Percussion thought/comments/ideas

I have completed the work on 1 of the many books I will be redoing in Dorico. The first one was a mallet book, and using the lyric tool with some of the new engraving options worked out very well adding in stickings. And I have to say that I am INCREDIBLY impressed with how easy it was to do the work in Dorico, and how AMAZING it looks. :smiley: I wish I could share some snippets of the work, but for copyright reasons I cannot. So, I am now moving on to the next project… A Snare Drum solo book.

I am getting through the note entry well enough. Part of it seem to be moving rather fast. However, when it comes to playing techniques, there are a few things that are little bit of a slow down.

None of this is meant to be a slam, just my initial impression working with Dorico to do more complex percussion notation…

To start with, the pieces I am reworking in Dorico are for solo snare drum. And as with normal conventions of playing snare drum, the player will strike the drum normal, play on the rim, and click sticks together. These “other” playing techniques (playing on the rim, clicking the sticks) are often notated on other staff spaces or lines, differing from the one on which the regular snare drum is notated. Here is an example. (diamond note heads are for stick clicks, Xs are for rim)

Since these techniques are notated on different lines or spaces, they cannot be assigned to the 1 snare drum in the percussion kit (unless I have missed something). As such, I need to have 2 snare drums. One for regular hits, and one for these other techniques.

I know that there are limitations to the GM Percussion Map (as in rim and stick clicks do not exist), and I know that more robust sample libraries (like VDL) include those sounds. But currently, there is not a function to split the sounds of a multi-timbre instrument between different positions on a staff. Using just the VDL snare drum patch, I would need to place these other techniques on the same space or line as the regular drum hit. (Unless I am missing something).

Also, when using the lyric tool for stickings, going between places where the snare drum is played normally and the snare drum plays on the rim, there is an issue where the lyric tool jumps to the same kind of note next, as opposed to the next note. I get that this is because of the way that a drum kit is really different voices, and Dorico movies the lyrics to the same voice it is currently working in.

I guess a solution to this would be to give us the ability to “create” our own mapping of where each individual sound of a robust library will be placed on the staff (which might mean the ability to create our own instruments, seeing the way that the percussion kit editor works). And also perhaps a dedicated sticking tool that knows that each “up stem” voice belongs to the same ‘percussionists’ and will therefore not skip from sound to sound.


For the input of the stickings, one possibility would be to add a third instrument to the kit in which you add the overall rhythm, and then you could start lyric input related to that voice, and that would avoid the need to constantly go back when you have to move from one snare to the other. The other option would be to input all of the notes on a single snare drum and input all the stickings, then use Alt+up/down to move some of the notes to the other “drum” as required.

With regard to triggering different techniques with different staff positions, it’s certainly true that Dorico’s approach is based around a single percussion instrument using only a single staff position, and if you need to trigger different sounds for the same instrument from different positions, you’re sort of pushing against the way we’ve designed it. Take a look at the ‘Marching Snare Drum’ kit, which includes a number of different snare drum instruments; this indicates a possible approach you could take, though for the time being you can’t design your own percussion instruments entirely from scratch.

Ok, I like the idea you have here for the keeping everything on one line, then moving them as needed. That might be the easiest way for me (at the moment). I’ll experiment with some of the other solos I have to do.

I’ll take a look at the Marching Snare Drum kit that you mentioned.

Thanks again!


I have looked at the Marching Snare Drum Kit. And while it does look very good, and I can see the thought behind it, it has got me thinking.

When using a sample library such as VDL, Is the plan for Dorico to have me assign 30 different snare drums to the one staff, if I end up using 30 of the different sounds that are part of the VDL snare drum sample? Or is there going to be a different way that things get handled.

I’m only asking, because if I am using 3-5 different sounds, the method of adding multiple instances of the same instrument to a staff is really not a big deal. But if I am going to utilize 25 or more different sounds, that could become a bit overwhelming for the user to track.

