Default dynamic level

I hope this isn’t too dumb a question:

While using Dorico’s Halion Sonic Sonic SE3 solo piano sample to sketch a new piece, I didn’t set a specific opening dynamic, but rather went with whatever the sample’s ‘default’ dynamic is.

I ended the piece with a decrescendo to pp, and followed that with a repeat bar (to repeat the entire piece). Naturally, that pp was then applied to that repeat, which I did not intend.

However, when I tried to rectify that by applying a specific dynamic level to the beginning of the piece, I found that none of the listed dynamic markings duplicated the level of that original default.

So, really, three questions:

  • How to determine the default dynamic?

  • How to reproduce that default dynamic?

  • (I should know this!) Is there a musical indicator for “return to previous dynamic” – something similar to tempo primo, but applied to dynamics?

Many thanks!

Typically the default velocity level is 64 (50%) :slight_smile: The bars in the key editor confirms that. Give or take a little bit depending on the Humanize and beat emphasize settings in Dorico.

You can adjust the Velocity values manually in the key editor. If you want normal dynamic markings in your score you can set those to Suppress playback…

1 Like

You’re quite right, though I don’t recall anybody ever asking about this before!

Dorico expresses dynamics using values from -6 to +6, with negative numbers corresponding to piano dynamics and positive numbers for forte dynamics. So +1 is f, and -1 is p. A special case exists for mezzoforte and mezzopiano, which are effectively +0.5 and -0.5 respectively. But there is no written dynamic that corresponds to 0, which is what Dorico uses when there are no written dynamics.

mf or mp are therefore the closest dynamics to that default value, but neither of them is exactly the same.

1 Like

Thanks, Daniel and fratveno.

So is there a way in which I can have Dorico return to its default dynamic value after that repeat bar?

Not easily, no.

Okay - thanks for the heads-up.

No. But you can solve all your problems by specifying a dynamic at the start of your piece (which you really should do anyway, else your players will not know how loud to play). Dorico will then return to that level for the repeat.

You can change the relative dynamics by adjusting the dynamic curve. And you can set the absolute dynamic using the mixer if you find Dorico’s defaults do not suit.

Thanks, Janus - I was just in the process of doing this :smile:

Related to those negative and positive numbers: my ear confirms this when I have the “dynamic curve” set to “1”, but, for some reason, I hear significant discrepancies in intensity between adjacent values when I set the dynamic curve higher (e.g, to “5”) – for example, then the difference in intensity between mp and mf is much greater than that between mf and f. Am I missing something?

No, this is expected: the dynamic response is intentionally not linear. See e.g. here:

Thanks, Daniel.
With a higher dynamic curve, I do expect greater intensity differences between the less extreme dynamics – eg, greater differences between pp - p - mp - mf - f - ff than between pp - pppp and ff-fff — but shouldn’t the differences between adjacent dynamics – eg, between mp and mf – be equal to, eg, mf - f, even so?

This situation calls for that mm “mezzissimo” marking I have occasionally imagined. :upside_down_face:


A question I did not find an answer for anywhere. From school I remember that a hairpin not having precise dynamics at its end is interpreted as going from the dynamics at its beginning to next in range, so “mp<” would end at “mf”. When cleaning one of my scores for a partition for the orchestra I found in several places “mp< mf >mp” so I changed it to “mp<>” expecting it to be played as mp< mf >mp, but what I found is that Dorico applies different values. So p< goes from 40 to 64, p<mp goes from 40 to 53, mp< goes from 50 to 77, mp<mf goes from 50 to 74 and mf< goes from 74 to 94 while mf<f goes from 74 to 85. Those Dorico values vary from +30% to +60%, so here is a question: why does this happen like that and what is the rule that Dorico applies here. I also tried to find this info in the properties pane, but there is nothing about the default behaviour/range of an opened hairpin. There probably exists a place in richness of Dorico’s customizable parameters, where this information can be found and changed, but I did not find it.
Any help here will be appreciated.

A hairpin without an explicit dynamic at its end will increase or decrease the dynamic level by one step. Dorico uses a scale of 6 to -6 for dynamics, with 6 being equivalent to ffffff and -6 being equivalent to pppppp.

This abstract dynamic level is then converted into a concrete level either as velocity or as the defined MIDI continuous controller, taking into account the dynamic power curve defined in Playback Options or overridden by the expression map, which can also be modified by defining the maximum and minimum (abstract) dynamic level at each end of the power curve.

Finally, some humanisation will be applied by default, meaning that you will see variable concrete values depending on the affect of humanisation features like pitch contour emphasis, polyphonic voice balancing, and more.


It’s not so fixed. There are differing views on this. That’s not set in concrete. And interpretation depends on time period in question.

I was recently at a rehearsal where the merits of “a warm m” were being considered.

I’m not sure how the dynamic power curve defined in Playback Options can be overridden by an expression map: is it simply that any given sample’s dynamic levels can ‘push’ a dynamic one way or the other, depending on where the move from one level to another occurs?

There’s an explicit control for this in the Playback Options Overrides section in the Expression Maps dialog.

Thanks, that answers my question.