Note head size for dynamics — Swiss/German style rudimental drumming

Hi all,

I was admiring Percussion Creativ and Claus Hessler’s work on the Rudimental Codex (PDF) on Twitter, and said I’d like to emulate the engraving style but Dorico couldn’t do it, when someone from Team Dorico replied that it certainly could, using “Edit Percussion Playing Technique”. Maybe over a year of working from home and covid confinement has turned my brain into mush, I was sure I’d read here several posts asking how to do this and the consensus being you couldn’t. Anyway, it turns out I was wrong and you could do this since 1.2.

So I have successfully created playing techniques for Right Hand (RH) and Left Hand (LH) which place the notes above or below the mono staff respectively, and I even edited the clef to include the R and L symbols. So far so good.

Screenshot 2021-05-13 at 19.09.51

The next step is to use note head size to represent dynamics. Looking at the Rudimental Codex it seems to me there are only three:

  1. Accents = large note head, no accent symbol
  2. Ghost notes = tiny note head, no brackets
  3. Normal = normal note head

I can’t seem to figure out how to do that in the “Edit Percussion Playing Technique” dialog, I can see that you can choose the noteheads, but I can’t seem to find something matching what I’m after. Or should this be elsewhere?

Lastly, is there a way of doing this that would allow one to change a flow from one style (e.g American, notes all on the line, L and R beneath, accent symbols and brackets for dynamics) to another (e.g. this Swiss/German style) without re-writing the whole thing?

@Robby_Poole you’re always the resident expert on percussion, do you have any thoughts?

Thanks in advance.

Have you tried using one of these options?


Thanks for the reply Derrek. That certainly would achieve the desired effect, but in a lengthy snare drum solo trying to manually edit all the notes that way would be a pain. Obviously you can select multiple notes at once and do that, but I was hoping there might be a more optimal method.

How would you apply a Playing Technique if not the same way? :slightly_smiling_face:

Well as I’m entering the note, you can cycle thought the playing techniques pretty fast with alt-shift-up/down.

A new Notehead set with scaled down notes that you can apply
to a percussion playing technique.


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Thanks Jesele, that’s looking pretty good. I’ve never edited a note head set before, I’m trying it out now.

Be careful so that you don’t change the default notehead, NoteheadBlack, I made a copy of the default notehead set on the left with New from selection. Then the + sign on the right to create a new notehead, Name it ex. NoteHeadBlackSoft. Swich to a different notehead set and back again (otherwise the name will not update in the menu) Select your new notehead as Default notehead in the upper right menu, then remove the NoteheadBlack from the set with the little right arrow. Finally edit your new NoteheadBlackSoft and scale it to 60% or something. Proceed with longer values if you need them. Hope I got that right.


Yes, I was confused when I realised I’d changed the default note when I thought I was editing my copy, but I managed to figure that out. But now I can’t figure out how to add a new (not pre-defined) playing technique in the Edit Percussion Playing Technique dialog. :-/

OK, never mind, I figured it out from this post:

I must say, on the whole I think Dorico has superb ergonomics and UI and UX design. But this playing techniques business is a nightmare. Incredibly confusing and undiscoverable.

Finally got to a first approximation. I ended up making the default note heads 90% smaller, the larger note heads 120% bigger, and then created a new note head set which is 50% of the original default note head size.

It can definitely be finessed but it’s a decent first attempt.

Now my final question is how to I save this for use in other projects. I mean I don’t want it to be for every project, so I don’t want to make it a Dorico wide setting, just something I can import when I need to. So that would include the changes to the note head sets, and the playing techniques, and the addition of the playing techniques to the instrument.

There is an Export percussion Kit option but then you have to create a percussion kit first. You could do that with just one instrument. I never managed to get the percussion playing techniques to work when I import the kit again. I think there is some bug in there.
You might have better luck though.


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Thanks Jesper. I’ll give it a try later, but if the playing techniques aren’t exported and imported that will be a nightmare. And what about all the changes to the Note Head Sets? (Well I’m not asking you directly Jesper.) I suppose I can save a file as a sort of template — does Dorico have templates?

This whole thing has got me thinking. For example in Academic writing, if you use LaTeX, or even if you use Word with Zotero or EndNote, citations and bibliographies can be reformatted with ease to suit a publication’s standards. Nothing has to be re-written. The content and the “stylesheet” are separate. Like HTML and CSS. I was wondering to myself why organisations like the Percussive Arts Society or Percussion Creativ don’t make “stylesheets” for the most popular engraving software available, but then it occurred to me that I don’t believe Dorico has such a concept (perhaps I’m wrong).

Try, it might be my system. for notehead sets you can press the star to save as default.
If export/import kit does not work with the playback techniques and until we get templates, just save an empty project that you can use as a start. On Mac you can do, get info on the file and tick template.


Can also be that the import kit problems I had is only when dragging in a MIDI file in Play mode.


I’m happy to report that creating a kit and exporting it and importing it worked. The playing techniques were brought over to the new project.

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In case anyone is curious about this notation convention, I believe I was incorrect to describe it as Swiss/German, perhaps it is just German. The Swiss style is rather different, still a mono staff with RH above the line and LH below, but there is a very curious use of grace notes placed after the main note which I’ve never seen before, and also some note heads have a sort of stubby “tail” pointing in the opposite direction to the stem — I have no idea what that denotes and have never seen it before. Here is an example: