Percussion Instrument Playing Techniques Notehead selection

I’m setting up a Dorico project with the goal of having it work seamlessly with Superior Drummer 3 (SD3). I’m seeing an issue with associating a notehead with a specific instrument/playback technique.

While in write mode, when I enter a note, e.g., snare, I want the capability to cycle through Playback Playing Techniques (Shift + Alt)
and see Superior Drummer 3 articulations popup with an appropriate notehead, e.g.,
“Sn. Dr: SD3 Center”: Default Notehead,
“Sn. Dr: SD3 Sidestick”: X Notehead,

(1) I’ve successfully created Playback Playing Techniques, e.g., SD3 Center", “SD3 Sidestick”, etc.
(2) I’ve successfully created a SD3 Percussion Map that maps the combination of Instrument + Playback Playing Techniques to Midi note number.

The third step is the problem:
(3) White in setup using “Edit Percussion Kit” > “Percussion Instrument Playing Techniques”

I’m seeing an issue with associating a notehead with a specific instrument/playback technique.The “Percussion Instrument Playing Techniques” dialog only enables you to select the notehead set but not an element from the set. If you choose a different notehead set, the application simply selects the first element from the set. There is no way to select the 2nd, 3rd, or any other element. Ideally, I want to setup a custom SD3 notehead set using the Engrave > “Edit Notehead Sets” dialog. But if I did, it seems there is no way to associate an element from that set (other than the first one) to the instrument/playback playing technique as far as I can see.

It seems the sensible way that it should work is this: Select a notehead set, then select a notehead from the selected set. But it does not unless I’m overlooking something.

I’m I overlooking something? if not, can we add this capability to the next iteration of Dorico?

I think the only thing you’re missing, TT Dan, is a bit of extra knowledge about how notehead sets work: rather than defining a single notehead set containing e.g. a normal notehead, a cross notehead, a diamond notehead, or whatever else you need, you need to define a notehead set for normal noteheads (e.g. a black one for quarters and shorter, a half note one for half notes, a whole note one for whole notes, etc.), a notehead set for cross noteheads (again, with different individual noteheads for notes of different durations), etc.

So you should find, in fact, that appropriate notehead sets are already available, because Dorico comes with some 30-ish default notehead sets, including default noteheads, X noteheads, and so on. Just map those in the Edit Percussion Playing Techniques dialog.

Daniel, thank you for the quick reply. I see that Dorico has many predefined notehead sets are already available. However, I think we may be talking past one another.

Let me clarify: In the “Percussion Instrument Playing Techniques” dialog, even if I select a predefined set, I see no way to select the second, third, … , nth notehead from the set and assign it to a playing technique.

Example: The “Wide Diamond Noteheads” set contains four noteheads, as you can easily verify by popping open the “Edit Notehead Sets” dialog
(Engraving Menu > Notehead Sets…) and navigating to that set. But in the “Percussion Instrument Playing Techniques” dialog, if I can select the “Wide Diamond Noteheads” set, there is no way to select the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th notehead in that set and assign it. The application simply selects the first element and assigns it. Check it out. There should be some way to select one of the other elements.

p.s., (as an aside) Dorico does enable one to define a custom notehead set populated with noteheads from other sets. I’ve validated this work. My idea was simply to collect together unique and appropriate set of noteheads from predefined sets into a custom one. But obviously, I cannot make this work unless I can assign from the set in the “Percussion Instrument Playing Techniques” dialog. The point is this: It does not work whether custom or predefined.

I certainly may not understand your problem correctly, but I think you need to utilize more notehead sets… The individual noteheads in each set will be chosen by duration, not by configuration… (?)

@ TT Dan
As Daniel and fratveno mention a notehead set has to do with the duration of a note.
A notehead set takes care of the look of a notehead depending on its value.
But it has nothing to do with the playing techniques.

The noteheads that you see in the Notehead set editor are there to show you how a wide diamond notehead will look like with a 1/4 note or a 1/2 note and so on.
Have a look at the lower part of the editor with the title Notehead.
When you click on each notehead it will show you for which duration this notehead will be choosed.
You can even edit the noteheads if you want!

In the Percussion playing technique editor you will only see the first notehead choosed for the 1/4 note as representative for the family (noteset) of the wide diamond noteheads.
And it is in the percussion playing technique editor where you can choose a notehead set for each playing technique.

Frank and Phan have explained it clearly: each notehead set provides a single notehead “design”, e.g. cross or diamond or whatever, and the different noteheads within the set are used for the different note durations, rather than providing a grab-bag of different notehead designs within a single set.

I can assure you that assigning a percussion playing technique to a particular notehead set certainly does work. If you need any more help getting it up and running, please attach the project here (save a copy and cut it down to a couple of bars before you attach it: we only need to look at the percussion instrument and notehead definitions, after all), and I’m sure we’ll be able to figure it out.

Fratveno, Teacue, and Daniel. Thank you for taking the time to respond. I appreciate it very much. That explains it.

I believe I missed the note duration aspect because the problem I’m trying to solve is with unpitched percussion, which “has no duration” (which is an option defined in Engrave > Playing Techniques > Unpitched Percussion.

I agree this means that I must utilize more notehead sets.

The problem is this will be a bit messy: Superior Drummer 3, the virtual instrument I’m seeking to support, offers 43 different playback playing techniques. I might be able to dupe some of the notehead sets to simplify.

