Working with large scores in Dorico 4: ideas?

I have been using Dorico for about a year, and am currently running Dorico 4 on my M1 Mac. I’ve primarily been writing small ensemble works and/or individual movements that are less than, say, a few hundred measures, but am beginning work on a large orchestral score that will ultimately include about 17 movements (90+ minutes of music) and need somewhere in the range of 30 “players”, including section strings and choir, though not every movement will have the same instrumentation.

I’m wondering if some of you that have worked on larger works could offer some input. Specifically, I’m wondering:

  1. Are you working with individual files for movements, or are you working with separate flows within one file?
  2. If you are using separate files, are you combining them into a large file at the end of the process, or keeping them separate throughout? I would like to work in one big file for the purposes of layout, pagination, and consistency of notation options, but am concerned about the ability of my computer to handle it efficiently.
  3. If you are using separate files and later combining them, have you found it to be an easy process and/or are there things one should do early in the process to make the import easy and issue-free? Do you do things in any particular order?
  4. If you are using multiple flows in a single file, have you run into any major processing issues?

I know these are big questions, but I would be very interested to hear any advice or ideas. Thanks!


In general I will try to keep everything in the same file wherever possible, as this indeed gives the most flexibility in the final layout process. Importing flows works fine for the most part, although you have to make sure the players are completely identical between both files, or you’ll have to do copy/pasting and cleanup afterwards. This includes doubling instruments within the same player, so for example a solitary bass drum will not be imported into a player who’s also holding cymbals.
Indeed, large projects with many flows will inevitably start slowing down the process, not much that you can currently do about that. Although apparently the M1 processors are a major step up but I don’t have one of those for the foreseeable future. What you can do to alleviate some of the lag:

  • Work in a “scratch” layout that doesn’t contain all the flows and/or instruments.
  • Leave Condensing switched off right up to the point that you engrave the full score.
    (This last part will be slow no matter what, I’m afraid…)
  • Deactivate playback if you don’t need it.
  • If during engraving (score or parts) you find yourself switching to Write mode and back a lot, have Galley view open in a second window, on a second screen if you have one.
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  1. No: single project even quite huge (e.g.: the entire 9th full score with three different piano versions in the same project)
  2. N.a.
  3. N.a.
  4. Not at all :smiley:

hrnbouma, thanks for the details. I’m wondering, though, what you mean by “scratch” layout. Do you mean for writing condensed scores before fully orchestrating? Or do you mean creating a template and then applying the notation settings to the full score file(s) afterward?

Neither. Within a single project file you can have as many different layouts as you want, containing whichever subset of flows and players you want. So I mean doing the note input, orchestration, editing, whatever (anything except engraving) in a separate layout—I often call it “Work”—which is not meant to ever be printed, and from which you can leave out any flows or players that you’re not currently working on. See here for the manual page about how this might work.
One thing you’ll need to be conscious about then is propagating properties to the actual score and part layouts, but there’s a global setting for that nowadays.


Ah, OK, I see. Thank you!

I need to listen to this conversation and learn more that contribute - but if it were me saying “scratch” I would mean a separate scratch project file (Actually I call it a sketch) that it is as unburdened as possible from anything else. Or maybe call it a representative score…

Seems like I nearly always get to a point where my machine is struggling some. It might be quite different with an M4 and I don’t always follow my own advice; but it seems to me that its better to just accept up front the extra labor of moving the project though different files or stages (and even tools) versus trying to do everything in one project until it starts to struggle and I have to take some backward steps.

I would 100% advise you not to have the whole thing in one project. I found this out the hard way - and this was with only two full orchestra flow in the same project. Purely for processing reasons. Here’s why:

By default, you cannot print flows separately.

If you wanted to print a particular flow from your project individually, you’d either have to:

A) select the appropriate page range for each flow in each layout that you want to print. (Eg select pages 1-76 and print flow 1, and then select pages 77-192 for flow 2 etc… for each layout). Or
B) export flows separately before printing layouts for each flow (not sure if you’d lose formatting?), or
C) have multiple layouts of same players, each one with a different flow. (E.g. 76x Full Score layouts with a different flow on each). This way you could just select the relevant layouts in one go, but you’d have a million layouts.

