I really need to learn how to work with percussion in Dorico

In a nutshell, I have a piece which requires the percussionist to play very complicated combinations of instruments (pitched and non-pitched). I originally thought just design kits and put everything there, but that didn’t work. Then I separated them into more sensible kits e.g. toms as a kit, temple blocks, etc. And leave things like anvils and mark trees on their own.

The problem I’m having is with how Dorico displays legends and more often than not when it doesn’t. After much Googling I discovered that one can force the legend by right clicking > Percussion > Legend. But the font conflicts with the automatic legends added by Dorico:
As you can see “Snare Drum” is bold, whereas “Bass Drum” is not. I’ve looked through the Fonts menu, but can’t find anything for ‘Legends’…? They don’t even appear to be the same size…

Furthermore, is there a way to control when and where things show up? Very often I get the “To” caution right above the instrument e.g. “To Cymbal” right on top of “Cymbal”. If I could solve these issues I could go back and try putting everything into kits again.

Much obliged,

The indications you’re seeing with “To X instrument” are instrument change labels. Dorico shows them when a player stops playing one instrument they’re holding, and switches to another. If you’ve got multiple kits being held by the same player, that’ll explain the instrument change labels because Dorico is doing instrument changes between them.

Percussion legends are only ever manually added by you. They use the “Percussion Legends” paragraph style, I believe.

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Hi Lillie, I see Daniel is not the only one working on weekends! :joy:

Thank you for your reply, but I had already read the manual thoroughly. Yet, I still don’t understand how to solve the many issues including why the fonts look different:

Yes, thank you, I understand that and normally use it quite effectively on non-percussion instruments. The problem I’m having is that if I assign instruments to a kit and call it for example Percussion 1, then the labels say To Percussion 1, instead of the next instruments they’re playing. How can I make Dorico say the instrument?

Ah! That’s unfortunate! But Dorico does add some automatically, as shown in my image above…? Furthermore, the “forced” legends available from Right Click are not abbreviated, how do I change this?

Ah! I was looking in all the other menus except that one, doh! But that only affects the “forced” legends, not the automatic. Should I just hide the automatic ones and then do everything else manually?

Last thing, the warning labels “To X” do not appear consistently at every change. How can I force Dorico to add them?

Thank you for your time!

Percussion legends and instrument change labels use different paragraph styles. You can go into the Paragraph Styles dialog and check what each style is set to. If one is bold but the other isn’t, you can make them the same, one way or the other, in that dialog.

Instrument change labels use the name of the instrument, which is the kit’s name if you’re using a percussion kit. Whether or not both the “To X” and the “X” instrument change labels appear generally depends on the gap between the last note in the first instrument and the first note in the next instrument: if they’re really close together, Dorico won’t show both labels. If you really want to show a “To X” instrument that hasn’t appeared automatically, you could add a staff-attached text item and use the instrument change labels paragraph style for it, to keep the styling consistent.

You can customize the text in both instrument change labels and percussion legends. You can also show abbreviated instrument names in percussion legends (although I imagine you’re already aware of that, having read the manual thoroughly).

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Thank you Lillie, but I was referring to the “automatic” legend versus the “forced”, not the labels (as can be seen in the picture). I can’t seem to find the paragraph style for the automatic one…

OK, so maybe you can suggest what I should do here? It is customary, in the conductor score, to have the name of the player (e.g. Percussion 1 or Player 1) on each page and also what instrument they are playing. So that the conductor can quickly address the right person and the right instrument without having to flip back several pages to see what is being played. My player 1 is playing all sorts of trinkets plus pitched percussions, so in order to keep things tidy I put everything non-pitched in a kit. But the problem is that the player needs to know what instrument to go to, “To Percussion 1” is not helpful at all. But if I change the settings to display instruments instead of kit, then the conductor won’t know who’s playing it. This is harder than rocket science!

Yes I was aware of this, I was just hoping for an automatic solution. It’s 498 pages score with a busy percussion section, this is going to take me months! In Sibelius this was automatic… Just saying.

Dorico doesn’t add percussion legends automatically. Are you sure you’re not looking at an instrument change label, or a percussion legend you created earlier and forgot about?

Select it, and check what’s displayed in the status bar at the bottom of the window: if “Percussion legend” is displayed, then it’s a percussion legend and will behave as all percussion legends do, including its paragraph style. If nothing is displayed in the status bar, and in Engrave mode you see the “Instrument Changes” group in the Properties panel, it’s an instrument change label and will behave as all instrument change labels do.