To make it simpler, perhaps in a future release, for purposes of percussion mapping only, Dorico should consider making it possible to select any notehead from any set and associating it with a percussion playback playing technique. This way we would have access to the full pool of note heads to work with–in a context where duration is irrelevant. Alternatively (and/or additionally) perhaps it would be possible to setup a new notehead set category for percussion, where duration is not a dimension, analogous to the existing Engrave > Notehead Sets > Pitched (category) but instead would be named Engrave > Notehead Sets > Unpitched Percussion (category). After setting up, when one navigates over to the percussion playing technique editor,have the capability to choose any element from the set. This would be a much more elegant solution for this use case IMHO.

I am not sure what you are asking here.
Do you mean a faster way?
Because it is now possible to do exactly what you want.
Granted the whole task is not really easy if one does not take time to fully understand how it works, but if you go trough all the details then it is quite clear and very powerfull.
At the end one can exactly achieve what you are searching for.

I may missunderstand what you write (in this case sorry for that) but I have the feeling that you miss something in the whole process.

For the appearance side of the thing (I let the part on how to assign a playing technique with a specific keyswitch of a VSTi by side)
this must be done in two separate editors.
. You must first assign a Notehead set for each Playing Technique in the “Percussion Instrument Playing Techniques” editor
. And if the Notehead sets are not exactly as you want you can edit them in the “Notehead Set” editor.


  1. Go to Setup mode / in the left panel hover over the instrument name of the instrument you want to edit / click on the arrow and choose “Edit Percussion Kit”
  2. In the appearing 5 lines staff (if you edit a drumkit) select the single instrument you want to assign noteheads
  3. In the bottom part of the window click “Edit Percussion Playing Techniques”
    the window “Percussion Instrument Playing Techniques” should now be open
  4. In the upper part of the editor there should be at least one Playing Technique for “Natural”
  5. Add as much playing techniques as you need for this single instrument
  6. Select a playing technique and click on the Notehead set dropdowm menu to assign a Notehead set to this playing technique.
    You can choose among 37 Notehead sets.
    At this point do not care of the exact look of the notehead but choose a type/family (or whatever you would call it) of noteheads.
    You can tweak the Notehead set afterwords.
  7. Add a Notehead set to each playing technique

From my very subjective point of view, this is enough, Dorico offers enough carefully designed Notehead sets, and most of the time I do not need to edit anything.
But for the case you need something else than what Dorico offers per default you can choose other noteheads for each set.


  1. Go to Engrave / Notehead Set
  2. In the left tab select the Notehead Set you want to edit
  3. As you seem to need only one notehead (you mention you do not take note value in consideration) you can delete the noteheads you do not need and just let one for 1/4 Note
  4. Select the notehead and click on the “Edit Notehead” symbol at the bottom of the window
  5. In the right tab select the font you want to use, then click in the “Range” dropdown menu and select “Noteheads”
    Now you can select any notehead your font offers
    Note that if you select a non-SMuFL font the ranges you can select are not so specific as with a SMuFL font and ther will be no such a range called “Noteheads” but you will be able to see all the symbols and select any of them.
    Done, now the Notehead sets you have edited should refelct what you have choosen.

I hope this helps.

BTW this thread and your question gave me the opportunity to go deeper on this subject.
I am glad I did :wink:

This doesn’t make sense, I’m afraid, since notes on percussion staves absolutely do have different durations, and so all of the noteheads in a notehead set are required to display notes of different durations. E.g. how would you tell the difference between a quarter note and a half note on a drum staff if they used precisely the same notehead appearance?

Or a multi-beat trem/roll on a snare, or a sustained cymbal note of a specified duration.


Good point about “percussion staves absolutely do have different durations.” True. And I honestly hadn’t thought about that. But it is important to understand why:

The reason is that drum notation–at least in the rock/jazz genres–typically notate drums with durations of a quarter note or less. Hence a quarter note or less notehead will work: The stem will convey shorter durations.

If you Google images of drum notation you will see what I mean.

And just to emphasize that I’m not alone in this view, someone asked about long note durations on the Drummerworld website
( )and one of the respondents asserted: “You rarely find whole notes (and half notes) in drumming sheets.”

It is true that some drum set sounds, such as crash cymbals, may ring out longer than a quarter note if not re-struck, e.g., hit on the downbeat of 1 followed by rests. But Dorico already has a concept to handle that: In Play mode there is a difference between “Played Duration” and “Notated Duration.” Just to underscore this, Dorico’s Midi notation for drums in invariably notated as diamond heads (no duration), and the VI simply loads and plays sample for however long the sample lasts.

And there may be cases where one might want to notate a drum roll lasts a measure or longer, in which case ties will work just fine.

I can see how there may be an issue in Write Mode if you have unintentionally left a whole or half note selected and started entering drum notation. I imagine this case may already be solved by inserting default notehead and this would tip you off to select a quarter note or less.

So, I still think it is useful to differentiate the uses cases of percussion–drums in particular–from tonal instruments for the reasons in my earlier post, i.e., just to simplify this use case.


We don’t have any plans to change the way the mapping of notehead sets onto percussion playing techniques works, for what it’s worth. The way it works at present addresses your use case and also works for the broader world of percussion more generally too. And I don’t think it’s so unheard-of to have e.g. a roll on the snare drum or even on the cymbals in kit notation anyway.

Ok, thanks. BTW I’m very impressed with Dorico generally. Excellent design from a user experience perspective.