I may have overlooked another solution?

I would LOVE for this to change, and it has been brought up several times before, but it seems that it must be harder to fix than one would think.


It seems that I’ll feel comfortable for now using separate files for each movement. But I do wonder, DanielMuzMurray, how you deal with pagination and formatting with the complete project. Is there a point at which you combine all of the movements into one file? In my experience working (during my troubled past) with Finale, and always using separate files for each movement, the final formatting is a nightmare. The page numbering alone takes hours of extra time in Adobe Acrobat (or similar pdf editor) . . . and what a disaster if you go back and change something that requires repagination. The whole process starts over again from the beginning.

If you write in separate projects and then later wish to combine them, just be aware that any layout and formatting changes you make in Engrave mode will not be carried over into the destination project when you import flows.

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I’m not sure that it would be advisable to put scores back together.

You would absolutely lose your formatting.

Beat me to the punch

What makes option A so difficult?


Option A is not difficult provided you elect to start each new flow on its own page.
If, on the other hand, one chooses, for whatever reason, to start new flows mid-page, the situation is more complicated.

I have to disagree about the advice to keep separate projects. In my opinion, the inconvenience of printing page ranges is minuscule compared to managing multiple projects and adjusting page number changes.


Having read all of these perspectives, I am left with the thought that for my own workflow, and for the sake of efficiency, it would be easier to maintain separate files during the composition/orchestration/note-entry/additional-entries stages, and then when preparing to make layout adjustments combine all movements into one single compiled file. It does not seem too inconvenient, again, just based on the way I work, to go through the individual files at the end of the entry process and add any additional players/staves as needed before making the transfer. I do however certainly see the advantage to the single-file option from the start.

I think if it was just a score to deal with then I’d be absolutely keeping it all in one project. But not if I need to be selecting 70+ page ranges for each of the 60+ layouts. My parents would say it’s just laziness though!

In regards to page-changes or starting flows on new pages: I tried this for a project and it worked amazingly and I love having it all in once place. Until I needed to change things…

I needed to add some music to a middle flow, so much that it added an extra page within every layout. However, the remaining projects’ formatting and page number overrides were not shifted an extra page. I had to re-typset the remainder of the project. (And the earlier in the project that this happens, the harder it gets).

Just checking but is there a way to lock the formatting of pages 66-100 so that I can add a page worth of music at 65?

I’m working on a 75 min ballet with 17 players and 25 movements. About 450 pages of score. I’ve got all the notes in from beginning to end, and am now adding dynamics and other performance markings. This is on an 8 core iMac Pro from 2017. Performance is fine for entering notes and other score markings. If I decide to use condensing, that will slow things down considerably, so I’ll do that at the last possible minute. When fixing errors, I’ll turn condensing off and fix them in batches. I’d recommend sticking to one file unless you find significant performance problems. You can always export flows at that point.

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I write musical comedy works with around 20-25 numbers, and totalling around 300 pages. From habits formed on Sibelius I use a separate file/score for each number. Then:

  1. I print all the scores, with NO page numbering.
  2. I separately print the ‘front matter’, which I prpared in a word processor, again with no page numbering.
  3. Using Acrobat (or other PDF tool) I concatenate the front matter and all the scores into one PDF document, that will have no page numbering.
  4. Using Acrobat again, I add page numbering to the entire document, using various options to specify left and right page formatting, etc.
  5. Finally I concatenate the cover page (which will have no page number).

All this is less laborious than it sounds. The major deficiency is that I’ve found no way to generate a table of contents. I depend on the fact that the title of each number is in the top margin, so people can fairly easily turn to “17. A new beginning” or whatever.

I haven’t yet become sufficiently familiar with Dorico to see if it’s feasible to make all of the numbers of a 300 page score flows in a single Dorico file.

Phil Shaw

On your Master Page template, instead of having {@page@}, put {@flowpage@} and it will be new page numbers each flow automatically for you.

Is that what you mean? I found it really helpful.