Also, many people have a workflow setup around VDL already. The biggest one being that certain midi pitches (which in turn are different sounds) are mapped to specific spaces or lines of the music (e.g. both RH hits and LH hits are mapped to the C space in treble clef, meanwhile the rim tap is mapped to a G above the staff in treble clef). When the time comes, is this a place where “creating” our own instrument would come in handy? Or is this needing a different work around all together? I have been blown away by the percussion stuff in Dorico 1.2, and have complete faith in the team to come up with something pretty special. I am just curious as to how something like VDL is going to play into this idea of “that Dorico’s approach is based around a single percussion instrument using only a single staff position, and if you need to trigger different sounds for the same instrument from different positions, you’re sort of pushing against the way we’ve designed it.”

Not in a hurry, so get to this when you can.


Well, the idea is that the marching snare drum kit as created at present maps onto the sounds in the "VDL Snare Line (Auto RL)” patch, for which a percussion map is included in Play > Percussion Maps (along with percussion maps for the other three main drumline patches in their “Auto RL” versions), and the basic idea behind the kit – based, with permission, in broad terms on the templates that Bryan Harmsen of Visaudio Designs uses for VDL in Sibelius – is that the middle line represents the soloist, and the spaces above and below are for the various techniques played by the snare ensemble as a whole with snares on and snares off.

If you want something very different to what we’ve put together – which I would hope for drumline stuff is not the case, given that we tried to consult some experts in the field (no pun intended) – then you will indeed need to use your own instrument definitions, or at least heavily modify some of the existing instrument definitions in lieu of being able to create your own from scratch.

But it’s certainly the case that the snare line in particular challenges Dorico’s design for percussion kits more than the other three drumline parts, since for tenors, cymbals and bass drums each space really does represent a different instrument (albeit possibly more than one of them played by more than one person).


Thank you for your VERY insightful response. I am loving the way percussion in Dorico work so far. But in thinking of future use, it does get me thinking about certain things.

I see the dilemma you and the team are working against. In 1 way, the current percussion handling in Dorico is INCREDIBLY flexible and powerful. Certainly the best on the market! On the other hand, the tools that us arrangers, composers, copyists, etc. have been using for years do not quite fit the vision the Dorico team has laid forth. I personally feel that the Dorico way is probably best, but for someone who has to work with the tools I have, I am trying to think in advance of what is going to be the best way to tackle what I will need to do. I think I’ll need some more time to digest what you wrote, and play around with the marching percussion kits and their mappings more.

I have to admit, that I have been playing around with the VDL templates provided, and they are taking me some time to figure out how things are supposed to work (by default they are multiple channels for each sound, etc.). It doesn’t seem as simple as I would like, but that is ok. As I work through some of this, more and more of it is making sense.


There’s no "default” way of handling VDL really: what I envisaged you would do is load e.g. one instance of the “VDL Snare Line (Auto RL)” patch into Kontakt and then assign each of the instruments in the Marching Snare Drum kit to that single channel, so you wouldn’t need loads of instances of the patch.


Thanks again for your time and patience. I understand that this is a small part of the overall functions of Dorico, and your dedication to this subject does not go unnoticed.

That’s what I ended up doing, regarding moving each instrument to the same channel. There as still some fuzziness around what was happening. Some notes wouldn’t play at all.

In playing around with it last night, I had a thought that might help to solve part of this issue…

What if there was a way to assign a specific note of a percussion map as a independent instrument? As I see it now, Dorico somewhat already does this. The snare drum that comes with Halion is part of the GM Percussion map. However, Dorico seems to treat this instrument as a single instrument from the greater GM Percussion map (it loads the GM Stereo Kit in Halion). So what if it was possible for me to sit at the percussion map editor, put in every midi note of the VDL Snare drum sample (or any other sample for that matter) with a description (sort of what we do now), and then in the kit editor, be able to choose the specific note(s) I need for that particular piece.

