Stephen Hawking Has Died

There is more to life than music, and for me science is a big part of it. Stephen Hawking‘s death at 76 is a massive loss for the world in general, and for cosmology and physics in particular. He revolutionized our view of the universe, and yet his appearance on The Simpsons was only one example of his notorious sense of humour. Pretty amazing for a guy who was given 2 years to live at the age of 21!

I had an early interest in the Theory of Relativity, and found Einstein’s book a wonderful explanation of it. After that I increased my understanding of it and also taught myself Quantum Mechanics with the help of Stephen Hawking’s writing (as well as that of John Gribbin and Roger Penrose). After all, the point of a Ph.D. is to get you to the point where you can learn on your own without a teacher or supervisor looking over your shoulder.  You have probably heard of (and may own) Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, which admittedly is not an easy read, but if you find it too tough and yet remain interested I recommend his A Briefer History of Time, which gives the basic ideas in more detail plus updates the cosmology and includes string theory.

The cartoon above is actually the start of a short feature on Hawking’s major discoveries (here with Roger Penrose). You can watch the video and read about Stephen Hawking’s incredible life on that page as well by clicking here.


Dorico, Sibelius and the “Horrible Compromise”

Oh poor me. I am writing a string quartet and having the Vienna Symphonic Library‘s Solo Strings I + II is the next best thing to having a real string quartet on call 24/7. BUT how do I notate it? Dorico gives me unprecedented options for all sorts of notation but it does not have the capability to play all of the wonderful nuances of the VSL strings. Sibelius is much more limited in its notation but has a great interface that allows virtually all of the VSL solo strings to shine in all of their glory (the interface is the work of VSL).

It’s enough to make me want to switch to guitar music with tab and then I’d have to go with Sibelius. Easy choice. Or a full orchestral piece with lots of movements and very complex notation. Dorico wins that one hands down.  But now I’m somewhere in-between.

At least I know what I’m comparing now. Because of my dislike for the upgrading procedure from 7.x to 8.x of Sibelius, I’m sticking with 7.5. Also, with Steinberg’s announcement that the last free update was the final free update, whatever I may have been hoping for will be a paid upgrade if it does materialize. This means that guitarists are not the only disappointed ones; the playback has serious limitations, right down to the level of not playing repeat signs.

So my solution for this project is Sibelius 7.5 simply for playback. I don’t claim to have a golden “inner ear” to hear the complex interactions of four complex parts at once, and finding a quartet to play the piece even once will be challenging enough for a number of reasons.

I still think that Dorico is a brilliant piece of software with unrivalled notational options, but its playback capabilities don’t match the rest of the program. I would love to be able to keep all of the movements, and even the sketches in one single file, but that can’t happen. I imagine that the first paid upgrade to Dorico will be mind-blowing, given the huge advances in the free updates but for now I’m back to Sibelius 7.5, at least for one project.


Ultimate Guitar Acquires MuseScore – Win/Win/Win

It must be great to have a product that dominates its field, but how to you keep progressing when your flagship product is FREE? MuseScore2 is most likely the most popular notation software in the world, and for good reason: it is of higher quality than almost every competitor, even the commercial ones (except, of course, the highest level professional publishing ones). If you have taken even a quick glance at this blog you know that I have Dorico and Sibelius 7.5, but I still use MuseScore2 for particular projects for which it is better suited.

The huge user community can’t wait for MuseScore3 to appear, but even the brilliance of the original MuseScore team is stretched to the limit as they work on this labour of love while keeping the wolf from the door with their web site for music producers as well as MuseScore Pro. But with the amazing response from all over the world, some change was needed to keep the company flourishing. Thomas Bonte, one of the founders, explained why their joining with Ultimate Guitar was the best choice here. (Actually the note is signed by all three founders: Werner, Nicolas, and Thomas.) If you have ever searched for a guitar or bass tab, you have met Ultimate Guitar. Not only are they a similar powerhouse in the field of sharing tablature (with over 100 million guitarists reported to use the site), more importantly they have a strong business model that will help MuseScore3 arrive quicker and with the company in even better shape. Already they have negotiated several worldwide licensing arrangements for MuseScore thanks to their own relationships with music publishers. This means that MuseScore can host scores of some of the most popular music today in superb quality. And more is coming.

