Inputting notes for unpitched percussion

You can input notes for individual unpitched percussion instruments and on all percussion instruments in percussion kits using any presentation type, including selecting playing techniques, such as playing technique-specific noteheads, for individual instruments.

When inputting notes in percussion kits, the caret is smaller than when inputting notes on pitched instrument or individual percussion instrument staves. Instead of occupying the whole height of the staff, the caret in percussion kits is positioned at a particular staff position.

The name of the percussion instrument or slash voice currently selected by the caret, and any applicable playing technique, is shown directly above the rhythmic grid display.

  • You can only input notes into slash voices in percussion kits when using the five-line staff presentation.

  • These steps describe inputting notes with the default preference of duration before pitch. However, you can also specify the pitch before duration instead.

Figure 1. Inputting notes on instruments with five-line staff kit presentation


If you want to use additional playing techniques for instruments in the kit, you have defined these in the Percussion Instrument Playing Techniques dialog.


  1. In Write mode, select an item on the unpitched percussion instrument/kit staff and at the rhythmic position where you want to input notes.
  2. Start note input in any of the following ways:
    • Select a note or rest on the staff where you want to input notes and press Shift-N.


      If you select a notation, such as a dynamic, pressing Return opens the corresponding popover instead of starting note input.

    • Double-click the staff where you want to input notes.

  3. Optional: When inputting into percussion kits, move the caret up/down to other instruments in the kit in any of the following ways:
    • Press Up Arrow to move it up.

    • Press Down Arrow to move it down.

  4. Select a note duration in any of the following ways:
    • Press the number on your computer keyboard that corresponds to the duration you want.

      For example, press 6 for quarter notes (crotchets). Press smaller numbers for smaller durations, such as 5 for eighth notes (quavers) and 4 for 16th notes (semiquavers). Press larger numbers for larger durations, such as 7 for half notes (minims).

    • In the Notes panel, click the duration you want.

  5. Select an appropriate playing technique for the instrument currently selected by the caret before inputting notes.
    • Press Alt/Opt-Up Arrow to cycle upwards through playing techniques.

    • Press Alt/Opt-Down Arrow to cycle downwards through playing techniques.

    • Play the pitch for the playing technique you want on a MIDI keyboard.


      You can define MIDI pitches for playing techniques on the Note Input and Editing page in Preferences.

  6. Input notes in one of the following ways:
    • Any kit presentation type/Individual instruments: Press Y to input notes for the instrument and playing technique shown above the rhythmic grid.

    • Any kit presentation type/Individual instruments: Click on the staff where you want to input notes, and at the rhythmic positions where you want them.

    • Five-line staff presentation type: Press letters on a computer keyboard or play notes on a MIDI keyboard, corresponding to staff positions for the clef set in Preferences. For example, press B to input notes for the instrument assigned to the middle line of a five-line staff when Treble G clef is set.

    • Grid and single-line instruments presentation types/Individual instruments: Press the letter of any note name A to G on a computer keyboard or play any note on a MIDI keyboard to input notes for the instrument on whose line the caret is currently positioned.


      Notes played on MIDI keyboards are interpreted differently, depending on whether Use percussion map or Use staff position is set for the different kit presentation types in the Note Input section of the Note Input and Editing page in Preferences.

  7. Optional: Press Space to advance the caret by the currently selected note duration without inputting notes.

    You can also move the caret in different ways and by different increments.

  8. Press Esc or Return to stop note input.


Notes are input at the caret position or where you click with the selected duration and are played back as you input them by default. If you selected playing techniques, their noteheads appear as set in the Percussion Instrument Playing Techniques dialog for the corresponding instrument and playing technique, or in the Override Percussion Noteheads dialog for five-line staff presentations only.

If you selected rhythm dots or articulations, notes continue to be input with them until you deactivate them.

Dorico Elements notates and beams notes appropriately according to their duration, the current time signature, and their position in the bar. This includes showing notes as tie chains if required.

If you advance the caret without inputting notes, Dorico Elements fills the gaps between notes with implicit rests of the appropriate duration.

  • You can specify custom beat groupings within individual time signatures.

  • You cannot delete rests from unpitched percussion instruments.