Positions of lyrics

Dorico Pro Help

Dorico Pro
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Dorico Pro automatically positions lyrics and makes adjustments to accommodate variations in the length of lyrics, including adjusting the horizontal alignment of lyrics in melismatic music. However, you can also move lyrics manually and change their default positions project-wide.

You can move lyrics to different rhythmic positions in Write mode. They are positioned by default according to your settings in Engraving Options.

You can move individual lyrics graphically in Engrave mode, but this does not change the rhythmic positions to which they are attached.

You can change the default positions of lyrics project-wide on the Lyrics page in Engraving Options.

The default settings for lyrics are optimized for scores with comfortable spacing. If your project requires note spacing to be narrower, with less room for each note, change these settings to achieve a clearly legible result without the need for lots of editing in Engrave mode.

For scores that have less horizontal space, the following changes often improve the appearance of lyrics and rhythmic space:

  • Make minimum gaps smaller, such as the minimum space between lyrics and hyphens, in Engraving Options > Lyrics > Hyphens.

  • Increase the amount that lyrics can be adjusted by in Engraving Options > Lyrics > Spacing.

Positions of syllables

Lyrics typically coincide with notes. The number of notes sung on syllables or words determines the alignment of lyrics relative to notes:

  • Single syllables, which are whole words or parts of longer words that are sung on only one note, are centered on their corresponding note, provided it is notated using a single notehead. Single syllables on tie chains are left-aligned with the left side of the first note in the tie chain.

  • Melismata, which are syllables or words that are sung on more than one note, are left-aligned with the left side of the first note to which they apply.

The horizontal spacing of lyrics must be wide enough so that words or syllables do not overlap with the words or syllables on either side. For this reason, note spacing must sometimes be adjusted to accommodate lyrics.

To reduce how severely the note spacing is changed to accommodate lyrics, which can distort the appearance of rhythms, Dorico Pro allows the alignment of some lyrics to be adjusted relative to their corresponding notes. For example, if a long, single-syllable word on a long note follows another long, single-syllable word on a short note, the second word is moved a little to the right to give both words enough space.

In this musical phrase, the lyric "breeze" has been moved to the right to accommodate the lyric "spring" on the previous note.

Moving lyrics graphically in Engrave mode overrides the automatic spacing for the selected lyrics. If you move a lyric whose position was automatically readjusted, the note spacing at that rhythmic position might change.

You can prevent Dorico Pro from considering lyrics in note spacing calculations using the Make space for lyrics option on the Note Spacing page in Layout Options and in the Note Spacing Change dialog; however, we recommend using this option with caution.

Placement of lyric lines

Lyrics are generally placed below the staff to which they apply and relative to other lyric lines according to their line number. For example, lyrics in Line 1 are placed at the top, including when there are multiple lyric lines above the staff.

If a line of lyrics is missing across the width of a whole system, no additional gap is left between the remaining lines of lyrics.

You can also move individual lyric lines vertically. In Engrave mode, when you select any lyric in a lyric line, a square handle appears on the bottom left of the first lyric in the line on that system. This allows you to adjust the vertical position of lyric lines independently of other lyric lines.

Square handle selected at the start of a lyric line in Engrave mode


You have three lines of lyrics, but one system does not have a second line of lyrics. On this system, the third line of lyrics is moved upwards, closer to the first line of lyrics.

If a subsequent system does not have a first line, but does have the second and third lines, then the second and third lines of lyrics are moved upwards. The second line of lyrics takes the place of the first line.