Orchestra Scoring: Two questions

  1. I have learned how to isolate the parts of an orchestral score using the Setup Menu by clicking on the individual instrument from the pull-down menu at the top. However, it is not clear to me if, say, the flute part (which then appears on the screen) can be edited and then saved to its own file (or printed as a pdf) without damaging in some way the Full Score from which it has been “extracted.”

How should one deal with individual parts to assemble a parts folder for each separate instrument for performance purposes? In the Setup Menu, on the Layout side, it shows two “Full Score” listings (one of which shows up as a black screen), and at least three ”Empty part” listings? Where did these come from? When I started trying to isolate the parts, I pressed something that removed the flute part from the full score completely. I had to re-enter the flute notation all over again—which took hours!

  1. I do not know how to make a “short score” (or “French score”) in Dorico. Rather, I have made a full score that runs to 153 pages. Is there a way to eliminate instruments that are not playing from the printed score, using hash marks in between systems, so that only instruments that are playing appear? How does one do this, step-by-step? Is it some configuration of the Consolidation function?

I would be most appreciative if someone could point to any instructional videos where these specific matters are discussed. I have spent much time with videos that discuss notating an orchestra score, but fail to discuss how to extract and create the performance parts for each player.

Speaking as someone that has only started using Dorico three months ago, I think Steinberg has really dropped the ball by not preparing a “Dorico for Dummies” book, a step-by-step guide on how to use the program and especially what one needs to know for all phases of a given, complicated project. Instead, they only provide a 1,000+ page “Operation Manual” that contains all information but no guide for particular projects. The videos cover a wealth of procedures. but it is almost impossible to find instructions for the procedures I need. Plus, some of the instructors talk extremely fast and move through the operations @ 100 mph. With other notation programs that I have used, they all came with a Reference Manual /User’s Guide where one could look up and find exactly what had to be done to achieve a desired objective. In my judgment, Dorico fails this test—preferring instead to have customers play a long “Scavenger Hunt” game where every person is on his own to find the answers they need.

Perhaps the instructions are somewhere out there, but I can’t waste dozens of hours listening to videos that may or may not contain the answers.

At this point, all I can ask is whether someone, or some specific guide, addresses the two questions that I posed? I am confused among flows, master pages, layouts and separate instrument parts. Can these be independent files, or do they all have to be connected to the full score? Can they be edited separately without affecting the full score?

The manager of Steinberg’s Indiana office told me directly the Steinberg only supplies technical support (if the program isn’t set up right) but not instructional help. Great!

I would certainly appreciate any help that someone can provide.

Barrett K.

For the reduction in size for your score, have you tried:

Layout Options > Vertical Spacing > Staff Visibility > Hide Empty Staves

Edit Menu > Condensing

In general, instrument specific changes (like dynamics, articulations, ornamentation etc) that are made to parts are reflected in the score.

You could try deleting all of the current layouts and then create new layouts for full score and instrument layouts by clicking the layout buttons in the Layout Panel of Setup Mode (RHS). This should not delete any of the flows - but perhaps Save As to a new version to be safe!


I doubt that, since the pull down is available in all modes!

Normally, you would enter all your music using the Full Score. My advice: Stick to that.

When you Setup a piece, you add your players and Dorico automatically adds them to the Full Score layout and creates a separate Part Layout for them. Look for the checkboxes on the setup page. If you highlight a player, you will see which layouts (on the right) they appear in and which flows (at the bottom). Warning! If you uncheck a flow you will remove any music in that flow for that player - which appears to have happened for your flute.

If a layout appears black - it means no flows are checked for it.

To get a Short Score: Layout Options>Vertical Spacing>Staff Visibility>Hide Empty Staves

The manual is 1000+ pages, because the program has huge flexibility, but there are many beginner resources. I’m sorry you are so impatient, but it will take you many hours of effort to learn.

The First Steps Guide was designed to help new users start off on the right foot. Making a huge orchestral work to start may have been overly ambitious.

