Force Duration Idea and the Lute

Hello Dorico developers!

First, thanks for writing the absolute greatest piece of music notation software that humanity has come up with thus far. Speaking as a former software developer turned musician, I can say that you are definitely on the right path towards putting more music in the world and making all of our lives easier via utilizing the full capabilities of technological innovation for music notation.

There is one feature that I think you could add to the “Force Duration” function. It works fine as it is for now, but what it really needs in order for it to be perfect is the ability to TOGGLE it on a note that is selected. This is mainly useful for dealing with imported musicxml files that have weird results. It is also critical for people in the field of early music because when we typeset scores, we like to replicate the notation we see in primary sources and often time the ties are non-standard.

If we had a toggle button, it would reduce the amount of keystrokes needed to switch from two versions of the same note value. Please see attached image for reference!

It would be great if I am just missing the keyboard shortcut for this or something like that, but if not, if you could add this function it would totally make my day!!! :laughing:

All of these small changes like this would go a long way towards avoiding and preventing tendonitis, especially for anyone involved in early music. We have to do soooo much typesetting of scores. It is exhausting and Dorico so far as saved my hands from devastation because of the time saving features of the engine.

Finally, on totally different note, I also beg you to please implement letter based lute tablature a soon as possible. Because the engine can generate tablature based from normal notation, the implications are that we will be able to generate lute tablature from any music and instantly have the basis for transcriptions set up as well as for composers to be able to write music for us in the notation that is most efficient for our instrument. Make no mistake- all of the current software used to write lute tablature are complete trash because of the obscurity of our instrument and lack of funding/development time and so forth. This one feature will help further bring our instrument from the brink of extinction. The key idea here is accessibility and Dorico can bring lute tablature to musicians who have not been exposed to it. Indeed, I would personally love to help you with this. I hold a master’s in early plucked instruments from the Eastman School in Rochester, NY and consequently I’ve studied with the most knowledgeable lute player on earth. We can help you implement the features needed to cover all types of lute tablature for early plucked instruments.

Thanks again, for the marvelous work of art you have created with Dorico! It is a joy to work with.




Thanks for your feedback, Joe. You can already toggle Force Duration on and off for a selected note, but that’s not actually precisely what you’re asking for: you’re asking for Dorico to force the note to be notated as a single notehead, which is certainly possible in the case of a dotted quarter, but it’s not always going to be obvious how that should be done. Hopefully you’ll find that in general hitting O 6 . or some similar combination isn’t too onerous.

We certainly plan to add lute tablature in a future version, but I can’t say exactly when this will be. There’s quite a lot of work involved in doing it to a high standard, something which you as a practitioner of the instrument are very probably more aware than I am!

Hi Daniel! Thanks so much for the reply! The key combination of O 6 doesn’t work for this specific use case. However using . O . does work.

I general, I imagine that this is pretty complicated for folks to figure out as well as tedious if you have massive amounts of notes that you have to do this for in a score, especially in the case of a musicXML import. Yes, I think it would be really nice to have a “switch to equivalent dotted note value” key and vice versa using one keystroke instead of three. Since I started using Dorico, I haven’t had to consult the documentation much at all but for the force duration functions I did, and so I was thinking that it would be good to have an “dotted vs tied note equivalency” toggle key* command for this, in addition to the current note-input mode force duration toggle switch as it exists now.

Yes, you should contact me if you need any assistance with understanding lute tablature. It would be nice, in addition to basic tablature input, to see the realization of ornaments like the appoggiatura sign (which looks like a comma) and port de voix (lower appoggiatura, looks like a smiley face) to be realized in the normal notation above the tablature. In fact there a plethora of Baroque performance practice phenomena that you could program directly into to the engine which would lead to people to a better understanding of how to notate and perform baroque music more accurately based on the various treatises and sources we have. Indeed, for things like notes inégales, we even have data from surviving 18th century player pianos that you can model the playback engine from. :sunglasses: It could be really awesome.

In any case, keep up the good work and know that your hard work and innovation in our field is greatly appreciated!

Take care,


*edit: The toggle switch actually might need to cycle through dotted note equivalents because for example a dotted quarter note could be equal to a quarter note tied to an eighth note or the reverse- an eighth note tied to a quarter. The default would probably be a quarter tied to an eighth, but having the reverse available would be useful in some cases… anyways, thanks for responding earlier!!

