Automatic Condensed Conductor’s Scores in Dorico

Dorico Pro 3 can automatically condense music for multiple players onto a smaller number of staves in the conductor’s score, while maintaining separate instrumental parts. Learn how to switch a layout to a condensed score view with a single click and discover some tips and tricks for inputting music and managing your scores.

🎬  This article is a transcription of one of the excellent tutorial videos posted to the official Dorico YouTube channel.

Presented here in written form with the kind permission of its creator, Anthony Hughes, this tutorial is titled “Automatic Condensed Conductor’s Scores in Dorico”…


Hello, I’m Anthony Hughes and in this video I’ll be showing you the revolutionary new feature to automatically condense music for multiple players onto a smaller number of staves in the conductor’s score, while maintaining separate instrumental parts in Dorico Pro 3, the advanced music notation software from Steinberg.

Approach (00:30)

Producing materials for a large ensemble is a complicated and involved task that involves communicating potentially complex music to the performers in as clear a way as possible. One of the biggest challenges is producing a conductor’s score that contains the music for every player in a way that is practical to read and digest at speed. There may be dozens of staves that all need to fit on a single sheet of paper which, even when using larger formats can result in each staff being drawn at a small rastral size.

Hiding empty staves is one way to alleviate this, (Layout Options > Vertical Spacing > Hide Empty Staves) though in full tutti sections that’s not going to make much of a difference.

One usual solution to this is to produce a condensed conductor’s score where the music for multiple players is shown on a smaller number of staves.

This is a complex editorial process, ensuring that it is always clear and unambiguous how the music for the different players is split.

There are different levels that you can condense music for multiple players down to. When multiple players are all playing the exact same music in unison, then it is possible to write it out just once on one staff and label it for all players.

When the players are in rhythmic unison, but playing different pitches, then it is often possible to write the music using a shared stem, effectively still using one voice on the staff.

When the players are playing different rhythms and pitches, it can still be possible to write this on a single staff as long as the individual lines do not cross too much.

It can still be possible to achieve a readable result even when the lines of music do occasionally cross, such as in this example.

While music notation software has become more and more accomplished in recent decades, producing a condensed conductor’s score has always posed a real problem. For some time now, it has been possible to maintain a link between full scores produced in these applications and the instrumental parts used by the individual players, so that as one is updated, the other follows suit. This doesn’t help with a condensed score however, because you don’t want to have to give, say, the first clarinetist a part that contains the music for the other clarinet players. That would be extremely difficult to read reliably at speed.

The result is that creating a condensed score as well as a set of individual instrumental parts has had to be a manual process, and in an age where deadlines are becoming ever-shorter, and budgets ever-tighter, it’s increasingly rare for new works to be produced with condensed conductor’s scores. The consequence is that music is often performed from impractical, hard-to-read scores, a real obstacle to the connection between conductor and ensemble that must be overcome to produce a successful performance.

The Basics (03:30)

Dorico Pro 3 offers a revolutionary new feature that will produce a condensed score while maintaining individual instrumental parts. The way we approach this is by taking music you have entered for each individual instrument, and then arranging that music onto fewer staves for the condensed score.

To create a condensed score in Dorico Pro 3, enter your music as you would ordinarily with each instrument on their own staff. Once complete, open the Edit menu and choose Condensing.

Dorico automatically looks across each system and works out the optimal condensing for each group of instruments.

The staff label will show which instruments are condensed together on each staff,

and an appropriate label will be added for each entry of music (1º, 2º, a2 etc.) to disambiguate which instrument or instruments are playing that line.

Condensing can be enabled or disabled for every layout in your project, either by using the Edit menu command, or by switching it on in Layout Options, in a new section at the bottom of the Players page.

Systems, Phrases (04:40)

Dorico detects phrases of music that it uses to determine how to condense each system. In simple terms, this is a run of notes without intervening rests. However, Dorico also takes into account other notations, and if an item such as a slur, dynamic, playing technique and so on straddles that rest, the phrase will be extended. The phrase is considered as a whole, so if something within that phrase is deemed unsuitable for condensing, then the entire phrase will not be condensed.

Condensing cannot change mid-system, so you may wish to edit the formatting of your music to help influence the change in condensing from system to system.

What can condense (05:25)

So, what instruments can condense onto fewer staves? Well, in general think of it as groups of solo players of alike instruments that are adjacent in the music, for example two flutes. Section players do not condense. For example, typically you would not expect to see the music for the first and second violin sections written on the same staff. Instead, section players have the power to divide and create complex divisi passages.

Instruments need to have only one active voice for that passage of music to be considered for condensing. It’s OK if they have additional voices on other systems — it won’t preclude them from being condensed at all — but it wouldn’t be clear to show multiple voices in one instrument on the same staff as music for another player.

The instrument needs to be conventionally single-staff, so grand staff instruments such as pianos and harps do not condense.

Unpitched percussion already have powerful ways to show their music in a condensed form by way of 5-line staves and grids, so they too do not condense in this manner.

Custom condensing groups (06:37)

By default, only alike instruments are condensed together. However, there are some very common pairings that are useful to be able to show on the same staff, for example Trombone and Tuba.

In Layout Options, you can set up custom condensing groups that facilitate exactly these kinds of pairing. Press the Add button to create a new group and select the instruments you would like to see condensed together in the current layout.

Create a custom condensing group for your score

Use custom condensing groups to condense horns using the traditional ‘interlocking’ approach of pairing horns 1 and 3 on one staff and horns 2 and 4 on another.

And I know I said that section players do not condense, but there is an exception with vocal instruments, allowing you to create groups to accommodate a four-part choir.

Condense 4 choir staves into bracketed grand staff

You can also specify certain instruments to exclude from condensing, so that they always appear on their own staff.

Editing condensed music (07:37)

Music on condensed staves is not editable, in fact you cannot even select it. This is because you can not reliably know how to apportion music on these staves to the individual instruments of which they comprise. Instead, you must input and edit using uncondensed staves, so either switch off condensing, or switch to Galley view, where all staves in the layout are always shown regardless of whether or not condensing is enabled.

It can be helpful to set a split …

and view the layout in both Page and Galley views simultaneously. This way you can both input and edit the music, and instantly see the condensed results.

The new note input feature that allows you to extend the caret across multiple staves is particularly useful when entering music intended for condensed staves, as often these phrases are either unison or moving in thirds and so on.

I have made a separate video about how this feature works – be sure to check it out.

You can enable a view option in the Notes and Rests Colours menu for Condensed music, which then colours the notes grey, making it more easily recognisable as music you cannot interact with directly.

Notation Options (08:53)

There is a new page in Notation Options for Condensing. Here you will find options relating to how often the pitches of the different instruments are allowed to cross and still be considered for condensing.

You can control how much to amalgamate voices within phrases; and also how to handle inactive players, including an option you can use when hiding empty staves.

Engrave mode (09:17)

Finally, while you cannot interact with music on condensed staves in Write mode, the usual edits are still permitted in Engrave mode, allowing you to make any necessary graphical adjustments.

I’m Anthony Hughes. Thanks for watching.



I hope you’ve found this video tutorial transcription to be helpful. If you have, please subscribe to OF NOTE and follow me on Twitter for ongoing music notation news and info. And please subscribe to the Dorico YouTube channel to see the many excellent tutorial videos like this one. ~robert puff

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