How to Input Chord Symbols in Dorico | Write Mode

🎬  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 “How to Input Chord Symbols in Dorico”…

The Chord Symbols feature was introduced in Dorico 1.1


Hi, I’m Anthony Hughes and in this video I’ll be showing you how to input Chord Symbols in Dorico.

In Write mode, a new button has been added to the bottom of the notations toolbox and when you have a selection in the score, clicking this button will open the Chord Symbols popover.

You can also use the key command Shift+Q.

The popover will work as you will expect if you have used Dorico’s other popovers. At the most basic level, typing a letter from A to G and pressing Enter will result in the corresponding major chord.

Pressing Enter again will reopen the popover for the selected chord symbol, where you can edit it or continue with your input.

Dorico will interpret the hash sign as a sharp and a lowercase B as a flat.

To change the quality of the chord, type M, MI, or MIN after the root to input a minor chord;

type dim, di or o for a diminished chord

and aug, au or + for augmented. Adding the number 7 will create the minor or dominant 7 th chord, or caret 7 for a major chord and so on.

Dorico recognises all types of chord symbol, including suspended note chords; added intervals and alterations;

and you can use a slash to add an altered bass note.

You can even input polychords simply by separating two chords with the pipe character.

To enter a No Chord type NC or none.

You have many options for navigating during chord symbol input, all of which keep the popover open:

Pressing SPACE will always advance to the next beat, and pressing TAB will advance to the start of the next bar. If you use Shift with those key commands then you will move to the previous beat or start of the previous bar respectively.

You can also use the right arrow key to advance to the next note, rest or rhythmic grid position—whichever is closer—the left arrow key will take to you previous note, rest or rhythmic grid position.

You can also move between existing chord symbol positions by holding down Ctrl (that’s Command on Mac) and using the left and right arrow keys.

A really quick and easy—and yet immensely powerful way to input chord symbols is playing them with your midi keyboard.

Invoke the popover in the usual way then simply play each chord in turn. The popover will auto-advance using your preference set in Note Input Options that I shall be showing you in a moment, but of course the navigation methods we have just been looking at also work. If you make a mistake, simply navigate back to the incorrect chord and play it again.

You’ll realise that some more advanced chords can be spelt in different ways and so Dorico has a few tricks you can use to help influence how it interprets what you play.

In this example I am playing the notes A, C, E, F on my MIDI keyboard. By default, Dorico interprets this as an F major 7 th chord played in the first inversion, in other words over an A bass note.

I would actually like to express this as an A minor chord with an added F, so I will play the chord again, but this time while holding down the notes I will restrike the A to tell Dorico that’s the root of the chord, and you can see that this time it is spelt as an A minor chord with a flattened 13 th . I could do this the other way round: play the root on it’s own first, then while keeping that held down, play the rest of the chord.

Let’s add a polychord with the MIDI keyboard. I am going to play and hold a C major triad in my right hand, and then without releasing it, play an F sharp major triad in my left hand. When I release, the polychord is entered into the score.

Now I mentioned the Note Input Options and that’s a new options dialog that we’ve added for Dorico 1.1. You can access it from the very bottom of the Write menu,

or by pressing the key command Ctrl+Shift+I (that’s Cmd+Shift+I on Mac). There are two pages of options to be found. The first page is concerned with chord symbols and how Dorico should interpret what you play and convert them into written chords.

Chord Symbols Options : Omissions or additions, Omissions, Inversions, Suspended seconds, Added ninths, Added elevenths, Diminished major sevenths, Flattened sixths in chords without sevenths, Altered bass notes, Suspension or addition for ninths, Augmented chords with sevenths, Inversions or altered bass notes, Polychords, Enharmonic spelling for chord roots and altered bass notes, Interval between chord root and altered bass note.

You may find that changing some of these options will match your preferred chord spellings more closely and speed up chord symbol input.

The second page contains some options related to MIDI input. I mentioned earlier about this option that allows you to specify how the chord input popover advances when inputting chord symbols with your MIDI keyboard.

MIDI Input Options: Chords input via MIDI keyboard, Advance during chord symbol via MIDI keyboard, Modal chord symbol input via MIDI keyboard, Allow spelling of notes to be adjusted retrospectively.

Depending on the project you are working on, you may find it helps to set this option frequently to match the rate of change of chords within a given passage.

Chord symbols can be transposed using the Transpose dialog found in the Write menu. Let’s transpose this G chord up a major third.

Dorico also automatically handles chord symbols for transposing instruments. If I ever want to, I can change the enharmonic spelling of chords in transposing instruments simply by editing the chord as normal. So if really needed to, I could change the G# chord in this Saxophone part to an Ab and it won’t affect the other instruments.

If I respell the clarinet’s C sharp chord to D flat, then Dorico also changes the chord for any other instruments with a matching transposition.

You can remove the enharmonic respelling by opening the popover and pressing the key command Alt+S. You can reset overridden spellings for all instruments by pressing Shift+Alt+S

By default, chord symbols appear above the staves belonging to rhythm section instruments (so, keyboards, guitars, bass guitars, etc.), but you can control this from the Players panel in Setup mode. Select a player, then right-click to access the Chord Symbols context menu, and choose Show For All Instruments, Show For Rhythm Section Instruments, or Hide For All Instruments.

Now this player is only holding an Alto Sax, which is not a rhythm section instrument, so in order to view chord symbols on this stave, we need to select Show For All Instruments… and the chord symbols appear.

You can choose in which layouts chord symbols appear using the same menu. By default, chord symbols appear both in full score and part layouts. Let’s change this for the Jazz Guitar. I’ll right-click on this player and select Chord Symbols > Show In Parts Only. Now the chord symbols are no longer appearing on the Jazz Guitar stave in the Full Score, however if we view his individual part, then you will see they are still being displayed here.

To hide individual chord symbols in the current layout, select the chord symbols and set the Hidden property in the Chord Symbols group in the Properties panel. A signpost is shown in place of the chord symbol. If you do not want to see these signposts, you can switch them off in the View menu, under Signposts ▸ Chord Symbols.

Chord symbols may optionally be shown between the two staves of grand staff instruments, such as piano, by setting the Position of chord symbols on grand staff instruments option in the Position group on the Chord Symbols page of Engraving Options.

Please be sure to check out my other video which covers the multitude of options available for controlling the appearance of every aspect of Dorico’s Chord Symbols, including switching between presets covering the most commonly used conventions, and then using them as a basis for your own preferred appearance, and even changing the font used by chord symbols.

If you’ve found this video helpful, please click on the thumbs up button below to let me know you’ve liked it, and subscribe to our Dorico channel today to see many more videos like this one.

I’m Anthony Hughes, thanks for watching.


I appreciate your support of the OF NOTE  blog. If you find it to be a useful resource, please consider subscribing to OF NOTE and . ~robert puff

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