Various Line Settings

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John Ruggero
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Various Line Settings

Post by John Ruggero » 11 Nov 2015, 18:50

In a recent thread, an important consensus was reached by several members regarding an acceptable staff line thickness of .1 spaces for average size staves and .125 for small staves.

That leaves several other line thickness settings to be discussed and possibly determined:

ledger lines
stems
barlines
hairpins
others?

Peter West has mentioned his own settings:

Stems .125 spaces
Ledger Lines .125 spaces
Barlines .150 spaces

Using these very handy round numbers, I have experimented with hairpins at .125 spaces and with a Finale hairpin opening setting of 1.25 spaces. For me, the the Finale default of 1.5 spaces produces hairpins that are too wide.
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Peter West
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Re: Various Line Settings

Post by Peter West » 11 Nov 2015, 19:09

Stem = staff line *125%
Bar line = staff line * 150%

leger line = stem line
hairpin = bar line

Sorry guys, I got this the wrong way around:

Leger line = bar line
hairpin = stem line
Last edited by Peter West on 12 Nov 2015, 13:57, edited 1 time in total.
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Knut
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Re: Various Line Settings

Post by Knut » 11 Nov 2015, 19:28

Here's my default settings (all measurements in spaces):
Staff line: 0.1
Ledger Line: 0.16
Barline: 0.16
Stem: 0.083
Hairpin line: 0.125
Hairpin opening: 1.33

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John Ruggero
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Re: Various Line Settings

Post by John Ruggero » 11 Nov 2015, 23:29

I find Peter West's equations quite informative because they show an exact relationship between these elements and the size of the staff.

There is continued consensus concerning average staff lines at .1 spaces. but also some differences regarding other elements:

Tedd Ross says that stems should be "somewhat thinner than staff lines" and actually calls a counter-example "Bad". (page 82) I wonder if that is the origin of Knut's .083 spaces. But I also wonder if the greater precision and clarity of computer staff lines makes if possible for the elements that are in direct contact with the staff lines, like stems, to be bolder without obscuring them. Could it be that the most important thing is for the stems NOT to be the same thickness as the staff lines, but a little thicker or thinner so that they and staff lines do not merge?

I find hairpins at .150 spaces a little bold. But perhaps that is an upper limit with .125 spaces as the lower?

So far, there seems to be agreement that Finale's hairpin open too widely. My 1.25 now seems a little narrow. Knut's 1.33 has a more natural feel to it.

I must admit that ledger line thickness mystifies me. One would think that they should be the same thickness as staff lines, since they ARE a staff line. Yet they seem thinner than the staff lines when they have the same setting. Some kind of optical illusion? So it is clear that they must be somewhat thicker to equal the appearance of the staff lines. I don't think that they should appear bolder than the staff lines, however, and for me this happens when the ledger lines exceed 125% of the staff line thickness. So here I would cast my vote for .125 for a .1 staff.

On the other hand, bar lines should stand out against the staff lines, and .15 or .16 seems fine to me. I will go with .15 because it is easier to remember.

So my settings so far would be:

Staff line: 0.1
Ledger Line: 0.125
Barline: 0.15
Stem: ???
Hairpin line: ???
Hairpin opening: 1.33 (corrected this from .133 on 10/12. It is so hard to avoid these errors!)
Last edited by John Ruggero on 12 Nov 2015, 23:43, edited 1 time in total.
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Fred G. Unn
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Re: Various Line Settings

Post by Fred G. Unn » 11 Nov 2015, 23:47

John Ruggero wrote:Tedd Ross says that stems should be "somewhat thinner than staff lines" and actually calls a counter-example "Bad". (page 82)
Gould says this too. On pg 13 she writes, "Stems should be thinner than the stave-line, but not so thin as to reproduce too faintly."

In all honesty I've never really understood the logic behind this. I have my stems the same thickness as the staff lines, but I'm open to changing them if there's a better setting.

I think I read somewhere that with plate engraving ledger lines were typically punched, while staff lines were etched before anything else was engraved. That could be a historical reason for why ledger lines were thicker anyway. I also have mine set to be 125% of the staff line, although I prefer a little thicker staff line than most apparently, so my staff is 3 EVPUs (.125 spaces) and my ledger lines 3.75. I have my barlines set to 3.75 too, but I honestly haven't given that much thought in a while.

The slightly thicker staff line goes against what Tufte discusses in "Envisioning Information" but I've actually had quite a bit of feedback about it from performers. With aging eyes and often less that ideal lighting, I think it helps with legibility as lines that are too thin sometimes don't offer quite enough contrast. Obviously I expect most will disagree and think it's too thick, but that's what I've been using anyway.