In other words, MIDI note 78 (F#) and MIDI note 80 (G#) are RH hits and LH hits in the VDL Snare drum. So I open the percussion map editor and create a new map ‘Robby VDL Snare Mapping’ and input these 2 notes as such. Then when I open the Kit editor I am able to select ‘Robby VDL Snare Mapping - MIDI note 78 (descriptor visible as I typed it into the percussion map)’ as 1 instrument place it on the staff where I need/want it. And then select ‘Robby VDL Snare Mapping - MIDI note 80’ as another specific instrument and place it on the staff where I need/want it. I could then change the default notepads just like now, and same with playing techniques. This would keep consistent the idea of a player holding many instruments (despite in this case being instruments from the same ‘instrument’). It would give a lot of flexibility to people who have several different types of libraries that have numerous versions of mappings, etc. Everything could work the same, regarding the use of grids or separate 1 line staves (although for something like VDL and what it would be used for, that would be pretty unlikely).

I know that this would require some work. But I think being able to somewhat split a percussion map into a group of independent instruments may be the easiest way to deal with not only VDL, but other patches that might have similar mappings.

Just a thought I had.


The hope is that you can already achieve this, but in a slightly more indirect way. I do appreciate that there is value in being able to say “just play MIDI note 78” without having to tell Dorico what that note actually means, i.e. what instrument it represents, and what playing technique, but the problem there is that the playback is then very brittle: you would have an enormous amount of rework to do if you later on decide to switch to another sound library or sound source (unlikely, I know, in the case of VDL since there are not too many options out there, but you understand the point).

In theory, if you specify the same instrument and playing technique in the percussion map as the playing technique you define in the matching instrument in the percussion kit, then you have a link that is as strong as saying “just play MIDI note 78”: if the instrument and playing technique for note 78 in the percussion map matches the given playing technique on the instrument in the kit, then note 78 will be played.

I guess maybe I am missing something regarding the playing techniques, kits, both, or something else.

Here is what I need to be able to do in Dorico: (Which by the way, having to create something from scratch like this in Finale was incredibly awkward. I love the way Dorico is working)

When utilizing the Marching Snare kit, that is based on the VDL snare drum auto rl kit, and my MIDI keyboard, 90% of the notes appear on the middle line. I would prefer these to go on the 3rd space. I can’t seem to get the note entry to place the rim notes above the top line. Here is what I get.

I had to add the Z myself (which isn’t a deal breaker, or a big deal), but I could not get Dorico to add the quarter note where the buzz roll is, when I pressed the appropriate MIDI note on my keyboard. I could hear the sound, but Dorico would not notate it. So I had to settle on using a regular hit and adding the Z.

Am I missing something here? I am not sure how I assign MIDI C3 (according to the VDL manual) to be assigned to Marching Snare Drum (1 line) #3.


To add another small piece to this… I realized that maybe “staff position” note entry was causing the confusion. So I changed the input method to Percussion Mapping. While this did demonstrate different behavior, it still was not correct.

This time, it placed the regular snare notes on the 4th space (E line in Treble clef). In actuality, it placed everything on the E space. The buzz roll and everything did notate with the accurate note values, but the payback did not play the correct sounds.


I would have thought that the ‘Use staff position’ setting would have worked OK, provided you have a snare drum on each staff position: it should at least input a note on that staff position even if you then have to go back and change the technique after the fact (which you can do to several selected notes using Shift+Alt+up/down arrow of course).

OK, I think I am seeing what I am doing here…

To start with, this is a VERY different work flow from what 99% of the VDL community will be used to. But I am beginning to see positive results with this method. Here is what I did with a little bit of playing around with the Marching Snare kit, and the playing techniques…

A few things of note:

1 - Using staff positions is the way to do this… Most VDL users are use to triggering the sounds with the associated MIDI note. This was my 1st mistake. Dorico does not necessarily work in that sense. I went back to “staff position” for note entry. Instead of hitting the MIDI associated with the sample I am trying to trigger, I have to hit the “staff space” and let Dorico figure out what the sample is supposed to be.

