Percussion Staves

Dorico 4.3.20

Good day. In my DAW’s orchestral mock-up (using Vienna Symphonic), I have a track for orchestral drums (bass, snare, and tambourine), cymbals (clash/two-handed, and suspended cymbal for rolls with beaters), and triangle.

I am going to import this piece into Dorico.

  1. Do I need to put each of the 6 sounds on a separate track so that Dorico instruments or Note Performer will use the correct sample in playback?
  2. To keep the score as small as possible, is there a way to put multiple sounds on a single percussion staff and tell Dorico/NotePerformer which sounds to use for various notes? It is common in actual scores to do this.
  3. At a minimum, I’d like to put cymbals on a single track notate a tremolo for the suspended cymbal roll and a single sustained note for the crash/clash cymbals. Is this possible?

Any general guidance for notating percussion to play back correctly would be very much appreciated.

Thanks --Konrad

PS Of course, timpani, xylophone, and glockenspiel will each have a separate staff.

Dorico has an import filter for MIDI which might help, not AFAIK for XML.

1 Like

It’s easily possible to have multiple percussion instruments shown on a single staff in Dorico. In Dorico we call these percussion kits. You can read about them in the Operation Manual, starting here:

Thanks! Based on this, I think I could create a staff for a percussion section with different drums mapped to different note numbers.

If I can find some Dorico examples that are also fairly in line with symphonic conventions, that would be really great.

I appreciate how helpful everyone here is. I hope I will be able to do the same soon.

Currect piece being scored:

All the best, --Konrad

The only thing that’s weird here–to me since Dorico is new to me–is the Dorico distinction between player and section in the context of percussion. A single player could have a drum kit with drums mapped to notes; but there could also be a percussion staff with parts for several players (e.g., snare, bass, tambourine, triangle). I hate to clutter the conductor’s score with too many staves. Also, we don’t always know how the conductor or percussionist will divide up the parts. The same person may handle triangle and bass and one person may play snare and tambourine.

I have been giving this some thought and have watched the video recommended above.

  • Currently I have six staves of percussion, and that is a huge waste of space on the full score, especially since the instruments don’t play many notes.
  • The instruments I need are clash cymbal, suspended cymbal (roll), bass drum, snare drum, triangle, and tambourine.
  • Since there are not many notes, it would not take me long to add a new part and just re-enter the percussion parts, if that makes more sense.

1- I am struggling with how to create the percussion set(s) and move the parts to it (them).
2-It seems logical to put bass, snare, and tambourine on one staff, and cymbals and triangle on another. Would that make sense?
3-If both clash and suspended cymbal are on a staff, would I have different staff lines for them, or is there some kind of “change instrument” command I would insert as needed?

Sorry for the long post. Almost everything else in Dorico is getting pretty easy, but this is giving me a headache–and all the percussion staves make the printed score too small and unreadable.

Thanks, --Konrad

PS I will look into hiding the staves when they are not needed, but I still need to master this percussion situation.

If I understand correctly, all your percussion instruments are played by individual players?


It’s not that difficult.
Drag all Instruments to the player.
create a empty kit for a player, click the three dots edit percussion kit…
On the bottom left you can add existing Instrument form player
Arrange the instruments like you want them.
Make sure you set the 5-line staff in Layout opotions > Players > Percussion.

Difficult to say, because we don’t know what and when they have to play. But seams reasonable.

Different staff lines and noteheads could be used. but it’s also nice, if you label every change to. It’s easier to read the score, you don’t have to turn severeal pages back to see, what’s this thing again.

1 Like

@nukkul, Thank you for taking time to help and encourage me. I will work through this this afternoon. Maybe it won’t be too bad.

To answer your question, from the standpoint of the Dorico score, each percussion instrument has a separate player. In real life, that may not necessarily be the case; for example, the same person may play the triangle and tambourine–but I’ve been told it’s bad etiquette for the composer to decide or assume that. :nerd_face:

Note that you can give a player as many instruments as you need (left panel of Setup mode) or you can group as many players you need in a parts layout (right panel), which is what the player will be reading. So many combinations are possible (kits, not kits, combined players…)
Have fun!

1 Like

Thank you! Everything about Dorico so far seems extremely logical and intuitive except the concepts of player/instrument/section, but I’ll get used to the model. :sunglasses:

If you think about the real destination (players that will read a part on the desk, solo or section players, or a conductor at the pit) it kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? Section players do divide, it can be useful for a divisi section to know what and when the other section divided is playing. Solo players might need only cues. And the conductor might want to have a condensed view of everything (without the clutter of cues)…
Your percussion players might want to change who plays what, in which case it will be easy to handle multiple players that hold one instrument to build different combinations of parts (different layouts that include different players/instruments)
My 2 c.

I am going to revisit this part of Dorico and think about it in the terms you describe. It sounds logical.

I am a hybrid: I write music for actual orchestras, but most of my professional life has been as a studio player who’s used sequencers and DAWs since there were such things. Incorrectly thinking of Dorico in DAW terms may have clouded my mind a bit. :sunglasses:

This video is extremely helpful. Although the speaker was doing something a little different than what I will be doing, in the course of the video he covered almost all the major concepts needed.

1 Like


I am trying to reduce six percussion staves (bass drum, snare, suspended cymbal roll, clash cymbals, triangle, and tambourine) to one or two staves–even if I have to re-enter the notes.

Here is the original situation:

I dragged the snare and tambourine to the bass drum player, and dragged the clash cymbals and triangle to the suspended cymbal player. I was trying to combine and reduce staves. Here’s what it looked like:

This would be fine except that in the rare bars where several things have to play at once, all the staves come back.

I was hoping to have a drum staff with bass assigned to one line or space of a 5-line staff, snare assigned to a different line/space, and tambourine to a third. For cymbals, clash and suspended never play together, so I just need cymbals on one line/space and triangle on one line/space. I thought I could do this by creating a percussion kit, but, as you can see in the last picture, Edit Percussion Kit is grayed out (not available).

I feel I am close to solving this, but am missing a step.

Thoughts? Thanks, --Konrad

If you right click you can combine instruments into a kit.


too slow

But next time…


@jesele, This totally fixed it! Thanks!

Not sure what the “too slow” and “next time” comments mean, but I am totally good now.

Thanks to you have and the others for being so patient with me on this.

On the next score, I will set things up right from the start (instead of importing MIDI from a DAW).


I think (hope) it meant, that I managed to answer faster than @Nukkul
and that he/she might beat me next time.