Writing for Choir: textures

I primarily write for choir, and have enjoyed my trial of Dorico, but am struggling with one issue before decided to purchase this over Sibelius:

Most of my writing changes textures throughout each piece. An easy example is writing for SSAATTBB (2 sopranos, 2 altos, 2 tenors, 2 basses).

When I have all 8 voices present, the labels on the left side read as: S1 S2 A1 A2 T1 T2 B1 B2. That is perfectly normal. But when I am only writing for four voices, and I hide all the seconds, it still labels the left hand side as S1 A1 T1 B1. Of course, I want all sopranos singing the soprano line, not just Soprano 1’s.

On Sibelius, this is an easy fix! You double click the label where it says “S1” and it becomes a text box, then you delete the “1.” Afterwards, the left hand side labels will read: S A T B. No 1 or 2.

On Dorico, so far I am unable to fix this problem. I just sent a score to a client and they had to ask “Why are only the Soprano 1’s singing for most of the song? What about the Soprano 2’s?”

I have loved my trial of Dorico for every other aspect. But I can’t be answering this question for every client, it looks so unprofessional.

Please advise! This is the only thing stopping me from purchasing this program, but it’s a big, big issue for me. If I can’t resolve this I will have to download Sibelius.

Thank you.

The easiest way is to use Divisi for the 8-part sections. You ‘divide’ one Section player into two (or more) staves, each of which has its own labelling. (You also get arrows indicating the change at the end of a system; and automatic unison ‘filling in’ of both parts if the change occurs in the middle of a system.)

You can also show or hide staff labels with System Breaks (using their Properties in Engrave mode). Most vocal scores don’t label every system, but only label the voice parts where there’s a change (if they do it at all!) – having them on every system is a bit of a needless waste of space.

If the music is not too complex, then a second voice on the same staff might also be an option, instead of a split staff.

It’s also worth saying that singers don’t like scores that change the layout too often. They’ll still mark the change with a pencil, no matter how well it’s labelled! And if you’re not saving at least 4 pages, then you’re not saving any paper!


Colin, why not S S2, A A2, T T2, B B2 so that when the 2s aren’t singing then only S A T B show? Thats what I did for a recent score and it was fine. (but for complex stuff I’d follow Bens advice).

1 Like

Now you mention it, I have done something similar, but not numbered either of them.

As of write now, it numbers them automatically, and I can’t delete the numbering. So if I add “Soprano” and another “Soprano” they automatically become “S1” and S2"…

In your experience, when you reduce the score to SATB, does it eliminate the numbers for you?

You’re not understanding Ben. If you use the divisi feature, you only create one of each voice, and then just split it right at the beginning. When you do this, you have control over naming.

At any rate, you also have control over naming in setup mode if you do also just add two sopranos. Frankly, Dorico can be forgiven for numbering them by default, as this is what one would typically want. Regardless, you can easily go in and edit their names.

1 Like

To do an actual divisi on a SINGLE section player:

Then this dialogue pops up that allows you to set the naming scheme, where you can name your second player “NOT SOPRANO 2” if you so desire:


To easily omit a player from automatic numbering, place it in its own group. Setup mode, player panel, at the bottom.


This was exactly what I needed! I just purchased the full (student) version because of this advice and am already loving this tool.

1 Like

Just to add - you can also use the “condensing” feature, which should be the way to do it, although the implementation for choral condensing is still pretty shaky. Choral Divisi isn’t quite perfect either - going from short score to open staves isn’t yet possible within the idiom of the program - you have to fake it a bit with an extra choir instrument. Using Divisi is pretty good for going from 4 to 8 though.

Also - if I’m not wrong, were you to go from a line each to single line per section in Sibelius then rename as you say, doesn’t that result in the 8 staves being renamed S, S2, A, A2 etc?