D 5.1 - New Instrument Family Capabilities

Glad we now have the ability to fix instrument family problems and create our own custom families.

Is anyone else who works in virtual instrument playback starting to think about how best to use this new capability? The possibilities seem endless.

My brain is muddled after two straight nights of poor sleep, so I can’t expand on this cogently right now, but I have downloaded the update and will do what I can to mess with things.

It doesn’t help that right now my wife has our Roomba vacuuming the bedroom where my desk stands.

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My first idea may not be the best.

I could set up a separate family for each VST library, and then create instruments and variations as applicable to that library.

For example,
Family: s Woods (Synchron Woodwinds)

s Piccolo
s Flute, variants 1, 2 and a3
s Alto Flute
s Oboe, variants 1, 2 and a3
s English Horn
s Clarinet Bb, variants 1, 2 and a3
s Bass Clarinet
s Bassoon, variants 1, 2 and a3
s Contrabassoon
s Bass C
s Woodwinds tutti

But I think part of my idea would be to have unique instrument names that include the library so in setup Dorico can automatically assign the proper VSL instrument and associated expression map. Yet I believe I’ve read that the automatic setup attachment is not connected to the instrument name but to a separate field in the instrument definition. So I’m not sure if the idea is kind of pointless and there might be a better way to approach things.

I’d love to hear others’ thoughts.

Another approach might be as follows:

Family: VSL Woods

Piccolo, variants s Piccolo, z Piccolo (z for Synchron-ized)
Flute, variants s Flute 1, s Flute 2, s Flute a3, z Flute 1, z Flute 2, z Flute a3

I take note of the fact that even if I do not get auto assignment using this new feature I can at least get all the other instrument information automatically set up. And in setup I do not have to browse through a bunch of irrelevant instrument to select one from my libraries.

After some experimentation I like the second idea, mirroring the basic factory families with the prefix "v " to indicate and segregate my VSL instruments. Adding a per-library prefix results in too many families.

So what I am initially thinking is, for example:

Family: “v Woods”
Instrument: Flute with variants
Variants: s 1, s 2, s a3, z 1, z 2, z a3

The Instrument Picker looks like this:

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The version history says, in relation to the component “Instrument types”, that “Duplicate domra instruments no longer appear in the Fretted instruments family in the instrument picker.” So is an instrument family the same thing as an instrument type? It has been explained to me (though I still can’t find any documentation on it) that the instrument type is what determines which endpoint is used when you apply a playback template. So can we now create custom instrument types?

No, instrument families are not the same as instrument types.

Instrument families are things that appear in the first column in the instrument picker. They are collections of instruments, corresponding to how instruments are bracketed together in common ensembles. For example, instruments in the woodwind family (flute, piccolo, oboe, clarinet, et al) will all be joined by a primary bracket if they are next to each other in the score order, because they’re in the same family. Families are broadly defined in terms of the material of the instrument (woodwind, brass) or their means of sound production (percussion, strings). So “woodwind”, “brass”, and “strings” are examples of instrument families.

Instrument types are the things that appear in the second column in the instrument picker. They are individual instruments – for example, “flute”, “oboe”, “horn” etc. are examples of instrument types.

The things that appear in the third column in the instrument picker are also instrument types, but they’re special ones: they are instrument variants, which mean they are in a parent-child relationship with another instrument type. Horn in F, for example, is the parent instrument (it’s arbitrary, but it’s the most common modern horn, so we chose to make it the parent), and all of the other variations of horns with different transpositions, clefs, and key signature visibility are variants (children) of that parent instrument.

You can edit instrument types (and variants) in Library > Instruments, and you can arrange instruments into families in Library > Instrument Families.



I know this has been covered before, but I remain confused (my problem, not the Dorico team’s).

Picker Column 1 = Family (instrument category grouping)
Picker Column 2 = Type (instrument parent)
Picker Column 3 = Variant (child of parent)

My confusion has to do with the playback template assignment of VST instruments to instruments added in setup mode. I want to create unique Dorico instruments in such a way that the playback template matches them with unique VST instruments.

Dorico Instruments
Fl 1 s
Fl 2 s
Fl a3 s
Fl 1 z
Fl 2 z
Fl a3 z

Corresponding VSL Instruments
Synchron Flute 1
Synchron Flute 2
Synchron Flutes a3 (set up as a solo instrument for my own purposes)
Synchron-ized Flute 1
Synchron-ized Flute 2
Synchron-ized Flutes a3 (set up as a solo instrument for my own purposes)

How can I create these as unique Dorico instruments in such a way that a custom playback template will match them only with the correct VSL instrument? How do I properly combine assignments of type and variant as to make these unique assignments?