Hi Daniel and everyone,

Since the concert I was supposed to play continuo on next week got canceled and rescheduled because of Covid-19 :unamused:, I took it upon myself to make a nifty lute tablature letter font so we can get this show on the road! If you can’t tell, I’m pretty desperate to get proper lute tablature notation functions in Dorico up and running just as soon as humanly possible. :laughing:

I did a little reverse engineering of your tablature font functions to find out what unicode assignments you were using for tablature numbers was. I then looked in your Bravura font pack (thanks for your work on this Daniel! You’re a legend!) for the existing tablature letters, and replicated them in my new font. For tablature letters above fret number 9, I used ligature substitutions (example: sub uniF031 uniF030 by one_zero) to point them to the correct new glyph.

The result is that we have basic functionality for letter based lute tablature!!! See attached photo! Yay! :smiley:
Dorico French Lute Tablature Prototype-with 7th course.jpg

It only works for the 6-course renaissance lute, or a 7 course with no fretted notes on the 7th course, because I have not yet figured out a workaround for proper bass course notation below the tablature staves, but more on that later.

Now that we have basic lute tab letter capabilities, I can sleep better at night. :stuck_out_tongue: Nevertheless, there are a ton of design parameters that we need to address. I think the most important thing that the Dorico devs need to fix immediately is the definition of the number of tablature lines for a lute. For example, if you choose an “11 course baroque lute” in Dorico 3.5, you get a tablature stave with 11 different lines. That is not how lute tablature works! We always use 6 lines in a tablature stave for most standard lutes including all Baroque Lutes with 11 through 13 courses, Renaissance Lutes from 6 to 10 courses, and any theorbos and archlutes. The instruments that use something other than 6 lines are:

Baroque guitar: 5 lines
Renaissance guitar: 4 lines

(something tells me that you all already knew this but you put these instrument definitions in just to wet our appetites about what is coming in future versions…)

The change in the number of lines on the a tablature stave described above is also directly connected with how we notate bass courses below the 6th course on a lute. Basically, on a lute, for the 7th course and lower, we notate them with letters that sit directly under the tablature staves. The 7th course open string is notated with an “a” (the same “a” that we use for the open string tablature letter). The eighth course open string is also an “a” but with a slash above it. 9th course open string, an “a” with two slashes, and the 10th course open string is an “a” with three slashes. Fretted notes on the 7th -10th courses are the same but with slashes above them. For example, the 9th course second fret would be a tablature letter “c” with two slashes above it. The 10th course first fret would be a “b” with three slashes above it. For courses 11-14, we use numbers instead of letters. The 11th course is a “4”, the 12th a “5” and so forth. It is rare to have fretted notes below the 8th course but we do have a few surviving examples of fretted notes on the 9th and 10th courses, so so they will need to be included. Please see the basic tuning chart attached for reference:
Bass Course Notation.png
Finally, in accordance with Dorico’s existing beautiful modern notation font and engraving quality, lute tablature should also have a gorgeous font that is modeled after surviving primary source lute manuscripts. I have a list of candidate manuscript examples that we can use to create a more authentic lute tablature font for the main three styles of lute tablature types: French lute tablature, Italian Lute Tablature and German lute tablature. What you have existing in Bravura now meets the minimum requirements for basic functionality, but the glyphs could be a little more accurate and could reflect some of the most beautiful tablature examples we have. What we have with this prototype font is the basis of “French style” lute tablature, which is the most common lute tablature as well as the easiest to read, especially for beginners or people who can already understand guitar tablature.

Other things like rhythm and ornamentation will also have to be addressed. Plus, since Dorico’s engine works so damn well, you also might as well also put in a function to generate a tuning cipher similar to the way it was done in lute manuscripts for 100s of years. This will be easy to implement too and would increase the coolness factor by about 50 points. See attached photo for an example from the Milleran Manuscript from 1692 (F-Paris Rés. 823)

That’s all for now,



P.S. If anyone wants to try this out, download the font, install it, then go into engrave mode, then from the menu choose engrave, then font styles. Look for “tablature numbers font”. Then for the “font family” dropdown list, Scroll down until you find “il divino tab letter font”. The screenshot was taken with the size set to 12.0 and staff-relative.
Il Divino Tablature LEtter Font (47.1 KB)

Here is the tuning cipher from the Milleran ms:

Yes, I know enough about lute tablature to know that of course you don’t display the bass courses as regular strings, and when we eventually come to tackle lute tablature you can be sure that we will take care of both the rhythms shown above the tablature and the bass courses shown below. We already have all of the letters for lute tablature encoded in SMuFL and included in Bravura, so at least they are ready for when we come to work on this.