General placement conventions for ties

Ties join two noteheads together, meaning the ends of ties are positioned close to the noteheads to which they are attached.

Ties are curved lines, and the direction of the curve usually follows the stem direction of the notes. If notes are stem-up, ties curve downwards, and if notes are stem-down, ties curve upwards.


If there are multiple voices on the staff, all ties in up-stem voices curve upwards and all ties in down-stem voices curve downwards.

There are two main conventions for the placement of the ends of ties relative to noteheads. One convention is to place the ends of ties outside noteheads, meaning above or below them, ideally positioned at the horizontal center of noteheads. The other convention is to place the ends of ties between noteheads, ideally positioned at the vertical center of noteheads.

Figure 1. A tie outside noteheads
Figure 2. A tie between noteheads

For both conventions, Dorico Elements automatically positions the ends of ties as close as possible to the notes that they join while avoiding collisions with other notations.

The vertical placement of ties is also automatically adjusted in Dorico Elements so that neither of the end points of ties, nor the apex of tie curves, starts or ends on a staff line. If this happens, it can cause the shape of ties to appear distorted, which makes the music harder to read.

To avoid this, Dorico Elements changes the vertical position of ties slightly, and makes small changes to the curvature of ties. These changes are small, but the placement of ties is subtly different depending on the position of notes relative to staff lines.

Figure 3. A tie outside noteheads
Figure 4. When transposed one note down, the tie appears with a steeper curve to avoid reaching its apex on the staff line.
Figure 5. A tie between noteheads, with the ends slightly above the vertical center of the noteheads to avoid the tie appearing too close to the staff line at its ends or apex.
Figure 6. When transposed up, the ends of the tie are now positioned at the vertical center of the notehead, as there is no staff line with which it could collide.

Wherever possible, clef changes should not be positioned in the middle of tie chains. Changing the clef changes the position of the tied note on the staff, which could easily cause a performer to misread the tie as a slur and play two different notes.

Ties can look distorted when they are very short, and can be overlooked.


Slurs must not be confused with ties, which look superficially similar, but instead join notes of the same pitch to indicate that they are played as a single note. In that sense, ties are part of rhythmic notation, while slurs are considered articulation.