I already know how to work with endpoints, instrument creation, and family creation. What I don’t know is how to execute that in such a way as to accomplish my goal.

My confusion is whether this is even possible, and I know I’ve read things on this forum before that imply it is not possible. I’m just trying to clear up my confusion once and for all.

Could you set up a project template with all instruments pre-assigned and then, for each new project subtract unneeded instruments before beginning?

Yes, for sure, but that’s not my goal.

I have often in the past constructed comprehensive templates that are unwieldy to use. My hope is assign instruments on demand and have Dorico load the correct, corresponding VST instrument based on and endpoint/playback template.

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My current understanding – and I post this only in the hope of attaining greater understanding through being corrected – is that this is possible, provided that you either
(a) put all your instances of the same instrument (e.g. all single-player flutes) in the same endpoint configuration, or
(b) create a separate instrument for each such instance.

Thanks, I can do that, and await confirmation that this is the path. And before I create custom instruments for all my many VSL instruments I want to make sure I am confident that whatever scheme of types and variants I use is the best way to do it.

I started doing that before the recent update when custom instruments was introduced, but some problem with Dorico reliably handling instrument families made me put a halt to it until this area was further developed, as it has been with 5.1.

What’s the practical use of this? Is it so that you can use e.g. a flute from two libraries at the same time by adding the flute and the vflute in the same project?

John, thanks for chiming in.

The use case is I have not only various flutes in multiple libraries, but also multiple flutes in the same library. I hope to be able to create a custom flute instrument for each and then invoke the correct VST by adding that custom instrument in setup mode. Of course this requires endpoint setup as well.

And I pick flute as just one of countless examples. People who use Dorico primarily for notation-based DAW-style work commonly have a number of different VST’s for the same instrument.

I want to avoid a massive template (as suggested above).

So question 1, is this possible? If not I’ll just move on until it is.

But if it IS possible, I want to be sure before I begin a massive instrument-creation and endpoint project that the way I would do it is the best way. With custom instrument capability in 5.0 this became an intriguing idea, but because of problems with the family field in custom instruments I could not reliably segregate my custom instruments from the factory listing.

If you are only using one flute in each project (but want to pick/change which flute) then you could do that with a different playback templates?

True, but I would definitely be using more than one flute per project, and this is normal for what people like me do, not only for flutes but for most other instruments as well where the typical orchestral set has multiple instruments, multiple Clarinets, Oboes, Bassoons, Horns, Trumpet, Trombones, not to mention strings. And these will at times play at the same time in various combinations.


I apologize for continuing to explain, but in case it helps me be more clear.

As an example of just flutes, for example, I might In a single project include any combination of the following:

standard concert Flutes -
Synchron Flute 1 and Flute 2 and Flutes a3
Synchron-ized Flute 1 and Flute 2 and Flutes a3

standard Bb Clarinets -
Synchron Bb Clarinet 1 and Bb Clarinet 2 and Bb Clarinets a3
Synchron-ized Bb Clarinet 1 and Bb Clarinet 2 and Bb Clarinets a3

and so on for each of the instrument types I mentioned in my immediately preceding post.

edited to add:

What I am asking is for a one-to-one relationship between a custom instrument named a certain way so as to call up the correct VST instrument with it’s own endpoint assignment, this rather than a one-to-many relationship between something called “flute” and all possible VST instruments depending on various playback templates. Various endpoints I can handle and include in a single playback template, but I cannot handle various playback templates, because I could not switch templates during a project.

Again, I am prepared for the answer that this is not currently possible, I just need to know if that is the answer.


Wouldn’t it suit your purpose to have a playback template consisting of a single (big) endpoint configuration?

Yes, that would be ideal, but my question has to do with things I’ve read on this forum before, that just because a custom instrument is named a certain unique way (“Fl s 1”) does not mean that when you add it in setup mode it reliably matches up with the corresponding VST instrument (Synchron Flute 1) in the endpoint, that there is some field in the instrument definition that determines this matchup. If I’m wrong and this is more simple matter than I am making it, someone please tell me.

As I said in my original post, this a confusing matter for me. It wouldn’t be a big issue if there were just a few instruments here and there involved. It affects the majority of my VSL instruments, which is an extensive list.

I’m pretty sure one has to avoid Setup altogether to get what you want (or as close as possible). That is why I suggested creating a document template with everything you expect to need already assigned.

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I know the problem, and have wasted many hours trying to understand it. But I think it only arises if you have multiple instruments of the same type (e.g. single-player flute) divided between multiple endpoint configurations. A playback template seems to work OK if it consists of one endpoint configuration for all your instruments; or if it includes multiple endpoint configurations but no instrument type appears in more than one of them. But, as I said, I’m hoping to find out whether I have got this right.

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