Steel Drums / Custom Instruments

Does anyone have any experience or advice for setting up templates/scores for steel drum bands?

The only relevant instrument in Dorico seems to be “steel drum”, but steel drum is actually a whole family of instruments including leads, tenors, double seconds, triple cello / guitars, 6 bass and more. what is the best way to represent these in dorico, given that we can’t (yet) create our own instruments (per previous forum searches and posts)?

  • joee

You can rename the instruments in your score to whatever you like, in Setup mode (i.e. you can have several “steel drum” instruments with different names if you want).

If you want accurate playback, I expect you will have to buy a specialist sound library. The “free” Halion sounds probably just have a generic “steel drum” sound. You can manually different MIDI channels to the instruments in Play mode, and then load the correct sounds into the VST player. Dorico should remember all those settings when you save the project.

Thanks Rob,

I figured out how to use existing instruments to start building my first scores*. But I don’t see how to rename them in my scores when printing? I’m guessing this may be because i am using Dorico Elements and don’t have the Engrave mode where I can customize in detail how things print?

  • In case any one is curious, for my first simple exercises (Limbo Rock and Rass Mass, transcribing based on you tube videos of the originals and steel band covers)
    I’m using two steel drum instruments for treble clef scoring (lead/tenor and double seconds pans)
    and two bass guitar instruments for bass clef scoring (guitar/triple cello and 6-bass pans)

I also bought the Steel Pans sample set (plays in Kontakt player VST2)

  • the pans sound really good for the most part, especially for $99, and there are multiple samples for different pans (lead, seconds, cello, quadraphone, 6-bass, etc) which all have somewhat different timbres or feel.
  • I think the best way to playback in dorico is use one instance of kontakt, and multiple instances of indigisounds each with their own midi channel. For example, ch1 = leads, ch2 = seconds, ch3 = cello, ch4 = 6bass
  • I have run into a few issues trying to run 4-5 instances of kontakt. It’s not always clear which instance# lines up with each stave/instrument (in dorico), and it seems like dorico gets confused. (ie i had 4 instances of kontakt w/ indigisounds, and 1 instance w/ virtual organ for the vocal part, but it seemed to get confused on which stave/instrument went with which instance of kontakt). it’s also possible i was just confused or messed up the setup, but it seemed to sometimes work as expected, sometimes not. (*edit/added)
  • there a different kontakt instruments/sets for single hits and rolls. to playback rolls in dorico, I’ve had to duplicate a second set of staves, copy all the half note or longer notes to that stave, and assign those staves to a second kontakt instrument that uses the roll samples.

If anyone has tried this or similar before and has a more elegant solution, please let me know. This whole thing is very new to me and there is so much to learn and play with, but the challenge is fun and I’m always up to see how other’s might skin the cat.


Layout names (top left corner) and staff labels are both changed in Setup mode. You should have full control there. Layout names in the right panel, and staff labels by clicking on the player, the instrument he’s holding, then “Edit names.”


thanks for the reply. I just tried renaming in setup mode on both the right and left panels, but in full score mode it still shows the original instrument name (“Steel Drum I” instead of the “Lead/Tenor” that i manually entered)



Did you click on the left panel to expand the player, then click on the instrument card, and Edit names dialog?

Merely editing the player name won’t change the staff label. In Dorico world, players hold instruments. The instrument is what you want to edit.

I think so…

It is letting me rename the player name, but not the instrument name (arrow expanded the instrument name and right clicked “steel drum I” -> rename. the dialog to rename jumps back to the player name, and the stave label still shows “Steel Drum I” in full score and print mode.

Not sure if i’m missing something or this is a bug or limitation of Elements. Thanks!

Oh wait, “edit names” dialog, not rename. got it to take. Thanks!

It seems kinda buried or counter intuitive, but I got it to work. Have to click the arrow to expand the player, then click the arrow next to the instrument name to get the “edit names” option. this option doesn’t show up if you just right click the instrument name.