Separate dynamics for piano staves

I have a piano part that is already written, with all the dynamics inserted. I am trying to find the quickest way of separating the dynamics for the upper staff from the lower staff.

I know I can go to Play mode and select Enable Independent Voice Playback and then assign voice-specific dynamics by using Alt during entry,.

There are two problems with this:

  • There are two voices on the upper staff and two on the lower staff and I want each pair to use the same dynamics. As I understand it, I have two available choices: dynamics apply to all voices or to a specific voice. There is no option for by-staff dynamics.

  • All the dynamics have been entered. Voice-specific dynamics are only available during entry, as far as I know. I haven’t found, for example, any way of copying dynamics into a single voice.

An alternative method is to create two piano parts with the same music, delete the lower staff on the first and the upper staff on the second. Then I go into Engrave mode. extend the brace on the first to cover the second and it looks just like single piano part—until I add instrument names. Oops!

I need the instrument names on the full score. For this Frankenstein piano part, each individual staff gets a name. Even if I could suppress one, the other would not appear centered.

So let’s get to my actual intent. Human players can be given a single set of dynamics and can usually figure out how to adjust the dynamics of each hand (or each voice) as needed, so for the printed score, I’m fine with just one set of dynamics.

The Playback engine is not quite as smart and needs more direction. The Dorico approach is to use the sequencer for playback. I am not much of a sequencer kind of guy. If I were to do this, I still can’t do per-staff dynamics and I’m not even sure how one does per-voice dynamics in the sequencer.

I see no great options, but there may be a lot of things I’ve missed. What I think I’ll do is to separate the grand staff into two separate instruments, one for the upper- and one for the lower-clefs. Then I’ll create a grand staff for the printed score, copy things there and delete all the lower-staff dynamics. And I think I will have to copy things and manually track changes—I don’t believe there is any way of using flows so that I can edit things in just one place.

Ideas for improving my workflow are welcome.

I don’t know whether it would be less work than the various things you’ve tried so far, but have you considered using the velocity editor in the Key Editor to just edit the note dynamics exactly as you want them to be?

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I think like a composer, not a sequencer. Drawing lines in the sequencer’s Dynamics section is more intuitive than modifying batches of note velocities. I do know there are global ways of manipulating the notes. I may give it a try. Why not?

I gather you’re proposing this because note velocities are inherently per-voice. Am I right to conclude that there is no easy way to initiate per-voice entries in the sequencer’s Dynamics track?

I ran into what looks like a bug when I tried to add pedaling:


First I tried copying some existing pedaling into the bottom staff of my Frankenstein pair. Nothing happened. I could copy pedaling to the upper staff, though. So then I tried to add pedaling to the first note you see in the image above. The result is that what you see.

You do not need a Frankenstein pair. Since the Piano is a percussive instrument, all dynamics are presumably controlled (or best controlled) by altering the attack volume of the affected notes.

I thought I’d give your suggestion a try.

Bars 1-33 in the base cleff has a single voice which should be played mp. In Write mode with the Key Editor in view, I selected these 33 bars in the Gallery view of the music.

Here’s the task: Using the velocity editor, what is the easiest way to set all the key velocities to “mp”?

I ran into a number of problems as I tried to figure out an answer to the above questions:

  • First, what value is “mp”?
  • Selecting all the notes and trying to move a note velocity up or down scales the existing note velocities so that they remain different values.
  • I played around with various tools. The line tool was the most useful; however, there is no way to draw a horizontal line other than by eye-balling it, and if I scroll off the edge, the view doesn’t scroll. There is no way of viewing all 33 measures at once—I can zoom out to a max of 15 measures.
  • The existing velocity of any note is not displayed. If I move a single note, then a value appears, but the current value (before I manipulate it) remains a mystery.

The fastest solution I foundwas using the properties editor.

The next case involved eighth notes and revealed another problem. Eighth notes at, say, mf, don’t all have the same velocities because of the beats. I have a reference instrument that has only the bass clef so I can see what the values for the key velocities should be.

I tried various ways of copying the key velocities or editing multiple instruments to try to make the bass clef in the grand staff match the reference bass clef. I failed. I found no way to make the note velocities match the reference track other than manipulating each note one-by-one. I think I can edit the two instruments, make the one that I want to edit the primary, and then scale the notes one-by-one to match the reference track.

Is there anything better?

As a side note, what does this option in the Key Editor do?


That button allows you to sync data from the primary track to secondary selected tracks. It’s introduced on page 20 and then explained in more detail on pages 30 following of the Dorico 4.3.10 Version History PDF.

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I’ve been using the new key editor functions very happily, especially for this kind of task. Here’s my workflow : select the notes I want softer (left-hand piano), in the key editor, select Velocity, then histogram. In the histogram window, make sure you select Selected, to change only the values of the selected notes. Then, two options work wonderfully : eithe delta move to the left or %move to the left. Both options will soften the music. All in all, I could very quickly get a convincing result in like 10 to 20 s, and no need to draw lines.

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This feature sounded just like what I wanted. I have a reference track with all the right dynamics. I thought I could make it the Primary with voice 1 and 2 of the bass clef of the grand staff also selected. I press the Sync button and presto–the dynamics are copied from the reference track to the bass clef.

Well, you probably know that didn’t work. I read through the manual and finally figured out that the only things that are synced are things that are manually changed using the Key Editor. The dynamics entered in the score don’t count.

Oh, well, for a minute I thought I had an easy solution.

Thank you.

My problem is a little different. The piano score I am working with is a reduction of a chamber piece. The dynamics of the left- and right-hands can follow different patterns.

For example, the right hand might have a sequence of p > f > p dynamics, while the left hand should be just mp. Dorico will, of course, assign p > f > p to the left hand. Softening that is not what I want.

Dan suggested modifying the key velocities. Doing them one by one is tough because there is some variation in the note velocities due to the beats–and it’s really slow, Doing them as a group doesn’t work because of the p > f > p pattern they start with.

Modifying the dynamics in the Dynamics track seems like the best option at the moment. It’s what I’ll try next.

Just an update: I’m almost through the first pass of the entire piece and I resolved problems using either lines in the Dynamics tracks or by scaling velocities in the Velocities track. Sometimes one was easier to use than the other.

I’ve never quite figured out the line tool—it doesn’t always make the change I want and I think I might be running into some bugs, but I usually manage to to get to where I want to go.