2 - The playing technique defined in the percussion map and the playing technique in the drum kit have to match. Currently under the setup, the regular hit was marked as ‘Hit(medium)’ in the percussion map, but listed as default or natural under the playing technique for the kit. Once I fixed this, sounds began to work as one would expect.

3 - I am able to lock certain staff positions to certain sounds using the playing techniques (i.e., the E space (4th space) I have set up to only trigger the rim sound). That is the only technique associated with that staff position and that particular snare drum instrument.

There is some pretty deep stuff here, that normal VDL users will not be accustomed to. Not a bad thing. Just would need a little more explanation. There still are a few things I would like to see, but as I play around more with this, there may be a way to do it. I’ll play around and investigate further. And come back here if there are other issues that arise.

One issue/suggestion… in the playing techniques, Dorico defaults to using the 1 in the first spot when inputting notes. Currently there is no way to move or change the order. I would like to see the ability to change the order of the playing techniques.


Also, I am not getting accents to play back with any of this stuff? Any thoughts there?


A related issue: when creating a Percussion Map, am I correct that the MIDI numbers are fixed and one changes the associated instrument to match the MIDI/instrument pairing in the VST rather than keeping the instrument fixed and changing the MIDI number as some other programs do?



This is actually making sense to me the more and more that I play around with it. But I want to clarify something for my own understanding.

Dorico really doesn’t care about the patch/sample/etc. that is triggered by MIDI note 60. Dorico is looking for the instrument and the playing technique. When the instrument and playing technique match, that is now the patch/sample/etc. that gets triggered. So, if I move to a new sounds library (unlikely yes, but possible), when I create the new percussion map I need to ensure that the sounds are mapped to the same instrument and technique. When that happens, it doesn’t matter what library I use, Dorico will match the sounds as appropriate.

Is that statement correct?

If this is the case, this is brilliant. However, despite you having typed something similar several posts up, this didn’t make a lot of sense at first.

The only issue I see behind this, is will the user be able to create their own playing techniques?


Derrek, the percussion map tells Dorico what instrument and technique can be found on each MIDI note in a given percussion patch, so everything is keyed off the MIDI note number: generally speaking, unless you are designing your own percussion patch in HALion or Kontakt, those MIDI note numbers are determined by the manufacturer and documented in the documentation for the sound library you’re working with, so you shouldn’t need to change them: your job is to tell Dorico which sound is produced by each MIDI note number.

Robby, you will be able to create your own playing techniques in future, hopefully in the next big update. And yes, what I said about how Dorico maps percussion sounds (by instrument and playing technique, and not by MIDI pitch) is indeed correct.

I’m not sure why accents might not be playing back. I believe you would need to map a specific playing technique onto the accent in the Edit Percussion Playing Techniques dialog and then make sure that corresponds exactly to something in the percussion map.


If you have a copy of VDL (which I am sure you do, and if you don’t I don’t mind talking to Tapspace on your behalf), I will be more than happy to share with you a file that I have begun working on that you could take a look at (I would need another week or more to finish it up).

The accent one is odd, because marcato seems to playback appropriately.

Currently is there a way to do multiple playing techniques in the percussion map? For example, I prefer to use the manual version of the Snare line (not the AUTO RL), so I am building the percussion map for that. When it comes to rim shots, I would like to specify RH vs LH, so in the mapping in would be nice to have Right (RH) playing technique + Rim shot playing technique.


I do have VDL, so you can send me your example if you want me to take a look at it.

You can define multiple playing techniques for a single MIDI note: hold Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac) in the dialog that pops up to show you the choice of playing techniques and you can select multiple techniques.

Great news!!! Let me play around more with this… and I’ll send you something(hopefully soon).