How do I show chord symbols on selective staffs but hide them on (for example) the drum part?

I seem to recall reading here that to have chord symbols displayed above only select staves in the score and parts, I go to the individual instruments in the Setup window, right click on a single instrument, and choose ‘Chord Symbols’ (as in the attached screen grab):

What I’m confused about are the subsequent options that then appear. I see that the 3 bottom-most options that pop up in the window (below the horizontal line) are “Show For All Instruments”; “Show for Rhythm Section Instruments” and “Hide for All Instruments”. But these sorts of options feel like they should be entire-score/parts-wide, instead of something you’d specify when right-clicking on a single instrument (?) (seems confusing). Presuming what I set here, though, DOES apply to all instruments in my score/parts and I only want the chord symbols to appear about certain parts (and not above the drum parts at all), what exactly do I choose? Do I select “Show For All Instruments” (so I have the option of then subsequently choosing the individual instruments in Setup, right-clicking similarly, and choosing “Show in Full Score and Parts”, “Show in Full Score Only”, or “Show in Parts Only” (instrument by instrument?))

And if this is the correct procedure, then how do I hide the chord symbols (in both the Full Score and the Parts) for the drums? I would presume I would right-click on one of the instruments in setup, choose “Show For All Instruments”, then for the instruments for which I want to show chord symbols also choose “Show in Full Score and Parts”, “Show in Full Score”, or “Show in Parts”. But what if I want to hide JUST the chord symbols for the drums (doesn’t the “Hide For All Instruments” option apply to ALL the instruments in my score, and not just the Drums?) (and when I’ve tried choosing drums, right-click on “Chord Symbols” and choose “Hide for All Instruments”, the chords remain).

Thanks for any clarification!

  • D.D.

If I understand your question correctly, the chord symbol menu you are looking at: " Show for all instruments", “Show for Rhythm Section Instruments”, etc. Applies to the PLAYER only. Selecting show “Show for All instruments” will not put chord symbols above the drum part, unless the PLAYER is playing drums and piano (holding both instruments).

If your drum part is an independent player, you can select to not show the chord symbols.


This took me a LONG time to understand… but this is where players holding instruments really comes into play.

So if someone is playing Sax and Bass Guitar, “Show on Rhythm Section Instruments”, would only produce the chord symbols in the part/score where the sax player is holding the Bass Guitar (rhythm section instrument).

So each player card, gives you options that apply to that PLAYER, not to the entire score.


The confusion I have is that in that screen grab (in my original post), if you choose “Hide for all instruments” (which, as you’ve said, only refers to “all the instruments” played by the drum “player”, etc.), there is STILL, directly above, the obligation to additionally check one of: “Show in Full Score & Parts”, “Show in Parts Only” and “Show in Score Only”. But if I’ve already chosen to HIDE all instruments the drummer is playing for ALL instruments, then why does it also obligate me to select something (directly above) to “Show”? This doesn’t seem very clear to me…
Thanks again -

  • D.D.

Maybe these two sections will make it clearer:

Thanks - still confusing, though, since you can both choose “Hide for all instruments” and then also have to check one of the 3 “Show” options directly above (which seems to contradict the concept of “Hiding” for all instruments of the selected player, even if this is not the actual intent?) The links you sent also suggest that the default is to show chord symbols in “rhythm section” parts, but “for the record” the rhythm section would typically presume to also include drums (chordal instrument, bass and drums, in a jazz context) which was also confusing (since I presume it doesn’t actually default to including chords in the drum parts, which wouldn’t normally be desirable?)…
Best -

I see your confusion now… You are correct. It is a little odd if you select “Hide for all instruments” that you also have to have a “show in full score”, “show in parts”, and “show in full score and part” selected.


Equally confusing (to me) is the following: why if I’m right-clicking on and choosing specifically the Bb Soprano Sax player & instrument here am I given the option to “Show in Rhythm Section Only” - wouldn’t this be a setting that would be more global?:

It seems like there ought to be a preference that affects all the instruments/players for a project, and then the individual player and that player’s instruments (such as soprano sax) should then only be presented with the option to “Show in Score”, “Show in Score & Parts”, “Show in Parts” (with even THESE potential options greyed out if that global setting is set to “Show in Rhythm Section” or “Hide for All Instruments”)…(my two cents, unless I’m missing something)…

  • D.D.

This is a setting designed for Dorico’s powerful concept of Players holding instruments. Let’s say one player changes between saxophones and keyboards. Do you want the chord symbols to appear throughout the project, or only on the keyboard parts? While this may seem like a rare use case, it does happen, and I think it’s very nice that Dorico accommodates it natively.

If all your players stick to their main instrument, you can ignore the “Show in rhythm section only” setting altogether, and use this section of the menu to toggle whether chord symbols shall be shown or not. This setting only applies to that particular player (luckily).

The first part of the menu allows you to select which layout the chord symbols for this particular player should occur if they are enabled in the second half of the menu.

This fine control has the side effect that you need to make two steps:
1: whether chord symbols shall appear or not (/only for rhythm section instruments in that particular player)
2: (if so) what type of layout they shall appear in.

