How to create tuplets in Dorico (Part 2)

A deeper look at the Tuplets popover

Today we are going to take a more in-depth look at the tuplets popover. As seen in the last article, there are several ways for triggering the popover to appear:

  • Press ; (that’s ò on my Italian keyboard)
  • From the Write menu, choose Create Tuplet.
  • The official Documentation states that one could invoke the popover by clicking on the Tuplets icon in the Notes toolbox, but that is not working as intended, as doing so creates a triplet of the selected value.

Be careful to have activated note input with the Return key or with the keyboard shortcut Shift-N. The popover appearing above the caret will look like this:

The first time you open it, the text field will be empty, with a flashing cursor encouraging you to input something. Select your desired note value and then input the correct ratio in the popover’s textfield, then press Return. Dorico will create a tuplet pre-filled with rests of the accurate value, very similar to what Sibelius does.

If you keep writing notes, Dorico will maintain the tuplet’s ratio going forward, as with Sibelius’s “sticky tuplets” feature, which needs to be invoked manually there. To get out of this mode, either to input ordinary notes or to change the tuplet ratio without creating a nested tuplet, you can do any of the following:

  • Press Shift-; (that’s Shift-ò on my Italian keyboard)
  • Move the caret horizontally with the arrow keys (but be careful that if you do so after writing the last note of the tuplet, you will jump to the next rhythmic position, effectively missing a beat).
  • Exit note input mode either via the Escape key or by selecting different tools.

Some examples of ratios that can be used with the popover include, alongside what you need to write in the popover:

  • Triplet, that is, three notes in the space of two: write 3 or 3:2. I advise you use the ratio because the 3 is not always working as it should. You can also get a triplet as three notes in the space of four, by writing 3:4.
These two examples sound exactly the same
These two examples sound exactly the same
  • Quadruplet, that is normally four notes in the space of three, often seen in compound times such as 6/8. It is the equivalent as writing four dotted 16th-notes, and it’s invoked via the 4:3 ratio.
Also these sound the same, illustrating how sometimes you can write a tuplet's effect in normal notation
Also these sound the same, illustrating how sometimes you can write a tuplet’s effect in normal notation
  • Quintuplet, or five notes instead of four, with the most notable example coming on top of my head being the opening solo line in Antonin Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor, op. 104:

To obtain this, write 5:4 in the popover. You can also use 5:6 in compound time scenarios.

  • Sextuplet, or six notes instead of four, but it can also be six instead of five sometimes, or six instead of eight, for which you would write 6:4, 6:5, or 6:8.
  • Septuplet, which can be seven notes out of four, or out of eight (this last one very used in contemporary music). Write 7:4 or 7:8. Occasionally, you can also find a 7:2 but, in my experience, this happens when you want to write tuplets of different units, for example seven 16ths in the place of 2 8ths.
  • Duplet, where two notes take the space of three, such as when you want to give the feeling of a simple meter in a compound beat.

Of course, we have just scratched the surface here and only your imagination (or of the composer you are writing music for) can be a limit.

Let’s move on to some more complex topics.

Second Level

We started our journey saying that tuplets express a different subdivision of the beat, but what if that is not enough? What if we want to get more control of those inner new subdivisions? Here nested tuplets come to the rescue.

Nested tuplets

Tuplets can nest into each other to create incredibly complex scenarios such as this one:

The general rule with nested tuplet is always work your way from the outside in. In this case, the first bar is in 5/32, so we created an 8:5 32nd-notes tuplet, inserted the first two notes plus the grace note, then created another 3:2 32nd-notes tuplet and filled it with a dotted 64th and a 128th note. The second bar is in 3/8 time, which is then expanded with a 4:3 8th-notes tuplet, and then filled with all the chaotic glory you can see. The source of this excerpt also contain a small error in the 8:6 tuplet, but I chose to keep it as faithful to the original as possible.

But how do we create something like this?

  1. Create the outer tuplet as if it would be an ordinary one.
  2. Move the caret to the place inside the outer tuplet where the inner one should start and invoke the popover again.
  3. Select the proper note value and insert the desired ratio.
  4. Exit from tuplet input exactly as before.

Here is a short animation showing how this works:

A nice touch is that, once you have created an outer tuplet and then start entering notes in an inner tuplet, if there is space for enough multiples of the smaller one, Dorico will comply with its “sticky” feature. Once the end of the outer tuplet is reached, tuplet input will stop automatically.


A few pro-tips before moving on to different subjects next time


While you are inputting notes in your tuplets, you can advance the caret by using the Space key until you find yourself at the desired rhythmic position for continuing the tuplet insertion. Remember that the same ratio used before will be applied.


If you want to input a different tuplet after another, you first need to stop the current tuplet, otherwise the second will be inserted as a nested tuplet. Here are the two scenarios shown in detail:

Here is what happens if you do not exit tuplet insertion mode before changing the ratio.
Here is what happens if you do not exit tuplet insertion mode before changing the ratio.
Here is the correct result.
Here is the correct result.


So far, we have not used the Triplets button in the Notes toolbox too much, simply because it automatically inserts triplets and only one at a time. This can be useful, though, if we want to have nested triplets, as this will save us the popover step.

This following example was created by:

  1. Inserting a 5:4 quarter-note tuplet
  2. Moving the caret to the first quarter rest
  3. Pressing the Triplets button
  4. Moving to the first free rest after the end of the tuplet
  5. Repeating step 3
  6. Repeating step 4
  7. Changing value to an 8th-note by pressing 5 on the keyboard
  8. Repeating step 3

Bottom Line

And there you have it! Thank you for following this second episode in this series. If you have any question or suggestion, please leave a comment below or contact me using the dedicated contact form.

If you are looking to greatly enhance your Sibelius experience, please take a moment to consider my viewset for Metagrid that I have published back in February. Metagrid is an app for iPad that allows you to control your Mac or PC from your iPad. My viewset is optimised for Mac because that is what I use; it may work on PC, but I have had no way to test it so far.

I hope you found this article helpful, if you did, please like it and share it with your friends and peers. Don’t forget to follow me on this blog and to let me know what you think.

If you are interested in my music engraving services and publications don’t forget to visit my Facebook page and the pages where I publish my scores (Gumroad, SheetMusicPlus, ScoreExchange and on Apple Books).

You can also support me by buying Paul Hudson’s Swift programming books from this Affiliate Link.

Thank you so much for reading!

Until the next one, this is Michele, the Music Designer.

Published by Michele Galvagno

Professional Musical Scores Designer and Engraver Graduated Classical Musician (cello) and Teacher Tech Enthusiast and Apprentice iOS / macOS Developer Grafico di Partiture Musicali Professionista Musicista classico diplomato (violoncello) ed insegnante Appassionato di tecnologia ed apprendista Sviluppatore iOS / macOS

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