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Janus— Thank you for responding to my questions. If I understand you correctly, when I begin to enter a full orchestra score, I check Hide Empty Staves, before or after I begin to notate it? I want to enter a 42-page orchestral work whose manuscript is short-scored. Do I first notate it as a full score, then afterwards click “Hide Empty Staves”? Does the program then go throughout the whole score and kick out the empty staves? Is the reformatted score then to be saved as another file? What happens to the full score version? Where can I find the videos or manual instructions for this procedure? After three months, I know already well how to notate a full score. It is the final steps, and which should come first, that I cannot locate in the videos or manual.

I know how to find the parts, but can individual parts be edited on their own, without changing the full score version? They are interconnected somehow, and I don’t want to change something on a part and have it also changed on the full score. This would be an important issue with regard to page turns. Are there videos or written instructions on how to prepare page turns?

Barrett K.

Derrek—Thanks for your comments. I have been through the First Steps Guide and many of the individual videos four months ago, and I have created a 153-page full score that looks beautiful. Since the guide only uses a simple piano score for its walk-thru. it does not deal with the issues that I am facing, and I would like to know exactly which videos do. I started using SCORE about 50 years ago, a DOS-based program that also had a steep learning curve, but all the info I needed was contained in a 188-page User’s Guide. Then I was off to the races. Only a couple of times, I had to call the creator, Leland Smith, who helped me with an intractable problem. Unfortunately, Smith died in 2013, and could no longer support the program (after making an initial Windows version). I could still use SCORE today, but I wanted to try the most advanced Windows-based program. A colleague recommended Dorico. The overarching issue is how does one locate the exact video or written instructions that answer the particular questions that I have? My issues deal not with notation. but with layout and formatting, and doing these things right without losing the flute part by clicking on the wrong button!
The Hill of Vision – Full Score.pdf (3.8 MB)

I have uploaded The Hill of Vision for your examination. The first three songs were notated using SCORE. The final four songs were done using Dorico, with the exception of Page 140, which was done with SCORE, because I could not figure out how to use Dorico to notate non-rhythmic, aleatoric passages. This is going to be a big problem when it’s time to extract the parts. If you would like to make any suggestions, I’d be most interested in your thoughts.

Barrett K.

Dear Barrett,
There are several paths that can let you experiment without damaging anything. The first I’l thinking of is save as… The other is Duplicate Layout.
Why don’t you start associating both and start playing with a duplicated flute layout on a different file? Then, I would tell you to explore the local setting of your properties panel (that is the bottom panel with many settings that can override global settings).
Notes, dynamics, text… Those things are connected to the other layouts (invluding full score), unless you’ve chosen Hidden text in the properties panel. But moving handles, even changing note spelling in a part does not reflect on the score, unless you use Propagate prooerties function.
You must experiment. There’s no way we can provide a comprehensive full answer to such a huge question :wink:
Hope it helps!

wpayne—I tried this and it worked! I saved it under a different name so I didn’t spoil the full score. It seems then that the only obstacle that I face is the one Page 140 where I had to use another program to create a non-rhythmic passage. You might download the complete score that I uploaded in my reply to Derrek (below) and see if there is a way to notate this (piano and strings) in Dorrico and send me your thoughts. Anyway, thanks so much for your solution to my problem. Does this mean, however, that when I go to notate another orchestra piece, I should always note the full score first and then convert it to a short score using your method? Or is there a way that I can make a short score version as I begin to notate the work and not afterwards? Important question for me?

Hi prman

Ultimately, if you want parts that refer back to the complete score you will need to input all of the music. You would create a part for every player (or players who double) and then write your score in galley view. When you then switch to page view you can then view the score with condensing and instrument changes applied. If you don’t know, you can have a single player ‘hold’ multiple instruments and you input the music on the relevant staff in galley view as needed. When you switch to page view, Dorico automatically inputs instrument change indicators. It’s a terrific feature.

Now you can have different layouts on different score versions. Once you have input your music, you could create a new layout - say for conductor printout -, check the flows that it needs, the instruments that you want and condensing and staff visibility, no problem. Staff visibility can be switched on or off at any time, it is non destructive.

These features are really powerful and quite deep at first. Careful of paper size and orientation as well as staff size for clarity in massive scores :slight_smile:

I hope this helps!

It is up to you. Dorico has two views for writing notes Page View shows exactly what a printout would look like, whereas Galley view always shows all instruments, but doesn’t show the layout (for scores with many instruments you can filter Galley view to keep things manageable).

No. It constantly updates the layout according to your current settings. If you want your long score back, just change the option.

Each layout (in the pull down tab) is the part. You can change page breaks in each without affecting others. You handle layout formatting in Engrave Mode.

Hi @prman , it sounds like you’d like some philosophical explanations and introductions to how Dorico works, so I shall endeavour to provide that for you, with some reference links to our documentation or videos along the way where I think they provide useful information (or simply explain something better than I could anyway).

Dorico aims to make literal part “extraction” (ie taking material for one part out and into a completely separate file) unnecessary as far as possible. Meaning, all the information needed for a particular musical work can exist within the same Dorico file (what we call a “project”). The musical work might be a 15-minute orchestral piece in one movement (score and all the parts), it might be a 60-minute symphony in four movements, it might be an a cappella choral work, it might be a collection of 20 very short excerpts for an educational worksheet, etc etc. All of these can be put into one Dorico project.

Inside a Dorico project you have players, layouts, and flows. In Setup mode, these are the left, right, and bottom panels respectively. The most important bit of information for you right now I think is that “parts” are all just one type of layout, and they’re listed in the panel on the right. A “layout” is a particular presentation of musical information: the full score layout typically contains all players, whereas a flute part layout typically only contains the flute player. But you might want e.g. a vocal score layout, which contains all the singers and a piano reduction player (and you might not want the piano reduction in your full orchestral score). By combining your flows and players into layouts, you can control what musical information appears where.

The layout selector in the middle of the toolbar at the top of the window lets you select which layout to view in the music area. You can also cycle through layouts using a key command – see here: Switching between layouts. You can also open multiple tabs and multiple windows (e.g. if you wanted to have the full score open in one window on your second monitor whilst working on part layouts in another window on your primary monitor).

So, layouts. What information do they share, and what information is layout-specific (i.e. completely independent between different layouts)?

  • Shared: musical content, by which I mean notes and notations (dynamics, playing techniques, slurs, lyrics etc) ; in general, the appearance of notes/notations, although some things can be different (I’ll touch on local properties in a second) ; project information, which is shown on pages automatically by way of tokens on page templates). For example, if in the full score you change the rhythm of bar 4 in the flute or change some pitches, that’s automatically reflected in the part layout too.

  • Not shared: casting off (which bars appear in each system, and which systems appear on each page) as this depends on what’s in each layout individually – so, page turns are unique for each part, and adding system breaks or page breaks* (*we call these “frame breaks”, more below) in one part will not affect other parts (but you can copy this if you want) ; layout-specific settings that you’ve only set for one layout (although you can set these for multiple layouts at once, if you do want to change e.g. the page margins of all part layouts in one go) ; page-specific changes, as these are locked to specific pages in one layout only

(Local properties: some aspects of notes/notations can be different for the same item in different layouts, e.g. if you want a long crescendo to appear as “cresc…” in the score to avoid lots of long hairpins, but you want the same item to appear as a hairpin in the part where you’ve got more space – you can change the property scope before setting these properties to control whether that change affects only the layout you’re looking at or all layouts that item appears in, and you can copy the current state of local properties to all other layouts, if you e.g. set it in one part only but also want it to look the same in the full score)

(Frame vs page breaks: Dorico uses frames to display everything you see on pages, and in particular music frames to display music. In order to push music from a selected point onwards onto the next page, what you’re doing is pushing it into the next music frame, and because the next music frame could actually be on the same page, we talk about frame breaks rather than page breaks.)

With apologies if you were already familiar with some of the things described above, but hopefully at least some of that information is useful in getting to grips with some of Dorico’s fundamentals.

So, returning then to your specific questions –

A Dorico project can contain any number of layouts – you’re not limited to one score and one part per player. You can have multiple scores, e.g. if one needs to be formatted with small staves on A4 landscape paper but you want one formatted on portrait A3 paper for a conductor; or if you want one condensed and the other uncondensed. (*More on that in a sec, as it probably answers some of your short score question.)

One of your full scores is probably appearing blank because in Setup mode, it doesn’t have any flows assigned to it?

An empty part is simply a layout with no players assigned to it. You probably have these because at some point, you deleted players but didn’t delete their part layouts. They’re harmless really, but you can also delete them to tidy up your project.

Sorry to hear about your difficulties here – for future reference, if the flute player was still listed in the Players panel on the left but wasn’t appearing in the full score, its music still existed in the project, it just wasn’t assigned to the full score and therefore did not appear there. Re-assign the flute to the full score to show its music there again.

(Dorico’s flexibility in the three-way relationship between players, layouts, and flows means that musical material can exist in the project without needing to appear in the full score at all.)

A combination of condensing (showing the material of 2+ separate players on the same staff, whilst retaining the ability to create clean, separate parts for those players), hiding empty staves, and showing system dividers should allow you to do this.

Finally, thanks for sharing your experience – I’m going to mull over possibilities for a tied-together tutorial for large-scale part preparation, as I think you might be right that we could perhaps “draw a straighter line” for new users here.


I would also just add that it might be easier to begin with a simple project like a string quartet, or flute/choir/piano to learn the intricacies of layouts, flows, and players. Once the concepts are fully understood it becomes much easier to adapt to a larger orchestral project. Beginning with such a large work will quickly become a trial on frustration and angst because of the hours spent entering notes, only to potentially lose something from not understanding the program.

You might also want to work on a copy of your original project as you experiment with different options, so that you don’t lose any work you’ve already done. Remember, UNDO is your friend!

You could achieve this in Dorico by using tuplets of whatever ratio fits best, and hiding the tuplet markings as required (numbers/ratios and brackets). You can force notes to beam together, including across barlines.

Dorico doesn’t prevent you having tuplets across barlines either, and allows you to show the tuplet spanning the barline entirely too.

For a concrete example with commentary, see here:

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Hello, I have been following your struggles withinterest, and some of the problems you have found I also have tried to work on.

The Videos shown on the Dorico website show many items which, when needed, will help you. The problem is that because some are for previous versions of Dorico, you will often find different screen shots , and sometimes different options. It can be very confusing.

The First Steps is another problem with Dorico. I think it was written to show as many aspects as possible, so that at least you will have come across them at that time, but the main problem I have found is that the very clever people (Lilleeand others) who have done a great deal of work on this have such knowledge that it is possible that they cannot reach down far enough to my newbie level to appreciate what my problems are. Add to this a long video on First steps which does not even coincide with the booklet and you can get lost very easily. I will not elaborate on this, but it is a problem.

Perhaps an answer could be a short piece for a string quartet - perhaps Bach or Mozart - where the early and fundamental elements could be introduced. Having successfully completed that, the First steps could perhaps the next step !

Your best place for answers to all your queries is the forum, which has a large number of very gifted and helpful people, and here they are only too willing to suggest or comment on any ideas - I have found them the most useful part of Dorico.

There are others, including Steps Tuesday (I think !) and other help places.

I hope you find this helpful, even in a small way.


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You know you’re always welcome to elaborate on these, Bill, and let me know what exactly the problems are so that I can see if there’s something I can do to improve things in the First Steps guide. I’m always listening to user feedback, and this is most productive when we can narrow issues down to concrete examples.

If I remember correctly though, a number of your issues stemmed from not following the guide in its prepared order, from start to finish. It was intended to be followed in a pretty set order, with commentary and notes at various points to prepare the ground for later pages (e.g. like when it tells you how to input notes enharmonically equivalent to double flats, but says that respelling those notes so they appear with double flats will come later).

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Never overlook the role of experimentation in learning the program. That, the Release Notes, Daniel’s blog, and this forum were all the first adopters had to go on until Lillie came on the scene. It was an adventure, yet one I recall fondly.

