Jazz Notation - The Default

I’m a student learning big band arranging and read this article which suggests arrangements vary (in terms of expression, playing technique and ornamentation) based on the target audience. Here, Tim Davies puts forth a “jazz default” which is intended to greatly simplify the score on the basis that players will use specific techniques in the absence of contrary indication.


This resonated with me, but then I began to question how to get Dorico to “honor” such a default. I understand that swing playback style is generally possible, but can I further refine or create my own playback style to include the 7 elements listed by Tim in his article?

I understand your intention, but, I mean, a big point of Tim’s blog post was precisely that you shouldn’t fall back on the playback of a notation software, but rather understand the music’s performance practice.

I don’t think Dorico offers any controls to shape playback out of the box (none of the major softwares do); NotePerformer eventually does a better job because its main innovation — so, no small feat — was trying to supply that overcoding based on context, but it’s not really geared towards jazz.

Keep learning your horn. Play as much as you can. Keep listening. Get your hands on some charts (although, if you’ve done the other three enough, it isn’t even strictly necessary).

This is why I am asking, I recognize I have been over notating and am now correcting scores to match performance practice. Doing so, however, comes at the cost of either sacrificing Dorico playback or spending a lot of extra time using hidden playback triggers or editing in a DAW. I guess what I am asking is:

  • is it possible to tell Dorico that a given piece should be played by XYZ Persona (aka, Jazz Default)

If I understand correctly, Dorico already does this, but has only one default persona hardcoded as “classical”. The engine applies “classical” interpretation of playing technique, ornamentation, etc. and uses “classical” defaults for notation without modifiers. I am asking if it’s possible to change from a “classical” mode to a “jazz” mode. The engine will still work the same way (apply “XYZ” interpretation of playing technique and use “XYZ” defaults for notation without modifiers). The only difference is that instead of XYZ being “classical” XYZ would be “jazz”, or maybe even user configurable.

As you’ve pointed out, this is only relevant if you actually want playback from Dorico. In my case I do as I’m trying to get a grasp on writing original material that doesn’t have an existing performance score and associated audio track. In other words, it is harder for me to “check my work” when playback differs from written notation. In many cases Dorico plays back as intended, but jazz is a notable exception unless I simply haven’t found the right settings for it.

All variables that the engine takes into consideration in order to render MIDI data from symbolic notation are already exposed in the Playback Options, Cmd + Shift + P. You could get an approximation of what you want there.

You could have 2 copies of the file - one configured for playback and the other with your desired notation, for printing score and parts.

There is quite a bit here to work with, thank you.

Is there any chance we can add the following option to this playback engine:

  • notes played as [select: mf, f, ff] or louder are played with accents (<)

Also, any chance we can have a 3rd articulations placement option: hide? This would be huge for me and cover my most pressing use cases.

If we were to implement hiding for articulations (which I don’t rule out), it wouldn’t be as a placement option, but either as a separate property or possibly as an automatic hiding of articulations after a certain number of repetitions (similarly to how successive tuplets are handled).

I’m not particular about where the option lives, but manually setting it would be important unless the automation is solid. If there is a way to do both, for example, to cleanly see hidden articulations that were automatically created and override them if needed, that would be fantastic. Would love to have a simple “hide” checkbox in the articulations panel though (and have it display across multiple selections of the same articulation state).

Thanks for your consideration and everything you do, Dorico is amazing and getting better with every release.