I understand that the hierarchy between these settings may seem ambiguous, and that when you select “show in parts” you expect the chord symbols to appear, but menus like these needs to be as concise as possible, and once you get your head around it, I think it’s quite clear. To make things clearer, maybe the order of these sections could be swapped (as I did in my numbered list above), but that’s just my two cent…

Thanks for offering your further clarification! Let me see if I understand this by using an example:

  • I have a “Bass” player who is playing an upright bass.
  • In Setup Mode, at left I right-click on this player and choose “Chord symbols” and get the chord symbols dialogue window.
  • When this dialogue says “Show for all instruments”, what this REALLY means is to show chord symbols for all instruments that just specifically the “Bass” player is playing.
  • When it says “Show for Rhythm Section Instruments”, what this REALLY means is that if the instrument the player is playing is considered a “rhythm section” instrument, it should show chords. However, what is considered a rhythm section instrument? I still maintain that this creates more confusion because in jazz a rhythm section instrument INCLUDES drums, yet you wouldn’t typically want to specifically and automatically show chords for the drum part (so to me the terminology is not clear).
  • When it says “Hide for All Instruments” it doesn’t mean ALL instruments in your Project, etc. (which it might be easy to presume, despite having selected in this example just the “Bass” player), but rather to hide all instruments the particular player (the bassist) you’ve currently selected in Setup might be playing (?)

I also agree that since the above needs to be set before choosing what happens next, that this portion of the menu should arguably be at the TOP of the dialogue (above the “dividing line”), not the bottom. After selecting something (as in the above), then the other portion (whether the chords should appear in both Score & Parts, in just Score or just Parts), (to me) would make more sense. HOWEVER, I also maintain that if one has selected “Hide for All Instruments”, then the “Show in Full Score and Parts/Full Score/Parts” options should logically be greyed out (?)

Finally, I see that there is an additional Chord Symbol setting in Layout Options (after choosing the category “Staves and Systems” and choosing a specific layout at left). What if, for example, I have a Layout that consists of Vocals (at top), Bb soprano sax, piano, bass, and drums, and I select this Layout here and choose to show chords only “Above Top Staff of System” (such that they appear just above the Vocals). If I then go back to Setup (with the same Layout), choose just the “Soprano sax” player, right-click on “Chord symbols”, and choose “Show for All Instruments” and “Show in Score & Parts”, doesn’t this create confusion as to why the chords don’t appear? Shouldn’t these options (again) be “greyed out” if the Layout Options setting takes precedence? Just trying to understand.

  • D.D.

You are certainly on the correct track. Here is a file, I wrote to help you out.

Chord Test File (582 KB)
When you download it… remove the .zip extension from the name, and it should open.

  • If you look at the Alto Sax player, they are doubling on a Bass Guitar (Alto Sax not a rhythm section instrument, Bass Guitar is). Under the Chord menu in Setup Mode, I have it set to display over the rhythm section instruments only (that apply to that PLAYER, not the full score). You will see the Alto sax part does not have chords, but the bass guitar part does.

  • If you look at the Bari Sax Part, they are doubling on a Jazz Guitar. Once again the sax is not a rhythm section instruments, but the guitar is. I have it set to show for all instruments. You see the chords appear over all instruments of the payer.

  • The piano shows the chords, similar to the other players. This is a rhythm section instrument.

  • Same with the Fretless bass

  • Drum set 1, is a rhythm section instrument. To get the chords to appear, I had to select to show over ALL instruments (remember a drum kit is really numerous instruments combined).

  • Drum set 2 is set to show the chords over the rhythm section instruments only, and it doesn’t show the chords. Because once again, this is a “conglomeration” of numerous instruments, and I would suspect that snare drum (part of the kit) or hi hat - the instruments by themselves are not considered rhythm section players.

I hope this helps you make sense of what is going. The chord symbols apply to the player, and not to the entire score.


P.S. - I do understand some of your confusion regarding hide versus show. As well as places where the menu might be better served to have some things greyed out. Maybe down the road, this can be reexamined.

„Show for all instruments of this player“ would be easier to understand.

When an option isn’t usable it should be greyed out. I agree. And helpful would be a hint why when I try to click it with the curser.

My two cent.

Sorry, Robby - couldn’t get this to open - could you re-send?

  • D.D.

Sure, here it is.

Chord Test File (582 KB)
In order to open, you need change the name of the file. When you change the name, just remove the .zip extension, so the name should show “Chord Test File Copy. dorico”


Thanks for taking the time to send this, Robby - very helpful and it does make it much clearer. I still maintain, though, that there’s perhaps some built-in confusion in some of the terminology Dorico uses (including the concept of “Rhythm section instruments” with respect to drums, since “Drums” are considered multiple instruments so you’d actually have to choose “Play in all instruments” if you want chords to appear above them, etc., etc.). The fact that there’s also a separate Layout Option settings in which you can specify to show chord symbols in a given Layout above the top system only which seems to take precedence over any individual player settings in Setup also doesn’t seem clear to me. But at least I now know how to get what I want so thanks again :slight_smile: -

  • D.D.

In some types of music (generally pop and MT Piano/vocal scores) it’s common to have chord symbols showing above the system. In Dorico 1.0 this was a pain, because you’d have to tell the software above both the Piano stave and the Vocal stave, and then manually hide all the Piano chord symbols when there was a vocal line, and hide all the vocal chord symbols when there was nobody singing and you wanted to hide the vocal stave.

In Dorico 1.2 (IIRC) this option was added to make this task easier for people like me.

If it doesn’t apply to you, ignore it.

No - I actually will use this excellent option regularly since I do work regularly in Pop and Jazz, etc. I was just speaking to the fact that it’s a bit confusing that whatever that setting is in Layout Options takes precedence over any of the individual chord settings for the Players in Setup (ie. there’s no clear indication of this fact).
Best -

I’d say there’s a pretty clear indication of this when you change the default :

Only if you start from the Layout options (not if you’re changing the individual players’ chord settings, which - regardless of the Layout Options setting - makes it seem like you can set the chord symbol appearance status there). At any rate, just my two cents and I don’t want to beat the topic into the ground :slight_smile:

I think you have made your point.
Am glad if you now understand how to get what you need from the settings.