Percussion Players taking turns on the same instrument

Hi all! I’m almost as new to the forum as I am to Dorico, but I had a great experience as a visitor and two-week user of the software so far.

Now, I have come across a workflow/setup problem that I am trying to solve. Maybe you can help me out with some tricks or just share your own approach to the following scenario. This is just a small scale example of a general question.

In an orchestral context, you typically have only one Marimba on stage. However it can be necessary for more than one player to play on this Marimba - but of course only one simultaneously. Let’s say we have three percussion players. P1 plays Marimba during the first half of the piece, and a few bars later, P2 takes over for them.

How would I set this up in Dorico to achieve the following:

a) have the score condense to only show the marimba staff if the marimba is playing, according to the layout options.
b) have an instrument part for the Marimba that shows only the Marimba.

What I have tried so far:

Created three Players, labelled P1, P2 and P3 and added all of the generally available Percussion Instruments to them.

  • This is great because I can now see only the Instruments currently playing, in the layout with Instrument Switching allowed. There I have three staves, one per player, so I know who is playing what. This also lets me judge if the pauses are long enough to actually make the switch to the new instrument in a performance scenario. [a) check!]
  • But, this leaves me with an isssue: I now have every instrument three times, and I don’t know how to create an Instrumental Part that would show only the desired Instrument. So in our example, an Instrument Part that would physically stay at the Marimba for each new player that arrives there and reads from it. [b) failed, because Parts are only able to display players, and not filter down to the instrument level?]

I have one solution that feels incomplete to me:

Just create each instrument as a new player

  • Possible, but the Instrument Switch on a player basis makes so much sense to me, and is perfect for judging if the parts are actually playable. This funktionality is lost with this approach. The condensing works fine of course, but the conductor does not see which person is playing the Marimba, just that it is being played by someone.
  • This actually might be a better solution, as the percussion section might want to distribute their respective parts themselves. However, I have found that with my last piece, there was only one possible solution to distribute the parts anyways. Would you maybe go so far as to say that my desired approach isn’t even…well, desirable?

Could the solution be “Groups”? I have not fully grasped this feature and its implications yet.

Could the solution be a way to create an Instrumental Part that let me filter by Player AND Instrument? E.g. “show P1-Marimba and P2-Marimba” on the same Part. On the setup page, the checkboxes are only for players, and not their respective instruments.

Wow, this is a long one. Thank you very much for reading and thank you in advance for giving me some pointers on how this is usually achieved in Dorico. I can’t be the first one to stumble upon this issue, but a search through the forum did not clear things up for me. The Instrument Switching function is just so great that I feel like I am missing a tiny step to achieve a perfect result…

Hi @_johann_g and welcome to the Forum!
I prepared a demo project that maybe can be of some help for your request:

demo marimba shared.dorico (619.8 KB)

It uses 2 marimbas strategically assigned to the 2 players, and with renaming of instruments and players, some Layout options to handle the instrument changes and staff labelling, and staff visibility. Then at the end, create a new part layout with the two marimbas (you need to copy the music of the original marimbas in it, and put a space in the custom text for the instrument changes in this layout so that it appears as a single instrument). If you have any questions, feel free to ask. (look at the single layouts also in galley view to see what is going on…)

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Welcome to the forum @_johann_g.

Groups can be very handy - especially with percussion instruments. They allow you to have the same instrument in each without them automatically numbering.

I think a very simple solution for you would be to have your three players and their three staves as you first mentioned

In addition to this, create a fourth player but put it in a group of its own. This will contain the full marimba part that will go on the marimbas music stand. All that you need to do is make sure that the marimba music amongst the three players and this marimba part is consistent.

You can then easily deactivate this marimba player from the score but also have its own part layout.

Thank you @Christian_R and @DanielMuzMurray ! I have checked out Christian’s demo project, and I think that, apart from grouping the additional Marimba player, its similar to Daniel’s approach.


For writing the piece, I can use three players with each having all available instruments assigned to them. After writing, I can create a new Group of Players with just the respective Instrument assigned, and copy all of the information from the other players. In the conductors score, I use the Players from the writing phase. For the part layouts, I use the copied individual players.

Of course, I have to manually make sure that changes are then reflected in each of those two instances of the instruments. With a bigger percussion section, this would give me just a tiny bit of anxiety :grin:

But, maybe the “player centric layout” isn’t even desireable?

I have noticed that my approach is not perfect in terms of readability for the conductor, because the instruments may be, according to which player is currently playing them, in a different order on each page of the score. With the grand-staff Marimba, this is easy to spot. But when using many single lined, and often abbreviated instruments, this could lead to problems (distinguishing G.C. - Gran Cassa - from S. C. - Suspended Cymbal, for example).

Maybe a follow up question for the orchestral composers: I have not often seen such a “player centric” approach in scores. I thought it was a nice idea to experiment with, but maybe it is not common because of this issue of ordering that I stumbled upon? The problems of course only scale up with a bigger percussion section…

Look at it this way… in most cases, conductors expect instruments to not move around, both on the stage in the physical sense and in the score in the virtual sense. In my last two concert band compositions, I’ve done it two different ways:

1.) Exactly as @Christian_R, (having thought a lot on how to solve the same issues you bring up). So performers moved from instrument to instrument, with some instruments receiving different players at different times.

2.) In the other, (for complicated reasons), I simply had a grid representation in both score and part, and the percussion section was left to decide how to distribute instruments to players.

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Thank you so much for your addition to this topic, @musicmaven1 ! :slight_smile:

Seems like we have to choose the right approach for the right job, but it was great to hear from you that you were having similar thoughts and tried navigating it in a similar way.

If I could speak to the conductor beforehand, I would just ask for their preference. But the score I am preparing is for a competition, so readability for the judges on the panel is my number one concern.

Keep the marimba as a separate player.

Thanks @_johann_g for the kind words. Yes, in a Déjà vu kind of way, I went through exactly what you did, even second guessing myself along the way into thinking I might be missing something in the overall structure of things. In general, I have found it easier to write the music out for each percussion instrument first, (the musically creative process), then think about ways to combine into parts later (the organizational process). [Plug to Dorico here, as Dorico doesn’t seem to penalize the timing of this process and makes it pretty easy by allowing Instruments to be dragged onto Players in Setup Mode after the fact.] In Galley view, after all is composed, one can take a “world view” of the percussion section and start to envision how one might combine instruments for a single player. It’s more complicated than it appears, (decision wise), as there are implications that as a composer you may be trying to impose solutions that may be more problematic than envisioned onto the performers. For instance, in a younger group, you may or may not want to have one person only playing bells, depending on experience levels. That can cause a ripple effect on parts coverage for the other players. I think your comment on choosing the right approach for each job is completely on target! Oh… and I’ve heard that traditionally the timpani player is onto a world of their own, so don’t even think of combining with them… :grinning:

Wow, @musicmaven1 that’s actually very comforting to hear!

It totally makes sense to have the percussion section figure their parts out for themselves, but of course we have to keep the amount of players somewhat in mind during composition.

And also thank you for chiming in @Janus, I agree that it might be easier for the judges to read. On the other hand, the “player centric” approach might show that I have really taken care to make the parts playable. On the other other hand though, I don’t even know the size of the percussion section.

With all of this in mind, I will stick to assigning one Instrument per Player for the percussion section.