How to create a new instrument?

Speaking as someone who regularly writes for oud, I +1 this request

Also… Speaking as someone who needs an endless variety of Percussion instruments, 1 +1 this request

Can you also create an instrument which Dorico does not have at present - like Northumbrian pipes ?

No, bill, this is currently not possible.
You can take an existing instrument that is similar in Notation to the one you need, change its name in Setup mode and its sound in play mode in the VST you use as playback.

i regularly write for guitar in the Guitar Craft tuning. do i have to redefine the tuning every time i begin a new score? is it possible to save a template, or alter the guitar tuning and save it as a new instrument that i can put into a new project? i see that i can save a tuning, is it possible to add this tuning to the list of tuning presets?

Welcome to the forum, tonycore. You can export your tuning, but you cannot save it as a preset that will always be available when you start a new project. In the fullness of time we expect to make it possible both to save templates and indeed to create your own instrument definitions, but for the time being I suggest you create a project containing your custom guitar and save it somewhere handy (on Mac you can also mark it as read-only so that you won’t inadvertently overwrite it), then start your new projects by opening that project.

Got it. But since I never play back my scores on the computer, how about a way to change the color of the out-of-range notes from red to black? I would do that for everything.

Oh. Never mind. Too easy. I got it.

Thanks! Didn’t thought of this before, but it solved my problem! The banjo transposition was off and it was simple enough to copy the correct setting from guitar. The issue with this is that it doesn’t seem to affect the files created before this tweak so one might have to go back and create new files/layouts/etc to fix those older sessions…

Will this functionality be available in Dorico 4? Failing that, I’d like to request that additional recorders are added to the recorder instrument set. Specifically, GreatBass, Contrabass and Subcontrabass. Probably garklein should be added for completeness. I tried hacking the xml and found three files - one for instruments, one for instrument families and one with different languages. But this caused playback to fail on reloading so had to abandon my edits. The instrument sounds are available but I have no access to them.

I’d also like to be able to edit the allowed ranges - some of the Dorico ones for recorder are more conservative than my playing.

No, I’m afraid there will be no interface for editing instrument types in Dorico 4, though it is certainly something that we want to work on soon.

I have instrumentnames-en.xml edited to include great bass and contrabass recorders. It loads without problems. They default to a piano sound, which can be changed in Noteperformer.
It would not be difficult to add the others and edit the ranges.

Edit: also instruments.xml, instrumentFamiliesDefinitions.xml and woodwind family.xml

I’ve just tried to create some new instruments, by editing the following files:


It seems to work fine. I’ve no problems in editing a few xml files, so this would be as comfortable to me as having a dedicated user interface. (Or even better, since I hate having to hop between thousands of dialog boxes).

Is it really safe? Or will I end up with scrambled and unreadable files?

If it really works, it will be the solution to my need to use multiple libraries for the same category of instruments (say, both Orchestral Strings and Dimension Strings with a VSL setup).


Uhm, not so easy. I see that the “instruments.xml” file only includes a single definition for an instrument. For example, there is a single definition for “Violin”, with not difference between a single instrument and a section.

Does it make a difference? All considered, I’m already assigning a Solo Violin sound to the “Violin” solo instruments, and a Violin Ensemble sound to the “Violin” section.

In the same way, I’ll assign a Dimension Violin sound to the “Dimension Violin” section, and the playback template will recall that one.


Oh, still something to ask: what is an “alias”? For example, the Fiddle is an alias of the Violin. It is notated this way:


I suspect I should to the same with any variant of a violin. For example, I should probably have the main sound of violin under the main definition of “Violin”. Dimension Violins should go under something like:


Alternative violins should be something like:


Or should they be a totally different instrument, even if always linked to the main violin and probably appearing in the same part in the final score?


I’m not exactly sure about how section instruments work with this, but if you haven’t already, see how Daniel set up the various conga drums in the file he posted in this thread. This worked great for me to add a few percussion instruments!

Thank you Fred. I had already checked those files for building a Gongs setup. But it seems a different type of setup than a melodic instrument (with individual and ensemble versions).

Another question arising, however: Daniel uses something like “very.low” in his definitions. I’ve used a form like “very-low” or “medium-small”. I wonder if this makes any difference.


The exact syntax of those IDs doesn’t really matter, as they don’t carry any semantic meaning. We have a convention that we follow, but nothing bad will happen if you follow your own convention – or rather I should say that nothing specifically bad will happen as a result of you providing your own IDs. Obviously we do not recommend and nor do we provide support for users who create their own instrument definitions by tinkering with the files provided as part of the default software distribution.

Alias instruments provide a means for us to show, say, “Contrbass” and “Double bass” in the instrument picker. In the XML files that are supplied with Dorico these are written out in full each time, so they are effectively independent, but in the database tool we use to manage this data, an alias simply references an existing instrument’s data, so that we don’t have to change it in multiple places.


Thank you very much, Daniel, this is very clear. I take the risk, because this possibility is a real game changer for me. It seems to work perfectly fine.


I’ve finally been able to complete a set of basic custom instruments, so that I can easily manage layered instruments and ensembles.

Not particularly difficult, but keeping track of all the things in the three xml files is a bit a headache generator. A dedicated editor in Dorico will be really welcome.