2 voices on a single-line percussion instrument

I am unable to notate 2 voices on a single-line percussion instrument. Isn’t that possible?

No, I’m afraid it’s not possible with an individual unpitched percussion instrument.

It would make sense e.g. for the distribution of the hands or for different striking positions on an instrument.

Yes, I agree it would indeed be a good thing for Dorico to be able to do easily.

…con MuseScore si può, spero tanto nella prossima versione di Dorico.
Buona Musica.

If you’re willing to hack your instruments.xml file to have a 1-line non-percussion staff, it’s not that hard to do in Dorico:

…purtroppo il problema sta nelle percussioni indeterminate.
Buona Musica.

It is obviously a common type of notation. I quickly found several examples. Here is one by Carl Orff (Prometheus):

And this is apparently also not possible with Dorico: two instruments by one player on a single line (from Alban Berg: Wozzeck):


Thank you very much! Brilliant idea!

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Having consulted a couple of professional orchestral percussionists, they tell me that this is (in their opinion) an example of poor notation practice (and one that they encounter too often). Leave it to the player to decide which hand to use - alternating is the default, so why notate it!

(PS: They tell me, if you want to see good practice in writing for percussion look no further than Prokofiev, or Bartok)

But what if the percussionist has to use different mallets in the right and left hand?

It would be specified up front and they would pick up the correct sticks. The pattern would be indicated L or R

(That said the example quoted here would make no sense with different sticks)

The other method seems to me to be clearer in many cases. I’ll look tomorrow what Elaine Gould writes about it.

I don’t think my colleagues have ever read Gould… They just spent 30 or so years in the profession and have to respond to whatever is put in front of them. I trust their wisdom as I’m not a percussionist. But if pushed, I’d probably liken it to a string player being presented with a part where every up and down bow was marked.

If one used two distinct types of sticks, one might want to create a kit and use two lines if only for better playback.

Or two different noteheads.


great idea! how can I hack the instruments.xml file to make a 1-line non-percussion staff, as you suggested?

I want to use it to be able to put notes above the line in a single-line staff to indicate a contour rather than specific pitches. This currently doesn’t seem possible in a built-in way, but maybe I am mistaken.

This isn’t officially supported so I would make a backup of your factory instruments.xml file first. On Windows it’s found in Program Files\Steinberg\Dorico3.5. The simplest way is to take an instrument you are unlikely to ever use, and change the numStaveLines entry as below:

I’ve had to use 1-line and 0-line non-percussion staves quite a few times for different things so I have those both already configured. After editing, save the instruments.xml file, and restart Dorico. Add the instrument you edited, change the staff labels as needed, and you have the full editing capability of a normal staff but on a 1-line staff.

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Thanks so much!! Do you know where I could find that file on a mac?