Newbie questions about expression maps and playing techniques


I have these basic questions about expression maps that I couldn’t find straight forward answers to them in the help/online.

  1. If I understand it correctly, Playing techniques are for engraving but they can be played back as well depending on the VSTi used and its programmability. Aren’t I correct?

  2. When I hover over the expression Name an abbreviation of ‘expleg’ pops up.
    2.1 Where is this coming from?
    2.2 Is this what I need to add to my playing technique under String groups?


  1. How to connect/correspond Expression maps to Playing techniques so that it plays back as they appear in the score: Let’s says you have an expression ( Bass and Add-on Switches) as Expressive Legato under Expression library EW Solo violin.

how do you notate this in the score so that it is triggered?
Here is what I have tried so far: I go to the Playing techniques, add a new playing technique under Strings group, and name it “expr”. Then I Play>Edit Playing Techniques, I select the direction. But then, How this expr. mark on the score trigger the key switch C1?

  1. Is it possible to define your own playing technique group? Say, Ethnic Percussion, etc.?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  1. There are two different, similarly-named items in Dorico: playing techniques are the things you can see in the Playing Techniques panel in Write mode and which can also be created in the score via the Shift+P popover. These trigger playback techniques during playback. You can specify which playback technique is triggered by a playing technique via the Engrave > Playing Techniques dialog, where you can also define new playing techniques (i.e. those that appear in the score). To define a playback technique, see Play > Playback Techniques. Playback techniques are what are referenced in expression maps and percussion maps.

  2. The tooltip is showing you the display name for that playing technique.

  3. You need to create a playing technique that corresponds to this playback technique.

  4. You cannot define playing techniques groups.


I have created a new Playing Technique and a new playback technique, and I just cannot understand how to connect them. I read documentation and forum topics about this for 3 hours last night. Need help. I will explain the use case if anyone is interested.

The connexion is made through the expression map — that’s its purpose. It tells : "when this playing technique is read, please trigger that playback technique doing that keyswitch/cc thing/program change thing.
The wisest thing to do to really understand how it works is to study how the default expression maps for Halion SSE are built. You’ll notice that in the end, it’s all more or less the same philosophy.
If you want more concrete advice, please provide more concrete information :wink:

But it would be a great future feature

Great advice, and speedy, thanks, Marc! But my inspection so far has not lead to any revelations.

My goal: change transposition on one staff without changing instrument

Why I want this:

19th century brass parts often switch keys, so quickly that it’s obvious even the original players were not switching instruments or crooks, but only reading different transpositions on the same horn (the way all players do today). I want to take for example a B♭ Trumpet, say simply “in F” right before an entrance and later switch back to B♭ and have it play back correctly. What Sibelius calls an “instrument change” object does this job (and handles the key signature, if any).

There’s no need for a separate staff cluttering up Galley View because it isn’t a real change of instrument, and also I don’t want to say “To F Trumpet” at the end of the previous passage. I know this has been requested several times, and I have read those threads carefully. I have looked at “Clef and Transposition Overrides” and that is not what I’m after. This is not at the level of flows or layouts, but within a flow, in all layouts.

I have made:

  • a Playing Technique that is waiting for an EM assignment
  • an Expression Map called “up 5th” with Base: Natural transposing up 7 semitones (on the model of EM “Transpose up 1 octave”)
  • another EM to undo the transposition (is this the wrong approach?)
  • a new playback technique which I have assigned to my Playing Technique, but which doesn’t do anything

I still cannot see how to connect an EM to a Playback Technique. Maybe I’m going about it wrong. But I have seen mentions on here of temporarily transposing playback by other than an octave, and I have wondered for a month now how it can be done. Thanks for any insight.

At the risk that I misunderstand the problem :slight_smile:

You might be missing the step where you assign an expression map to an instrument in the Play panel - especially if you have say just been relying on Halion and the expression map that Dorico assigns to Halion by default. You can make all the new maps you want, but if you don’t tell the instrument to use it then, well, it won’t. You’ll notice that you can only assign one map per instrument per MIDI channel - which is why the way that you described the problem I don’t think you really want all those expression maps. You might want to make a copy of the default app to keep from messing it up, but it’ll be one map with two new entries that you create.

I think you want to create add-on entries, so that the transposition you are after is in addition to staccato, legato, or any other articulations that the player might be using. When you click to create the new entry in the expression map, you will be selecting your Playback technique from the list. Does that help get you closer or clarify at all? For sure I’m not Lillie when it comes to explaining things.

Yes, that was very helpful, thanks! Shortly after my last post I found where to assign the EM to the instrument, and it makes sense that it should be just one EM. And now the instrument still plays at the point where I’ve applied the PT. But transposition is not happening yet.

Following your advice, I added another Base in the EM for 0 transposition, and a note trigger for each Base. (I’m not concerned with combining with articulations at this point.) Now my question is: How do I get PTs to send those note triggers?

Edit: Now I see that what I assign to a PT is the key switch itself, so that makes sense. But the transposition is still not happening.

Have you watched the videos? There’s an excellent quick overview here:

and then John Barron does a detailed account of making an Expression Map for BBCSO.

For those still following my saga, I had one more mistake before getting it to work: I used a key switch but set the velocity low (because I didn’t want to hit it full force, even if it wasn’t to be heard). I had forgotten you have to set it to 127 for it to trigger. Transposition at last! And it even functions when selecting notes and during note entry, excellent!

Also I had switched the sample to a GM Trumpet, which made my key switches play sustained ridiculous contrabass notes. So I tried using a relative channel change of 0 instead and that seems to work fine.

Next is the problem of getting my new PT to work in tandem with articulations. It took me a while but now I understand why it doesn’t work where notes are slurred, staccato, etc. gdball suggested using add-on entries, but those don’t offer transposition. So I still don’t quite get it. Thanks to all for all the help so far.

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HI. Just downloaded this program today. When I assign a playing technique to a note I rarely get any effect from it. I can apply to a violin bow technique such os overpressure but I get no result. I’m using the built in Halion orchestra. Is there something more I have to do to get this to work? Thanks.


There is no overpressure technique in the HSO Violin instrument.

PLEASE take the time to work through the Dorico first steps project and this (old but good) tutorial on Expression Maps.. They will save you from a lot of frustration.

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Thanks for responding! I figured that out today Janus. That technique is not available in the Halion SE. Actually, it seems there aren’t many string libraries that do have an overpressure technique but I’m still new to score writing and orchestral plug ins so maybe I’m not looking in the right places. I do another question for you…

All notes in an instrument that fall on the same beat, or same part of the beat cannot have their velocities controlled independently. This only bothers me with the piano grand staff where I’d like to be able to have each clef have its own velocity at times. Am I missing something? Thanks.

You should be able to control different clefs (or even different voices in the same clef) react differently if you send each voice to a different instance of the piano sound (IRV).

You can certainly change individual note velocities on the grand staff. Filter to select your notes and use the histogram tool in play mode.

IRV did it. Thanks!