Custom Instruments, what to do?


As a user of several different sound libraries, I’m enthusiast of the new Instrument Editor, allowing for creating multiple instruments descending from a parent one.

But I’ve yet to decide which is the best strategy to use these custom instruments. Being very specific with the matching between a library and an instrument name, or remain generic, to allow easier playback template switching?

Let’s say I have two different large string ensemble libraries, namely “Lush Strings” and “Ascetic Strings”. Then, I also have a smaller string ensemble, called “Small Strings”.

I could just use two generic instrument names for Violins (ensemble and chamber/divisi), something like:

  • Violins
  • Chamber Violins

Or, being a bit more specific, customizing the large ensemble as well:

  • Ensemble Violins
  • Chamber/Divisi Violins

Or be even more specific, and using the library names:

  • Lush Violins (ensemble)
  • Ascetic Violins (ensemble)
  • Small Violins (chamber/divisi)

The latter solution would allow a high degree of precision for a rendering. When I want a particular sound, I just reassign my Violins line to Lush Strings or Ascetic Strings. If I need divisi, I reassign a new Violins line to Small Strings.

This would make a bit more difficult jumping between playback templates, but in the end this is not something that I would do all that often. At the same time, it will offer the advantage of being extremely precise if working with several libraries for detail and layering.

How would you do?


I’ve moved the library differentiation to the Playback Template (e.g. a template with Berlin Strings vs another one that’s essentially the same but with Spitfire strings) since it also automatically reloads the expression maps. But I don’t have very many libraries so copy-pasting and then editing the playback templates was very easy for me.

That’s because all my endpoints have been done for the smallest groups I thought were reasonably distinct (e.g. the SWAM Flutes endpoint, Clarinets, C-Trumpets, Bb-Trumpets, SM French Horns, etc) so it’s simply a matter of adding endpoint entries to the template and takes only a few minutes to make one. I find the way Dorico organizes this to be wonderful, once one gets used to the concept, which isn’t immediately obvious.

For custom instruments specifically, I’m only using them to differentiate between instruments of the same ID that have a distinct impact on the sound and might be specified in the score, for example the bass drum, snares or tam tams of specific sizes. A score I was working with a while ago specified 3 types of tamburo and the instrument editor would have been perfect for this at the time.

I recall there were a few people needing instruments that weren’t available in the picker at all or who needed various staff modifications, so I’m sure that’s a ton more being done.

1 Like

Maybe I know what to do. The principal statement has to be in any case fulfilled by the main library. Any variation can be recalled with their exact name.

So, in my particular case, when building a VSL Synchron template, I would have the main definition assigned to the corresponding libraries:

  • Violins (ensemble) → VSL SY Duality Violins
  • Violins (solo) → VSL SYzd Solo Violin 1/2

Then, I will have the variations. Divisi violins, as other variations, will be a custom instrument:

  • VSL SY Elite Violins ← Violins (divisi)
  • VSL SYzd Chamber Violins ← Violins (divisi, alternative)
  • VSL SYzd Dimension Violins ← Violins (divisi, alternative)
  • VSL SYzd Appassionata Violins ← Violins (larger ensemble)
  • VSL SY FX String I Hi ← Violins (FX)


The only reasonable thing in this regard is to patiently wait for the next release of Dorico, where all things regarding Custom Instruments will see a major revision as we have been told !!

Trying to organise now is bound to create a whole lot of issues in regard to instrument names and layouts.

I know this a bit frustrating right now… but the upcoming changes should bring vast improvements in instruments organisation possibilities !!

1 Like

Here is what I’m doing, while remaking my template:

  • Each instrument in a library will have its variant as a custom instrument. When I need it, I recall it in the score.

  • Each base instrument will have the most suitable instrument assigned. The variants will be recalled by their particular name, if needed.

  • There will still be ‘global’ variants, like Small Violins, Large Violins, Very Large Violins, that will have the most suitable instruments for that role (divisi, large ensemble, special huge ensemble).