Knut
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Re: Various Line Settings

Post by Knut » 12 Nov 2015, 00:41

John Ruggero wrote:I must admit that ledger line thickness mystifies me. One would think that they should be the same thickness as staff lines, since they ARE a staff line. Yet they seem thinner than the staff lines when they have the same setting. Some kind of optical illusion? So it is clear that they must be somewhat thicker to equal the appearance of the staff lines. I don't think that they should appear bolder than the staff lines, however, and for me this happens when the ledger lines exceed 125% of the staff line thickness. So here I would cast my vote for .125 for a .1 staff.
I notice that my ledger lines are quite a bit thicker than what's been suggested so far. According to Ross, ledger lines are 'somewhat thicker' than staff lines, while to Gould, they should be 'twice as thick'. From studying plate engraved scores, I've found that giving them a barline's thickness yields an authentic and harmonious feel, in addition to being very clear.
Fred G. Unn wrote:The slightly thicker staff line goes against what Tufte discusses in "Envisioning Information" but I've actually had quite a bit of feedback about it from performers. With aging eyes and often less that ideal lighting, I think it helps with legibility as lines that are too thin sometimes don't offer quite enough contrast. Obviously I expect most will disagree and think it's too thick, but that's what I've been using anyway.
To my eye, making staff lines too heavy actually obscures the noteheads and surrounding symbols. Their ideal thickness would largely depend on the boldness of other symbols, but I prefer them to be among the thinnest elements on the page. Like you point out, contrast is the key. However, to me, using a typical modern, very thin music font (e.g. Maestro) with a staff line thickness much above 0.1 spaces, would provide less contrast, not more.
John Ruggero wrote:Tedd Ross says that stems should be "somewhat thinner than staff lines" and actually calls a counter-example "Bad". (page 82) I wonder if that is the origin of Knut's .083 spaces. But I also wonder if the greater precision and clarity of computer staff lines makes if possible for the elements that are in direct contact with the staff lines, like stems, to be bolder without obscuring them. Could it be that the most important thing is for the stems NOT to be the same thickness as the staff lines, but a little thicker or thinner so that they and staff lines do not merge?
My reason for making the stems even thinner than the staff lines is that in many ways, they are the least important element, only functioning as the link between noteheads and beams and as visual guidance of pitch and rhythm. To me they serve a purpose similar to the serifs in a typeface, which, more or less without exception, are the thinnest strokes of any character.

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wess-music
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Re: Various Line Settings

Post by wess-music » 12 Nov 2015, 02:15

I think that this direction (using "space" as units for measuring lines) is not perfect.
From one hand all the music we input is locked to the scale factor and space is good solution.
But the reason of my hard objection is based on the next facts: all sheet music utilise only the so called "line art".
There are no lines per inch, since we use very seldom grey scale objects (and almost never gradients) – just pure lines with fixed frequency (300/400/600/800/1200 etc.) on the out put of the LJs.
Talking frankly, no matter 0.11 or 0.10 sp. are assigned for any kind of line, since the laser beam of the printer has integer number of horizontal passes.
In addition – there is no any antialiasing as per font or line reproduction on the screen (switching different intensity of the neighbour pixels) for better perception. LJ performs only black with fix pitch per length unit.

These facts are the only reason I calculate the tickles of the lines depending on staff hight plus calculating the real thickness that will be seen on the paper, which is most important.
Personally, I don't want to be surprised by the approximation that applies from the software which sends the binary data to the LJ.
Because – for instance – printing form Finale does not bring the same results compared to those form PDF.
Finale and Sibelius produce very fine results them selves, but all other applications like Acrobat, Preview and so on – different.
The interpretation of the line is very crucial, together with the fonts. But since the fonts could be expanded to filled curves, the lines must definitely remain as they are. Expanded lines are good for viewing on web or display, but not on paper because they never look the same to each other, mostly when it comes to staff lines. The most critical are all very tinny ones.
___________
Virtually observed, I am informed what kind of devices have my customers, and namely for that reason I always prepare my data in order to avoid any "miracles".

