Thoughts on drumset notation (or rhythm section in general)

The rhythm and form in common pop music is usually very repetitive, so often a drummer (or bass or guitar player) will just write a bar of the pattern they have to play and add “play for n bars” or whatever. Now, if you’re arranging a pop song for an orchestra or larger band, current scoring programs, including Dorico, write out every bar which unnecessarily clutters up the pages of music for these players. Even one or two bar repeat signs don’t help too much if there is an entire page of them when it would suffice to say “play for n bars”. So, I’m hoping to spur some brainstorming about how Dorico could handle this in the future.

I’ve been working on a Beatles medley for concert band lately and the drumset part was three pages long, and the drummers asked me to shorten it to two pages so it would be easier for them to handle (no complicated turning of pages or fixing them on a wobbly stand on which only two pages would fit). What I’ve done is copy the drumset part to a new flow that only shows this part/layout (and hid the flow for all other layouts) and adapted it as in the attached image. So, usually where patterns are repeating I’ve written one bar and a text above it indicating the number of bars to play that pattern (an exception is after rehearsal mark 3 where a pattern change occurred within the section and after just a couple of bars). I retained first and second endings to keep consistency with the other players’ parts so that there won’t be any communication issues in the rehearsals. This is nice and good but that flow/part isn’t connected to the main flow/score, so it doesn’t update automatically and any change in the main score has to be done manually in this one, too.

I’m wondering if and how this could be automated. I’m imagining a preference setting in the layout options to automatically shorten repeating bars to one bar with text indicating the number of bars to be played (in Engrave mode and single parts only). This would only apply to sections that aren’t already repeated with different endings and could be disabled by a checkbox in the properties panel. This could probably also be useful for some contemporary/minimal compositions. Does that sound feasible? Does this pose any problems I haven’t thought of?

Excellent idea. This may apply to more than just drum notation: I’ve just engraved a piece by Keith Jarrett that starts with a 16-bar piano intro, so the piano player gets 16 bars worth of music, but the rest of the band only needs the chord changes (which repeat every four bars).

So currently, I’ve set up three flows, one only containing the full piano intro, and another one with the simplified intro (four bars repeated four times), and one with the rest of the piece. Then glue them together using custom layouts. But it would of course be nice if I could have one flow and condense the first 16 bars into 4 repeats for everyone except the piano player.

Yes, we have discussed this kind of “folding” feature many times. We don’t yet have a clear idea how we would do it, but it’s the kind of thing we may well work on in the future.