Section and Solo players in orchestra scores.

The “divisi” functionality in Dorico shows part of the development team’s thinking about how to optimize the workflow for complex orchestral scores. The other side of the coin, combining more than one monophonic instruments onto a single stave, isn’t implemented yet, but no doubt it will be, in some future version.

It’s self-evident that large “sections” like orchestral strings are best considered as section instruments in Dorico.

It’s not self-evident (to me, anyway) what is the best way to deal with “sections” like most wind and brass instruments, where there are a small number of players who usually play independent musical lines, but (ideally) would not have separate staves everywhere in the score - though of course they would have independent parts.

At present, any approach will involve some unavoidable busy-work (though less in Dorico than in some other notation programs). But looking forward, is it better to set up a section of two or four orchestral oboes as a single “section player” and use divisi, or as several solo players and use something “not implemented yet” to combine the parts in the score?

There are also playback issues here (since different staves of a multi-staff instrument, and different voices on a single staff, can’t yet play back with different virtual instruments - but again, there are hints that those are only temporary limitations

What is the development team’s “vision for the future” over the best strategy for this?

Note: Part of the motivation for the question is to plan what to do for a long-term (years, not months) large scale project using Dorico, where taking a hit in “short term busy-work” might be worth it, in order to set up a workflow which will fit best with how Dorico might develop over the timescale of the whole project.

I seem to remember Daniel saying in a similar context that it would be a good strategy to set up all the players as individual solo players. Thus you’d be ready to use the condensing feature once it arrives. (I think it was not on this forum.)

I have to say I’m still a little confused by the distinction. You can’t divisi a Solo Player, but you can add Staves to a Solo, but not to a Section. You can Divisi a Section into 3 Solo Players. A Section can hold more than one instrument, and a Solo Player can play five Clarinets at once!

I’m importing lots of XML from Finale, and all the players are coming in as Solo, which means I have to change them over if I want to us particular features.

I would certainly welcome a ‘condensing’ of parts into one score staff. That, and showing tacet for a part not in a Flow, would be miraculous.

I don’t really feel “confused,” i.e. I think I understand what the current version of Dorico actually does. But I’m looking for the “best” route to using the “fully implemented” version optimally, as and when that arrives.

For a project that would be complete before the next major version appears, this wouldn’t really be a question - you just use what’s there in whatever way seems easiest. But I’m trying to avoid getting half way through a very large project (i.e. several thousand pages of scores, plus parts) and reaching the point where it would have been easier to start out working a different way.

Well, Lilypond has (more or less) been doing “part condensing” for years - though it’s not up to the standard we have come to expect the Dorico team to deliver, when they get to so their version!

I hope the answer is simple: you should use solo players for your wind and brass instruments. Even though this means that in the current version of Dorico they will always have independent musical lines in the full score, this is the starting point for the condensing feature when it arrives. Dorico will require you to have each instrument’s music writtten out on its own staff, and assigned to a solo player, in order to perform condensing. There may be some exceptions to this (e.g. section players, like singers in choirs, provided they don’t use any extra staves or divisi), and it’s also possible that we will attempt some further kinds of condensing beyond the initial implementation (e.g. condensing divisi staves onto a smaller number of staves).

But in general it’s simple: if you expect Dorico to perform condensing, write the music for each instrument independently on its own staff belonging to a solo player (it’s fine to have the solo player holding multiple instruments if he/she doubles) and you’ll be in good shape for when that set of features arrives.

Is there an easy way to convert an existing section player to a solo player?

Add a solo player, and drag the instrument cards from one to the other in Setup mode.

drag card.png

Thanks, Dan. That works quite nicely. And once you’ve dragged the instrument card from the section player to the newly-created empty-handed solo player, you can then delete (player and part layouts) the now empty-handed section player.

I do wish, though, that there was a menu command like “Convert Section Player to Solo Player” that would accomplish these steps all in one go. Perhaps a feature for the future.

So instruments that condense can’t also do divisi later on?

I have several works where there are Violin 1 & 2 and viola, but one section/flow has them in unison, and this is usually (or ideally) shown in score as one staff.

But what I’m getting from this is that for the kind of ‘concertato’ choral works I do, I should use Solo Players for the instruments and Sections for the Choir.

Our expectation is that any player with divisi will be ruled out of condensing in that flow, but it may be the case that they could condense in ranges where they are not divided.

Thanks Daniel. The answer is pretty much what I expected it to be, but it was worth checking first!

That sort of thing is quite common in large scale baroque works - for example the staff labeled “bassi” usually means “everybody else that we couldn’t be bothered to write an independent part for” :wink:

I guess that is inevitably going to need some copy-and-paste work (and often some editorial decisions as to who was meant to play what) to create a part for a player who has an obbligato part in some flows but is lumped in with the “bassi” in others.

Also Dorico’s playback can’t (yet) handle sending one staff on the score to multiple virtual instruments, of course, so it can’t play the “bassi” part as written in the score.

Yes, I’m doing lots of Baroque stuff. Currently, I’m taking finished multi-document Full Scores from Finale and importing into Dorico to produce the parts. Dorico quickly gives me beautiful parts with cues, Table of Contents; and I can have large multi-section works in one document.
However, recreating the Full Scores, which often have condensed layouts, e.g. colla parte instruments; Woodwind doubling strings – is more difficult.

In the short term, I think I need to have one document for the Parts and one for the Score.

Another issue is that I have often chosen Solo or Section Players based on whether I want the Solo or Section instrumental sample. Easily remedied, perhaps, though an extra chore if you want the Section sample on a Solo Player.

Although some players, such as Garritan’s Aria Player, can assign the same MIDI channel to multiple slots to let you have bassoon, cello, and contrabass follow a single part/MIDI channel.

That is not an overall solution but is one work-around that may help in some cases.

Ooh, can you explain how to do that? I thought Dorico’s “instrument number” directly corresponded with the Slot.

You make the changes in the Aria player so the Dorico-assigned channel (say MIDI 1) can cover multiple slots in the player.


I want to chime in with one thought:
I write for wind band, and the idea that all of my players should be created as Solo players totally contradicts what I am writing for. My flutes are a section. My clarinets are a section. My trumpets, saxophones,… You are getting the idea. Each part is meant to be played by more than one player (percussions being the only exception here), so setting them up as Solo Players feels wrong for me.

Wait… is this really the suggestion? If I want to condense two clarinet parts onto a single staff in the score (say), I have to set them up as two solo clarinets, even though each part will actually be played by 4, 5, 6 individual humans?

Surely that’s not the intention.

Estigy, do your wind band parts ever use divisi? I’m not very familiar with wind bands, but I would guess not, because the number of available players may vary a great deal from one band to another, especially for non-professional groups.

In which case, maybe it is logically no different from performing Handel’s Water Music with the original size of ensemble - 24 oboes, 16 bassoons, 16 horns, etc - though musically, the piece works just as well with only one player to each part.

Don’t worry, we have discussed wind band music specifically in this context. As I said above, the plan is that you should be able to make section players condense provided they don’t have any extra staves or divisi, and even if they do, it may be that we can limit the places where condensing is impossible only to those places where extra staves appear. This is all in the future so it’s impossible to say what will actually happen, but please rest assured that we’re aware of the requirements.