Tricks for more efficient note-entry?

I’m looking for some tips to make music-entry faster. I have read a lot of threads on this forum on this topic as others have been approaching this, I still haven’t quite found a method that doesn’t take too long to be “difficult” for me.

I would say that in general, Dorico music-entry seems focused on the idea that keyboard entry, with a set of memorized key commands; is the best way to go. Using the mouse to enter notes with Dorico is madness. So then it requires a lot of practice to become proficient. That part is hard. I am not an engraver that works on engraving often. Few times a year I need to notate something, and when I open up Dorico to do it, its painfully slow process to get the music in.

I would like to start practicing in my spare time with Dorico music-entry so that I can be more proficient when the occasion arises. It goes without saying, Dorico’s layout features are best-in-class.

But I still have not really found any method that I feel I will be able to master in a way that I will be able to work quickly…I’ve seen all the videos on YouTube from different people will different ideas… ok… but still haven’t really found a method that seems to resonate with me.

So looking for outside-the-box ideas about how to get the job done more quickly.

A few things I will say about myself in general…which has contributed to me not being able to become proficient so far:

  1. I am pretty darn fast QERTY typist without looking, but I have to look to do numbers, symbols and modifier keys. Maybe I could practice QWERTY with modifiers and numbers to get good enough that I don’t have to look down at the keyboard, but right now I have to look down at the keyboard for those.

  2. My midi keyboard at the computer is not full size, so I don’t always know which key is middle C or which octave its in until I will press the midi key to see the result. Once I’m in a range, I can know until I change the range again…but anyway, its hard to float my hand over the midi keyboard, without looking at it, and hit the right midi key. So…again, I have to look away from the music to look at the keyboard. If I set a duration and play a longer sequence of notes…then I could look away a bit, but there is no way I could sustain sitting there for a long period of time, looking at music on a page, while typing on the QWERTY and also typing on the midi keyboard.

  3. I don’t have a stream deck yet, might get one. But I see that as being just a way to avoid memorizing keyboard commands, but ultimately, same thing, you have to look away from the music to press the button along with also still using QWERTY and maybe midi too…three places to look now, in addition to the music I’m copying… I can see main advantage of stream deck being to put in some custom key macros that Dorico doesn’t provide now, like switching divisi changes, etc… But anyway, that’s not the fundamental problem, which is how to get numerous bars of music entered fast.

  4. I’m thinking the right approach may be something where I somehow bash in a long sequence of music somehow, without having to look way from the music or remembering key commands, etc… or looking down at QWERTY to change durations, etc…but then just enter in a long series of notes, I guess at same duration…then go back and fix them or something…I dunno.

Looking for out of the box thinking with suggestions for how to make this more efficient if and when I am incapable…not enough talent, to learn to touch type 2-3 devices while I read the music I’m copying…

Already I can say with certainty that Dorico is not going to work for me as an interactive composing tool unless I find a way to become much much more proficient at throwing ideas into it interactively…which will need to be some kind of QWERTY/MIDI key mastery I’m sure…but so far, I haven’t been able to find that method or master it…

any suggestions welcome.


I think finding one method and sticking with it for a while is probably a good way to go.

My preferred note entry method is one hand on the computer keyboard and one hand on the MIDI keyboard, with a preference for a full size MIDI keyboard. I do have a tiny Akai LPK25 for travel purposes, but two octaves really is too small for serious use, not to mention the fact it’s spongy and the keys are too small. Three octaves is probably the minimum you can get away with, and ideally you want some sort of light that comes on when you’ve hit an octave up or down button.

I never learned to touch-type, at least not the proper way, so while I’m quick I’m probably not as accurate as I should be, particularly when it comes to the punctuation keys Dorico uses for articulations. I do tend to gravitate towards the top row numbers for rhythmic values, though one day I might just reprogram my number keypad to use the same numbers Sibelius uses (as, honestly, even after four years with Dorico I still have the Sibelius number keypad ingrained). I wonder if, assuming you have a full size computer keyboard, the number keypad may make more sense for rhythmic values than the top row numbers. It would mean some jumping around if you need to input articulations on the fly, though, but that grid with a tactile bump on 5 might make rhythmic entry more accurate, assuming you’ve learned which rhythmic value is where.

There are multiple ways you could use a Stream Deck. I do use the Notation Express profile (yes; I guess this is a plug) but predominantly I use a series of custom folders (panes?) of buttons that relate specifically to the job in hand; it’s generally macros that do things like reducing, exploding, fiddling with odd properties, and Playing Techniques that can’t otherwise be entered in fewer than four keystrokes.

