Automatic instrument change: is it still so important?

One of the most stunning features of Dorico, at its first appearance, was the ability to immediately adapt to different sound libraries, by choosing a different playback template.

However, this came with the embedded complexity of mixing different libraries. A Violin ensemble is that, and all you can do is choose which single library will play it.

Now this has changed with the ability of creating custom instruments, or variations of the base instruments. Violin Ensemble A and B can coexist. There are infinite possible Violin ensembles.

This make me ask if including something like a bare “Violin” instrument in a template makes sense. How many time would you replace the full orchestral sounds? Isn’t it more likely that you will choose right at the beginning which sound libraries you will use?

So, I’m thinking that I will probably build my playback templates with specific sound libraries embedded in the instruments names. Choosing the instruments will be a hassle at setup time, but this will come with the comfort of being able to choose from a varied palette of colors.


I’ll try to do an actual example. I mostly use VSL instruments for orchestra. VSL has three main collections:

  • The old VI
  • The newer SYzd (SYNCHRON-ized), an updated version of the VI
  • The new SY (SYNCHRON), based on new multi-mic recordings

I originally used the VI collection, for which I created a playback template in Dorico.

While the SYzd version continued to appear, I maintained a SYzd playback template, including the missing instruments that were still only VI.

Then, the SY collection appeared, and I had to create a new playback template. This also included the missing instruments taken from the SYzd and VI collections.

Does it make sense to maintain three playback templates? If I use generic names like “Violins”, this is unavoidable.

If I use specific names, like SY Duality Violins, SYzd Chamber Strings or SY Elite Strings, I can keep everything in a single playback template.

When creating a new Dorico project, only the names with that exact name will recall the corresponding instrument (or the containing instance) in Vienna Ensemble Pro, or in the Dorico project itself.

It looks like the easier way to maintain my template, even if it will be huge.


Here is another consideration. Following the previous example:

  • The SY Woodwinds may use the generic name, until something new appears.

  • The SYzd Woodwinds may, on the contrary, get the unique name. When working on a SYzd-only project, I would apply to the woodwinds players the SYzd custom instruments. More work, but to be done just once per project.

  • Not happy of the above, after a while? I’ll return to the separate playback templates for SY and SYzd.

  • The new Library Manager makes easy to import any element of a project in a different one. So, maybe keeping the two projects separate (SY and SYzd) would not be very difficult. Edit everything in the SY template, and then import in the SYzd one. Edit once, use twice.


I wonder if family overrides can be of any help, in adapting a single master playback template to different situations. But this has never been too clear to me.

In any case, an override means having a different playback template, including that override. Not much different than having a different playback template with only selected endpoint configurations for particular families. And then, the coexistence of different sound libraries would, again, not easily be solved.


Maybe this would be an effective solution: when a custom instrument is not found, the root instrument definition will take control, and behave as dictated by the selected playback template, or its fallback.

For example: if I have an instrument defined as “VSL SY Duality Strings Violins” in the score, and select a playback template lacking an assignment for this definition, that instrument will fall back to the root definition for “Violins”.

So, maybe I’ve edited a score with the VSL Synchron playback template, and then revert to NotePerformer. The Violins will all be relinked to NotePerformer’s Violins, even if the instrument’s definition extends to a variation.


I absolutely share your concern for a streamlined approach to custom instruments ensemble creation and recall, and I do, at the moment use Library abbreviation as a suffix to my custom instruments name.

But I strongly suggest we kind of hold this topic until the next Release which is due before Christmas and which should largely change the way Dorico handles this very subject… a couple weeks away !!

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