Feature Request: Handbell Notation

I just finished re-notating a handbell piece that was difficult for my college handbell choir to read since it did not follow several of the standards of handbell notation. Dorico Pro 2 has added several items that made this project possible (in addition to the rich feature set already in Dorico), but as I worked on the project, I came across a few requests to make Dorico even more awesome!

First, there is an official guide to handbell notation available here: https://www.lorenz.com/handbell/collections/agehr-handbell-handchime-notation-booklet (I would be glad to answer any questions, give additional details, or provide more samples from handbell literature. I have started two handbell programs and have lead handbell choirs for 15+ years, so I have seen a lot of handbell music and would be glad to lend my experience, if desired.)

  1. Shakes - Shakes are notated with the trill “squiggle” line (without the tr) and are most typically placed next to each note involved in the shake (see pp. 22-23 in the handbell notation guide for variations). I am grateful for the recent addition of system text, which allowed a work around for this tied note situation shown in Shake.JPG (i.e. building the shake line with two of the trill glyphs from the Bravura font). But at first the positioning in page view in Engrave Mode was not how it would print (i.e. printing alignment was very different than Engrave mode alignment). For some reason, adjusting the baseline got it to print correctly. Here is the example:

    also see doubling line.JPG below for another example of the shake notation.

2.Octave doubling lines - it is common practice in handbell music to double the top most bells up an octave, but instead of writing a lot of ledger lines, a long horizontal bracket is used to indicate where this doubling should happen. This bracket can go for a couple of measures up to multiple pages. This example goes on for an additional two pages:


I found a “line” with “ends” in the Academico font, so I came up a work around, but an implementation like the pedal line, trill line, or hairpin would be great. Vertical brackets are also used fairly frequently (as seen in this Double Lines.JPG example) - sometimes like an “L” and sometimes like “[” to indicate which notes are involved in a certain playing technique.

  1. Parentheses - I am glad to see that parentheses around notes has begun to be implemented, but I believe it is only in non-pitched percussion. May we please bring that to all music? May we also be able to use other characters like <> and ? Much handbell music is written so that it works for a range of bells (i.e. 3-5 octaves); however, there will be notes that a 4 octave choir owns, but should not ring at certain times (e.g. it would mess up the chord inversion or bass/melody lines). The notes which should not be played are placed in (), <>, or (see Double Line.JPG above for an example of <>). Also, in the bells used chart, at the beginning of each piece, enharmonic equivalent notes are placed in parentheses. For this, Dorico would need to be able to do one or the other of the parentheses per note. Again, the system text provided a workaround, but it would be great to have Dorico accurately and consistently place these parentheses. Here is a sample of the bells used chart I created for this project:


    Thank you so much for the hide stem option, it worked incredibly well! The flexibility of time signatures, tuplets, and flows were to other items that made this chart possible. (FYI, it is a 34/4 measure with a 28:34 tuplet in the treble clef.)

  2. Playing techniques - I am grateful for the playing techniques editor and that handbell symbols are included in the Bravura font. Perhaps someday, could there be a separate handbell category with all of the handbell playing techniques listed?

I know a lot of folks need Dorico to do a lot of things. For these requests, I have found work around from this great community on the forum, but I figured I might as well ask, since it seems like the foundation for these requests is already present in Dorico.

Thank you for your consideration and an amazing notation program!

Thanks for this feedback, Tim. We certainly plan to support handbell notation more fully in the future.

The issue you’ve experienced with printing the wiggly shake lines is caused by using Bravura and not Bravura Text when you constructed those items: use Bravura Text in future and you should find that everything matches between Write and Print mode.

You can use tuplets with an n:1 ratio to produce brackets above or below notes: you can switch off the number using the Properties panel.

We’ll certainly look into adding a category of handbells playing techniques in the future.

Thank you for your reply. I look forward to more support for handbell notation in the future; thank you for your ideas in the mean time!

There was one other item I noticed with the diamond note heads. The wide option of diamond note heads worked the best among the regular notes. All of the wide diamond note heads were substantial enough to readily be seen, except for the whole notes. The whole notes still look like the regular diamond notes heads instead of the wide version. This is especially noticeable in this chord where only one of the whole notes is a diamond.


Notice the difference in the note head for the half note verses the note head of the whole note. Is this by design or could Dorico please use the bigger note head for both the half note and the whole notes?

I suppose I could put in stemless half notes for the whole notes as a work around.

Thanks again. I am very pleased with Dorico and frequently recommend it to my students and colleagues.

You will soon be able to design your own noteheads, which will hopefully make it possible to produce diamond noteheads of the perfect size and shape.