The way that Notation Express is designed - particularly the version for the Stream Deck XL - should allow you to do everything with one hand on the Stream Deck and the other hand on either the MIDI keyboard or the QWERTY keyboard. By that I mean that there isn’t anything in this folder that can’t be done with a keyboard shortcut, but hopefully this covers most of the things you’d want to do in a single pass without needing to reach for a third device:

and a single tap of the More Notes button in the top left corner should give you most of the other things you’re likely to want to do in a single pass:

I’m not sure there’s a right answer, or that the answer that’s right for me will be right for you or anyone else. And of course I spend far too much of my life in front of Dorico.


Well I’ve already tried those approaches. But anyway have to look back and forth between three different places and it’s just horribly slow going.

I’m looking for alternative approaches, outside the box.

Thanks @pianoleo for explaining your workflow in detail. Like the OP, I am a somewhat irregular user of Dorico,so remembering the keyboard shortcuts is an issue, even with pages of crib sheets to hand. It can be a bit slow for me too, but learning how someone like you works is invaluable. I guess you use Dorico every day (and help others on this forum!).

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The most “outside the box” approach I can think of is the one that Kirill Kuzmin suggested on the Facebook group. He’s assigned the bottom octave (including, I think, some “chord” combinations) of his MIDI keyboard to various note input functions. Both hands live on the MIDI keyboard, I guess.

Very quick if you’re a decent keyboard player, but probably needs
a) practice
b) a bigger midi keyboard


I may try to start practicing entry a few hours a week in hopes I will become more proficient but I’m not even sure which approach to practice on

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I use a MIDI keyboard but I keep one hand on it and one on my numeric keypad. I open a standalone VST with a piano sound, and then turn off Preferences/Enable MIDI Thru. With the VST piano sound (outside of Dorico) and MIDI Thru off, anytime I touch the MIDI keyboard I hear the piano sound. The pitch alone is enough for me never to have to look at the piano, although obviously a full size controller helps.

Within Dorico I almost always use pitch-first input. That way I can hit anything I want on my MIDI keyboard and only when I have the right note/voicing/etc input it by hitting the numpad. Obviously I hear it first too, which in your case would let you know if you are in the correct octave if you are limited by your smaller controller. I can always find my orientation on the numpad without looking so I don’t need to look at it either. I remapped numpad 1 and 2 to assist with tuplet entry.

Since I don’t need to look at either my MIDI keyboard or my numpad, I find basic note input quite fast this way.


Hmm the approach of using only the midi keyboard or only the QWERTY seems to me probably going to be fastest, but less intuitive at least initially. For rapid transcribing or copying it would be helpful to be able to look at only the music and keep hands in one place. I think most likely I would find QWERTY to be most effective but I’d need to practice a very lot to get proficient at that.

Using keyswitches in midi instead of durations is definitely something I should try but I think we’d still need to move to the QWERTY pretty often but maybe the right set of essential midi key switches combined with steam deck for less-frequent and hard to remember things. This idea has some merit.

I’m thinking of picking up staffpad, just for music entry, transfer to dorico for layout

I mostly use the midi keyboard with the numpad. I’ve recently been doing a huge transcription project, so it’s been worth my while to get my efficiency as high as I can. I have an 88-key controller, but I found that if I keep my right hand on the numpad, then I don’t like having to cross over with my left to play high notes for violins etc, so I ended up going with a smaller controller with octave buttons which have lights to indicate their current status (green for one octave up/down, red for two), which I’ve found works pretty effectively. Another solution I’ve used in the past is to use a USB numpad that I put on the left of the keybaord, to be used when playing right-handed on the MIDI keyboard. I’ve also been using some spare time at work where all I have is the laptop, so I’ve been putting in some time learning to input using just the keyboard (not even a numpad). It’s a fair bit slower than using the midi keyboard, but the skill is worth knowing, in my opinion, because there are lots of instances where, even when I’ve got the midi keyboard in front of me, it’s quicker to throw in a few notes without having to move my hands off the computer keyboard. It’s also helpful sometimes when entering passages which confound Dorico’s enharmonic spelling algorithm (which seems to happen a fair bit in this particular project), because I find it can be quicker and more accurate to enter the right spellings the first time, and Dorico has no way to force a particular spelling using the midi keyboard (unless I’m missing something - it would be nice to have a modifier key which says something like ‘spell the next midi note as a flat’, but I don’t think one exists at this stage).

I too try to never have one hand leave the numpad, so I have / as a tie, * as toggle accidental, etc. For your issue, I always use pitch-first input, and have Ctrl + and - to flip enharmonics. Ctrl is easy to find without looking as it’s at the ends of the keyboard, so I can hit it by feel. If I notice Dorico interpreting the enharmonic incorrectly, I just flip it quickly while the note is still selected before continuing input.

