Create ½, whole-tone, flat, natural & sharp trill lines in Dorico

There are a couple of common approaches for indicating trills with specific trill-to pitches in your music score. One way is to indicate the trill-to pitch as a stemless, cue sized note in a parenthesis.

This is an extremely clear and elegant way to present the trill-to information. In contrast to Finale and Sibelius, this is easy to implement in Dorico 2.2.

Input the main note, invoke the Ornaments popover (Shift+O) and type tr followed by Return. If you’re working with defaults you should see something like this:

To display a parenthesized auxiliary note, select the trill itself, move down to the properties panel and flick the Appearance switch; a dropdown will appear. From here, select Auxiliary Note.

As you can see, Dorico has taken the key signature into account and assumed you want a B to C sharp trill. If you want to show this explicitly, you can flick the Accidental switch and then click the Show button. If, instead, you want a B to C natural trill, you can flick the Interval switch and select Minor from the Interval dropdown. Note that in this situation you don’t need to fiddle with the Accidental switch; Dorico knows that in these circumstances it must show the natural.

What’s even better is that you can tell Dorico the interval while you’re still in the popover. Invoke the popover using Shift+O, type tr (for trill), space, and then your interval. M = Major, m = minor, p = perfect, a = augmented and d = diminished.

For a minor 2nd, type tr m2.

For a diminished 5th, type tr d5.

Oh, and you can type negative intervals too, if you want a trill that falls rather than rises.

Note that if you’re working in a microtonal context, Dorico can handle microtonal trills too. For these, you’ll need to use the Interval dropdown in the properties panel.


Another method of displaying trills, which is very common in popular and commercial orchestral music as well as film and video game scores, largely because it is so efficient for entry, is to include a flat, natural or sharp symbol above, or just to the right of the “tr” symbol. For commercial scores, you also frequently see the trill-to note indicated as an intervalic distance, like a ½ step or a whole-tone (wt).

Dorico’s factory default is to display accidentals above the trill symbol, where necessary and as determined by the key signature. With our first example – a B natural to C sharp trill in D major – Dorico doesn’t bother to show an accidental. If you flick the Interval switch and select Minor from the dropdown, you’ll see that Dorico displays a natural above the trill.

Again, Dorico’s being intelligent here – it knows that the trill is attached to a B and thus the minor 2nd is to a C natural. If you then select the B and change it to an A, Dorico knows that a minor 2nd is now to a B flat, and changes the symbol automatically.

If you’d rather Dorico displayed these intervals using the intervalic distance, flick the Appearance switch and set it to Hollywood Style.

It’s worth having a good rummage in the properties panel as there’s a whole host of other options available to you.

Dorico Trill Properties in Write Mode

It’s probably much more important to acquaint yourself with the Ornaments section of Engraving Options, which allows you to set the way you want trills to display globally.

To do so, type Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+E, then select Ornaments from the left panel. All of the options in the properties panel are duplicated here, but will apply to all existing default trills in a project and any new ones you later create.

The obvious choices are the ones I’ve already mentioned, but you also have full control over whether Dorico restates trill accidentals at system breaks, the exact syntax displayed in Hollywood Style trills (½ or H.T.),

“Hollywood” Engraving Options for Trills

whether auxiliary notes should be parenthesised etc.

You can also Save as Default (using the button in the bottom left corner of the dialog) and these defaults will apply to any new projects you create.

In Dorico, trills play back correctly without any tweaking or workarounds. They always show correctly in parts, even transposing parts – see this Clarinet trill in the score on the left, and in the part on the right.

That’s all there is to it!


Leo Nicholson is a classically-trained pianist, arranger and music copyist based in the U.K. He started working with Sibelius for Acorn in 1998, aged 10, and has gradually shifted to Dorico over the past two years. When not behind a piano he can generally be found on the official Dorico forum


Create ½, whole-tone, flat, natural & sharp trill lines in Finale

Create ½, whole-tone, flat, natural & sharp trill lines in Sibelius

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