Dorico sending scales to players


Maybe this is already in the app, or has been asked, but I can 't locate it. So I’ll ask.

I would like Dorico to send to the sound player commands to use the correct pitch, and the correct scale. For example, say I’m working on a late Renaissance piece. The piece is based on a quarter-tone meantone scale, with an F “root/finalis”, and is repitched to A = 466Hz (the Chorton). Maybe I’ve edited the scale with Scala, and create a scale file with my custom tuning.

What I would like is that Dorico sends to the player (NotePerformer, Vienna Instruments, Kontakt…) the correct tuning pitch (A = 466Hz) and the correct scale (quarter-tone meantone with F “root/finalis”).

The alternative would be to retune/repitch the instruments for each scale and pitch. Not exactly practical.

Can this be done?


You can set the pitch for the project in Play / Playback Options / Tuning.

If a VST instrument supports custom temperaments using Scala, it should be possible to set that up in the VST instrument, and the playback configuration will be automatically saved in the Dorico project file.

AFAIK NotePerformer doesn’t support Scala.

Alternatively, you could define your own temperament in Dorico. If you set the tuning to 1200 EDO, you can then define the pitch of each note to the nearest cent, and you can make enharmonic notes like Eb and D# have different pitches. You don’t have to define notations for all 1200 possible notes, only for the ones you are going to use!

Rob, thank you very much for pointing me toward the two solutions!

The first one seems to be more time consuming, since you should edit tuning for each instrument, and for each tuning.

The second one seems much more general, and reusable with more instruments and pieces.

If I understand correctly, what I have to do is to go in Write, create a new Tonality System from the side pane, and while in the Edit Tonality System multiply by 100 the divisions of each interval of the default Equal temperament.

Once done with this preliminary step, I can adjust the number of divisions of each interval as if I was editing the scale in cents.

What I have to discover, at this point, is if I can export it to reuse in it in other pieces. My fault, but I can’t find if this can be done with the Save As Default command in the Edit Tonality System dialog.

Another thing I can’t understand is if I have to create a different scale for each Renaissance mode (starting from a different note of the scale), or if I can transpose a mode/scale to any other note (for example, creating the meantone scale starting from D, and then transposing it to A and G).


I don’t think you can export and import tonality systems.

You can delete all the music from a project, save it, and then open it and “save as” a new name to start new projects.

I’m not an expert on all performance practices for Renaissance music, (specifically, I don’t know much about vocal music) but you certainly would not be retuning keyboard instruments like a pipe organs for different modes. Even for a harpsichord where retuning is relatively quick, you might consider retuning a single note to G# or Ab in a meantone temperament, but no more than that. Normally, the wolf fifth would be between G# and Eb, since D# and Ab are unlikely ever to occur in music based on church modes.

AFAIK Chorton is just a retuning of A to a higher pitch, not a “transposition” of the music into a different “key” or “temperament system”.

However I don’t think anybody knows how the early Ruckers double-manual harpsichords, where the two keyboards were offset from one another by a fourth, were originally used. On these instruments C on one keyboard and F on the other played the same string, so clearly they were at the same pitch, but we don’t know what pitch or temperament that was. One theory is that they were “mechanical transposing instruments” with one keyboard meant for “low pitch” and the other for “chorton”. Because they were of such high quality, many of them were converted into “conventional baroque” two-manual instruments 50 or 100 years after they were first built, by re-aligning the keyboards and/or extending the compass of the instrument by a few notes, and no evidence of how they were originally used has survived. The main activity of some French baroque harpsichord makers was importing these old instruments from Flanders, modifying them, and reselling them, rather than building completely new instruments.

You can save new tonality systems as default, which gives you the means to reuse custom tonality systems in new projects.

Actually I said “import and export” not “save as default”. But you are right “save as default” is implemented.

I thought I had read somewhere that you could import and export, and I looked at Dorico 3 itself (not the documentation) to check but didn’t find it, hence the previous post.

If the OP is trying to set up several different meantone temperaments based on different pitches, saving the whole collection as “defaults” might be a bit clumsy compared with importing the one that you actually want to use in any particular score. Especially since the notation for all of them will look identical.

@Rob, yes, tuning pitch is separate from the scale. It is done, I guess, with the project tuning in the Play > Tuning setting pane you pointed me towards.

You are also right in saying that I probably don’t need to retune my instruments more than once, since obviously tuning was dictated by the keyboard instruments to which all the others were asked to conform. In particular, if the supporting keyboard is an organ.

I’m not sure which is the “root” key for my meantone scale, but all the treaties I’m reading seem to imply that C3 is the starting point for a tuner. Some start from A4 with a pitching fork, tune down by fifths (pure or narrowed?) to C3, then start building pure thirds (386c) over and under the already set C, D, G, A.

