After some practical experimenting, discussions in a Dorico forum and discussions in a very informative thread on this forum (Voice sizes and drum cue note sizing - #45 by dan.h.tillberg), I was requested to conclude the information and post here, so this is what I’ll do
Coming from many years with Finale, it is without hesitation I can establish the fact that drum parts consumes most of the time of the typographical editing. Therefore a great opportunity of time saving is to have good functionality and configurability for drum parts.
In jazz/pop/rock there are essentially four notation styles that usually build up a drum part:
- Regular drum set notation
- Slashes/bar repeats with cues
- Rhythmic notation
- “Multimeasure play”.
1 is mostly used for either style indication or for very specific drum effects.
2 is a way to say to the drummer that “you might perhaps want to follow this rhythm”
3 is to say “you really need to follow this rhythm”
4 is for shortening parts where none of 1-3 are applicable but the drummer should still play
All of these will coexist in a drum part on one 5-line staff. Typically different measures have different notation styles, but it is fairly common that e. g. 2 and 3 are mixed in the same measure (e. g. one style on beats 1-2, another on 3-4). Possibly 1 and 3 might also exist in the same measure.
Regarding 4: the drummers I know typically are not so very happy with page turns, so this might be a good way of condensing the drum parts (I use it very often - essentially all drum parts I have produced contains some “multimeasure play” parts, especially during improvised solos by other band members).
In Dorico, notation styles 1 and 3 are fine as of now. For style 4 there is as far as I have understood no dedicated functionality, although it has been pointed out that some “tricks” can be used to achieve it. An easy yet flexible functionality for this would really be a time saver. Just like “multimeasure rests” or slash regions.
A more extensive matter is number 2. Such cue notes are lightly touching on the existing functionality for cue note handling in Dorico (which I btw really love for its intended purpose - this is something that I have missed for many years), but unfortunately the drum cues that I outline here are not really the same as the “orchestral cues” mainly used for players to navigate after longer periods of tacet measures. Some differences I can think of:
- Drum cues can rarely be sourced from other “existing” instruments. Even if there is a connection between e. g. a brass section and how the drummer should play, it is usually not “direct”. The brass section may play faster notes on some beats that should not be visible for the drummer since they just cause confusion and make sightreading more difficult, and as an arranger/composer I want to indicate my wishes of which parts or notes that a brass section is playing that should be reflected in the drum part. Also, the drum cues in a particular measure might originate from different sections, e. g. beat 1 saxes, beat 2 bones, beat 4 full band. As a conclusion, the existing cue functionality can not be used directly, as a composer/arranger I want to have full control of what drum cue notes that should be where.
- Drum cue notes must be visible in the score. Generally speaking, everything that is visible in the drum part must be visible in the score. In some cases it might be ok that the replacement of longer “slash sections” with “Play 13” might not be necessary to see in the score but is still advantegous.
- Drum cues should essentially always be written in fixed vertical positions (pitch). Most common is the way it is outline in the picture above which means “general cue” without worrying about how the drummer plays it, but sometimes a bass/kick drum or hihat foot indications are nice (both typically written in one of the lower pitches); so preferably there should be ways of entering more than one cue voice.
- Drum cues should essentially never have articulations.
- Preferably, drum cue notes should be possible to preset via configuration to desired typography, and then in the simplest imaginary way just be input directly in the drum staff, ending up in the right place with the preselected appearance.
I have spent a couple of evenings trying to see what can be done regarding drum notation based on “slashes with cue notes” or “bar repeats with cue notes”. As far as I have understood so far, there are three methods suggested:
A. Slash voice as part of the kit
B. Separate system used as source for “real cues” in the drum staff
C. Slash region (with show other voices enabled)
Methods A and C are by far the easiest, but neither gives a good typography (notes are too large, scaling can be done but rests won’t scale) and both requires the notes aimed as cues to be manually resized in some way, which is not a very conveniant way of working. I would not choose any of these even if the rests scaled correctly, I want to enter notes of the right type/typography directly without having to edit them manually as a final task.
Method B gives the desired result, but is a fairly long way to go. First, a separat “cue system” needs to be created which is from a usability standpoint not really what you could wish for, but OK if you use your latest project as a kind of “template” for the next. Worse is the fact that with this method the cues will not show in the score by default, which is not OK for this kind of cue notes as mentioned above. What you then can do is to first choose to display all cues in the score, and then hide all cues with the “hide” property, and then again show the drum staff cues by turning the “hide” property off for the drum part. Another drawback with this method is that if you want to adjust e. g. the size of these cue notes, I have understood that you then also change the appearance of other cue notes in the project. It would really be great if drum cue notes could be an own category of cue notes that could be configured separately from “orchestral cues”.
I also tried a fourth method, by using a “regular” slash voice (not as part of the kit) but I can’t really make that work in a drum/percussion staff. I might have missed something. Or it might be so that the only way of achieving slash voice in a drum/percussion staff is by adding it to the kit?
Thanks for reading