I can’t say for sure what’s going on in your original screenshot, because it’s only a picture. You’d have to share the project file itself for more specific advice.

Perhaps for your naming system, you could use Player names in staff labels but keep the kits with their own names? As in, rename the Player to be “Percussion 1” but leave each kit with its default instrument name. That way the staff label will always show “Perc. 1” etc, but the instrument change labels will show the instruments to which that player is switching?

Another alternative is to show kits as single-line instruments, so each instrument appears in the staff label, and use a player group label to clarify this is all being played by Percussion 1, Percussion 2 etc?

There isn’t a one-stop-shop solution to showing both the player name and the current instrument in staff labels, or to show instrument labels at the start of every system, either of which I could see as being beneficial in such cases.

Ooo, you got me there! I definitely didn’t add it on my own. I will try your system, but the “To X” looks very different in terms of font and size from the “Bass Drum” in the picture.

Fab! I’ll give them all a try and get back to you! Thank you for your support!

I’ve read many posts about this issue but have not come across the ideal solution.

I want the percussionists to have staff labels of “Perc. 1” etc. No problem.

Instrument change labels work as desired for switches to Glock, or other instruments, but not when switching to a percussion kit. I don’t want it to say “To Perc. 1” or “To Bell Tree/Sus Cym/Woodblock…” or whatever I name the kit. I would like it to say “To Bell Tree” (or just “Bell Tree” below) or whatever the first instrument in the kit being used.

I tried using a custom text to replace “Pc. 1” with “Bell Tree”, but I can’t seem to make this change in the score and have it reflected in the part (or vice-versa), despite toggling the local/global settings, or propagating properties. Do I have to make that change in BOTH score and parts?

Unless there is some more automatic way I haven’t discovered, it seems the best approach will be to enter all such changes as text so they show in both score and part the same way.

Thanks for any advice or confirmation that the last approach will be most efficient.

Example: I want the Pc. 1 label to say Bell Tree in score and part. (The kit has 5 different instruments).

percussion label

There’s no way to make this automatically. I think this is because the “to” marking is not really an object that exists in both score and part. It’s something that is autogenerated, so the marking in the score and the part are different entities that happen to coexist. That’s why the setting doesn’t reflect in the other part.

I guess this depends on what you’re using the “kit” functionality for.

In general, a percussion kit is a set of instruments that will all be used together.

If you won’t be using multiple instruments in the kit simultaneously, but still want each individual instrument to appear on a five-line staff, you could create a separate kit, each containing just one instrument? Then name the kit after that instrument, and then instrument labels will say that kit’s name, ie that instrument. That won’t allow you to show notes for different instruments at the same time on the same staff though.

If you want to have simultaneous notes being played on different instruments in the kit, and show those notes on the same staff as part of one kit, but customize the instrument change labels, that will need to be done manually. Or use a percussion legend at the start of each section that shows e.g. only sounding instruments within a selected range.

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Thanks for the confirmation. I think that is where I’ve ended up, but it’s good to know I’m not missing something.

OK, so now I’m not getting consistent “To X”:

I hope you can see in the image, but basically I’m getting erratic “To X”. Percussion 1 should get a “To Xyl”, but it’s not. Could I have messed something up in the settings with all this back and forth?

Whether or not you get the “To…” warning depends on whether there is a rest of sufficient duration before the new entry: if there isn’t, you’ll just get the label announcing the entry for the new instrument.

But as you can see from the image, there’s no indication of any sort that the B is supposed to be played on the Xylophone. The vibraphone does have it, right on top of the first chord. So my question is how to force Dorico to show “Xyl” on top of the B?

We would need to see the Dorico file (or at least that section of it). A picture is not sufficient.

I can’t, it’s private.

If showing us two or three measures is out of the question, then I guess you may be stuck.

Ah! Good idea. Here it is:
Trumpet Concerto (Orchestral) - I. Mov.dorico (1.3 MB)

I have been playing around with your example and have to admit I am flummoxed. I’ve tried moving things and re-entering things and confess I cannot coax Percussion 1 to do what Percussion 2 does and announce the change from the Kit Bs. Dr. to Xylophone.

At this stage I would likely just use SHIFT+X Text to add what I needed and move on. But I would be interested to hear what the Development Team of some of our resident gurus here can make of it.

Thank you for posting the excerpt.

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Yeah, that’s my feeling too. Unfortunately the work is quite large and I already have to manually input all the legends on each page and tell Dorico to use abbreviations, for each one!!! Percussion still needs a lot of work… Sigh!