Thoughts on Chord Implementation

As I’ve been using Dorico, I’ve been daydreaming a bit about its potential implementation of chords, and what it might do better than its counterparts. Two key ideas I’d love to see:

1. Make Chords a Separate Player. Add Chords as a special type of player, accessible not on a staff but on a rhythmic grid or field which can be positioned above or below (for figured bass) any other instrument. This method offers several advantages:

a. The flexibility to use your chord progressions in multiple parts without cutting/pasting or hiding. There are several publishers of liturgical music, for example, that place guitar chords over the keyboard staves in their octavos, but then would provide a separate “guitar/vocal” edition or page in that octavo with chords over the melody. Simply being able to include the Chords player in one’s part scores makes this kind of implementation easy and consistent.

b. Chords as a separate player means that you can easily assign playback of said chords to another instrument consistently.

2. The Chords Popover.
a. It seems the currently vacant “Shift-R” would be the most quasi-mnemonic option for a shortcut.

b.When invoked, entering plain text like “E/G#” should result in the sharp.

c. Being able to follow a named chord with an alteration, e.g., “G” then “/B,” and having it spell out the proper chord for you (“G,” “G/B”) would be a big timesaver.

d. Being able to enter by scale degrees and roman numerals would be amazing.
Examples in GM:
“1/3” = “G/B”
“I” “IV” “V7” “I” = “G” “C” D7" “G”

e. You could make me, and certainly most Finale users, weep with joy by adding capo chord triggers. I’d LOVE to be able to select chords and add “capo 3” in the Popover to produce capo chords in my scores! Sibelius does this fairly well through a plug-in, but Finale is awful in this regard. Dorico could ROCK this.

f. Figured bass entry would be very helpful too. Perhaps the key here is to use, say, brackets to prompt a figure, e.g. “[6-4]”

g. I suppose capo chords and figured bass might be invoked via the Properties panel too…

Yes! I agree. I think a chord ‘master track’ is an excellent idea. Make it a non sounding player that can govern how chords are implemented across all the other parts, either for playback eg guitars, or to write the appropriate style of chord symbol on any part.

I agree whole heartedly!

As an arranger for my church’s praise band, I often want chords on multiple parts: guitar, rhythm, piano, lead, etc…
If I make chord changes it’s a hassle to adjust all of them. Just as things like the fermata are applied to multiple parts, so should chords, even if they are not displayed.

Now that we’re in the midst of implementing chord symbols I can share a bit more about how they will work. Firstly, figured bass and Roman numerals used for harmonic analysis are out of scope for the work we’re doing at present, and I don’t think we will be able to squeeze in support for capo chords just yet, but we’ll see.

Chord symbols will not be a separate player, but they will be attached to the system as a whole rather than to an individual player, so there will be a means of determining whether or not they should appear in a particular part layout, and above which staves they should appear in the score layout.

Chord symbols will have a separate track in Play mode to which you can assign one of your existing sounds, if you like, or you can manually load something and assign it in Play mode. At the moment playback is very rudimentary (it plays a single chord of a quarter in length for each chord symbol) but this is something we can build on in future.

Chord symbols will be entered via Shift-Q (analogous to how we use Q for “quord” mode in note input), and you’ll be able to type them in using plain text or play them in via your MIDI keyboard. We hope to make navigating through the score to get to the point at which you want to input the next chord easy and to work a bit like lyrics input. There are a number of options you can tweak to tell Dorico how you prefer particular kinds of chords to be handled when you input them via your MIDI keyboard (e.g. whether you prefer add9 or add2, whether you want to see half-dim or m7b5, etc.), and you can also do things like play a chord in any inversion but then while you hold down the notes, re-strike the root note in order to influence which inversion is actually notated (e.g. whether or not there should be an altered bass note). You can input polychords by holding down one chord in one hand, then playing the other chord in the other hand, and so on. You can also input chord symbols via scale degree on the computer keyboard because we do support Nashville numbers, and I believe you can specify the root using sol-fa, too (as this is used in many of the Romance languages).

As for how chord symbols will appear, there will be a large number of engraving options that influence their default appearance, along with the ability to choose any text font you like, and you will also be able to edit the appearance of any particular chord symbol to look exactly how you want it via a graphical editor.

There’s still quite a bit to do, but we are making good progress, and I’m pretty confident that you will find our implementation of chord symbols to be the best in the field, notwithstanding the lack of things like guitar chord diagrams in this first iteration.

Thanks for the info Daniel, looking forward to seeing the results of your efforts.

Best wishes.

I hope one of the chord-assignment options will be “Top Staff” for Piano/Vocal scores in which different singers appear on top in different systems.

I am glad to see this taking shape.

Yes, I expect it will be possible to specify that the chords should appear above the top staff, whatever it is, just like tempo marks and rehearsal marks do.

Daniel, thank you so much for such detail in your responses. Looks like chords are off to a fine start and your implementation scheme is fantastic.

I meant to mention that you can also audition a chord symbol simply by clicking on it in the music in Write mode, which is nice.

Do you expect that the next release will be out before the extended cross over discount is due to expire? I hope that anyone on the fence mainly because of chord symbol implementation has the chance to see it in action in due time to take advantage of the discount.

Yes, we certainly expect the next update to be out before the end of June.

Sounds like a dream come true!
Somewhere down the line, it would be nice to be able to display the chords in certain passages only, rather than in the whole layout. E.g. for a sax solo in a big band arrangement.

It would also be nice to do some occasional manual spelling for transposing instruments. Maybe some global options to avoid bb, ##, Fb, B# etc.

Keep up the good work!

Thanks for behind-the-scenes info on chords, Daniel. Sounds like a very musical approach.

Thinking this from the other end: would it be possible to have a “local chord”, in parallel to the Alt+Enter/Alt-Click local time signatures? Such a chord symbol then would appear only at one deliberately chosen position, independently from any system-wise automatic staff allocation.

This is something we’ve thought about, and the answer is “maybe”.

Will chords transpose along with the notes? With a change of key signature? Will it require a separate procedure?

Chord symbols will indeed transpose along with notes if you ensure they’re selected before you choose Write > Transpose.

That’s fabulous! Enter, or edit, once. This will be such a time saver!

Great! …now if only I could get my musicians to use them…

As a teacher, I frequently run into situations where I need to differentiate chord complexity on a per-player basis.

My arrangement may need a Cm9/Eb at one point, but as for my little ukulele player, I’d rather just give him a “Gm” to play instead. Of course one can say that he will have to learn how to do this by himself anyway, but I really think the complexity level / learning curve steepness should not be defined by restrictions of Dorico.

I do see the musical sensibility of a"per system" approach, but it would be good, if there’d be the possibilty to at least make single chord symbols invisible per player to enable some tweaking here.

Just dreaming: I could imagine a per-player filter for each system-linked chord to alter, which part is / which notes are used. I’m not sure if this is a bit too much focused on my particular use case - but it would actually combine the musically natural systemic approach with the need to select or simplify. The UI could offer a popup that lists the notes that define the given (system) chord and lets you uncheck boxes, if you want to omit stuff for a particular player, thus leading to a different rendering of the chord name and symbol.

Adding new notes for a single player would not make sense, as it would change the nature of the actual system chord.

I hope that the system chords would be over-ridable on a particular staff.