Custom instruments

Hi Dorico developers and community,
I really like the background of Dorico, giving instruments to players. But often these instruments are not world-wide standards, they are nearly as different as the people who use them. Well, this might sound a little too romantic, but let’s face it, there are often things I’d like to change, beginning with the name (which is not localized in Dorico). These changes return from time to time, so it’s nice to save them for later, but of course they won’t always be the same in the future, so overriding the standard often does not help. In short: I’d like to save a copy of each instrument with some changes and a comment/name to explain these - like the different forms of .
In most Notation programs, this is a very simple process, since there are very few things connected to each instrument. In Dorico, there are many more, so I understand that you don’t want to give the user full access to the instrument database (which might be overwhelming), but hey, adding other instruments “based on …” should be possible, shouldn’t it?
Sometimes I want instruments

  • to have a different name
  • to have a different sound/playback preset
  • to use special transpositions and/or clefs, depending on the view

    There is a database in Dorico storing these things, please let us really make use of it, preferrably also allowing export/import (sets) of custom instruments to exchange with other users.

The next step would be custom ensembles combining these instruments.

What do you think?

You can indeed modify the XML file for instrument definitions, but it’s not officially recommended.

It’s instruments.xml. Make a copy first, and store it elsewhere for safekeeping…

I believe that’s on the to do list, it’s been requested before. It would involve some work as you need to have indications for what family it belongs to, lots of defaults, etc.

It’s actually not too bad. Easiest to take an existing instrument you know you won’t use, and modify it in the XML. I’ve done this to create a 3-line staff for chant.

Oh that’s good, then it shouldn’t be too bad for the team to put an editor on top of that XML given they’re not busy enough :slight_smile:

But are you implying that you can’t add a new instrument using this hack, only modify an existing? XML is usually entry count agnostic so in theory adding another just parses into variably sized internal data structures (e.g. C++ STL)

Anyhow the file is embedded into the .app directory on Mac so yeah it’s really not meant to be messed with.

We do plan to add an editor for instruments (and indeed for ensembles) in future versions of the software, though it’s quite a big job. It’s definitely in our plans.

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Thank you all for your answers!
Thank you for the tip concerning the instruments.xml. It seems to be quite limited or specialised, though… I did a few attemps but did not get any results in the app until now. New instruments don’t seem to work either.

Daniel makes me feel hopeful for the future, as he often does. :wink:

This is excellent news. Thanks, Daniel! It will solve a lot of problems for many users.


Are there a few instructions on how to modify the instruments.xml to add custom definitions right now? I tried, but all I ended up was a blank line in the instrument list, generating an empty player.

Being able to create my own definitions would make my life with Dorico a lot easier. So, very happy to make my hands dirty with a text editor!