Inputting notes on a drum set

Note input on percussion kits, which is what a drum set is in Dorico, works slightly differently than for other instruments. In this task, you will input a simple drum set part in keeping with the song’s style that demonstrates some useful percussion kit input techniques.

You might find this task easier in the drum set part layout rather than the full score. To switch layouts in the current tab, use the layout selector in the toolbar. To open the drum set part in a new tab, click New Tab New Tab button on the right of the tab bar on the right of the tab bar and double-click Drum Set.

You can show separate empty bars rather than multi-bar rests in the drum set part layout on the Players page in Layout Options (key command Ctrl/Cmd-Shift-L).


You are in Write mode (press Ctrl/Cmd-2).


  1. In bar 4, select the bar rest on the drum set staff.
  2. Press Shift-N to start note input.
    • On percussion kit staves, the caret appears shorter. The current instrument name is also shown in addition to the caret and the rhythmic grid.

    Caret active on the drum set staff

  3. Press Space three times to advance the caret to beat 4.

    Caret advanced to beat 4

  4. Press Up Arrow until the caret is on the hi-hat.

    Caret on the hi-hat staff line

  5. Press 5 to select eighth notes (quavers).
  6. Press Y until the end of beat 1 in bar 8.
    • Y is a generic note input key command that is particularly useful for percussion.

    Eighth notes input for the hi-hat

  7. Press 6, Y, 5, Y, Y again, 6, then Y once more.

    Notes input for the hi-hat

  8. Move the caret back to bar 4, beat 3.
    • For example, you can press Ctrl/Cmd-Left Arrow four times, then Left Arrow twice, assuming your rhythmic grid resolution Rhythmic grid selector in the status bar is set to eighth notes (quavers).

  9. Press Down Arrow until the caret is on the snare drum.

    Caret on the snare drum space

    • Currently this would input generic snare drum notes, but something subtler would be better for this song. Because unpitched percussion playing techniques are commonly notated with different noteheads, you can select unpitched percussion playing techniques during note input.

  10. Press Alt/Opt-Up Arrow to select the side stick playing technique.

    Side stick playing technique selected

  11. Make sure quarter notes (crotchets) are selected, then press Y.

    Snare drum side stick note input in bar 4

    • The default drum set in Dorico is already set up with the most common percussion playing technique noteheads, so the side stick snare drum note appears with a cross notehead.

    • You could continue using the arrow keys to select other instruments in the kit and then pressing Y to input notes for them, but when using the five-line staff presentation, you can also input notes as if they were on a pitched staff.

  12. Press F to input a kick drum note.

    Kick drum note input in bar 5

  13. Press Space twice to advance the caret two quarter notes.
  14. Press C, then F to input a snare drum note and kick drum note respectively.

    Snare drum and kick drum notes input in bars 4-6

    • Dorico remembers the previous side stick playing technique selected for the snare drum and continues to use that.

    • By default, five-line percussion kit staves are treated as if they had a treble clef, but you can change this to the bass clef on the Note Input and Editing page in Preferences (key command Ctrl/Cmd-,).

  15. Press Space once, then Shift-Alt/Opt-D to input a tom-tom note, then C, then F.

    Tom-tom, snare drum, and kick drum notes input in bars 4-7

  16. Press Space twice, then C, then F.
  17. Press Esc or Return to stop note input.


You have input notes for different percussion instruments in the same drum set, including selecting a different playing technique for the snare drum.

Drum set notes input in bars 4-8

After Completing This Task

You could select bars 5-8 and press R to repeat those four bars until the end of the excerpt, or instead you could use a bar repeat region indicating the player should repeat the four-bar phrase. The popover entry for that is %4 in the repeats popover (Shift-R).