First drum kit transcription: feedback for Dorico team

So, I just finished my first week of evaluating Dorico. I’m a drummer and drum teacher, and I’d been keenly waiting for the percussion support to arrive before trying it out. I’ve actually been following the development of Dorico on Daniel’s Making Notes blog from way before your first release. My first project was a transcription of a drum kit part, attached at the end of this post.

Overall User Experience

In a word: incredible! For my day job I work at a high-end digital design agency in Paris, and I have lots of years experience in UI/UX design. You guys killed it. This is one of the most beautifully designed pieces of software I’ve ever seen. It was incredibly intuitive to use, and I found myself being productive within just a few minutes of first starting Dorico, and after about an hour I was working faster than I ever have been able to in Sibelius. That said, I did notice a couple of little things, which I’ll get to below.

Documentation

  • The YouTube channel is fantastic. Ever since I downloaded Dorico I’ve watched a couple of videos every day and they are by far the best way to learn.
  • The online documentation is clear and well-organised. I think it could benefit from more screen grabs and illustrations — pictures paint a thousand words and all that.

Insert Mode

When I had already transcribed around 15 bars of the attached project, I was listening back from the beginning and realised I had stupidly miscounted the number of beats in the pick-up bar. I changed it by editing the time signature, and everything I had already transcribed moved one beat along. No problem, I thought, I totally understand why, I just need to go into “insert mode” and delete a beat. This is where things got very confusing for me. Dorico correctly combines rests from multiple voices so you don’t have a huge mess of rests everywhere. But because of that I assumed deleting (backspace) one quarter note rest would move everything back to where it should be. That is not the case, and at first I didn’t understand what had happened, just that my transcription now looked completely messed up. After panicking for a bit, I guessed that maybe it was moving things per voice. So I tried again, and this time things looked even more messed up. In fact you must repeat the operation for each percussion instrument in the kit that is in use. Now I know that, I won’t have the same problem again, but for about an hour I was just totally confused. Obviously from a UX perspective that’s not great, especially when almost everything else “just works”. I’m sorry to say that I don’t have any suggestions for how that could be improved, but I surely won’t be the only user to have a similar experience.

Cues

I discovered that you can’t insert a cue into an untuned percussion part (yet). It doesn’t really affect me, as I am most likely to just fake the cue like I did in the attached project, but just to add a data point: I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything other than just a rhythmic cue in a drum set part.

Drumset Voices

You pretty much nailed it! This works so much better than in anything else I’ve tried. Nevertheless, there is some room for improvement. As far as I can tell, there are really only three conventions in use: (a) everything in one voice; (b) hands in voice 1 and feet in voice 2; © cymbals and hi-hat in voice 1 and everything else in voice 2. Dorico seems to support (a) and © out of the box. (b) can be achieved by editing the drum kit and changing the direction of the stems for the instruments in question. I’m not sure why (b) wasn’t included as one of the Notation Options in the Percussion section, as it is very common. What is also great is that you have provided very intuitive ways to override the voice of individual notes via the right-click “Percussion -> Change Voice” menu.

However, what this doesn’t really take into consideration is that I might have very good reasons to change the default within a flow for a section. Consider the attached project. Most of it is written in the © style, cymbals and hi-hat in voice 1, everything else in voice 2, because for me that is by far the clearest to read. But from the middle of bar 30 almost to the end, the player is playing hand-to-hand between hi-hat, snares, and sampling pad, and if I stayed with the © layout it would be almost impossible to read, but in the (b) layout, hands in one voice, feet in the other, it becomes totally clear. Another style of playing, so-called “linear” playing, where no two instruments are played in unison and patterns are built up between the hands and feet really needs to be written in the (a) style, everything in one voice. This linear style of playing is extremely common in drum fills and short solos. My point being that one flow may require switching between these three styles for maximum legibility. I was able to achieve the layout I needed, but from bars 30 to 54, every snare drum, sampling pad, and tom hit had to have it’s voice changed manually, and when you’re talking 32nd notes in 6/4, that was extremely labour intensive.

I think that you should have a default style for a flow, but be able to override the style with one of the other two at any point.

Repeat Bars

[Edit] These have been added in Dorico 2.0.

Stickings

I know that adding percussion stickings is planned, but just to provide a concrete example of why drummers need them: in the attached project from the middle of bar 30 we switch to 32nd notes played between the hi-hat, a main snare to the right of the hi-hat, and an auxiliary snare to the left of the hi-hat. You cannot play the entire part RLRL because if you did your hands wouldn’t be set up for the correct snare hits. In order for me to learn this part having transcribed it, I will need to add the stickings, and no two bars are alike.

