Percussion notation - conventions, notation, workflow Cubase 12 vs Dorico 4?


I am currently re-thiinking my workflow. I am familar with Cubase (12) and rusty on Cubase’s notation. I am a newbie with Dorico.
I am creating pieces in Cubase using mostly EW Hollywood Orchestra Opus, and a few other libraries inc Iconica and HSO. These are supplemented with synths and various non orchestral instruments.
Percussion wise, I am making use of samples, loops, various NKI’s and orchestral percussion in the orchestral apps. I also use controller lanes, note expression and mixing inserts etc.

I do like to look at things in a score if I can. After a bit of a tidy up using Cubase’s display quantise, the score for woods, brass and strings is usually legible. I really don’t know much about how to notate drum kit or percussion parts. Does anyone have a good source please?

Trying to conceive of a workflow too. I know Dorico is a more powerful package than Cubase score, but I initially look at scores in Cubase - because that is where my work is created - making use of all the powers of the sequencer and it’s powerful key editor. It may be that I have to cut Dorico out of the picture all together, but as I have said, problably Dorico can probably do a better job at notating percussion.

Still a bit perplexed by all of this…not sure if I am on the right path…

Any advice greatefully recieved


One issue you will run into is that you can’t easily use samples and loops in Dorico, because it doesn’t provide tempo sync. But obviously you can’t notate the content of samples and loops in a meaningful way in any case.

In general you should be able to work with percussion in Dorico in more or less the same way you might use the drum editor in Cubase – the big difference, though, is that in Cubase the editor is “patch first”, i.e. you specify what sounds are present in a given unpitched percussion patch, and then you can see them in the drum editor and add and remove notes as necessary. In Dorico, however, the editor is “instrument first”, i.e. you first have to create a suitable set of percussion instruments, either individually held by a player or arranged into a kit, and the percussion editor will then show you the instruments available, and you can edit them that way. So even if a sound is available in the patch you’re using, until you’ve created an instrument that corresponds to that sound, you won’t see it in Dorico’s percussion editor.

In addition, the percussion editor is not currently included in Dorico 4.1.10, but it will be making its return in the next update, which is coming very soon.

“Guide to Standardized Drumset Notation” by Norman Weinberg is available on Amazon, inexpensive and an easy read. At least, I found it so. The additional discussion of the current state of notation and why, player needs and concerns, etc. kept it interesting.

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Also worth looking into Sam Solomon’s book on writing for percussion if you want to get a lot of good practical advice. Listen to Sam on the Scoring Notes podcast here:

Thank you Daniel, this one is in the post

Found this one online here:

Thank you

Hi Daniel, I have done a deep dive today on this topic. Your link to the podcast was useful thank you.
I woulld like to ask you if the point Solomon makes at 37.07 of his podcast, is something that gives you food for thought? Currently I can’t see much assistance, beyond the drum mapping, for the composer. You might be able to change this, along the lines that Solomon suggests? I know the podcast said you had done something.
If your working in Cubase you can utilise Kontakt, which has a long standing relationship with composing. Many orchestral sounds rely on it, its a huge market as you probably know. This means to the composer that you either get the bells and whilstles of Cubase and its huge capabilties - inc hosting Kotakt, or you confine yourself to Dorico. This is sad to me, especially as we are in version 4. I would love to see a Dorico lite perhaps, integrated into Cubase. I know the iossues are considerable


This is a nice article. As I am not a drummer, I have been trying to find if special noteheads are used for different hits on drums. Most libraries provide hard, soft, muted and maybe rim hits. Some also have short (tight in Dorico?)and long (loose in Dorico?) hits. Unfortunately most sources including the linked article concentrate on getting different percussion instruments in a clever way on a 5 line staff and some give some cymbal articulation noteheads which are often mixed with noteheads identifying different cymbal types.

For drums I only found one source which used slashed noteheads for muted notes (other use the same for unison) but there were no suggestions for any of these hits apart from the standard default round beam up for a „hit“ .

Are dynamics used to distinguish these hard, soft and muted articulations? Soft might also be indicated by a mallet change for which there are some standards.