At the moment I am working on a piece where the staff is 6 mm. All we know, that 6 mm is not common.
5 or 7 – are OK, but 6? or 5.5?
IN this case I started from almost the same settings that Peter West suggested and i have used for many other projects.
I was wandering "What would happen if I apply them right now and press the button confirming the print"?
The answer was – improperly fat lines.
The same settings are OK with 5 and 7 because the calculation inside the printer are these that are expected, but in this case I was disappointed.
I tested the file already. So, what I did to solve this problem? Calculated the real thickness for the staff lines – the same as per 5 mm staff and that was sufficiently enough.
All otter lines were left as they were. The approximation issue from the 600 DPI is not negligible when it reflects to the staff.

Now I have 0.127 mm staff line. Translated in spaces: 0.08594 (less than 0.1) and the PDF file prints absolutely as expected.
________

Now about thickness of the staff lines vs stems.

Most of the guidelines or book writers always mention the fact, that staff lines are visually thicker than stems and as a consequence try to establish kind of rule based on this statement.
However, none of them gives an answers on the question "why is that?"
Here is my subjective explanation and disregard of this "rule".

During the time of hand crafted scores the tool, used for scratching the metal plate, needed to pass few times in order to make deep (enough) trace for the staff lines. To keep the hand following strictly the direction of the (metal) ruler considerable strength was needed.
If we try to cut straight line even on paper with surgery-knife and ruler the procedure will be the same.
Thus the staff lines become much heavier rather than stems. For engraving stems there was no need of such pressure, since the dedicated tool for that is much smaller and lighter even as a weight.

There is also another argument. Any kind of long straight line permanently attracts our attention.
I know this from the photography, considering I was working this for years during my study at Royal Conservatory (The Hague) and few years later till late 90-ties.
Of course, if the staff lines print as "hair lines", as it was by default in Finale 2.0 — described in some of my previous posts), the layout would not be convincing.
Nowadays LJ printers produce absolutely consistent thickness. Even in a very beginning of SCORE, the lines were decided to be ca. 0.17 mm (0.1) space for 7 mm staff and 0.13 mm (again ca. 0.1 space).

Stems could be either the same as the staff lines or... (I usually add some more "ink" for them when this is acceptable!)
Thus the picture of the score looks more relief.

Till tomorrow,
Best regards,
Wess

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OCTO
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Re: Various Line Settings

Post by OCTO » 12 Nov 2015, 06:56

//
Side info: I just googled notation line widths and found this: http://www.finalemusic.com/blog/creatin ... ne-widths/
//
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Fred G. Unn
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Re: Various Line Settings

Post by Fred G. Unn » 12 Nov 2015, 15:21

I doubt I'm going to change anyone's mind, but I still prefer my just slightly thicker settings in real world performance settings. Here are 4 different versions of the same page (recent rush job) with staff lines and stems changed, printed on my normal 9.5x12.5 performance paper, about performance distance away on a stand, with a stand light and typical glare. From L to R: Finale default, .1 spaces, .125 spaces (3 EVPUs), 3.75 EVPUs.

Image

The Finale default is too thin for me and 3.75 is too thick, which leaves .1 and .125. It's obviously a very subtle difference, but I still prefer .125, although I assume I will be in the minority on this.

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John Ruggero
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Re: Various Line Settings

Post by John Ruggero » 12 Nov 2015, 18:36

I though it might be helpful, at least for myself, to summarize the last two posts (I hope that I get this right):

With Wess's latest post, there is another vote for .1 stems, and also for an approx. .125 thickness of staff lines for 6 mm and below staves, as well as a possible historical explanation for the difference in thickness between staff lines and stems with the implication that this difference need not concern computer engravers who might make the stems as thick as the staff lines or even thicker. Wess bore out my feeling that there is an optical issue with staff lines versus ledger lines that requires thicker ledger lines. He also mentioned that one must take into account the difference between what one sees onscreen and what one gets in printing. However, I don't understand Wess's explanation of the technical aspects of laser printing and its relationship to engraving. Perhaps others will take that on.

Fred made the very important point that staff line settings should be tested in a real world settings, and that a .1 line thickness for staff lines may indeed be a little thin in the kind of light one finds onstage or in a pit. I wonder what this means for the other line settings. Fred had stated earlier that ledger lines should be about 125% thicker than staff lines, which is in agreement with the majority so far.

I just did a test of .1 vs. .125, printing a page with a 93% reduction on my laser printer. It is clear to me that the staff recedes into the background with the .1 so that the other information stands in relief, giving the page a "finer" appearance than the .125. Whether this holds up in some real world conditions is an interesting question. But I don't find the .125 objectionable. In fact, it is actually quite close to what I have been using up until now. The page just has a slightly busier appearance with .125, and I find that I now prefer the more restful .1.
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