Feature request: freehand drawing

When composing the traditional way, I like to doodle freehand lines in pencil on the staff paper; to show melodic contours and such. AdditionalIy, I tend to sketch structural harmony notes as very lightly pencilled note-heads without stems, even keeping them after having added figuration. As I’m sure more people do both these things (having seen an actual composer doing so), I would like to make a feature request for:

  1. A freehand drawing tool, with the option to have your scrawling show up in the printed score or not.
  2. The stemless note-heads that will remain (as greyed-out small dots) even if you add your “official” notes. These need not show up in the printed score, but it would be nice if one had the option.

Thanks for the suggestions.

This is actually a great idea for contemporary composers. I know a lot of composers (including me) who struggle doing graphic notation, and free lines are a huge part of it. Here’s an example from one of my scores of what I mean (strings and timpani):

I did it in Sibelius by exporting the score to .jpg, drawing lines in a vector graphic editor, then importing .svg back to Sibleius.
If developers implement something like free drawing or “pen” tool in graphic editors, that would be a killer feature for many, many composers!


If I may say so, I suppose there have to be limits. Where does one stop? I still do initial sketches on paper because notation software seems FAR too slow and limiting while one’s imagination is running wild. Rather than worry about durations I’ll draw a rough time-line; indicate possible barlines at the end of phrases (like early music with a comma above the stave). I’ll jot possible instrument ideas and draw symbols of my own - all to be sorted out later. And it would be unreasonable to expect computer software to provide, well, almost the full scope of image editing facilities in addition to the music. Besides, should someone still work with modular analogue synthesisers, a good deal of information is needed about settings which would demand even more.
The idea of a pen with various stroke thicknesses and ink colours is great but were that to be offered it might be best to implement it by way of a transparent layer just in case one makes a mess!

Well indeed. The demands on notation software are extraordinary: DTP features like InDesign; drawing features like Illustrator; audio and MIDI handling like Cubase; it must import and export a wide range of image file formats; it must recognise handwriting input and read a scan of music… (something, something, notation…?)

Can this not already be done with the Lines that we have?

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I think my request is fully legitimate, given that it arises from the way I (and no doubt others) guide my compositional process. Whether the development team implement my request is entirely up to them, and I certainly wouldn’t get salty if they decided against it. Finally, I’ll have you know that due to certain physical limitations of mine, sketching with pen or pencil on paper is rather difficult and not at all quicker than the method I suggested. All the same, it is all I have for now, unfortunately.

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If we are gettinginto drawing in scores, I’d love a tangentially-related feature: the ability to draw dynamic contours directly onto the staves like StaffPad.


I would say that I personally use Adobe Illustrator just for one reason – to add graphics to my scores. Because I have to draw curved lines quite often in contemporary music, I don’t mind paying extra $100 or even more (!) to have that function within notation software! If you think of it, it saves a lot of time.

Not to mention the fact that it is a lot easier workflow. Imagine… you revise the score, but then you have to export it to Illustrator or AD and revise it there as well. This is why, when I have graphical elements, if possible I prefer to import them into Dorico as SVGs.

I can see how this sort of free drawing would be in an entirely different category: purely graphical notation. How would you make the line semantic? How is the stroke defined in its endpoint? Where does it attach to?


I thought it could be something like slurs. I can currently change the curve of a slur, but I would need more control with lines – anchor points

I agree something like bezier curves with the ability to add nodes ad infinitum would be amazing…


Probably, freehand (or Bezier) curves would have to be of two types: pure graphic with no playback meaning (for annotations), and representation of modulating values (for technique transitions and pitch variations).