Play Mode Improvements in Dorico

🎬  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 “Play Mode Improvements in Dorico”…


Hi, I’m Anthony Hughes, and in this video I shall be showing you some of the new features brought to Play mode in version 1.1 of Dorico.

To get us started however, I’m going to show you some of the improvements made to MIDI input.

Enharmonic spellings chosen by Dorico now use a sophisticated algorithm that takes into consideration the current key signature, the intervals between the next and previous notes or chords, and the intervals between the notes of chords.

Broadly speaking, Dorico will prefer to notate notes outside the key signature using sharps if the figure is rising, and using flats if the figure is falling. Spellings that produce a simpler interval (for example, a major third rather than a diminished fourth), will also be preferred.

When inputting onto a grand staff instrument such as a piano, Dorico will also use the context provided by any music already entered on the other staff: To show you an example, I’ll input the exact same series of notes twice, but in the first bar the left hand of this piano music is spelt as F sharp major, and then in this bar is subsequently spelt as G flat major. You can see how Dorico changes the enharmonic spellings of the notes to fit the existing music.

As you input notes using your MIDI keyboard, you may notice that Dorico automatically respells previous notes or chords as you continue inputting: for example, if you input, in the key of C major, E followed by G♯, Dorico will spell the second note as G♯,

but if you then input G natural , Dorico will respell the G♯ as A♭, because that spelling makes more sense in the context.

If you would like to prevent Dorico from making retrospective changes to notes you have already input, open the Note Input Options from the very bottom of the Write menu

or by using the key command Ctrl+Shift+I (that’s Cmd+Shift+I on Mac) —choosing the MIDI Input page and switch off “Allow spelling of notes to be adjusted retrospectively”.

You can now use your MIDI keyboard to trigger commands within Dorico. Ensure that you have a project open, then open the Preferences dialog and select the Key Commands page.

I’d like to set up my basic MIDI keyboard to be able to change the note duration as I input music. Now admittedly, without being able to see my MIDI keyboard you’ll slightly have to use your imagination during this demonstration.

I’m going to click in the search box and type “Set Note Duration”, which I can find as a submenu in the Note Input menu here.

And this shows us all of the supported note durations.

I’ll select the quarter note from the list, and then click this MIDI Learn button. Then, with my MIDI keyboard I can play a note or chord or hit a button or pad that I would like to be mapped to this command. I have a fairly basic MIDI controller in front of me, so I’ll be using notes at the lowest end of the keyboard that I don’t tend to use when inputting music.

When I play the lowest F on my keyboard, this registers as NOTEON29 – 29 being the MIDI note number. I then click the Add MIDI Command button to set it.

I can do this with some other frequently used note durations… then click Apply and Close.

Now when I play those notes on my MIDI keyboard, the Notes panel updates with the selected note duration and I can quickly input music without having to move my hands from the keyboard.

Rotary controls and faders are not currently supported.

[Editorial Note: While it is not yet possible to record MIDI Continuous Controller (CC) data from rotary controllers and faders in Dorico, the controller’s coarse change-state is recognized by the MIDI learn feature of Key Commands. This means unused faders and sliders (or an external controller interface) can be used after a fashion in Key Commands to trigger shortcuts.]

Let’s now switch to Play mode.

Dorico’s piano roll editor has received a great deal of attention for the 1.1 release.

It is now much easier to navigate — trackpad support has been greatly enhanced — and you can click in the ruler at the top of the editor to set the position of the playhead.

The piano roll editor now scrolls during playback. (video at 4:23)

You may have noticed a couple of new buttons in the toolbox, and to start with I’ll click on this second button to show Notated Durations in the piano roll.

[Editor’s note: in Notated Durations, the “performance” durations and written music notation will be edited concurrently.]

You can click on a note to select it and use the arrow keys to navigate.

Basic editing operations are possible, allowing you drag notes to change their pitch and duration, and the key commands you are used to using in Write mode work here too. So, hold down Alt and use the arrow keys to change the diatonic pitch, and starting position of the selected notes, snapping to the rhythmic grid. Again, as in Write mode, hold down Shift and Alt and use the up/down arrow keys to modify the pitch in chromatic intervals. Use Shift+Alt and the right and left arrows keys to lengthen and shorten the selected notes by the value of the rhythmic grid.

Now let’s click on this other new button, which switches the piano roll editor to show played durations.

[Editor’s note: in Played Durations, you are editing the “performance” durations independently of the written notation.]

The darker, thin bar along the bottom of the note shows you the notated duration for reference, but in this mode editing the durations of notes will have no effect on the notation in your score.

You can see that there are already differences between the notated durations and the played durations. These are determined by the Playback Options. You can open the dialog from the Play menu or by using the key command Control+Shift+P (that’s Command+Shift+P on Mac). On the Timing page there are options for setting the played durations of notes with and without articulations and slurs.

[There are Note Duration settings for Default notes, Staccato notes, Staccatissimo notes, Tenuto notes, Marcato notes and Legato notes.]

And there is an option to humanise the start positions of notes, by a specified percentage.

When you make a manual override to the played duration of a note, it changes colour to let you see what edits you have made to the playback profile. You can revert these changes by selecting the note and then choosing Play > Reset Playback Overrides.

I’m Anthony Hughes, thanks for watching.


I very much hope you’ve found this video transcription to be helpful. If you have, please subscribe to OF NOTE and follow me on for ongoing music notation news and info. And don’t forget to subscribe to the Dorico YouTube channel to see many more videos like this one. ~robert puff

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