Attribute vs Direction in Playback Techniques

Until now, I thought I understood how to use attribute and direction when it comes to defining Playback Techniques. Directly below is the definition from the Dorico Manual. I get that ‘Direction’ is probably the more common of the two, at least for me, since I most commonly choose a given note and do the popover Shift-P (Windows), and enter the articulation I want and all my notes until the next time I do the popover, will use that articulation. Could someone please give me a practical scenario where you would use ‘attribute’? Would it simply be as stated below, like for staccato? So, any playback techniques I define should be used similar to staccato, that is, only on one note?

“Articulation type: Sets the duration over which the playback technique takes effect. Attribute applies only to the note at the rhythmic position where the playing technique is found, such as a staccato articulation, while Direction applies to all following notes until it is replaced by another playing technique, such as pizzicato.”

I ran into this issue of understanding, because I have single orchestral bass drum notes (single instances of notes, not groups of notes), and I was using the popover to assign the articulation, but the articulations were defined as ‘attribute’, that being, felt long, felt short, and felt roll for bass drum. As soon as I redefined as ‘Direction’, the sky opened and everything worked. I thought ‘attribute’ would work since they were single notes.

‘Attribute’ is useful when each note needs to have the marking, such as “ten.” for tenuto, or ° for harmonics, or + for stopped Horn. This was long requested, so now you can enter a technique on a selection of notes at once instead of having to do them one at a time. If the text or symbol continues to have its effect after being printed once, then it’s a ‘direction’.

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So, why did my “felt long” for Bass Drum not work? It seems to meet your criteria. It was for a single note. Or does attribute work only for articulations that normally apply to a single note, like staccato, or harmonics etc?


I wonder if attritube vs direction might become another “playing” vs “playback” techniques.

Is it more or less confusing to think about attribute vs direction as “single note” vs “groups of notes”?

For example, one might need a single note played pizzicato. It is a direction, of course, but according to “single note vs group of notes” logic it would be an attribute in this case. Or, one might need a single note played with a felt beater (another “direction” that appears like a single note case here).

On the other hand, writing “sempre staccato” in the score requires the staccato to be treated as direction playing technique rather than the usual attribute.

And then, there is the new input method itself - applying attributes on a selection of notes.

In the old days direction used to mean the way the sound is generated (with bow, fingers, felt beater, etc) and attribute used to mean how a note is shaped (its duration, stress, etc). This strikes me as the most logical way to think about it, even though the new input methods and the treatment of selections of notes become increasingly confusing and likely misleading users in the future.

Possibly you had more than one note/beat selected when you applied it? With one beat selected, a PT will apply to just that beat; with a passage selected, the PT gets the duration of the passage, similar to a pedal or 8va line. (The extent is not visible unless you select the P.T., or it is defined with a line continuation type.) This was new in Dorico 4, and confused some veteran users.

The most common confusing mistake with this is applying “pizz.” with a bar selected – an easy and logical thing to do, but it results in arco being invisibly restored after that bar, which is never what you want. The solution is to start with a selection of just one note, and then pizz. stays until it is cancelled by an explicit arco.

This difference in entry method is not the same as ‘attritube’ vs. ‘direction’ although they are related. The terminology is an ongoing problem, since they have to choose some words for these specific software things, and words can have multiple implications.

And if any of what I’ve just said is wrong, someone with Dorico 5 (I don’t have it yet) please correct me immediately!

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Yes. And I still hate it!

As I see it, Attributes are “self-canceling,” and Direction require manual canceling.

Thank you Derek, I’ll open a small project and experiment around. You guys are the best!


But if I apply a pt to a selection of notes via a popover, both Attributes and Direction are self-cancelling, meaning they will both cease after the selection, or am I mistaken?

If one applies an Attribute to a single note, it applies only to that note.
If one applies a Direction to a single note, it continues until countermanded.

If one applies either to an area, then one has indeed manually told the Attribute or Direction where to stop.

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I’m wrestling with this also.

I wisht (citing a character from “Nobody’s Fool” here… :wink:) it worked like this:

PT “attribute” applied to a single note: Applied, notated once and self-canceling directly after.
PT “direction” applied to a single note: Applied until cancelled manually, notated once.
PT “attribute” applied to a selection of multiple notes: Applied and self-cancelling after last occurrence, notated individually to each note.
PT “direction” applied to a contiguous selection: Applied to selection, notated using an extension line, self-cancelling after extension line ends.

To me, that would make sense.



My recollection is that this version is available via a selection in Properties, but it is not (AFAIK) the default, which may be causing some of the confusion.