ... but then I might try something, if you don't beat me ...


    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #9
    This is a page I put together for this a few years ago--the page needs to run concurrently with NWC since data are cut and pasted between them.
    Since 1998

    • SEBC
    • NWC2 User
    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #10
    Thanks for posting that, Warren. I'll give it a try.

    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #11
    This sounds awfully complicated for a task that should only take 10 or 15 seconds to do manually.

    Insert a forced system break bar line ("section close") at the end of each staff.  It will work for the top visible staff only, but that's all you need. 

    Use print preview, and insert a few more forced system breaks on the last few systems until the part or score looks good.

    Usually I put them around 5 or 6 bars from the end, and then 5 or 6 bars before that, and if necessary 5 or 6 bars before that. 

    Generally that takes care of all the spacing issues.

    Without the complexity of trying to tweak spacing everywhere throughout the score.

    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #12
    This sounds awfully complicated for a task that should only take 10 or 15 seconds to do manually.

    Not in my experience if there are 1...4 measures overhanging on the next page, i.e., you have to compress the (last 10 or 15 measures of the) score a little. With choral scores, you don't want a 5-page score if a 4-page score might do it: 4 pages nicely fit on an A3 double-sided print; 5 pages are a nuisance. Also, in this case, adding or removing staves (soloists, instruments, ...) for additional score prints often destroys what I changed for some previous print.

    Evening out by lengthening the last lines of a score is, as you say, usually quick and easy,  ...

    ... however, when you have additional single-staff scores (as are necessary for all instruments), sometimes one wants to do the "compression" thing on them - and then one (I) get(s) confused what change does what on the different score prints.

    But I confess that up to now, I always found some way of formatting the typical 6 printouts (choir voices, full score, strings single voices) quite nicely, after 15 minutes or so - which is a trifle of the time needed for composing/arranging and writing the complete score; and with a somewhat more organized way of doing it, I might do it in 5 minutes.

    (The hardest thing is taking a score from 4 years or so back, changing a few things somewhere - our choir is getting older ... you get the problems ... -, having multiple old additional line breaks in there, and maybe also spacers, and then redoing the whole formatting: I'd at least like to have a tool that removes (most?) spacers and line breaks with a single action, I guess ...)


    P.S. Us software engineers like to sometimes think about solutions to problems that could be solved manually also. I guess that we sometimes actually do come up with something useful ... at other times, yes, we solve something which is not really worth the complexity introduced with that technical thingy. But what would composers of the past centuries have thought about NWC? - hand-writing of scores, after all, has worked for all of them, with quite astonishing results. Is our software mania really a productivity surge, or rather - as some claim - more of an obstacle to think more about doing the right things only, instead of just doing everything more and more quickly ... my thoughts drifting off into wherever ...

    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #13
    I'm preaching to the choir, I know, but I'm mainly replying so users who aren't proficient with NWC yet see my solution to the problem of a system having a few bars running onto a new page.

    I sometimes just decrease the size of the staff metrics, say from 16 to 14 (see Page Setup)  or decrease the height of each system (F2 for staff properties) so more fit on the pages I want to use.


    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #14
    I'd just LOVE to have a tool like it is discussed here! I've been layouting my scores for years now with the spacer tool, and it's an awful amount of work to get good-looking results!!!

    I'd just like to add some points/ideas/thoughts to the discussion that hasn't been mentioned so far:

    1. A spacer tool which allows you to proportionally scale down the standard "increase spacing for longer notes"-function would be very helpful for Renaissance or even older scores. Even if you have a romantic piece with a measure of 2/2 or 3/2, it would be nice if the half notes would get the same spacing as the quarter notes in an 4/4-measure. With a 6/8-measure it's even more difficult - it depends on the tempo of the piece if the spacing for the eith notes should be wider (in a slow piece) or smaller (in a fast piece where the dotted quarter notes are the beat).

    2. The built-in fuction "increase spacing for larger notes" doesn't work well for 16th notes - their spacing is exactly the same as those for eigth notes! This is really awful if you have a piece with lots of 16th notes in it! (I tried to demonstrate this in the attached example: compare all first lines, and you'll see that there are 51 8th and also 51 16th notes in the first line. Apart from that, I think the space of the 8th notes is a little too big in comparison the quarter notes. But that could also be personal taste...)