MuseScore fans are reassured that things will only get better from here on. Here is a post by Eugeny Naidenov, founder and owner of Ultimate Guitar on the plans for MuseScore going forward.


So MuseScore is on a firm company footing, Ultimate Guitar has another gem with which to share music for ALL musicians, and users can look forward to more music in more formats, while resting assured that MuseScore will remain free. That sounds like Win/Win/Win to me.

Dorico Releases 1.2.10 Update

Today Dorico announced the release of version 1.2.10, a relatively minor update except for the continuing expansion of percussion capabilities and some other goodies. Of course, for Dorico even a “minor” update contains all sorts of improvements. A great review of the complete percussion suite plus the new features is available at Scoring Notes and is well worth reading. And as usual, Daniel Spreadbury gives a detailed look at the new features on his blog here. Basically, any style of notating percussion can be used or accommodated, a tour de force of music-based programming.

Existing Dorico users can download the update here. The same page has documentation.

Here’s a sample of their drum kit editor. You can move each drum to the line or space you prefer:

A few more examples of the vast array of options in notating percussion. These features are demonstrated by John Barron on Discovering Dorico, his monthly vlog on YouTube. Of particular interest is the number of instruments that you can assign to a single player, and how Dorico can handle different notational styles within the same part. You can see this demonstrated in February’s edition of Discover Dorico here.

Possibly the most interesting note on Daniel Spreadbury’s blog comes at the very end, where he notes that this is the last planned free update, so users will have to pay for the next one. So I will say one last time: if you have not yet bought Dorico, you can download the trial version and see exactly what you will be buying if you purchase it now. Download the full free 30-day trial version here.

I regret to say that there is still no support for guitar tablature or chord diagrams. I know how disappointing that is for many of us, and it looks like we will have to pay for it when it does eventually get added to Dorico. This has certainly come as a surprise to me, and please don’t ask me to explain why (as several of you have) because I don’t know. I can guess that it is difficult to implement without infringing on the copyright of the team’s own previous work in Sibelius, but that is pure speculation. For now, I am doing my guitar and bass projects in Sibelius (7.1.3 as much as I can, 7.5 when I must).

As sad as that is for guitarists, it is the one flaw in what is truly one of the most remarkable pieces of software I have ever had the pleasure of working with. If you work with any ensemble (even one that includes a guitar part that can be expressed as chord names) you really owe it to yourself to check out this amazing program. I still can’t get over being able to keep an entire multi-movement work in a single file, and show composers must be in heaven. And that just one of hundreds of features that makes Dorico the finest notation program yet devised.

My apologies for my long silence, but health issues just keep popping up. I have been saving up some good stuff for the next week or so, including the purchase of MuseScore, some cool new Play-Alongs from Hal Leonard, and a new kind of book layout that lets you be the whole band through some clever arrangement and a looper pedal.

Dorico 1.2 Update Released

Today, December 5, Steinberg has released the latest FREE update to Dorico. The 1.2 update has many new features that users have been requesting for a long time, so there is a lot of excitement about this release.

The NEW DORICO BLOG is at the same address but with a facelift. Daniel Spreadbury’s complete presentation of the new features, along with demonstration videos, is available from (aka “the new blog”).

You can download the free update (if you’ve bought Dorico) from the download page. (Yes, the announcement preceded the actual link’s appearance for some of us, but it’s there now.)

If you don’t have Dorico yet, you can still work with the 30-day free trial to see for yourself what all the excitement is about. With this new update added, you have access to the best Dorico yet.

The Daily Adventures of Mixerman – EVEN BETTER IN AUDIO!

