Notepad, ideas and sketches

Hi! When working on a project I often have the need to:

  • Save snippets and ideas
  • Making different versions for section or a phrases (and being able to see and share them)
  • Sketching out ideas or sections
    How do you recommend going about this?
    Setting up a new flow often takes ages as Dorico have to think about every step for a few seconds, and the it’s not optimized for ideas.

I have had many points about this and currently the ‘best’ way is to use the Sketch instrument staff. Add a Sketch instrument into your score. Then add System Text along this sketch instrument as you write. They have added various Sketch instruments; some are piano, some are single staff, some are percussion. Then create a Layout which includes these sketch instruments, or excludes these sketch instruments, from various score Layouts. (The Sketch players/instruments are the same as a normal player/instrument but just have a different default setting… you could create any arbitrary instrument yourself and rename it “Sketch”.)

In my current in-progress quintet score, I have added two sketch percussion staves, to a Layout which I named “Composer Score”. Then I added another Layout which I call “Conductor Score” which does not include these sketch staves. On these staves I add system text and lots of various notations as I am writing. This also includes figured bass notations. The System Text objects can be Flipped to the top or bottom of the staff for various alignment or text overlap/stacking.

In previous scores, I used Sketch instrument of piano. Then I could short-score melodic/harmonic ideas on that grand staff. However adding lots of system text to a grand staff causes formatting problems and collisions, so it is still best in my view to create a separate sketch instrument just for System text notations.

I have tried to use an alternate Flow for sketching ideas and haven’t found it to be that productive, so I don’t do that.

For “alternate ideas” of some sections, I have used Add Staff ->Above (or Ossia) to write an alternate melody or harmony to a particular staff. This doesn’t work well for orchestration ideas but it can work okay for saving ideas on a particular instrument. Unfortunately these staves or Ossias will not playback. Perhaps in the future, Dorico could add an option to select a particular alternate Staff or Ossia to playback instead of the main bar. I’ve also found it best to delete the notations from the added staffs when in the cleanup phase, before deleting the staff itself, because the notes in those staffs will stick around inside the project even when those added staves are deleted.

There are separate discussions here about the use of the Comment feature, a method which might or might not be useful.


I use flows. Doesn’t matter how small the sketch is. If there are a series of related sketches, I put them all in one flow, separated as codas. This use of codas may be a solution if you’re finding creating flows time consuming.

Thanks both!
Yes, sketch staff and flows seems like the best options now. I need to check out the use of comments.