Condensing scores in Dorico


Editor’s note: This post refers to a process in Dorico 2, the version of Dorico at the time this post was written. Dorico 3 introduced automatic condensing of music, so while the methods described in this post may still be useful, it is also advised to learn about the condensing feature in Dorico 3.

Condensing is a term used here to refer to the process of making two score formats available: a conductor’s score with winds and brass on shared staves, and individual part scores for players. To illustrate, I’ll use Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K.550, scored as follows:

  • Flute
  • Oboe 1, 2
  • Clarinet 1, 2
  • Bassoon 1, 2
  • Horn 1, 2 (in B-flat and G)
  • Violin I, II
  • Viola
  • Cello/Bass

The conductor’s score would likely be laid out with the winds on shared staves (and typically the horns as well, though in this score, the horns are written in different transpositions):

But it’s standard practice to give each wind player their own part, rather than a shared part. Here’s the 1st oboe:

The demand for both would be best met by an automatic solution, and Dorico does not offer that yet. But it is relatively easy to achieve satisfactory results using the powerful layout feature in Setup mode. It’s crucial to understand that, at present, this workaround is not dynamic: if you make changes after you’ve created all the needed layouts, you’ll need to make those changes in both places.

There are two ways to approach condensed scores, depending on how you prefer to work:

  1. Begin with the individual parts and condense them for a conductor’s score, or
  2. Work with the condensed score (which will be the conductor’s score), and create individual parts at the end.

In the future, according to Steinberg product marketing manager Daniel Spreadbury, Dorico will include the ability to automatically generate a condensed score from individual parts (the first method above); the payoff for waiting for them to implement the feature in this way “will be profoundly worth it,” Daniel said. Though at present there are not plans to offer the reverse (automatically generating individual parts from a condensed staff), the Explode function does work well, as I explain below. The team is also at work on some expanded functionality for Explode that will address the scenario described here.

I’ll describe the current processes for both methods, but they begin the same way: adding individual players, adding combined players, and creating the “Everything” score.


There’s only one flute in this score, but there are two oboes. So add three oboes, and then edit the name of the third one:

Change it to this:

Then select “Oboe” and set the baseline shift to about -6, which centers it nicely between the 1 and the 2:

Do the same for the clarinets and bassoons, and you’ll get a list like this:

After you’ve added the non-condensing instruments to the list, let’s turn our attention to the layout panel on the right side.

For starters, you can delete the layouts for Oboe 1-2, Clarinet 1-2, and Bassoon 1-2, because you won’t need them. And depending on the order in which you added your instruments, you may need to drag some layouts around to re-order them. It might seem like an unnecessary step, but when you get to the final stages, it’s nice to be able to quickly toggle between layouts using Alt+[ and Alt+] in a predictable order.

The final step here is to add a custom layout using the icon at the bottom:

Drag the new custom layout to the top, rename it “Everything” (or whatever you like), and, with it selected, check all players in the left panel to add them to it. The “Everything” layout won’t be printed, but it’ll be important to see the individual and condensed parts side-by-side. At this point, your list of layouts would look like this:

Don’t worry about the appearance of your “Everything” score (which might look quite cramped in Page View). It’s only for the purpose of creating parts, and you’ll be using it in Galley View anyways.

If the process above seems a little tedious, remember that you can easily create a blank project and save it as a template for all future projects!

Creating individual parts

The first of the two scenarios for condensing is probably the more common one for composers and arrangers: beginning with a condensed score, and generating individual parts at the end.

For starters, you really should set key commands for the following functions, which will make the process of condensing and extracting so much faster:

  • Paste Special > Explode
  • Paste Special > Reduce
  • Edit > Select to End of Flow
  • Filter > Deselect Only and Select Only
  • Filter > Slurs
  • Filter > Dynamics

I tend to assign these sorts of functions to Ctrl+Shift+F1, Ctrl+Shift+F2, etc. (It does start to get cumbersome to remember which key combination is assigned to each function, which is why I highly recommend something like a Stream Deck. Filter commands are where the Stream Deck really speeds up my workflow.)

Switch to the Everything score in Galley View:

By far the simplest way to generate individual parts is using Dorico’s powerful Explode function:

  1. Click and Shift-click in the combined staff to select a bar range. It’s crucial to note that Explode only works correctly when there are a consistent number of voices. If the number of voices changes from one bar to another, you need to Explode one section at a time.
  2. Copy everything (Ctrl+C, or Command-C on Mac).
  3. Click on the Oboe 1 staff at the same starting location.
  4. Right-click, Paste Special > Explode (or use your key command).

In general, this method is really reliable. It distributes dynamics to all parts, and it handles both unison and multi-voice passages with aplomb. It does not take into account score indications for only one part to play, which you will need to handle manually. For such solo passages, simply delete the notes in the second part, and add cues as needed.

