Harp playback style

Greetings all,
Is there a way to have Dorico play back harp chords as slightly arpeggiated, as a human harpist would naturally play? If not, is this something that’s in consideration for a future release?

I find I can get most things to playback ok using an arpeg. line and shifting the chord forward by a semi or demisemi to avoid the ‘late’ effect. This works well for chords with 3 or 4 notes.

Add an arpeggio using Shift-O, arp. Then delete the arpeggio symbol for that project (as long as you don’t need it).


Thanks so much for the replies. Ideally I want to have every harp chord arpeggiated slightly, so putting in hundreds of arp signs one by one is not how I want to spend my time. being able to enter arps for a selected passage would help, but I’m not sure if that’s planned either yet…
For now I’ll put up with unison attacks.

If your chords have a regular rhythm, you could select a passage including notes and arpeggio lines, duplicate it with the R short cut, and then repitch the notes.

Another option would be to select a passage, do edit > filter > notes in chords > top note, then adjust the playback start offset in the properties panel. Repeat for the second note in the chord, etc.

Or you could play the arpeggios in “live” from a MIDI keyboard.

There is an option in the properties panel to start the arpeggio on the beat, or before it.

I find I want half and half…

I like the second option, I’ll give that a try on a short passage. I don’t have the keyboard skills for your last suggestion, though it is likely the best.


I certainly don’t claim to be an expert, but is it really the case that harpists play all chords slightly arpeggiated? That’s not been my experience when I’ve had the pleasure of working with harpists. Provided the chord fits within the span of the hand it can be plucked cleanly without a rolled attack. So I’m not sure how we would model the instrument and the harpist’s hand to determine whether a chord should be rolled or not. Perhaps there is a simple heuristic concerning the number of notes in the chord?

I agree the basic technique is “flat” chords, i.e. not rolled, at least in classical music. But folk harp playing may have different traditions.

On the other hand one of Salzedo’s books states that “all chords should be slightly rolled” - whatever “slightly” means, of course.

Of course you can only play four notes in each hand as a “flat” chord, but trying to define which combinations of notes are impossible to play flat would depend on the player.

One set of guidelines is: total span of chord - maximum 10 strings (in one hand)
spacing of fingers 1 to 2 - maximum 7 strings
fingers 2 to 3 - maximum 4 strings
fingers 3 to 4 - maximum 5 strings

My understanding is that unison attacks are the exception and must be indicated by a square bracket. The players I’ve worked with would seem to support that. I had the impression (it could just be me) that non-rolled chords were considered uncharacteristic, even slightly vulgar.
Ian Cugley made a Sibelius plug-in which does what I’m after. Is it possible to make a script to deal with this? I have no experience with Dorico scripting, but some people seem to be doing interesting and complicated things.

It’s not feasible to write a plug-in to adjust note onsets in this way, I’m afraid.

Understood, thanks.

Daniel, in my Kent Kennan book on Orchestration, the one I use the most, though it is old, it states that all harp chords are arpeggiated slightly unless a vertical square bracket is put in front of the chord. Of course, he might be wrong, and of course he wrote the book a long time ago, so it could be obsolete. But the only harpist I know personally agrees with him. Just FYI, nothing definitive.


In my writing and arranging I’ve always assumed that playable chords would be un-arpeggiated and never had a problem with this assumption.

Styles change. There were once internationally known concert pianists who seemed incapable of playing chords with both hands together (I have recordings of several of them).

Harps can play in lots of different ways, as well as making the nice “romantic” noises you find in 19th century scores.

Well, options are nice! We can make everyone happy…

I always assumed all chords are rolled unless a square bracket is placed in front of them.

after all, arpeggio means “like a harp” :slight_smile:

How much a chord is broken/rolled is dependent on the musical style and context. When nothing is marked, a harpist will play flat chords in a contemporary classical piece, whereas in the studio, recording a TV commercial with a romantic flute solo on the top, the same harpist will probably roll away … :slight_smile: