Anders is correct that this is perhaps the most complex confluence of concepts in the whole program, and indeed in music notation in general. Conceptually I do believe it’s simple enough, but fitting the pieces together isn’t necessarily so simple.
An unpitched percussion instrument produces a set of unpitched sounds: a note written on its own with no special notehead or articulation can be said to produce the “natural” sound of that instrument, but you can also define other sounds by specifying different noteheads, or combining existing noteheads with articulations and/or tremolo beams. Each combination of notehead with optional articulation and tremolo produces a unique “playing technique”. i.e. a different sound produced by that instrument. Crucially each unpitched percussion instrument cannot produce sounds from another instrument: you cannot define a snare drum sound, say, for a cymbal. Equally crucially, you can define playing techniques for an unpitched percussion instrument completely in the abstract: there is no requirement that the particular playing technique you are defining should be available in the set of sounds you are using for playback. This is all about notation, and specifying how you want particular playing techniques to appear in the printed music.
For a given instrument, these mappings between notehead with optional articulation and tremolo and playing technique, or sound, are made in the Edit Percussion Playing Techniques dialog. For an individual percussion instrument that is not part of a kit, you reach this dialog by expanding the card for the player holding the instrument in the Players panel in Setup mode, hover over the blue label for the percussion instrument itself so that a chevron > appears, then click to show its context menu, and from that menu choose Edit Percussion Playing Techniques. If the percussion instrument is part of a kit, then when you hover over the green label corresponding to the percussion kit, from its context menu choose Edit Percussion Kit. In the Edit Percussion Kit dialog, select the instrument whose playing techniques you want to edit from the main display, then click the Edit Percussion Playing Techniques button to open that dialog.
Documentation: Edit Percussion Playing Techniques dialog | Edit Percussion Kit dialog
Once you have defined the playing techniques for a percussion instrument, you can input music onto that instrument. Use Shift+Alt+up/down arrow to cycle between the different playing techniques you have defined, and you will see a textual description of the current playing technique shown to the right of the caret. Hit Y to input a note using the currently-shown playing technique. You can also use your MIDI keyboard, including using different keys to cycle between the defined playing techniques.
Documentation: Inputting notes in percussion kits
The final piece of the puzzle is how to obtain the desired playback sounds. If you are using the default HALion Sonic SE and HALion Symphonic Orchestra sounds that are supplied with Dorico, or you are using NotePerformer, then there is nothing to do here: all of the available unpitched percussion sounds are already mapped for you, and once you create an unpitched percussion instrument in your project, Dorico will choose the best available sound automatically. If you are using the sounds provided with Dorico, or NotePerformer, and you don’t hear the sound you expect, then you will not be able to hear the sounds you expect unless you add more sounds.
If you want to add more sounds, then you will need a virtual instrument or patch within a player like HALion Sonic SE, Kontakt, or EastWest Play that provides the sounds you want to hear. The documentation supplied with the sounds that you have bought should include a listing of which MIDI notes or pitches in which octaves produce which sounds and playing techniques. If you don’t have any supplied documentation, you will have to discover which sounds are which by experimentation: open the patch in the sample player, and play or click each key in each octave, writing down the sound produced by each key.
Once you have either found the appropriate documentation or written down the list of sounds included in the patch, you need to create a percussion map. A percussion map tells Dorico which combination of instrument and playing technique is produced by each MIDI note number or pitch for a given unpitched percussion patch. This is done in Play > Percussion Maps. Create a new percussion map and name it appropriately. Referring to the list of MIDI notes and sounds produced, define an entry for each note in the patch. Make sure that the playing techniques you define here match the playing techniques you defined for the notation of the instrument in the Edit Percussion Playing Techniques dialog.
Documentation: Percussion Maps dialog
Finally, you need to connect together the percussion instrument in your score with the percussion map you have created. You do this as follows:
• In Play mode, add a new slot in the VST Instruments panel on the right-hand side by clicking the + button in the action bar at the bottom of the panel.
• Load the VST instrument needed for your percussion patch into the empty slot.
• Show the VST instrument’s window, and load your percussion patch into one of its channels.
- Click the cog icon in the VST Instruments panel to show the Endpoint Setup dialog.
• For the channel into which you’ve loaded your percussion map, choose your new percussion map from the Percussion Map column and click OK.
• On the left-hand side in Play mode, expand the track header for your percussion instrument, and using the controls there, choose the VST instrument containing the percussion patch, and specify the correct channel.
Documentation: Endpoint Setup dialog | Instrument track header
That’s how it works. I hope you find this helpful.