There may be some rare situations in which you find you don’t prefer the results you get from Explode. If so, you can use the following functions to exercise more control over part extraction:

  • Copy and paste the condensed staff into both individual staves.
  • In the first part, use Filter > Select Only > Downstem Voice 1 (if the parts are in different voices) or Filter > Select Only > Bottom Note (if the parts are in the same voice… in which case you’ll need to work section-by-section, so you don’t delete passages that are condensed to a single unison voice).
  • For the second part, use the same functions to select the upper notes. Though it doesn’t affect the appearance, you may wish (as a final step) to select the entire part and right-click, Voices > Change Voice > Upstem Voice 1.

But in most cases, Explode should produce individual parts quickly.

Creating a condensed score

The opposite scenario isn’t uncommon: beginning with individual parts and creating a condensed score for performance. Engravers may wish to input notes from the individual parts, or composers may prefer to work with every instrument on its own staff. Either way, when it’s time to create a condensed score for performance, Dorico can do that easily as well.

The process begins the same way: create an “Everything” score. If you prefer to begin with individual parts and condense later, you’ll want to add another custom layout, name it something like “Writing,” and add only the individual players’ staves to it via Setup mode.

When you’re ready to condense, return to the Everything score. Here’s an excerpt from the bassoon staves:

For starters, select the entire Bassoon 1 part (using Select to End of Flow), copy it, and paste it into the combined 1-2 staff.

Next, you’ll likely need to add the Bassoon 2 part in sections.

1. If only the primo is playing, you’ll need to simply add “1.” manually to the condensed staff, using Shift+X (the Text popover).

2. If the two are playing in unison, add “a2” (“a due”) to that section using Shift+X.

3. If the pitches in the second part are different but the rhythms are the same, you’ll want to add it this way:

  • Select everything in the section using click and Shift-click.
  • Deselect all dynamics and slurs using Edit > Filter > Deselect only > Dynamics and > Slurs (again, I recommend assigning these functions to a key command if you’re using them often). If you don’t deselect dynamics and slurs, you’ll end up duplicating them in the condensed score when you paste:

  • Copy
  • Click on the condensed staff at the beginning bar, right-click, Paste Special > Paste Into Voice > Upstem Voice 1.
  • You should find that your second part has copied into the same voice nicely. If there are any unison notes sharing a pitch, you may want to delete one of them for the sake of visual simplicity. But remember that, for extended unison passages, it’s best to display a2.
  • You may find some success using Paste Special > Reduce. But at present, Reduce is subject to the same doubling of slurs and dynamics, so it often produces unsatisfactory results.

4. If the second part is playing a different rhythm, you’ll simply want to copy the section, Filter > Deselect Only > All Dynamics, leave the slurs selected, and copy-paste into the condensed part using a new voice, Down-stem Voice 1. Some users may prefer to always display two voices, even if the rhythms are the same.

That’s it! You should find that your full score layout now displays the condensed staves for performance.

Hopefully you found this tutorial helpful. I also offer tutoring in Dorico, either individually via video conferencing, or on-site for educational institutions. Whether you’re a new Dorico user, or you already use it and want to increase your efficiency, contact me.


  1. Derek Williams

    Thanks for this. I had to abandon this method in Sibelius and keep separate score files, as keeping them both in the one document made the loading and manipulating the likes of an opera or symphony score too unwieldy. An earlier application called Composer’s Mosaic developed by Mark of the Unicorn partly addressed this by creating an intermediary layer they defined as ‘Voices’ (not the same as the current ‘Voices; nomenclature), that could be floated in to any Instrument part or full score layout. I am hopeful that one day Dorico will be able to address this glaring need, as I am tired of having to make identical edits twice either on the spot for each and every one, or having to remember them all after hours of work.

  2. André Van haren

    Thanks for the guide, Dan. How did you create the correct looking Clarinets label with the real flat symbol?

    1. Dan Kreider

      In “Edit Names,” I set transposition to never show, and added the flat glyph manually. Minion Pro (my preferred font) has lousy kerning for the flat glyph, so I changed that bit to Academico.

      1. Govind Kharbanda

        Thanks Dan – finding this step by step guide super useful as it’s something I have needed to do for a long time! Will be really happy when Steinberg develop a full implementation – it’s at the top of my wish list

        1. Govind Kharbanda

          I got as far as creating the custom layout ‘Everything’ but despite adding all the players to it, it appears blank – have made a short screen recording if that helps:

          The other layouts are fine.

          Any ideas? Would love to be able to master this!

          1. Govind Kharbanda

            Think I fixed it – right clicked the Everything layout and chose ‘include all flows in this layout’

  3. John mazur

    Condensing already exists, just create a new Layout.

    1. Dan Kreider

      Thats not how it works, sorry!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *