Orchestral percussion set up

I’ve been working through how to set up an orchestral score, but I’ve reached a block. The following is what I’m trying to achieve:

percussion 1: crotales, ratchet, glockenspiel, tam-tam
percussion 2: chimes, snare drum (separated from tenor drum)
percussion 3: tam-tam, tenor drum (separated from bass drum), cymbals, rute
percussion 4: bass drum, rute

I assume that I should begin with whatever instrument each percussionist is playing first, and then have them change instruments when the time comes. Does that sound right? Is it possible/desirable to label the players Percussion 1, Percussion 2, etc.? I can’t tell the best/proper way to handle this.
(BTW, players 1 and 2 could be playing the same tam-tam, so there doesn’t need to be two of them.)
I have heard something to the effect that the composer should write for the instruments and let the principal percussionist work out how to assign them. Any truth to that?
I couldn’t find rute in the percussion instruments; I’m guessing that they are categorized differently, like sticks, mallets, beaters, etc.? How do you recommend handling such things?
Thank you so much for your help.

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Hi Paul -

There are several questions here, and I’ll just touch on a couple, from my point of view. Other folks are more qualified to discuss the technical stuff.

You can create a percussion kit at setup - in your case, 4 of them. Then you can go into each and assign instruments, notation options, etc.

If percussionists share an instrument, I don’t think that matters from a setup point of view, but I would include a key or legend for each part which would say something like "rute (shared with perc. 4), etc.

Depending on the complexity of the piece and the percussion parts, I try to think of what the players are physically doing - that is, who is playing what when. That way you don’t assign an instrument to a busy player. In other words, I totally write for the PLAYERS, and DON’T leave it up to the principal. (Who is always able to change things if needed.) Unless it’s simple stuff like bass, snare, cymbal, and triangle in a band score or something like that.

That’s a start anyway - hope it helps!



Dorico doesn’t have a built-in rute instrument definition – I’m not the most knowledgeable when it comes to percussion instruments, but I thought rute were a kind of drum stick (“rods”) rather than an instrument in their own right. But in any case, if you want to create a rute instrument, you can do so via Library > Instruments.

In terms of score set-up in Dorico, consider whether you want to show the music for each player on a five-line staff, or on a single line and then switch between each instrument as required. If you want a five-line staff, add all the instruments for each player to a percussion kit; if you want a single staff that swaps between the instruments as necessary, simply have the instruments held “loose” by each player.

Dorico isn’t clever enough to allow you to share a single tam-tam between two players, so you will need to have a different tam-tam held by both of those percussionists.

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