One can always create a small test project to try something out, or work on a throw-away copy of a file that has posed a problem. One doesn’t need anyone’s permission to do so.

Texts and videos provided by Steinberg are great sources of information, but nothing beats taking those sources and practicing them on test projects (or copies of real ones) and then using one’s imagination to try something a little beyond what has been shown. That really helps expand one’s knowledge of not just the program’s commands but also the logic behind the program–useful if one needs a work-around until an added feature fulfills one’s immediate needs.


Hello, Thank you for your reply.

To take up one or two problems I had.
I assumed that the video First Steps would be following the instructions set out in the dowload/booklet. This was not strictly true, as the following examples illustrate.

a) Use of a keyboard input in the video - there were no helpful instructions about entering notes manually, and this I am sure, was a shotcut within the video.

b) When scores were shown on the video, the music had been corrected, as per pages 66 - 69, even though these had not been part of the music entry. To see bars with the correct slurs shown, and no explanation as to how these were possible at that point tended to give the impression that I was doing something wrong. It was only later that I found these corrective pages (or rather , corrections to these pages.

There others, and I found it very difficult to find out what I had to do to correct these problems.

I am now at the stage of thinking about the sounds, and I will be very careful about them. I was trying to work out why I had so much trouble, and my suggestion of a simpler intro piece of music - perhaps Eine Kleine Musik for a string quartet, or something from Bach for four parts for example - would enable the actual entering of notes in a much simpler way , would enable confidence to build, before the much more complex music now part of First Steps. I now realise the idea behind the present music - to use as many different elements in a piece of music so that one can progress, but perhaps my limitations are not really able to complete such a piece of music, and the differing ways in which this is done from download and video make this even more complex.

I am not criticising you in any way, as I realise that an introductory way of setting up a piece of music is something of a difficult idea - you cannot possibly set up something which will be right for everyone, but the video, used in conjuction with it perhaps could be made more closely aligned to the process.

Thank you for your reply.

Thank you Derrek, Your suggestion of a simpler test project is something I was suggesting as a start in learning to input notes - as I have suggested to Lillee - , but I originally started with Dorico so that I can indeed enter my own music, but it is far more difficult to do if I am struggling with the process of note entry.

Perhaps the adage of practice makes perfect is something to reflect on - trying to write when I can , then extend the possibilities aftewards. Either way, I am much indebted to the ideas and suggestions of forum members who are much better than I am at doing this.

Hi Bill—

Thanks for your helpful suggestions. I have printed out the directions that Lillie and the others have provided, and they will help me to do what I want to do. If I were the publisher of Dorico, I would still take the approach that Leland Smith did with his SCORE program. It was, like Dorico, a complete notation program with a steep learning curve. But he provided with the program two 300+ page printed manuals. One was a User’s Guide, a step-by-step manual that walked the beginner through every phase of creating a page of music notation, including editing, lining up and justifying, combing files, complex music, extracting parts and printing complete scores. In addition, there was also a 350-page Reference Manual that contains a detailed explanation of every code item that SCORE contains and how to achieve any notation that the user wishes. Dorico is remiss in not providing a tutorial approach like this, in my opinion. Rather than try to save money by not offering well-thought-out printed materials with the program (this for a program that costs $800!), they chose instead to leave the user on his own to burrow through a 1,650-page Operating Manual to search for answers, and dozens of videos that may or may not deal with the specific problems that a user has encountered. Yes, the forum is helpful, but it should not be the first resort for the purchaser. I never had to resort to a SCORE forum to learn the program; all the answers could be easily found in the two manuals. And I did not have to use someone else’s music to learn the program by copying. I could use the program right away on the piece that I had just composed. As I mentioned in an earlier thread, learning Dorico is like a scavenger hunt: you are tasked with a mission to find answers to problematic questions, but you have to search high and low to find these answers, and not knowing whether you will or not. In my judgment, Leland Smith had the right approach. The Dorico publishers do not. But that’s just my opinion.

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Oh my…
I’ve never used the printable documents. Ever.
There is such a good online help - it’s searchable, it has pictures, it has links to other sections. And it is constantly being improved.