    3. What makes point 2 even more complicated: single short notes (8th, 16th, 32th etc.) should get more spacing than tied notes of the same type (at least in the case of 16th and shorter notes)

    4. If you add a spacer in a score with lyrics, it overrules the extra spacing which is normally created automatically for longer syllables. This is really, really annoying! Now, when I want to layout a choral piece in, let's say, a measure of 3/2, then I have to add spacers to all (ALL!) notes in ALL staves to scale down their spacings. Afterwords, I have to go to the preview page and decide step by step, how many measures I want in each line. And after that, I have to increase manually the spacing for all short notes with longer syllables, hoping that that now increased spacing would still fit in the line and won't destroy the layout! And for each and every indivudal spacing, you have to check the preview afterwords, because it often happens that the spacing in the normal edit view appears to be to small, and the syllables interfere which each other - but in the preview they're just fine because of the additional space created by the "force system break" tool. (I hope you understand want I tried to decribe...)

    I'm eager to discuss these points with you, and to learn if some of you are experiencing the same problems...

    • SEBC
    • NWC2 User
    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #15
    Thanks, Jfb. I had noticed this year when writing harp arpeggios that the fast runs seemed to take up a lot of space on the score. I think you've explained why. I'll have to go back and count.

    I'm glad this thread is getting some discussion! 🎶

    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #16
    Is it customary to write out a harp arpeggio as individual notes, rather than use the arpeggio notation (squiggly line)? The notation would obviously take up much less space in the score.

    • SEBC
    • NWC2 User
    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #17
     Sometimes it's a long broken chord with altered notes or a glissando that gets spelled out. In piano scoring I've run up against the issue as well.

    You don't actually use the line in harp scoring because it's idiomatic to play that way.

    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #18
    The harpist I've worked with likes to see the line. But it isn't handled quite the way you would in piano writing. You indicate the harp's current tuning with seven cue-sized note heads at the beginning of the gliss, in chromatic order in its direction; then you draw the line, starting at the last note head. You can get away with leaving the note heads out if you place a pedal diagram under the beginning note of the gliss, but it's best to use both.

    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #19
    It sounds like the harp's sound is more of a glissando than an arpeggio, since the notes are generally consecutive notes of a scale, and not notes of a chord (if that makes sense). When I added playback to the Glissando object, I included three options: white keys, black keys, and chromatic (in addition to the continuous mode).  Perhaps for harp glissandos, I should have a way of specifying which pitches/notes to play. I am not a harpist, please educate me.

    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #20
    That would be really good, Mike. Here's the deal: harps have seven strings per octave. In "open" position - quotes around that for reasons I'll explain in a moment - all the strings are tuned to the Cb scale. So: Cb Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bb. Harps also have seven pedals, one for each pitch class - a C pedal, a D pedal.... you get the idea. Each pedal changes ALL the strings of that pitch class on the instrument, and each has three positions: flat, natural, and sharp. The "open" position is the flat position. (It happens to be the top position, physically, of the pedal, which can get confusing because we're used to thinking of sharps as physically high; but never mind.)

    The meaning for this for glissandi on harps is that you can have only seven notes per octave, and for any given tuning those seven notes will be the same seven notes in every octave, BUT the chromatic position of each of those seven notes is independent of all of the others. Harpists make a lot of use of enharmonics: you can have a C and a C# in the same tuning, for example, but only if there are no Ds in the tuning, because the C# that everyone else in the ensemble is playing will have to be spelled as Db on the harp. Cb and Fb, and B# and E#, are common in harp writing for that reason.

    The bottom line, here, is that every glissando on the harp will have to have one, and only one,  of the chromatic spellings of every pitch class; and that the particular grouping of chromatics being used for a given gliss has little or no relationship to the scale or mode the music is in. Every tuning on the harp is basically an artificial scale. So it would be really, really nice if your glissando object could tune each pitch class individually - to match the current tuning of the harp.

    I just kind of jotted this explanation down, so let me know if any of it remains unclear.

    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #21
    A parctical example: the piece my daughter is studying now is in Fm, that is Ab, Bb, Cn, Db, Eb, Fn, Gn.
    In some places a glissando is requested with the following notes: Ab, B#, Cn, Db, E#, Fn, Gn.
    As Bill wrote, every glissando must have exactly 7 degrees, but some, as you can see, can be enharmonics.