I need to spend some time practicing with numpad+midi in pitch first mode, and see if I can at least get pretty fast at entering in say 16 bars at a time that way…then go back and fill in the rest of the details with my mouse.

The main annoyance with using the QWERTY keyboard is having to remember to specify the correct octave (or correct it after the fact with Cmd-Alt -up/down).

I can keep my hand on the numpad ‘blind’. I can’t remember, but I may have customized it so I can do dotted notes, rests, grace notes and tuplets all on the pad. Then it’s less of an issue whether I’m playing a MIDI note or a QWERTY pitch with my other hand. But again, I’m probably better at playing MIDI keyboard without looking so much.

Like all things, a lot of it is just practice and familiarity. The core principles aren’t really that much different from other apps, like Finale. In the end, you’ve got to specify a pitch and a duration somehow.

You could do all notes to one duration, and then use Insert mode to change the durations afterwards; though I don’t know how efficient that really is.

However, I do similar for “tumty-tumty tum” † dotted patterns: do them all as eighth notes, and then (with Insert OFF) give every other one a dot (moving along with arrow keys, not mouse).

You may find recording ‘live’ playing to the click track more helpful. I certainly use that if the durations and pitches are changing constantly.

† A technical term.

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Ben, I’m puzzled by your suggestion of moving along with the arrow keys. Dorico has special tumty-tumty® functionality built in: select the whole passage (without Insert mode) and hit dot/period/full stop once.


Well, there’s a thing! That will save me loads of time! I presumed the short notes would overlap the following long one.

Though the manual technique is still an option for things like this:


and is marginally faster than adding dots and changing duration on the go. But I digress.

Indeed; it’s tumty-tumty technology rather than tumty-tum.

If I’ve got loads of that type of thing I tend to input one unit, repeat it (or even select a range of rests and paste once), then repitch.

I trust that one day there will be advanced filtering/macros for doing stuff that only affects e.g. whatever note value is at the start of the beat.


One other thing I would say to the OP: decide whether you want to add the dot to the note you’re going to add, or to the note you’ve just added. There’s a setting in Application Preferences > Note Input for that, and various other things.


I regret that I can only sympathise with you; but I am glad I am not the only one who, even after several years, finds inputting notes in Dorico a tedious process. I use an LPK25 with the left hand, and mouse with the right hand to change the note values, usually hearing the notes only in my head. I figured that learning one way fluently first and then trying another method was the best way. (My next plan is to learn the keypad layout, which is also firmly engraved in my brain in the Sibelius encoding). The problem is that, unlike those that tell us that fluency comes, and the process eventually becomes enjoyable, I am not someone who works with Dorico every day, and I do find it difficult to remember how to do things from one session to the next. With Sibelius I frequently used the R key and modified pitch and value on the computer keyboard, plus a lot of copying and pasting; and there was less to remember in other ways. But Dorico does not seem to work as well that way. One thing that I find very helpful is the insert mode, whereby one’s mistakes (when not looking at the Dorico window) can easily be corrected without having to back up re-enter everything.

Since all my Dorico work is notating (and sometimes simultaneously deciphering renaissance or baroque notation) from pdf files, probably the greatest problem I have in doing so is that I have to keep moving between looking at two keyboards and two screens in the process.

But I tell myself that one day it will all fall into place and become for me as easy as playing the organ or sightreading figured bass!


If you only just now learned this trick, I feel much better, as I only today learned that notes can be shifted L and R with ALT-arrow keys, though I have been using the vertical arrow keys to move notes up and down from the beginning!


It is possible to set up keyboard shortcuts for ‘up one duration’ and ‘down one duration’, which may be easier to use than specific numbers. I think it requires editing the key commands file by hand, which comes with its own difficulties.

I’ll see if I can find the forum post about it, if it’s useful.

Mouse entry is always the slowest, on any notation app.

Alt-arrows to move EVERYTHING is one of Dorico’s great consistencies.

I disagree. The mouse allows you to navigate across acres of blank score at speed. I use mouse entry to quickly sketch out the overall shape of a piece (key harmonic landing points, general phrase shapes and tessitura). Set a coarse grid, start note entry and drop the notes wherever you want. So quick!

Also, mouse with Alt-click is brilliant for pasting motifs and phrases across instruments (made even more powerful with shift-i to transpose).

Midi keyboard is, for me, the slowest method for two reasons: my keyboard skills are rubbish (a dodgy Grade 5 some 50 yrs ago) and my music occurs in my head, not my fingers!

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