Custom Instruments?

Hi, just playing with Dorico in trial mode. I think it could eventually be really good but there’s a lot to do before I junk Sibelius!

Is there a way to create custom instruments? (+ specify which sample instrument is played from it and save as a template)

Is there a way to modify existing ones? eg I write for an ensemble of synths but I don’t want each synth to have 2 staves. Obviously I’d want to save the results.

Sorry if this has been asked before but I couldn’t find anything.


You cannot currently define your own instrument types or edit Dorico’s built-in ones, I’m afraid, but this is certainly planned for the future.

Is this still the case? I’m working with a set of Tin Whisles, each with a different transposition. It would be way more efficient if they would behave like transposing instruments (toggling between transposed and concert pitch).

You can create another instrument in the correct transposition — such as a Trumpet in D, for example — and rename it, of course…

You can do this by hacking an XML file. There is a tag that can be added after the clef definition.


For an instrument in D

<clef number="1">

For an instrument in B♭

<clef number="1">

Interesting… Do you have a suggestion of tutorial on XML haching? I wish there was an easier way though…

No, I’ve discovered things by examining XML files to see what’s possible. If you have Sibelius, you can define instruments there and export XML. Just be sure to enable “Transposed Score” before exporting; otherwise, the transpose tags won’t be exported. I don’t know about Finale.

What, transpositions do you need?

Presumably one could also export a MusicXML file straight from Dorico, edit that and import back in.

Oh, that’s super clever, pianoleo. I wonder if the same could be done with staff group brackets and other similar current issues. There goes my Saturday…

So I understand that even with Dorico 2, the only ways to use non-default transposing instruments are:

  • use another instrument with the same transposition and rename it
  • hack into the “instruments.xml” file inside the app’s package
    Is it correct?

That is not recommended. Best to create an instrument with the default transposition, export the document to XML and edit it with the transpose tag.

Thanks! I’ll go the safe route.

I am also interested in this feature. It does not seem to be possible to change the pitch of single lined percussion instruments. It also does not seem to be possible to add another voice to these kinds of instruments. I need to wait for this before switching to Dorico (which I really like btw). Generally, a notation system builder would be good, e.g. to enable diagrammatic systems et al. I am not working in any way with software instruments, is it somehow possible to give more freedom in order to be able to work in this manner?

For single line you are limited to line, above, and below AFAIK although you can certainly have multiple notes at once.

If you need more than that you can’t use single line as a true percussion instrument, although you can hack your instruments.xml file to have a single line non-percussion instrument that will give you the full range of Dorico’s editing capabilites.

I see :slight_smile: That’s already something to work with, the rest can be done with graphics software afterwards. Thank you. I tried to change the xml file. It seems like a good workaround for the moment.

As far as I am aware, I need to create edit the range of the percussion instruments. I’m not quite sure how to do it. Like this, but for which instrument?!


Okay, this really took me some time to manage. Now I finally can put in at least two simultaneous notes, but still only one voice. So the stems point in the same direction. No one expects notation software to be able to do everything, but having already so much pain with that, I guess I’ll have to stick with Sibelius for a while longer (even though this is also painful).

I completely agree Dorico needs more options with this, and really would love to see a fully implemented instrument designer, but you can do this by hacking your instruments.xml if all you care about is notation. If you care about playback you can use a separate percussion staff for playback where you don’t care about notation that you then hide in the score. By hacking a non-percussion instrument to display as a 1-line staff, you can pretty much do whatever you want.

That looks exactly like what I need. This would change it for me. Thank you. How do I need to edit the xml?

Yes, only notation. No need for any kinds of sounds.

It’s not “officially” supported, so I would recommend making a backup of the file first just in case. Just pick any single staff concert pitch instrument you don’t intend on ever using, then modify the numStaveLines entry.

Be aware the instruments.xml file is in the program folder, not the user folder, so it could be overridden with an update, or your file may not open correctly in the future. Other than that it should work fine. You’ll have to close and reopen Dorico before it will work, then add that instrument to your score.