Rearranging the order of a french horn section

I created an ensemble of four french horns, and usually in the orchestra they are grouped 1/3, 2/4. Dorico writes 1-4 in succession, but I want the traditional grouping. I tried changing the grouping in the setup mode by changing the names of the instruments, but that does not work, since Dorico does not show everything in that dialogue field that it shows on the score itself. Is there another way to do that?

When you say “grouped”, do you mean on separate staves or when they’re condensed, i.e. Horns 1/3 sharing one staff, and 2/4 sharing another staff?

If you do mean on condensed staves, you can set up custom condensing groups.

If you mean on separate, non-condensed staves, you can re-order players in Setup mode, in the Players panel. Just be aware that Dorico now has an automatic player sorting setting, which you may want to set to “None” before manually dragging players around (as if you later add another player, Dorico will shuffle your horns back to the order that is correct according to the player sort setting again).

Here’s some information as well about automatic instrument numbering.

No, I mean on the score itself.

Hm, really?
I mean, when I write horns, I have players for 1, 2, 3, and 4, each one with its own staff; but in the final score they will be condensed to 1-3 and 2-4. You can easily do that in Dorico.

Yes, I would hope I could easily do it in Dorico. But, apparently I do not know how, at least not in the whole score.

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  1. Create 4 players, they will automatically be 1, 2, 3, 4.
  2. Activate condensing
  3. Create condensing groups: Condensing groups

The example shown on this very page is literally your use case of horns 1+3 and 2+4 :wink:

When I activate condensing all players of the same group will show on one single stave. This is certainly not what I want.

This is because the music probably is quite similar and therefore can be condensed.
Did you create the custom condensing groups?

No, I haven´t written anything onto the staves, so far, but as I wanted to avoid having to change staves around after I wrote everything I wanted to put them into the right order right away. Until now, I did start to transcribe everything from DAW to score.

You can do that: for the full score layout, set up two custom condensing groups, one for Horns 1/3 and another for Horns 2/4. Dorico will condense them onto two staves, divided as per the groups.

Links for how to access this have been given above a few times :slight_smile:

(Note how condensing works: you still have four separate horn staves, allowing you to generate four horn parts that just show that horn’s music. You can view the separate staves in galley view. Once you’ve input the music for the four horns, condensing allows that music to be presented on fewer staves, i.e. 2 rather than 4.)

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Of course traditionally Horns 1 and 3 play the highest two notes of most chords, and 2 and 4 play the lower notes, but most often Horns 1 and 2 share the upper staff, and 2 and 4 share the lower in a two-staff condensing arrangement.

While writing, one could change the order of the horn staves to 1, 3, 2, 4 to enter notes from high to low and then later drag the second or third horn back into position in setup to give and traditional arrangement and arrange condensing appropriately.

When working with Dorico, do not worry about layout until all your notes are entered!

Depends of the genre. In wind music most often horns are 1-2-3-4 (ordered by pitch), but printed 1+3 and 2+4. (Probably because this is a bit more readable?)

As I understand it, you’ve got it correct. Pitch order is 1, 2, 3, 4 descending. So if you put 1 and 3 together on a part and 2 and 4 together, there’s more space between the notes in the written parts makes reading easier.

Yes, that’s exactly how I have it in my scores :slight_smile:

But @Derrek is also right, as there are other genres where 1 and 3 are the highest horns and 2 and 4 are the lower parts. In those cases it makes more sense to combine 1+2 and 3+4 to acommodate for more space.

I hope I may chime in with a related question, as I was about to open a similar thread: is it still common in orchestral scoring to let the horns 1,3 and 2,4 go together (not necessarily only regarding pitches, but also when it comes to doubling/unisons)?

If not, what would be the fastest way to exchange the contents of horn 2&3 (ideally w/o having to redo condensing changes?)



Oh wow, that’s great. Thanks :slight_smile:

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Thanks @Lillie_Harris , I finally managed to figure it out, and you provided the solution.

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In North American symphony orchestras at least, 1 & 3 are high, and 2 & 4 are low. These become areas of specializations as horn players develop. Jamie Somerville, who just retired as principal horn of Boston Symphony, was also briefly 3rd horn of the Toronto Symphony. It’s not that he can’t play 4th horn well - he absolutely can - but his tone. approach, comfort level etc … as always led him to 1st or 3rd. The 2nd horn’s “job description” will always include Eroica, and the 4th horn’s jd will always include Beethoven’s 9th. Anyone playing 4th horn for a few years may take the odd principal job to replace someone in order to get out their “principal horn ya-ya’s” as one 1st horn once said to me; but their area of comfort will always remain the bottom end. This is pretty well ensconced, as can generally be seen with audition lists for the selected positions. There is a bit of overlap, but the specialization is very obvious, and thoroughly understood and accepted.

Position in the score, again strictly in orchestra music, tends to vary a little more. Traditionally, 3 and 4 were added as an another pair of horns, sometimes natural horns in a different key to get more natural notes in different chords. The tendency maintained itself as people slowly switched to chromatic horns in F. However, some more modern scores will use a 1324 order to preserve the unisons one can often write with 1 and 3 on top. Peter Maxwell Davies scores come to mind, but there are others. Personally, I prefer 1234, but this may simply have to do with the fact that 95% of the scores I read use this particular order. Still, for some reason, my brain has convinced me that it is easier to read.

In Dorico, the combination of entering music on multiple staves at once and the “swap stave content” command is something I use all the time for horns: enter the notes in chord order, then swap 2 and 3. A real time saver!

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