Percussion Notation matter

I wanted to bring a subject that really only concerns percussion writing, but which has a rather profound consequence to the notation. Even though this notation is technically incorrect it is used almost consistently. When writing percussion rolls the first note is tied to the last. The first note will contain the slashes and the second not. Dorico will not allow you the draw this. If you put slashes on a note and tie it to another note, it redraws the second note. As I said this notation is not technically correct, but if you do no connect the first not to the second note with a tie the roll and the last note are played separately. While this is not done 100% of the time I would venture to say the notation is used 98%, especially with American percussion material and especially concerning snare drum music. It would be nice to have this option that the program doesn’t automatically change the notation. The only work around is to use a slur, which really isn’t the same thing at all to us.

Issue 2 is that it would be really nice to have a simple generic staff which is not connected to an instrument. There are millions of percussion instruments so trying to connect them to sounds is really quite useless. And the bigger problem is that we use a 5 line staff for our music. Even if there is only one instrument, the tradition is to use a normal staff. Since there is no generic staff to use I have to take something like a violin staff and change the name to be able to write percussion parts.

The last thing concerns symbols. Forgive me for saying this, I’m only using it because it’s the only example I have. Sibelius has a page of hundreds of symbols, articulations, and a host of other signs that really are needed. I would love to have a page of these available in Dorico. I find myself really confined by the lack of such basic elements.

I have been using Dorico and with a doubt things look beautiful, and many of the processes are so much easier to complete. Since I write almost exclusively for percussion instruments, there is a frustration in using a notation that isn’t exactly meant for us however. I know there are many other things that people are looking for, but those are my two cents.


As a percussionist myself, I understand your some of your concerns, and raise my quite own often. I also do A LOT of percussion notation for a Percussion Publisher.

1.) I agree that a tie is what is used to show the roll is connected to the release. However, I also feel a slur does the same thing. It might look a little different, but a slur is probably more “technically” correct, from a musical standpoint. With that in mind, you can still use a tie. In the properties panel, when you select on the ending note within a tie in Engrave mode, you will see a setting for tremolo. Select none, and you will see what you want.

See here:

2.) I find that creating my own percussion kit with all of the various instruments someone will play is incredibly useful and easily done. Further more, it gives you far more control over those parts. Using this method gives you a 5-line staff. Are you creating your own percussion kit to utilize all the percussion parts on 1 5-line staff?

3.) I agree that there are times we need a lot more symbols available to us. Hopefully in the future this will be possible.


Timothy, thanks for your feedback, and for sharing your concerns about the lack of generic staves and the absence of symbols you need. For the former issue, I don’t think there’s much difference between using (say) a violin staff or using a more generic staff: I’d still be interested in knowing what instruments you find are missing that you need to create your own notation for. In the future, it will be possible for you to define your own instruments, both pitched and unpitched, so I hope that the flexibility you require will be provided then. As for symbols, we do now have a playing techniques editor that makes it possible to create a lot of things that were previously not possible, but if you think there are specific areas of symbols that we should add to make the software more useful to you, please let me know what they are. We may well have considered it already and decided not to do it yet, because it depends on some other planned functionality that doesn’t yet exist, but it’s also equally possible that we’re simply missing something you need because we don’t know about it.

Thank you both for the responses and apologies for mine being so late. Robby, the solution for the roll is great. I didn’t see that. It’s a bit fiddly to have to fix every roll like that, and I admit that using a slur is fine except in the case where you actually have a slur being used. You then have 2 or more of them and although they all can be moved it’s a lot of work. But… I won’t complain.
2) The setting up of percussion staves for me of course depends on the piece I’m working on. In the case that I’m working with non tonal percussion I’m not always interested in playback so my point was only that a generic staff would give me a blank canvas to use. If I use a violin staff, it will start up a violin sound which I don’t want and a treble clef, which I also don’t want, so I have to go in and get rid of them. These aren’t big points I know but since the program is so flexible in so many ways, I just thought a simple thing like that would be a nice time saver.

3 Daniel, I spent the last hour looking for the symbol that is missing from Dorico, and now I can’t find it. I do know that I had to go to the internet so some strange place to find it whatever it was. I promise from now on to keep track of these things and pass them on to you. Of course the symbols I’m speaking of are the ones that contain no playback properties. I usually don’t use uncommon signs so I’ll just have to figure out what it was.

Thanks again to both of you

I’m interested in Timothy’s second point too.

I have a full score. I want timpani and two 5-line percussion staves. If I select Add Ensemble within Setup, I get timp plus 2 single line staves and no option to change these to 5-line.

I tried creating a kit but couldn’t work out how to do it. I did Setup -> new Section player -> Create Empty Kit. I got a screen with 5 lines but I can’t see what to do next. I altered the names slightly (Perc. 1) so I could ‘Apply’ and Close, but if that’s done anything, I can’t see where.

And I just want an instrument that says Cymbal, without specifying what kind of Cymbal. OK so I can delete whatever there is, but most orchestral scores just say ‘Cymbal’ for the name and specify more detail in the body of the work.

I wholeheartedly agree that a blank canvas 5-line percussion stave is needed. I too don’t care about playback.

Dear piano888,
Have you watched the different videos about unpitched percussion ? I mean both Anthony Hughes ones and John Barron’s ? I’m pretty sure they’re the best way to start with that notation…

Thanks for this! They’re excellent.

Trouble is, I’m going to have to spend another hour listening to them again because I can’t darned well remember what they said.

Why oh why isn’t this in the ops manual or the help file (it’s sort of in the ops manual but doesn’t work for me). And why does it have to be so difficult.

IIRC The manual is pretty much geared to Dorico 1 versions (as a basis on which to build) and will then catch up to version 2; but the release notes for the various updates have the equivalent of a manual’s instructions (although perhaps without as many illustrations as the manual will eventually have). This is kind of necessary with the software progressing so quickly but yes, does sometimes cause a minor inconvenience particularly for those just getting started.

Thanks. Given that I’ve only very recently finished installing Dorico, I have no knowledge of release notes. Do you know if I can expect these to have been built in to the help files offered within Dorico? If not, where do I find them (in case they give me useful information not available elsewhere)?

In many cases, the documentation is very good; but too often - in such cases as this - it is inadequate. Others have commented elsewhere on the lack of the most basic information such as system requirements. It really isn’t enough to put that on the Buy page; it’s a bit late by then. Consequently (because I had Windows 7) I had major problems installing Dorico and in the end had to upgrade to W10; even then it didn’t install properly (sorted now though; but overall, it took two weeks to complete the installation, not good and very frustrating). One of the people at Steinberg sent me the link to get the manual; where else I’d have found it, I’ve no idea. Trouble is, if you don’t know these things exist, you don’t know to go looking for them.

Dear piano888
The manual is found in the help menu in Dorico…
The version history documents are downloaded along with every update, and should easily be found if you search for these terms “dorico version history”. Pick the last one and you should find all the details of every update are inside (or is it for every 1.x, and another for 2.x? I don’t remember)
Anyway, you shall find help here whenever you need :wink:
I did not make you a step by step tutorial because I am not familiar with unpitched percussion notation, but I know those videos really helped me when I had to input some…

OK. In my copy of Dorico (2.1), the Help tab (F1) just takes me to a fairly general set of help. It is different from
en/Dorico_1_Operation_Manual_en.pdf which I find much more useful. I was sent that link by the help people at Steinberg; I can’t find it within the F1 help.

And I am extremely grateful for the willing help on this forum! I was only moaning at my own idiocy in not making notes as I went.

The Dorico version history PDF is available from Steinberg Download Assistant. However, the version history that you would see if you download Dorico 2 only contains detailed information about the new features added in Dorico 2. The Dorico 1.x version history also contains a lot of useful information about things like percussion, cues, chord symbols, piano pedalling, and many other things that were added over the course of Dorico 1.x.

We went some six months without anybody working on the documentation for Dorico as a result of some staffing issues, and that has created a serious backlog in functionality that needs documenting in the online help, which contains the same material as the PDF you have downloaded. Our documentation writer is working diligently to bring the documentation up to parity with the current feature set of the application, but we are still adding features faster than she can document them (she also has to coordinate things like the localisation of the documentation into other languages, in which the situation is even more dire than it is in English at the moment).

It’s obviously not an ideal situation but I consider it to be a relatively short-term problem: the manual will catch up with the program, and everything will be in one place. Until then, here are the links to the documentation you should refer to as of today, 16 September 2018 (for future readers of this thread, if it’s more than a few months after September 2018 the answer will undoubtedly be different):

Dorico operation manual: Online / PDF
(You can also download PDF guides for popovers and tokens for use in text from here)

Dorico 1.2.10 version history: PDF

Dorico 2.1 version history: PDF

Thanks Daniel. The F1 help might ultimately contain the same material as the pdf, but I find the method of presenting ‘how to’ information much more accessible and relevant in the pdf than in the F1 help; I think the pdf has been done very well.

I still can’t get this to work. I’ve watched John Barron’s video, read the manual.
I’ve a full score; got a Player playing clash cymbals, glock, celeste, xylo. Score and part show up as a mixture of single, 5-line and grand staves. I want the single line to show as 5-line. So, Setup > Players, right-click on the perc player, select Combine instruments into Kit, and I get the Edit Percussion Kit dialogue. The only instrument it allows me to select is the unpitched percussion (cymbals). I also tried Setup > Layout Options > Players and selected 5-line grid (and Apply), but nothing happened.
What have I missed?

You can’t combine glockenspiel, celeste and xylophone into a percussion kit: kits are only for unpitched instruments. But if you add the clash cymbals to the kit, you can then specify that the kit should show as a five-line staff on the Players page of Layout Options, and Dorico will then freely switch between the different instruments automatically as needed: just write the material for each instrument in galley view, and when you switch back to page view, the instrument changes will be there automatically.

Lovely - thanks! I think I must have tried to do that at some point when I’d cancelled Create Empty Kit, and I’d cancelled that because I couldn’t combine all that I expected.