What's your workflow for trying out ideas in measures or sections in a non-destructive way?

I’m currently writing a large orchestral score and an idea occurred to me how cool it would be to be able to try out different ideas whether that’s in a few bars, entire sections, or instrument groups, in a non-destructive way (so if you want to easily revert back or better yet - A/B them, you could just do that).

I’ll provide an example. Right now I have the entire orchestra on a Dm chord, through various complex ostinati patterns etc. I’d like to basically audition a totally different chord and maybe some different patterns -but I don’t know if I will like it better or not.

Here’s what I have been doing - I will either copy/paste or backup the idea to an empty part toward the end of my flow with several bars of blank space - it’s essentially acting as a temporary empty canvas where I can toss things to pull later. Or I will just duplicate my flow so I can A/B back and forth. Both kinda work fine, but a thought came to me if there could ever be a way to, I dunno, sorta have something like a “playlist” staff or “track versions” staff? This is a bit of a DAW methodology, you can see it in Cubase, Logic, PT etc. It’s pretty cool for being able to try different regions to see what works.

I realize this is probably an entirely separate animal but I’m wondering if such an idea could be implemented, or if maybe something closer to this already exists without my realizing. (I suppose in theory I could use Divisi only when I’m writing to try different ideas and then mute them or collapse them).

Either way, curious to hear other approaches to this writing workflow.

You could use a separate flow for each idea, and just copy/paste the material you want to try out. You can rename the flows according to what’s different about them to keep track.

Then when you’re happy, just delete the flows you don’t need (or even export them to save them as a record somewhere).

(Edit: rereading, I see you’ve essentially already done this. It’s perhaps worth remembering though that flows can be any length, even just a couple of beats, so you can really isolate just the phrase that you want to play with.)

This is exactly how I work. I wonder if I’m missing something about sketch instruments. Is this just a convenient alternate for ideas that you hide in a layout, or is there some other function as well? When I search the manual for sketch or sketch instruments or sketch staves I can’t locate any specific information about the use of them.

I’d love to have the Arranger Track implemented in Dorico to stich together multiple versions of various segments or takes.

In the meantime, what I do is use system track to select the larger sections that would contain the passage in question (plus an empty bar at the end), then use R to replicate them several times and add system text to generate headings. It takes mere seconds. Following that, a combination of instrument filters, system track, and using L to re-pitch existing patterns makes it very easy to quickly create variations.

In practice, it’s the same end result as Track Versions (not the Arranger Track, sadly) and it’s actually easier to manage - in Cubase, the Track Versions have to be switched individually on every instrument, as far as I recall.

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Yep that’s been my workflow. I guess I was just spitballing an idea which could be even more immediate :wink:

One question with flows - is there a way to make them distinct entirely as opposed to running consecutively when viewing in write mode? Almost like a parallel universe rather than a serial one. The reason being, when I do make separate flows for sketch ideas, the bar numbering and/or timecode in the transport is longer than I would want – obviously Dorico is considering the duplicate flow as a consecutive movement, which logically makes sense. But in my case it would be helpful to view the bars/timecode starting from 0 for each duplicate flow.

That’s a cool approach, I’ll have to try that too. Thanks for sharing!

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