Dorico on Yosemite

Yosemite is NOT on the Systems Requirements list for Dorico and so obviously it’s not recommended. So let me start with a caution that the following is just my own personal experience and may not work for you. However, I did install Dorico on a MacBook running Yosemite and so far have had no problems – not a single one.

Disclaimer

I’m not recommending that you try this at home, but I’ll give you my reasoning and let you make up your own mind given your own circumstances. Most importantly, I have a LOT of different audio software and try out more every week, and much of it doesn’t support Sierra. I plan to move to Sierra as soon as all of my most critical software is supported, and I just could not wait to try Dorico. I have a technical background as well as a musical one, so I’m not too worried about crashes (and have not had any) or other anomalies that I expect to pop up. None have yet.

Ease of Use

I thought it would take me longer to run my tests but the most important thing I can say about Dorico is that I am already writing real music with it! Even though its interface is much different from Sibelius, Finale, or MuseScore I find that it has its own logic that must make more sense to my sub-conscious than my conscious mind because I’d have a hard time explaining it briefly, and yet my fingers are already finding the right keystrokes to get the music in my head into Dorico. Of course you can always use the mouse if you forget a  keyboard shortcut.

Training

My “training” consists of the 7 tutorials on this page, as well as Daniel Spreadbury’s demo at the unveiling. If you are still on the fence, watch the brief tutorials and notice how easy it is to create a score (even faster using only the computer keyboard, although Daniel shows how simple it is using a mouse) and how amazingly flexible Dorico is in virtually every aspect.

Why Sierra?

Notice that I am skipping over El Capitan (OS X 10.11) and going straight to Sierra (10.12) because of Sierra’s security features. Obviously I can’t speak about Sierra from experience, but it does make sense to go to the latest OS with better security — once the “bleeding edge” or “early” adopters find the worst of the bugs, and the software companies catch up.

So…

In summary, when you move to Dorico is the question.

Dorico System Requirements

My testing of Dorico is going to take a bit longer because I have to upgrade my OS. I advise anyone who is not an active developer to be careful about upgrading any operating system, at the very least until you find out if your favourite programs work on it.

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I know that a lot of people who have Macs want to upgrade to Sierra (OS X 10.12) to get Siri, but remember that audio software often lags behind more common programs in adapting to a new OS. Still, Sierra is supposed to have security fixes that 10.11 lacks, so it seems to be the better choice IF your software will run on it.

CLICK HERE TO SEE DORICO’S SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS.

Dorico Live Demo – First Impressions

No doubt the Dorico streamed event will be posted on the Dorico Youtube channel and I highly encourage you to watch it if you missed it. I felt it was time well spent just to see the software in action. Even if you have followed all of Daniel Spreadbury’s Making Notes blog posts, seeing Dorico in action will be a revelation.

It is a dream come true to be able to just enter notes and then divide them into bars later. This sums up the whole attitude of making the software as easy and intuitive to use as paper and pencil. Dorico is optimized for laptop use and pretty much everything can be entered from the computer’s keyboard, although I’ll have to work with it for a while to see how much it takes to get used to some of the correspondences.

Seeing a line of eighth notes have dots added while the following one changes immediately to a sixteenth was another example of the types of timesavers built into the program. It seems that wherever possible, the program chooses the obvious solution, and yet you can change virtually anything. The range of options is stunning.

As promised, it is simple to add new pieces into a single file.

As Dorico is a Steinberg product, the playback engine is based on Cubase, and comes with many of its VST3 instruments and effects. The playback will be limited for the initial release but should be made much more useful in the series of free updates promised soon.

Music can be input from other programs via Music XML, but Dorico will format them its own way rather than re-creating the originating program’s layout exactly. Given the great look of the default settings of Dorico, I expect that this will actually be an improvement in most cases.

I expect that the video of today’s event will be posted by tomorrow, so I’ll suggest you watch it yourself. I have a list of tests to try for myself, and I’ll let you know my experience as they progress. So far, Dorico looks even more impressive now.

Meet Dorico LIVE on TUESDAY

Tuesday October 18 (TOMORROW as I write this) Steinberg will present Dorico in a live-stream event on both the Dorico YouTube channel and the Steinberg web site. Daniel Spreadbury, arguably the most knowledgeable person on Dorico and its competition at a very intimate level, will present the software demo.Expect a lot more than just a list of features. I imagine that we will come away with a greater respect for the breadth and depth of the software, as well as having our concerns about features not yet implemented addressed honestly with some idea as to what is coming in the near future regarding these.

The event will include the “grand premiere of a short musical work for string quartet and piano … commissioned from Thomas Hewitt Jones” who wrote the piece using Dorico. Since the announcement states that a live performance of the piece will “also” be included  I’m hoping that this means we will hear it played back by the software as well. Solo strings are the most difficult instruments to play back convincingly from even excellent samples, so there is an extra layer of interest from just the choice of instrumentation. (Yes, many of us have our own libraries, but this would be a chance to hear what comes bundled with the notation software.) And since this is a piece from a prominent British composer, it seems likely that the “missing features” still allow significant music to be written with the software in its current state.

The time of the event is 7:30 BST (London time), which places it mid-afternoon at 2:30  here in EDT (New York time) and lunch time in PST on the west coast of North America. This is a demo that you don’t want to miss. You can be sure that I’ll be watching.

Dorico Release Date Set

Steinberg has announced that Dorico will be released on October 19, 2016. After four years of intensive development (and intense anticipation by musicians) the program will finally enter the marketplace.

Dorico features a revolutionary single-window interface as well as Steinberg’s own award-winning audio engine and a large collection of VST instruments to provide a complete working environment. It is built to take advantage of modern 64-bit multi-processor computers, providing true multi-tasking and speed for complex editing, scrolling, and other compute-intensive tasks.

