Pitched cues in unpitched part

Pitched cues cannot be directly added to an unpitched part. The advice when they are required is to add an arbitrary pitched instrument to the unpitched player, to make a five-line staff available, and add the pitched cues to that (fictitious) pitched player in galley view. I’m attaching an example of the unedited result in a snare drum part. I added a violin to the snare drum player, for no better reason than that the first cue is in the solo violin.


(1) Each passage for snare drum is labelled ‘S. D.’ and is followed by ‘To Vln’; the subsequent cue is labelled ‘Vln’. This is of course inappropriate and points clearly to the workaround nature of the solution, but getting rid of the unwanted labels is straightforward if tedious.

(2) More seriously: the score is mostly in three flats. Correctly, no key signature appears in the S.D. part. But the pitched cues are displayed as if the key signature was visible. Note the superfluous naturals in the first cue. And in b71, the apparent As are A flats, and the apparent E in b72 is an E flat. This is absolutely wrong, though once again it is fixable by painstakingly hiding and showing accidentals as required. Fortunately there were only about half a dozen cues in the part!

(3) Although the snare drum uses a single-line staff, more than half of the part has a five-line staff — not just the cues, but all the bars leading up to them. I could not find any way to fix this.

Hoping that a better solution may be in the pipeline.

We do hope to come up with a proper way to add pitched cues to unpitched instruments in the future, but it’s by no means straightforward.


Thanks Daniel!

Since posting the above I have realised that the problem with the accidentals can be solved by adding a pitched instrument (in C) that doesn’t use a key signature. Changing the violin held by the S.D. player to a C Trumpet (no key signature) caused the accidentals to display correctly.

Might this be worth adding to the documentation? As well as a caution about the superfluous instrument change labels.

[Edit] ‘Instrument changes. When a percussion player is switching back and forth
between unpitched and pitched instruments, Dorico now shows the prevailing key
signature as well as the prevailing clef when switching from an unpitched
instrument to a pitched instrument. (STEAM-8751)’ (Dorico_2.2.10_Version_History/.pdf)

The key signature is apparently not displayed with cues, as reported above.

Maybe things have changed since the previous post, but I was foxed by this one, too. However, since my percussion group (one player) includes timpani, and the cue was for snare drum, I cued into the timpani staff. Because of the way Dorico works, it showed ‘Timp.’ as an instrument change above the cue, so I moved it off the page in Engrave mode. I’m hoping that’ll work.

You can also edit the text of instrument changes, and replace the text with an empty space to hide them.

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Ah! Now that’s something I’d never have thought of. Thanks!

Regarding the issue of the five-line stave appearing all the way up to the desired instrument cue, after racking my brains for ages, I believe I’ve finally found an effective workaround. This whole process is a bit convoluted, but let’s see if I can break it down clearly from start to finish. Here goes!


  1. In the setup tab, find the percussion player that needs a cue, and assign them an additional pitched instrument. This is the instrument that all our pitched cues will go on. My pitched instrument of choice is vibraphone, but it’ll work with any non-transposing pitched instrument. Remove the instrument names. You’ll end up with something like this:

Screen Shot 2022-07-24 at 7.12.06 PM

  1. Head over to write mode, switch to galley view, and then insert your desired cue on the empty pitched instrument you just created.

  2. One bar before this desired cue, insert another cue for an instrument that isn’t playing anything. Make sure this cue is on the single-line stave rather than the pitched instrument stave. You should end up with something that looks like the image below – note that all three staves in the image are different instruments assigned to the same percussion player.

  1. Now, exit out of galley view, open the percussion part, and head over to engrave mode. You should find that your percussion part has a one-line-stave all the way up until your desired instrument cue, as shown below.

  1. This is already looking a lot better, but we still have that pesky blank cue (circled in the image above)! To deal with that, we’re going to select the cue name, and then turn on the “start text” switch in the properties box at the bottom of the window. Leave the text field blank. The instrument name associated with the cue should disappear. Poof!

  2. Next, select the tiny whole-bar rest in the cue. In the properties box, find the ‘Rest pos.’ option and flick the switch. The rest should snap back to the centre of the stave. Do the same for the other whole-bar rest. This’ll result in a much more normal-looking bar.

  3. You’ll notice that the text above the cymbal roll in the above image says ‘To Sus. Cym.’ instead of just ‘Sus. Cym.’ To fix that, all I have to do is select that text in engrave mode, and then switch on the ‘hide prefix’ option in the properties box. If needed, you can also hide this text by turning on the ‘custom text’ switch and pressing space in the text field.

  4. You’re all done! You should end up with a nice, clean-looking pitched percussion cue as shown below.

SIDE NOTE: A few of you avid Dorico users will probably ask why I didn’t just select the blank cue and then tick the ‘hide’ tickbox in engrave mode. I warn you: do not do this. It’ll result in a bunch of glitches (like disappearing rehearsal marks, and having the offending five-line stave reappear every time you close and reopen the project). Make the cue invisible using the way I’ve outlined instead. It’ll save you future headaches. I learned this the hard way :slight_smile:

I hope this all makes sense – if anyone stumbles across this forum post in search of a way to add a pitched instrument cue to an unpitched percussion instrument, this is the way to do it! Let me know if you need any further clarifications. In the meantime, I hope that the Dorico team will be able to offer us a more straightforward solution to the problem very soon.


It’s good to see these steps in one place - thank you.

An alternative to the blank cue is to add a Chord Symbol region on an unpitched percussion staff in the bar before the pitched cue. This will similarly break the multi-bar rest, sadly, but will leave nothing to hide (if you’re not using chord symbols).

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Agreeing with Leo that the broken multi-measure rest is a shame, this is an excellent start to solving an elusive problem until the Dorico Team can provide a built-in solution.

Kudos, @VIUSStudios !

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Ahhh good point, I forgot that broke the multi-bar rest haha. Ah well, it’s a much more minor problem compared to having unnecessary five-line staves for half your percussion parts. Using a chord symbol region is genius by the way, I hadn’t considered that one - I basically just kept trying to add various playing techniques and markings to solve the issue, with the intent of hiding them in engrave mode. Eventually stumbled across the blank cue and stuck with it :stuck_out_tongue:

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Thank you for this guide @VIUSStudios

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Hey no worries, glad that people are still finding it helpful!