@Pianoleo, so, are you saying that Save As Default will make the Tonality System available to all the other documents? Sorry if I’ve not tried, but the word “default” is making me fearful that I will alter some default behavior of Dorico that I can’t restore.


Paolo, as long as you build a New tonality system (so that you leave the two existing default tonality systems intact, and then build a third tonality system) there’s no problem.

Set your new tonality system as default.
Open a new project.
Now set the factory 12-EDO to be default.
You should see that all three tonality systems are still listed in new projects, but the factory 12-EDO is selected by default.

Pianoleo, great! That’s how I’ll do!


There isn’t really a single “root” key. You choose the enharmonic names you want to use for the “black notes” (e.g. C# Eb F# G# Bb) and that defines how far you can go round the circle of fifths before you hit the wolf fifth.

With the choice of notes above (which was the most common version) meantone tuning then works out exactly the same for major scales of Bb, F, C, G, D, and A. In other words those major scales are “transposed” exactly. You can’t use E major because you don’t have D#, which is not the same pitch as Eb, and you can’t use Eb major because you don’t have Ab.

Many books make the inaccurate comment that “in unequal temperaments every key sounded different” but that is not true for meantone - there are only two different flavours of meantone, “good” and “unusable because of the wolf 5th”. It is true that for “well tempered” unequal temperaments where all keys are useable, every key does sound different.

For minor keys and transposed modes, the same general idea applies. In practice, the music only used key signatures of one sharp, and one or two flats, with occasional accidentals (e.g. F# and G# when the keynote is A).

If you choose to tune Ab instead of G#, you can then use the Eb scale (or C minor, or church modes transposed into C) but then you can’t use A (major, minor, or any other modes) because you don’t have G# for the leading note.

For the church modes, in practice the 6th and 7th degrees of the scale were used at two different pitches a semitone apart, similar to the modern melodic minor scale, so each “mode” actually included 9 pitches not 7. For example “D Dorian” used the notes D E F G A Bb B C C# D, not just D E F G A B C D. That mode “transposed” into G would then use G A Bb C D Eb E F F# G which still fits the notes in the meantone tuning. But you can’t transpose “D Dorian” into C, because you don’t have the note Ab.

Rob, with what I improperly named “root” I intended the note from which one starts tuning a keyboard instrument. As far as I understand, the Ut/Do/C (under Middle C) is the referring note. All notes/scales are then built on those pitches.

As I read in a treaty, with split keys there were scales of 19 notes, including the enharmonic alterations!

Evil Dragon was so kind to point me toward the MIDI specs for transmitting MIDI tuning. This is what Logic, Cubase and VSL are using. Unfortunately, not Kontakt.


With MIDI tuning, the only reason to start from A as a reference note is that the global pitch is usually set using A (440Hz, 415Hz, etc), so you want the pitch adjustment for A to be zero. If you start calculating intervals from a different note like C, setting “A = 440” will actually give A at a slightly different pitch.

Historically, you started from whatever fixed pitch reference you had available (a tuning fork, a bell, a pitch pipe, etc).

It turns out that A is a convenient note to start from if you are tuning an instrument by ear and counting beats, because the beat rate for the equal tempered 5th D4 - A4 is almost exactly one beat per second, which is easy to measure using a watch or a pendulum clock. For the other 4ths and 5ths, you learn by experience how much the beat rate changes as you move up and down the scale.

With an accurate electronic tuner, in theory you can tune each note independent of all the others, but in practice you need to take account of the imperfections in a real instrument to get it to sound “perfectly in tune”.

I agree with what Rob says above concerning Meantone tuning. In practice (i.e. in careful tuning!) it makes no difference whether one starts tuning a keyboard from A or C as reference pitches, since the fifths C-G-D-A-E are all set to the same small degree of flatness. Usually one tunes in the octave below middle C, where the beats are more obvious, and the test after tuning C-G-D-A-E is usually that the tenth c to e’ is pure. Indeed many modern harpsichord tuners start with a pure major third c-e or f-a and then divide it by tuning the intervening fifths/fourth to sound equally flat.

All that said, and there has been a lot more written about it, the question is whether renaissance singers actually sang exactly in meantone with its flat thirds or adjusted their intonation so that the intervals were pure. Remember that it is only keyboard instruments that require the pitches to be tempered, on account of them being fixed. It is quite possible that even the most accomplished of choirs around 1600 ended a piece at a different pitch level than they started it, nobody being the wiser, or caring! A highly chromatic piece like Lassus’ Sybilline Prophecies is a case in point.

This is an interesting topic, anaesthetised and made boring when the pitches are expressed in cents…