    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #22
    You can also take a look at this piece by Pierné:
    Warning: do not confuse the arpeggi with the glissandi. Search for "glissez".
    (I should really review it to use the new plugins...)

    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #23
    In some places a glissando is requested with the following notes: Ab, B#, Cn, Db, E#, Fn, Gn.
    Interesting tuning - essentially, Ab, Cn, Cn, Db, F, F, Gn. I'm guessing the gliss comes in the middle of a passage with a lot of rapid repetitions of C and F: perhaps tremolos?

    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #24
    perhaps tremolos?
    Not really.  :D
    Look yourself.

    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #25
    Okay, I think I am getting it, but let me paraphrase things back, and you can tell me if I am on the right track.

    Bill mentions that harps have 7 strings per octave, which I think is like saying a piano has 7 white keys per octave. And the 7 pedals are each connected to all of the octaves of a particular note. So if I use the piano analogy, when the pedals are in a particular position, strumming the strings will play a scale in a particular key. Except that there are more scale combinations possible than simple major, minor, etc.

    After thinking about this for 5 minutes or so, it seems to me that to make this work with the Glissando object, it wouldn't really make sense to put the pedal settings inside the Glissando object, but maybe to have a separate Harp Pedal object, that records the pedal settings. And then the Glissando can "look back" at the most recent Harp Pedal to see where the pedals are set, so it knows what pitches to play. Or is it more customary in music to always include the pedal positions for each glissando that is played?

    I did a little searching, and I found a sample harp pedal diagram as created by another music program, that I'm including here. It shouldn't be too hard to create an object that both draws pedal diagrams, and uses them for glissando playback purposes.  Assuming, of course, that there are actually people interested in such a thing.

    • SEBC
    • NWC2 User
    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #26
    I am interested as I now have two harpists interested in my composition work. When I wrote the pieces for the first university ensemble this past year, it was a totally new experience and I had a terrible time with the gliss. line. It would get out of sync with any edits that shifted the measure over. I kept having to fiddle with it over and over.

    This ensemble has requested more pieces.
    I also just met another harpist on Monday.

    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #27
    Very good, Mike.

    FYI the pedal position diagram must be read from left to right as: [D C B (separator bar) E F G A]
    The separator bar should separate the pedals operated with the left foot from the ones operated with the right foot but, like the two staves of the grand staff, there are exceptions...
    As Bill wrote, the lower position indicates #, the central is neutral and the upper is b.
    I got somewhere a couple of fonts specific for this diagram. (See attachment)

    I must say that I saw this diagram not very frequently and in many of those cases only at the beginning of the score or in points with very odd combinations to make it clear what the autor intended.
    In all the other cases the indication to set a pedal is simply the name of the note somewere around the staff at the best moment to move the pedal. This can be the simple name of the note (e.g. F#, Eb, not to be confused fot the name of a chord!) or the same but enclosed in parenthesys (F#) (Eb). Look at "Toccata".

    We are talking here of the classic (orchestral, or pedal) harp, but there are also "Celtic"(or "lever") harps.
    Those are tuned in Eb and each string has a lever (hence the name) that can rise the note half a tone.
    As you can easily see, some notes don't exist (Cb, Db, E#, Fb, Gb, A#, B#) and the only major scales allowed are Eb, Bb, F, C, G, D, A, E. The most common ones: what a chance!  :))
    But each string has its lever so you can have, for example, an F3 and an F#2.
    Please note that's very stupid to waste time and effort to move the levers of strings you don't need to play.
    In that case you can either specify which note of which octave you must fix (e.g. F#3, Bb4) or add what looks like a courtesy accidental (an accidental between parenthesys) in the staff indicating the moment and the note to fix.

    A folkloristic note: the harpists count the octaves from the closest to them to the more distant, i.e. from the treble to the bass!

    Sorry if I overloaded you...

    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #28
    One more thing for autors and arrangers: the levers can be operated only with the left hand, so be careful to leave at least a fraction of a second for it to move and return!

    • SEBC
    • NWC2 User
    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #29
    These insights are always appreciated. I am writing (separately) for a classical pedal harp and a Celtic lever harp.

    • SEBC
    • NWC2 User
    Re: Spacing out endings
    Reply #30
    Just a quick note here to say that I tried Warren's tool and it was a quick fix for  the last line of my current composition. If you haven't tried it, it is worth a look: