Sanity Check

Good morning!
I hope you are doing well!

I was wondering if it was possible to have a Sanity Check in Dorico. I talked with a lot of composer that did record with an orchestra (I never myself), and they explained me that their writing was often not possible to be played by some of the instrument sof the orchestra. They forget that the flute needs to have the time to breath, some note on the horns are too long, to fast and to repetitive on the violin etc.

So i thought it could be interesting to create a sanity check. You would click on it and it would tell you in an opened window (bar 12 to 32 is too complexe to be played for a Flute, the instrumentist need to breath etc)

The learning of this sanity check could be create by everybody, people would create new topics and the would also vote for the things, and a moderator (would be great to have a conductor as a moderator) would approve the elements that you could implement in the sanity check.

Let me know if it is a good idea…or not :slight_smile:
Thank you,



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Players can do amazing things and are improving all the time. Astonishing really. Wind players can do circular breathing, commonly. Most players can get really high notes that aren’t possible to mediocre players, ask what the highest note on a violin is and nobody has an answer, I know bassoonists that can easily get high well tuned notes that were once considered impossible, and more and more. Also, this is terribly subjective. Depends on skill levels. Are you talking Berlin Philharmonic or the School Band? How would you program the difference?

These aspects are the core subject matter of Orchestration courses. I don’t believe you can or should rely on a machine to solve them for you.

All the professional engraving I do is for New Complexity School scores. Any ‘sanity checker’ would discard the lot as most people say they are unplayable in principle, and yet master players grapple with them and succeed. A sanity check would instantly fail Brian Ferneyhough.

This is coming close to recent topics on parallel fifths checkers and so on. Let Dorico be the finest notation software. Let the musician using it as a tool be the finest musician.

And don’t forget that Bach basically never allows any time for oboes, and flutes, and trumpets, let alone singers (!) to breathe. The sanity checker would upbraid him also.


I’m not opposed to such a thing in principal (we have note range warnings, for instance) but the problem is who decides? To echo @Andro: What is “too hard” (or even “impossible”)? Where do non-standard / extended techniques fall? What about famous pieces of repertoire that break the “rules”? How would one calibrate “medium difficulty” vs. “advanced” etc. Humans can often assess these things, but I don’t know how effectively it could be baked into an algorithm.

It seems to me that much of the issues you have in mind are precisely the types of things that one has to study when one studies composition. It shouldn’t take a computer to remind a composer that a flautist needs to breathe. These are the types of issues that are learned when you take a piece to a friend and ask them to give you feedback on it, or you take it to a professor who is a skilled orchestrator and they assess it for you and coach you on how to make it better. I’m not sure a notation program needs to take on that burden.

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While it is always a good idea to be aware of human limits - for any instrument - it is by pushing and challenging those limits that progress in technical ability is made. The Tchaickovsky Violin Concerto was deemed unplayable at first; now it is commonplace (yes, it is still hard!). Many other pieces were initially declared impossible, only to find that resourceful players found a way, and that way became the new standard of technical acumen. Any program that warned of an unplayable passage would negate this. It is always better for the performer to say, “uh, we have a problem here”, than to hear it from a notation application!

It’s the same with the Dupré Preludes & Fugues on organ. Now they are landmark works.


To my mind the bigger question, that “Is this playable?” is trying to get at, is: Is this good writing? And that is something that absolutely requires human feedback.


Composers should certainly know what the boundaries are before they push against them.

You can give Basses piano Top Fs, and I’m sure you’ll find choirs that can sing it, but …

That having been said, I’m not sure that an automatic process could determine such things.


Yes- this! It is always a good thing when composers and performers work together - imagination first, practically second. And no computer in between…

Interesting. Of course as others have said, there is already a very basic sanity check built into Dorico, in the form of the notes out of range. Some of the notes which are out of the trombone range are ones I can play, so obviously I can bear that in mind, however I suspect that it might be a bit more difficult to deal with for a harpist, vibraphone player or pianist.

Personally - and this is one man’s opinion - I dislike being told how I “should” be composing. This applies both to a putative sanity check (although I can, of course, switch that off) and to being told that I shouldn’t be allowed to want one. Make of that what you will.


We should also keep in mind that not all works composed are intended for human performance. Some see the process as going only to virtual instruments and libraries, while working in the realm of traditional notation. Perhaps the OP’s request could be implemented with an option to disable the function of alerting the user as to the playability of a passage.

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