Add custom percussion instrument - best practices?

If I want to make a percussion map for a percussion instrument that Dorico doesn’t have, what’s the best way to go about doing it? Dorico only has two Congas, high and low, and I’m trying to make a map for the new VSL Latin Percussion library which has 3, the Quinto, Conga, and Tumba. A low Super Tumba and high Requinto aren’t included but are fairly common instruments too. As an example here’s a link to the great Giovanni Hidalgo playing Quinto, Conga, Tumba, and Super Tumba.

Since the percussion instrument needs to be available in both in Setup and available to be selected in the Percussion Map setup (Gamelan and Orff instruments aren’t available in the latter) are there any sort of xml hacks that can add an instrument to both locations? Is it better to just repurpose another percussion instrument I’m likely to not use? I could probably do it all with a bunch of Playing Techniques too, right? VSL includes 3 Claves, but Dorico only has 1 so I just did it with Playing Techniques:

There are a lot more options with the Quinto though, so that could be a more of a pain to set up. I’m pretty slow at setting up Percussion Maps so I definitely want something future-proof that won’t potentially be broken when 4.0 comes out. What approach do others take with making Percussion Maps for instruments Dorico doesn’t have?

BTW, the new VSL library sounds pretty good! Here’s audio straight out of Dorico of the 3 Claves, Conga and Tumba that I already have set up.

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In the attached zip file are two fragments of the XML files for the instrument definitions and the instrument name definitions. Graft these two chunks into the relevant files (instruments.xml and instrumentnames_en.xml) and that should give you the five different conga drums you need.


Wow, thanks Daniel!!! I’ll try this out as soon as I’m home late tonight.

This worked great, thanks! For anyone else attempting to do this, in addition to adding the definitions to instruments.xml and instrumentnames_en.xml, I had to add the names to instrumentFamiliesDefinitions.xml too in order for them to be available under Unpitched Percussion.

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I have now added them too, thank you both for the files and the pointers!

An observation - when I added Congas as a kit I still ended with just 2 default instrument and had to manually add the additional instruments via the Percussion Kit dialog. However, when I then tried to order the instruments by size, the numbering got messed up in the score.

It turns out that if I add the Congas as individual drums - only the drums I need, and in the order I want (smallest to largest) - and then combined them into a kit, then everything works out perfectly.



Is there a way to make Dorico show the drum names in the score exactly as they are shown in Percussion Kit? (EDIT: I mean, without manually renaming each one)

Thanks again.

Have you tried the 5-line-staff configuration ? It seems you’re in grid here.

If you do want to use the grid presentation type, you will indeed need to rename each instrument.

Can you share how you added the names to instrumentFamiliesDefinitions.xml? I made an attempt, but now I see no Congas at all when I try to select Instrument in Percussion Maps. The instruments.xml and instrumentnames_en.xml changes worked though.

Many Thanks,


I just added the entityID name for the new Congas to the instrumentDefinitionID section under “instrument family.unpitched-percussion.” It looks like this:

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It worked! I had put them in the wrong instrumentDefinitionID section initially.

Many thanks.

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Hi everyone

I wondering if anybody might be able please?
Following the discussion above, I’ve added a custom instrument. When I add a solo player I can see the custom instrument in the list, but when I go to do a percussion map, I don’t see its name in the list of instruments.

Could anyone help please?

Thank you so much

In my experience, this happened when I made a typo somewhere. It’s important to be really careful with this in the sense of triple-checking everything, as well as making backups of the original files.

I have double checked, triple checked. It’s not coming up. Also why am I able to see it in the list of players but not in the list of instruments in the percussion map section? I really don’t understand

Because you made a mistake somewhere along the way.

There are 3 files involved, each responsible for a specific part of the program where these things appear. If you make a mistake in one of the files, you will not see the change in that area of Dorico. Also - using a basic Windows notepad is almost designed on purpose to help you make a mistake. Use XML Notepad instead, if you’re on Windows. Copying to the wrong location, missing a single character or adding a comma or whatever is the stuff that happened to me again and again.

Thank you! You were right, there were some things I needed to correct! Now it worked :slight_smile:

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Did something change with the instruments.xml formatting in D4? I know the file is different as there are the new Sketch (labelled generic in the instruments.xml file) instruments. I think I replicated my steps with the Conga file from 3.5 but am getting different results. It’s completely possible this is user error and I’ve messed something up, but making the edits in 3.5 resulted in this:

Doing the same thing in 4.0 gives me this:

I’m not able to select the 5 Conga instruments that I could get in 3.5 Is there a different editing process in 4.0? Or did I just do something wrong/different?

I suspect it may be that you need to take another look at the instrumentfamilies.xml file.

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Ah, I had copied and pasted the entire entityID name so I had “instrumentname.latin.unpitched.conga.very.low” instead of “instrument.latin.unpitched.conga.very.low”, etc in the instrumentfamilies file. It’s working now, thanks!!!


I feel like the slow kid… I can’t find any of the 3 referenced XML files on my Mac (Big Sur):


I’ve looked in (and around)
/Library/Application Support/Steinberg/Dorico 4
and in
~/Application Support/Steinberg/Dorico 4

On Mac they are in the Dorico 4 application package, in /Contents/Resources/
Be sure to make a copy of the original(s) for safety.