How to create tuplets in Dorico (Part 3)

Welcome back! In this third episode, we will delve deeper into what options Dorico offers us when managing tuplets.

Other notations on tuplet notes

There are several notational items that can be added to the notes during the engraving process, and all of them follow exact rules on how to behave when they encounter tuplets. Of the notations that can influence tuplets’ positioning are: articulations, slurs, and fingerings. Let’s look at how they behave.


Let’s look at this example:

I have voluntarily kept it simple enough to show how articulations behave. You can see that some tuplets are stemmed down, and some others are stemmed up, due to the general pitch contours. Now, there are some articulations that always go notehead-side and other which just go above. Accents, staccato dots, tenuto dashes, wedges and dot-dashes all follow the notehead, so they should rarely cause any trouble at all. We are also helped here by the fact the all these tuplets are rhythmically beamed together, but for those articulations that follow the notehead, not even this should be an issue. Should we have multiple voices, then all articulations would go above for up-stemmed voices, and below for down-stemmed ones, forcing us to tinker a bit more about our possibilities. In short, should you encounter issues with these articulations, you can flip them by selecting them and hitting the F keyboard shortcut in Engrave mode (doing so in Write mode will also flip the stem direction).

Marcatos seem to always go above, so they provide a problem for our fourth tuplet1. We could use the “natural placement” for marcatos as well but let’s stick with what Dorico offers us, we are not trying to change the program by now, but to understand what it does. The best solution here is, instead, to flip the tuplet and have it be on the notehead side, which will trigger the appearance of the bracket. To do so, in Write mode, select the tuplet ratio and press F or, with the Properties panel open (that’s Cmd/Ctrl-8), turn on the Placement switch and select the second option, as shown here:

Repeat this process for the first and third tuplet of the second bar to achieve this result.

Not bad, and pretty quick!

In case you had wanted to keep the tuplets’ ratios on the beam side, inverting the articulations’ positions, you would have gone into Engrave mode, selected those articulations and pressed F, achieving this result instead.


Let’s add some slurs to our example:

Overall the result is pretty nice and one needs a keen eye or subject knowledge to understand what is going on. Most of these slurs are not bothering our tuplets, and we will not talk here about the issues with articulations. Assuming we have moved our three problematic tuplets to avoid articulations, we should indeed be starting from here:

Unfortunately, this makes for a pretty poor outlook, which tells us how to prioritise our choices: if you have both articulations and slurs, before flipping the tuplet’s bracket, consider flipping the articulation. Your mileage may vary and every example is different, but it is a good starting point.

This is much better, even if we all know that in a real-life scenario, we would hide the ratio from the third tuplet onward, but this is a demonstration environment, so we have to stress the system. In Engrave mode, we will tweak the distance of the articulations from the slurs or try to find a global option for collision avoidance, but otherwise it is fine.


Fingerings are a pain because they differ from one instrument to another in placement, size, style, etc. … In this case, I am writing for cello, which is my instrument, and fingerings would go above each note. This is an elementary excerpt, but assuming I would need fingerings on each note, it would look something like this:

A small tragedy, I would say! When fingerings go above notes in all cases, tuplets ratios cannot be on the same side, unfortunately, and we will have to find alternative solutions to our placements. Again, such a cramped scenario is unlikely, but we require finding a way and, most of all, we want to know how Dorico reacts to all this chaos.

Flipping all our tuplets down dramatically improves the scene and, while we would have to tweak the spacing, we cannot say that we are dissatisfied. Moreover, we now know that tuplets try to stay outside all other notation, unless they are smaller—that is, shorter—, something that we see happening between with the first tuplet of the second bar.

Have you encountered some specific issues in the placement of tuplets and articulations in your engraving journeys? Let me know down in the comments or send me an inquiry via the contact form and I will do my best to help you.

Tuplet numbers/ratios

Today we only have time for another subject, and that is how to manage the display of numbers or ratios for tuplets. By default, all your tuplets will display as a simple number, for example 8, both if you have chosen an 8:6 tuplet and if you’ve chosen an 8:9 tuplet. This is for sure confusing, as you can see here:

The first example is 8 quavers (8th-notes) on 5, while the second is 8 semiquavers (16th-notes) on 9, which can be hard to read without a clarification. You can change this project-wide by going to Engraving Options > Tuplets and choosing your preferred option here:

I suggest, though, to manage this kind of things on a case-by-case basis, as occasionally a ratio is enough, and other times a ratio with unit duration is needed. In our case, the first octuplet being made of 8th-notes doesn’t require the unit of duration, as it is obvious. The second one, on the other hand, is hard to read because of the many rests surrounding it. To fix all this, select the first tuplet’s number, open the Properties panel via Cmd/Ctrl-8, activate the Number switch, and select the third option from the left.

Then, select the second tuplet, repeat the same procedure (the Properties panel should have stayed open) and select the fourth option instead. The final result will be this one:

Bottom Line

And there you have it! Thank you for following this third episode in this series. If you have any question or suggestion, please leave a comment below or contact me using the dedicated contact form. Assuming you do not already do so, please subscribe to my newsletter on Gumroad, to receive exclusive discounts and free products.

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.

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Thank you so much for reading!

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

  1. There are Engraving Options for almost every articulation and we will make sure to cover them in a separate article.

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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