Stems are vertical lines that extend from noteheads that are a half note or shorter in duration. In combination with notehead design, they allow the duration of each note to be clearly identified.

For example, quarter notes (crotchets) and eighth notes (quavers) both have solid black noteheads and stems, but eighth notes also have flags on their stems. 16th notes have two flags, 32nd notes have three flags, and so on. The length of stems is determined by default in Dorico Pro, so stems automatically adjust their length to accommodate more/fewer flags.

Musical phrase with different stems

The stems of notes and chords can point upwards/downwards, depending on the conventions of music engraving and the context of the music. For example, in choral music on two staves, stems in the soprano and tenor lines point up, and stems in the alto and bass lines point down.