Playing Techniques For Use With VSL

I have imported my Cubase Expression Map into Dorico. They are for use with VSL instruments. They utilize CC values for X and Y values in VI Pro matrices.

I am getting Playing Technique changes to work, but I’m running into a problem. Unless I’m missing something, I’m limited in the names I can give a technique. If I have a matrix cell in VI Pro that contains an articulation that is not found in the long drop-down list when adding a new playing technique, the only option I have is to match with a different articulation from the list. I cannot name it with an accurate descriptive name. There is no suitable name available in the list.

If, for example, I have multiple staccatos (not including staccatissimo) there is no way for me to name a playing technique that distinguishes them.

As usual, hopefully I am missing something. Because my imported Cubase imported Expression Map has a number of differing articulations that have been matched up with a single name from the list, for example both Legato and Legato Sustain match up with Legato from the list. I cannot rename a playing technique to Legato Sustain.

Any help is appreciated. At least I’m making some progress!

I think the post from Paul Walmsley in this thread may suggest that this type of functionality is not yet present in Dorico, at least not as of April 2018.

And yet some people seem to say they are successfully working with VSL in Dorico. If so I don’t understand how, unless they limiting themselves to a very basic set of articulations that match up with Dorico’s list.

I’m still (slowly) working on my VSL Expression Map for Dorico, but as far as I understand it is already possible to create your own techniques.

  1. In Write mode, create a new Playing Technique in the right pane.
  2. In Engrave mode > Engrave > Playing Techniques create a matching entry, and assign it the Playback Playing Technique you just created.
  3. Click Edit next to Playback Playing Technique, and edit the options for the Playback Playing Technique.
  4. Go to Play mode > Play > Expression Maps, and add a new Technique to your XMap. You’ll see a list of Playing Techniques: choose the one you want to link to controls pointing to the Virtual Instrument.

Maybe steps 2 and 3 are not needed, but I’m still trying to understand all the nuances and interconnections of this feature.


Ah, thanks a bunch for those tips, Paolo. I’ll have to check them out.

Your steps worked fine in most regards. I can add to the list of available Playing Techniques and set things all up the way you describe. I can assign my new technique to notes in Write mode, and the appropriate text shows above the notes.

But I still have to figure out why notes marked with that technique are not generating the necessary CC’s to actually change the target matrix cells in VI Pro. Also, in the Play mode the Playing Techniques lane is showing Natural for the notes I marked instead of the name I gave setting up the new Playing Technique.

I’ll have to figure this out tomorrow.

Thanks again.

I know with the new update scheduled to come out before Thanksgiving the staff will have their hands full producing videos that explain the new features, but at some point it would be great if someone worked through the entire process working specifically with VSL. Who knows, though. Maybe I’ll have it figured out tomorrow.

Just to be sure: have you added the matching Actions to the Expression Map, in the Play mode > Play > Expression Maps dialog?


Yes. I have added to the Expression Map CC number events for each Playing Technique that corresponds to the correct X and Y coordinates I set up in my VI Pro matrices, if that’s what you mean.

This does indeed work fine with custom playing techniques, but to narrow it down… the expression map must contain the technique natural .If the Xmap is imported, make sure there is only a SINGLE entry for natural. It doesn’t have to be defined with any playback actions, although it makes sense to define a basic (fallback) matrix cell. If this doesn’t help, I can always post a step-by-step guide tomorrow…

One thing I noticed is that not all articulations are changed each time. It may not happen a first time, and then it happen on a second attempt.

I’ve not found a pattern in this behaviour, but would be happy to understand it and report it to the developers.


There is a known limitation that several playing techniques affecting the same note (e.g. an accent on the first note of a slur) doesn’t work properly in Dorico yet.

Also, keep in mind that custom playing techniques must be cancelled with nat. before a new one will take effect…

Ah, that could be it. I’ll check. That very well could be it, since I didn’t know that.

Okay, finally got back to it.

How exactly do I place the “natural” to achieve the cancellation. Does it go with the note where the change is to take effect? If so, do I first add the “natural,” then at the same note add my custom playing technique, thus resulting in two instructions assigned to the same note, one “natural” and the other my custom technique?

You can’t superimpose a nat. and a new PT on the same rhythmic position, as the one will cancel out the other. Place the nat. on the new note, then Alt-left arrow to nudge it slightly to the left to trigger it just before the new PT (I think it moves based on the unit of the rhythmic grid, IIRC). Then hide it.

Now I’ve found a post from Daniel in the thread linked below that I need to put the cancelling “natural” BEFORE the note with the new playing technique.

Alan, if you find that arco doesn’t cancel pizz. properly, it may be that you are also trying (whether intentionally or not) to add another playing technique at the same time, e.g. if you go from “pizz.” to “arco con sord.” then Dorico may well not manage it: try adding a “nat.” playing technique at the point immediately before the technique that doesn’t work and that may well sort it out. You can hide it using the ‘Hidden’ property for the playing technique if need be.

ARCO not responding to strings post pizz. - #13 by dspreadbury - Dorico - Steinberg Forums

So the question then becomes, what if there are new changes for several consecutive notes? E.g., staccato to legato followed by portamento? How can you assign “Normal” to a note that also has a new technique?

You don’t need to assign the nat. to a specific note. It just needs to be assigned to the staff. It can come before the note.

You can actually assign nat to the same note as the new technique, you just have to nudge it a bit to the left, so that the start time of nat. is a bit earlier than the start time of the note itself…

I’ll experiment with that. I had assumed that nat was a note-based assignment. If it is time-based, it changes my whole perspective.

Follow up question. Are playing techniques time-based as well?

Thanks so much for your help, fratveno