I love to read, but I’m not really into audio books that much. Very few  hold my attention for 8 hours or so, and a lot of authors are not great readers of their own work. So when I recommend an audio book read (in part) by the author, you bet it is a very special audio book indeed! But when I highly recommend one that is around 12 hours, you can be sure that it is fantastic! And when you consider that I have already read this book in paper form, well even the justly-revered Steven Slate would have a hard time coming up with enough superlatives to describe The Daily Adventures of Mixermanthe audio book.

My Black Friday / Cyber Monday / any damn day at all gift to you is my recommendation that you buy this book immediately. Yes, we have almost reached its fifth anniversary but a classic is just that, and this audiobook is a classic. There’s not enough humor in today’s world, and this may be Mixerman’s greatest contribution to mankind. If you’ve read the book in black and white print, the audio version is like Dorothy landing in Oz, seeing the world in full color for the first time. Thus Mixerman and a full cast of characters from the book color his first book with voices and music.

Mixerman is a rare talent – writer, narrator, voice actor, director, producer, even casting director! He could single-handedly create a return to radio comedy! Or even better, audio book comedy. Yes, this audiobook is better than the print book, and even for those who already have the book this is a MUST, for Mixerman fans as well as for those new to him. He manages to combine a hilarious sendup of the recording industry as well as a gold mine of information for those interested in technical details, and a great overview for those with mild interest. It is so good that it can also be enjoyed by those people with no technical knowledge or interest, who are only interested in music in general, or just like to laugh. Anyone except maybe those who object to certain language that is common in the music world (and I don’t mean key signatures and tech talk.)

As you might expect the music in it is superb, with leit-motifs or character themes that describe each character in music as well as marking their appearance on the scene before they even speak — very handy in a sound-only production! The voice actors are top-notch, and you will believe that you are listening in on recording sessions and backroom deals as well as phone calls and messages left. If you have heart problems you will have to monitor your listening as the prolonged gut-wrenching laughter could cause you problems. LOL? Even LMAO doesn’t get close to how funny this book is.

Get this book and give this book, for yourself and for loved ones and friends, for the holidays and just for the fun of it. It’s an inexpensive gift that the recipients will love you for, and that you will enjoy listening to as much as the praise you get for finding it here.


Steinberg’s Cubase Marketing Works on Me!

I can usually resist valueless marketing but Steinberg got me with a truly valuable invitation to start using the free copy of Cubase that I have gathering dust on my hard disk.

A couple of years back my basic interface died so I was looking for a replacement with two audio inputs (mic/line) and two MIDI inputs (IN/OUT); as basic as they get. The best deal I found was the Steinberg UR22, which has the features that I need plus great feedback from users and (I discovered) excellent sound. It also came with Cubase LE AI Elements 7 (the least powerful version of Cubase only available with OEM hardware) at no extra cost. Since I use Logic, I didn’t need another recording program so I let it sit. Some algorithm (or [gasp] possibly a human?!!) noticed that I had not been using it. I don’t know how. Didn’t I ask for tech support enough? Didn’t I ask questions in the forums? Didn’t I check for updates? Or something more sinister????

However they did it, I got an email encouraging me to start using it, and to sweeten the request they gave me three libraries of more modern drums, bass, and guitar sounds as VST add-ins to Cubase: Indie Rock, Dubstep, and Urban. OK, it worked. I followed the directions to download and register them, then watched a tutorial on how to use them in Cubase which was not relevant to my bottom-of-the-barrel version, but it was simple enough to figure out using the top menu bar rather than the nifty little icon that my version doesn’t have. The sounds are technically great, and depending on your taste, great as well. For free, it’s hard to beat, and very nice to get something of value that I will use in future projects because they sound so good I got ideas just running through them.

So for someone just starting out, or on a tight budget, it’s hard to beat the Steinberg UR22 and free Cubase software, especially if they are going to send you free libraries from time to time. Given the fact that this is the same company that produces Dorico I have to say that Steinberg has high standards and gives you more than your money’s worth with their products.

So the Steinberg marketing worked and I’m glad it did. This is a great model for any company that wants to get, or retain, customers. Give us something useful and if it fits our needs we’ll use it.

New Dorico Update Due “In Autumn”

If you watched “Discover Dorico – October 2017” live or later ( it is still up on YouTube) you will have learned some new tricks with the current version of Dorico as well as some of the features in the upcoming update which is due later this autumn.

Some of the cool techniques shown by host John Barron included setting up a song with the right number of bars and rehearsal letters using multi-rests; extending note lengths easily; and locking durations so that you can change pitches in a part that plays along with another.

The unexpected bonus that took up most of the half hour session was John’s demonstration of some new, previously unannounced features in the upcoming update, a version of which he was able to use for the demos. Some which he did NOT demo (since they have already been shared online elsewhere) but mentioned were “proper” drum notation, orchestral cues, and fingering options.

In the order they were shown, the new features include:

  1. shaped notation, where each note of the scale has a different notehead.
  2. new filter options that will let you filter individual pitches (e.g. choose all “C’s”, as well as more options for filtering vocals
  3. more flexible shortcuts, with system shortcuts stored separately from personal ones, so that new ones the Dorico team creates don’t overwrite your own (we’ll have to see how this one works out in real life)
  4. MIDI import will now let you select a split point for ALL grand staff instruments (e.g. piano) rather than forcing middle C

Maybe the most interesting new feature is Shift-I where you can enter notes above or below the entered note, several at a time. Regular numbers add notes above while negative numbers (e.g.-3) add notes below. All of these are diatonic, i.e. from the key. You can ALSO choose the type of interval, for example typing “m3” over C in the key of C will add Eb while typing “m3,5,m7” will add a Cm7 chord. You can even transpose from this box, so entering “t3” will transpose up a (diatonic) 3rd while “-t3” will transpose down a 3rd. While this is admittedly a more cumbersome way to add just one or two other notes, the flexibility that it adds will outweigh that inconvenience for many users.

The whole video is worth watching to see these techniques as well as others I haven’t mentioned.

The next Discover Dorico session is set for November 22 at the same time.

Discover Dorico September 2017

I hope you were able to attend John Barron’s live Discover Dorico presentation today. If not you can replay the session here. There was a lot of valuable information passed on with some great tips as well.

A few important notes: The cross-grade pricing for Dorico has been extended “until further notice” for the full versions of both Sibelius and Finale. (Sorry Notion users, but yours ends September 30.) Details are available here.

There is also a new Official Facebook Page for announcements and other important things at

And be at John’s next session at the same time but on WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 18 for lots of good information and to get answers to your own questions.

New Resources for Learning Dorico

If a picture can convey a thousand words, a good video can answer a thousand questions (give or take a few hundred). This figure may well be close to the truth for John Barron’s “Discover Dorico” series. This particular link is to the video from his streamed session on Dorico 1.1.10 during which he demonstrated the new features in the update as well as answering questions in real time such as the one on layout that he mentions in the title. This series is well worth watching as it is loaded with tips as well as information that will speed up your workflow and your enjoyment of working with Dorico. So far he has been conducting these sessions on the last Thursday of the month, and the next one is confirmed for September 28. For more information I’d suggest you check Facebook, where John Barron administers a group for Dorico at The posts include links to further resources as well as answers to members questions about using Dorico. Members also share tips and discoveries from their own work, so it can be a very useful resource, especially if you spend a lot of time on Facebook anyway.

UPDATE: John’s next session will be here. It starts at 11:00 am EDT.

If you have tips that you would like to share or have John demonstrate you can send these to him at, which is also the address for asking questions during his streaming sessions.

As John mentions in Discover Dorico, there is another update coming “in the autumn” which is said (at this time) to include drum notation, orchestral cues, and piano fingering.

NB: The discounted cross-grade price for users of Sibelius, Finale, or Notion has been extended to September 30. This does not mean that the update will be out before then, but even if not it will be a free update so don’t let that hold you back.

Don’t forget to subscribe to for the latest tips on new features and their use. And of course Daniel Spreadbury’s ongoing blog Making Notes will keep you up-to-date on Dorico features and updates as well as real-world users using Dorico in innovative ways.