Playing Techniques

I have so much feedback on playing techniques for percussion, a lot of it related to UI design, that I think it merits a separate post. But here are two observations:

  • Bars 44-47 and 51 contain some double-stroke rolls on the hi-hat. These do not play back as expected. I would expect that to work out of the box without further intervention on my part, and if it does need me to do something to set it up then I have no idea what.
  • In the Unpitched Percussion Playing Techniques side panel you have two symbols for “half-open”, a circle with a cross, and a circle with a vertical slash. For hi-hat the symbol I am most familiar with is a circle with a diagonal slash through it. But perhaps my references are old and out-of-date and your options are the preferred ones today, in which case I’m happy to adapt.

Layout

The engraving and layout is absolutely stunning. A couple of observations:

  • I did think the parentheses around ghost notes were maybe a little on the thin side, a little hard to read. Perhaps it’s just me.
  • One slightly odd thing to me was in the attached project Drum Set part bars 20-23 were laid out two bars per line, unlike the rest of the part, even though those bars weren’t noticeably less complex than the others. It’s not a big deal, and I know I can change it myself by inserting a system break. It just slightly surprised me.

Annotations

It would be nice to be able to add non-printing comments to a flow, things like “double-check this” or “this needs more work”, etc.

PDFs optimised for iPad

[Edit] This is in fact incredibly easy to set up, I just missed it because I was looking in either Engrave or Print mode, whereas in fact it’s in Setup mode. You can either alter the layout for your entire project, or just add a custom layout so you can have both layouts for print and layouts for iPad. Go into layout options, and set the page size to custom, and then edit the dimensions for width and height. For a 9.7” iPad the screen size is 197mm x147mm.

Here’s the Dorico project. I’m still reviewing it so there might be some mistakes (if you spot any please tell me):
The-Second.dorico.zip (1000 KB)
If you’re curious, here is a link to the song. (I think the drum part will seem totally random without the music.)

I hope this is helpful in some way.

Best, Darren

Darren,

I think your list is very well worded and very well thought through. As someone else who uses this software, I appreciate the thoughtfulness in your reply.

The only part that I think I would bring up in regards to the voicing issue you mentioned (a - all in one voice, b - hands separate/feet separate, c - cymbals one voice/drums another voice)… Dorico gives 2 main options 1- All in one voice, 2 - Use of separate voices. And I think that is truly what is meant (one vs. multiple voices). I agree that the ‘b’ is used a lot, and the fact this has to be setup might seem a little a confusing at first. But I really don’t see it as the software doesn’t allow allow for ‘b’ in the settings, or that it should do ‘b’ right out of the box. I think in reality that Dorico only gives 2 options: single or multiple voices. And then I believe that voice 2 for drums stem down is just because that is the default the team went with. If the user decides to use multiple voices, it would then be up to the user to setup the way in which the voices are used. All this to say, that conceptually speaking, the team could change the default direction of the stem for the snare drum and toms, and when you select multiple voices you get stuck with ‘b’ over ‘c’.

I am not sure if that makes sense…

However, I do like you suggestion immensely about being able to change the voicing system for a set of bars. That is actually quite a terrific idea.

Also, in listening to the tune and reading your transcription it looks good. And it appears that you really got a lot of the stuff correct (I am listening, reading, and typing all at the same time, so take that with a grain of salt).

But all in all, I say excellent work, and excellent ideas/thoughts/commentary.

Robby

Maybe as a workaround:

Give the player a second Drum Kit that has the proper voicing options set.
Then let him play the first bars on the first kit and those bars that need the other voicing on the other kit. It’s like a wind player playing on clarinet first and on saxophone later, only that it’s two different drum kits.
All you have to do is hide the “to other drumkit” texts that will pop up to indicate the instrument switch in Engrave Mode.

Thanks for the replies, Robby and Estigy.

@Robby: yes, good point, I guess the choice is just between one voice or two, not between different styles.

@Estigy: I’m going to give that a try. As a long-term solution it will be a bit fiddly, as any changes made to one kit will need to be repeated for the duplicate kits with different voices, but certainly easier than manually changing the voice of each individual note.

Best, Darren

Of course, you are right.
My suggestion was only meant as the “last step before printing”. Copy & Paste those sections to the second instrument - and you are done.

First, a quick update given the release of Dorico 2, repeat bars are now here! Thank you.

Also, though, I wanted to give this a little bump before it disappeared off the front page. With all the excitement of the Dorico 2 release it’s possible no one from the Dorico team ever saw this post.

I’ll hold off on my follow-up out about playing techniques for untuned percussion until I’ve double-checked my notes against Dorico 2 (which I’ve bought BTW, worth every penny).

I’ve been thinking about your comments on insert mode, and do agree. I will look at that for a future release, hopefully changing it in a way that makes it more useful and less confusing on percussion kit staves.