If you have not been there already, head over to the Dorico site for all its details, as well as links to the live public introduction of the software by Daniel Spreadbury on October 18. If you are lucky enough to be in London that day, you can attend in person. Otherwise you can watch the live stream via Facebook, Youtube, or Steinberg’s web site.

On October 20, a German-language event will be held in Vienna. Be sure to get your free tickets in advance as it is liable to sell out quickly!

New Guitar Books

Hal Leonard has recently released some new versions of classic guitar books. Originally these would have been aimed at jazz players, but these days even moderately serious players need to know basics like the entire neck, a wide variety of chords in all positions, and songs, songs, songs.

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Yes, there are all sorts of fake books floating around, but few are aimed specifically at guitarists. What recommends this collection is an excellent selection of jazz standards, many in “guitar-friendly keys”, sensible chord diagrams that minimize position shifts (and show you some very nice voicings), and a binding that lets the book lie flat on the music stand. I particularly like that several songs are in different keys that guitarists really need to know (Bb, Eb, Ab), and these have great chord voicings that should help any player feel more comfortable in these important tonalities. You can check out the list of songs here and see some sample pages here. Play the chord diagrams to the bottom two to see what I mean about positions. A great book for improving your sight-reading and a terrific one to take to a jazz jam.

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A lot of the jazz greats wrote books to teach aspiring players, but many of these languish out of print. Hal Leonard did a good job of bringing back a true classic, Sal Salvador’s Single String Studies for Guitar in a new format. Most obvious is their catering to modern taste by adding TAB, and this has the added benefit of creating more white space on the page, which I find easier on the eyes. All aspects of picking, scales, chords, arpeggios, and much more is covered. This is a book that will make you work, but you will improve your playing immensely if you stick with it. The only problem with this edition seems to be a clash of fonts, so that numbers like “2nd, 3rd, 5th” are garbled (see p. 130, p. 145 and elsewhere) but can be read with some effort; also, for some reason the word “not” in the last line of p. 131’s text has delete lines through it, although it certainly belongs in the text (where he is saying to “keep the pick parallel to the strings, NOT slanted in either direction”.

These annoyances aside, this is a terrific book for improving knowledge of the guitar, and it is great to see it accessible again.

Dorico Prepares for Release

Today (October 4, 2016) Daniel Spreadbury posted the final installment of his blog Making Notes with a list of what will and will not be included in the first release of Dorico. He believes, as do I, that the “missing” features will garner more discussion than the actual contents of the first release. The issue comes down to this: Should I buy the first release of this software, or ‘wait and see’?

Having spent much of the last 8 years deeply immersed in the jazz world, I would guess that the lack of jazz articulations will keep away many if not most jazz musicians out of sheer necessity. The lack of chord symbols and guitar tablature will also lessen its appeal to guitarists of all genres, as well as songwriters looking for just melody, lyrics, and  chords on lead sheets. Why on earth would the software be released in this state? Pure speculation would suggest that Steinberg’s accountants could only be kept at bay for so long, and the Xmas shopping season is just too big a window to miss. So there is a lot that screams “VERSION 1.0 — BEWARE!!!”

But not necessarily.

While Dorico is obviously a work in progress, its foundations appear rock-solid, and by this time next year we will most likely be celebrating the amazing progress it has made in a single year as well as its total domination of the high-end notation market. The strength of its architecture as well as the quality of the programming team give us every reason to believe that the missing features will be incorporated, and in ways that make them even better than we might expect. If you read the second half of Making Notes (and you should read it all at least twice!) you will see the careful attention to detail in every parameter. Consider the missing jazz articulations. I have received angry email from users of both Sibelius and Finale because someone’s favourite articulation is either missing or doesn’t “work as it should.” I applaud the decision not to rush Dorico’s inclusion of some set of articulations rather than put the thought and time into designing the best possible set and get them working correctly the first time. The same goes for all of the other missing features.

I believe that the question is not IF to buy Dorico, but WHEN. There are good reasons to wait as there are for getting it on Day 1. Let’s consider both.

WAITING

As a jazz arranger, I can understand waiting for jazz articulations to be added. As a composer of guitar music, I can see waiting for chord diagrams and TAB to be added. In fact, for any specific use, you may want to wait for all of your necessary features to appear. Common sense.

DAY ONE

While there is an inevitable allure for some people to be the first to own something cool, there are other reasons to buy software that is incomplete even for your uses. One of the strongest is the Xmas shopping season, which alone might justify new software in lieu of yet another instrument (I’m thinking especially of guitarists here — we never have enough). Early adopters will also have time to work with the software and be proficient with it when their favourite features are added and they want to become productive ASAP. Institutional budgets with a fiscal year-end in December, or with any other cycle that encourages procurement at that time of year can make it more attractive than waiting for a time that might be great for a certain feature but fiscally inopportune.

I was not able to get an answer on what features might be included in a free update versus a paid upgrade, but that’s not surprising with a package that has not even been released yet. So if the initial release has all of the features that you need, I think it would be wise to buy it; if not, waiting is always an option. Many of us will be able to take advantage of the cross-grade pricing but final details on which programs (other than Sibelius and Finale) will qualify and how long the time limit will be to cross-grade will be available closer to the launch date.

UPDATE:

Daniel Spreadbury has informed me that the plan is to offer a series of free updates as features are added to Dorico following the original release. While he obviously can’t say which these will be, it would be a good bet that the most sought after omissions would be added, and both jazz and guitar are pretty hot these days so they are both good bets to get solid attention. So it still looks like the entire paradigm of notation software is about to change. Very exciting news!