Percussion piece with several instruments

I’m venturing into a new piece for a single percussion player.
The amount of instruments used requires having multiple staves, while keeping the possibility of cross-staff notation (example from the manuscript, showing only 1/3 of the used instruments):

The tom-tom is the only one to need a 5-line staff, while all other instruments could either each get a single-line staff or be distributed on one 5-line staff above and one below.
Playback of the project is not important, so any amount of faking is allowed to be honest.

How would you approach this?
Main line tom-tom, then add staves above and below and just write? That is: single percussion instrument with two added staves?
What if one would like to add staves that have a different number of lines? For example: can I have a main 5-line staff and add one or more single- (or double-) line staff above or below?

Thank you for your insight!

You can cross notes to other instrument staves, so long as those instruments are held by the same player.

So my instinct would be to add all these percussion instruments to the same player, then cross notes up/down as needed.

Can a percussion player hold a custom kit + single instruments, or several custom kits?

A single player (as in, a player whose type is “single”) can hold whatever you want it to. Multiple kits, kits and single instruments, only single instruments – go wild.


My concern was only that, if I had multiple instruments, they wouldn’t show/hide properly when more would play at the same time. Will make some tests!

They will.
But I would recommend you to disable instrument changes in the layout options and only work with hiding empty staves and / or manual staff visibility


I don’t think it’s possible to do cross staff between single instruments and a kit though, even if they are held by the same player, which is a shame.


That would be a big show-stopper for me, forcing me to either use another software, or to organise the notation differently (i.e., not using kits, or not using single instruments).
I will start putting the ingredients of this cake together in the morning, and report back on what I find.

Sounds as if you’ll need to produce the sounds using hidden percussion staves and use normal five-line staves to notate the visual parts (with sounds suppressed).

With a solo piece, you can set the ideal gap → staff to staff to a small value, but that will not work in an ensemble piece.


I’ve just tried and you are—sadly—right: I cannot use cross-staff beaming between kits or between kit and single instruments of the same player.
I’m thinking of a possible workaround to realise something like the image posted above…

Instrument-wise, I’ve kept Tam-tam and Timpani on their own line, then one line for the 4 tom-toms (editing the kit to remove the floor tom), and one kit for the other instruments.
This would ensure playback, though this is not the priority here, not by far.

I wonder if my only luck would be to have two ordinary 5-line staves for both toms and extra instruments and just manually label instruments. This is what I would do in Sibelius, for example.
I have thought about just adding staves to a single instrument, but one cannot add staves with a different amount of staff lines, right?

UPDATE 1: adding a staff to a kit apparently works, but then you can write nothing in it.
UPDATE 2: the composer expressly asked for cross-staff notation among the instruments, with a total of 6 staves (max 4 visible concurrently).

I have suggested a new solo percussion kit (grid), which can’t be shown as single line instruments, so no condensing involved. I think it’s the automatic condensing of single line instruments into a kit that creates all these problems. I’ve tried to input several famous solo pieces and none of them are possible in Dorico at the moment. The idea is nice, that you can show a kit as a grid, 5-line or single line instrument, but with complex tuplets, cross staff beaming and multiple voices, I don’t think it’s ever going to work. Not that I will ever need to show a kit as single line instruments, but for a school band or as a way to change which percussionist plays what easily, it’s great. In older orchestra pieaces it’s also common with separate parts for each instrument. It’s not uncommon for a percussion player today to read from several separate parts which can be very tricky.
I think L’Histoire du soldat was the first piece with a player playing multiple instruments.
The condensing idea is great, bu†…


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Since Dorico 5 you can create new Instruments with different amounts of Staff Lines, and since you said Playback is not a priority, this is the route I would recommend you to go.
So create your percussion instruments as new instruments, which will behave similarly to 5-line staves (but with fewer lines obviously), and use these to cross-staff your music between the different instruments held by the same player.

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I agree, that’s the way to do it at the moment.


Would be nice if we could set the distance between staff lines in the instrument editor though.

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Yes, the trick is what instrument to base this new one on, because basing it on an unpitched percussion will create 5 lines but let you use only the middle one.
TBH, I will use no matter what pitched instrument to do that.
Same for the fewer lines ones, and I hope it will let me write on all lines.

if playback isn’t an issue just use any 5 line instrument (pitched percussion for example)

You can also create new instrument families in 5.1 where you can sort all your new instruments into a new category.

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Oh yes, I had a similar requests, but the way dorico is working for now it’s out of reach, I fear:

I’ve now created the necessary instruments and added all of them to a single percussion player. They are all copies of a pitched percussion instrument.
Cross-staff is working well, but the Option-up/down arrow is not working when trying to change “pitch”. Dragging works, thankfully, but I wonder why it is not how it should.

Strange, works well here.


It was the clef. If clef = percussion, you cannot change pitch.
I need that in the final outlook, but I’ve changed to treble for note input.

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