That’s great! Thanks Stefan.

I know this is an older thread but would like to offer my experience also with the drumset notation.

Having the various options for voicing with a,b & c as above works well for generic drum parts and I can definitely see the attraction of this for composers who are not fully aware of the intricacies of drumset notation and are looking to offer simple for drum parts in their scores. The presets don’t work so well when doing more involved transcriptions, doing worksheets for students and writing more specific drumming parts.

I am coming from using Sibelius since version 1 and have written 100’s of drum parts and charts over the years. I find with Dorico I have to use a different instrument to chart my parts and hide the clef. The reason for this is in thinking about how drum parts are composed and put together. Similar to piano, different limbs can be represented in different voices. I could have a beat which has the hands playing hi hat and snare drum in voice one and then the bass drum playing in voice two. Then I move to a linear groove where all four limbs are playing one voice. Then I have the hi hat playing straight 1/8’s in voice one while the snare and kick drum play a phrase together in voice two. I hope that all makes sense.

The main point I’m trying to get across is that being able to use different voices like for the piano and being able to have a limb or sound source move between voices is how the instrument is actually played. As mentioned, I can get around it by using a different instrument to get it looking correct, but is not ideal as there are no sounds.

I’m just wondering if the present Dorico percussion maps (which I do think are awesome) have been designed more around general composers as opposed to more specific drumset scoring. I’ve no programming experience whatsoever but it would be great to have a (d) option in setting up a drumset where the instruments are all in the spaces already provided, but the composer can write using voices as with a piano to add the layers of rhythm and sounds required?

As mentioned, I have been doing this in Sibelius for many years. I am really enjoying Dorico and what it has to offer. The way percussion sets are set out are an excellent feature and would just love it to be more flexible from a notation perspective. Thanks, Grant :drum:

Grant, are you familiar with the additional options for voices in Edit > Percussion > Change Voice? You can move notes from their default voices as defined in the Edit Percussion Kit dialog to an extra up-stem or down-stem voice at any point in the part. I would expect that should normally be sufficient to achieve the result you’re looking for. Likewise, you can also move notes from their usual voice to the other “normal” (not extra) voice on a case-by-case basis if that makes the notation clearer. While there might be a few extra steps involved, I don’t believe that – with the exception of the current inflexibility of rests, which we hope to resolve soon – there will be much notation that you cannot achieve with the functionality provided, though of course we welcome feedback to the contrary if you find that not to be the case. Please provide some specific examples.

Hi Danieil,

I’ve got an example in a pdf ready to put up.I can’t see how/where to attach a file? Any tips and I can get it up asap!

Thanks, Grant :drum:

Zip it before attaching here. Or you can literally add “.zip” to the file extension. Either way, the forum only accepts .zip files.

Hi Daniel Thank you for the suggestions. I was familiar with the Change voice feature which I’ve used with good results. I’ve just been experimenting with extra up/down stem feature and can see where I can go with that and what it can do. It will take some more trial and error so that will be up to me to work out.

One difficulty I’m still having is working with the voices. I’ve attached and example which I attempted to do with Dorico and couldn’t work it out due to the snare drum not playing nicely with the other voices. The attached PDF shows (with a short explanation of my workings) what I was doing and then another image of what I’m looking for with the end result.

Any suggestions/advice for this would be great as I’ve been kicking my head against a brick wall trying to work it out but just haven’t been able to break through. Thanks, Grant :drum:

www.grantcollins.com

Dorico Ex 1.pdf.zip (117 KB)

Thanks Dan!

Hi,

is there’s any Template with common Drum Set rhythms available (like the idea’s in Sibelius) where I can copy and paste?

Thanks
Hubert

No, there’s nothing quite like that in Dorico.

Hi Daniel, If you’ve had a chance to check out my previous pdf examples, I’ve attached the dorico file. I’m having difficulty moving the triplet notes to any other instrument. In bar 2, you can see where I’ve moved the bass drum note and it created a new voice and changed it to a 1/16 note. In bar 6, I can’t move the triplet in the snare to any other instrument without it separating it from the rhythm and changing the subdivision. (you can se in my previous posts, the pdf example of what I’m trying to achieve).

Any tips on what I’m doing wrong or what I should be doing to get it happening?

Thanks, Grant :drum:
www.grantcollins.com
2020-03-18 12-20-35_Dorico Kit eg’s copy.dorico.zip (445 KB)

Please don’t bump threads…

Hi Dan, sorry mate but I’m not bumping anything :slight_smile: . I’ve added the Dorico file (which is suggested) to help with sorting out my issue with the drumset notation. I’ve often seem members reply with posts asking for the file to make things clearer.

I see you 're a very regular member on the forum. Would you have any suggestions that may help?

Thanks, Grant :drum: