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 https://blog.dorico.com/ (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.

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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 Facebook.com/DoricoOfficial.

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 https://www.facebook.com/groups/dorico. 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 discoverdorico@steinberg.de, 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 youtube.com/dorico 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.

 

 

How to Write Your First Song

OK. Several people have asked why I have not reviewed my own book here. Seriously, what do you think I’d say? After working on it for months, trying to create a book that would help the novice songwriter, as well as one who has “hit the wall”, to find their own process and create a song that they are truly proud of. One that they would not hesitate to play for friends or critics. Of course I think anyone thinking of writing their first song, or getting back into it should buy the book. But for good reasons, not just because I wrote it. I felt that there was a need for this book and I remember the agony of writing my very first song, that took one year to write, compared to my second which I finished in one day. But it took me a year to learn what I needed to write a song that I still like, decades later, and one that helped me to get into the Music Composition program at the university of my choice.

I wished I’d had a book like this when I was starting out, so I wrote it in the hopes of helping people in similar situations. I have unique training, with advanced degrees in computing and music, as well as Music Criticism, Music Theory, Computer Music, and Education, but my most practical qualification comes from decades as a music reviewer and listening to over 1,000 LP’s and CD’s most of which were from people trying to break into or make it in the music world. I’ve heard the same mistakes repeated countless times, but I have also found some true gems, all of which defied convention in their own way but still evoked a strong response in the listener. So while I can’t tell you how to write a guaranteed great song (no one can)  I can tell you what will ruin even a great idea that could have been a hit. To get that hit, or even songs that you like consistently, you need to know your own process for writing, and I can help you to find that.

How many Grammy speeches begin with “I’d like to thank the author of the book …” Not many, and yet so many song writing books promise, implicitly or right out there, that you will end up creating a huge hit, and if you don’t, it’s your fault. It’s more realistic to listen to the “overnight sensations” who tell you that they have written 100 songs and finally learned their craft by trial and error. My goal was to help you find your own process to write a good song without having to go through the 100 duds; to shorten the “error” period. Maybe it won’t be a hit, maybe not “commercial” enough, but it will be a song that you like and are proud of. And with a start like that, you can only improve.

Hits are a combination of craft, hard work, and luck. Good songs are a combination of craft and hard work — no luck required. You may not get wealthy, you may not even make a living at it, but you will be able to write songs that you like and even build up a modest fan base who enjoy your music. That’s a lot better than sitting and dreaming of “making it.” And you have to start somewhere. (And yes, I suppose you could use the concepts to analyze hits you like and maybe write a hit yourself. Maybe.) I’ll tell you what my aims were in writing the book, and you can see if they reflect your situation and might help you.

The BIG ONE is to get you over the hump of wanting to write a song but not doing it. (This includes established songwriters who have hit a wall and may even feel “washed up.”)  Maybe you’ve tried and got bits and pieces of several songs that you just can’t finish to your liking. Or you’ve written one according to a formula or copying a song you like that you can’t be proud of. An important step that you might be wondering about is to determine if songwriting is something that you really want to do. I won’t try to talk you into it, and you might discover that you’d rather just listen to songs. Even if that is all you get out of the book it will save you lots of time and frustration and let you get on with what you really want to do more.

But if you find that you truly want to write songs, I will help you to find and refine a process that works for you. There are lots of ways to approach songwriting, and the book is written so that you can try different things and see which ones produce results you like. It’s a very personal activity that reflects who you are, and only you can decide what you want to express and how you will do that. I don’t want you to copy how I go about writing a song, but rather to discover how you do. At the end of the book you will have written the first song that you really like and are proud to play for anyone, from a close friend to a record producer.

How do you get that kind of confidence? Together we look at building on your strengths and getting past your weak spots. Maybe you don’t have the theoretical background you feel you need. I’ll show you what you need to know without any extras like, say, the range of the piccolo or the notes to beware of when writing for clarinet. Or maybe you have lots of theoretical training, so much that you become “rule-bound” and have to loosen up your concepts so that you can move ahead just as music has moved past the “rules” that were established for music of the past. (Music theory always lags behind practice!) In fact, songwriters have a different perspective on music theory from classical composers, whose works form the basis of most standard music theory. The introduction of guitars and drums, as well as digital music sources, has given new life to older concepts that have been refined in new directions, as in jazz or progressive rock, or kept as a basis for new uses in popular music from country to hard rock and its more metallic derivatives.

At its most basic level, music comes down to repetition versus novelty, with enough repeated material so that we can recognize it as the same song but new parts that give variety so that we don’t get bored. Every genre or style does this in different ways, popular and classical, Western or Eastern. Music is truly infinite in its possibilities.

The book has access to all the musical examples online, where they can be played or downloaded. I personally created over 100 audio examples so that you hear our topic rather than just read about it. More importantly, you can decide whether you like it, and how you might improve it to make it more to your liking. You need to learn to critique your own ideas, but it is often much easier to start by critiquing the work of others. The difference here is that we will be concentrating on one aspect at a time, so that you refine what harmonies you like, what rhythms speak to you, how lyrics fit the melody (or don’t!), and many more aspects that are personal to you. I can tell you that the reason I prefer to be a reviewer to a critic is that I don’t assume that everyone shares my musical taste, so I point out what I find interesting in a song but leave it open to the reader and listener to agree or not, and to find more in it. Read old critics’ views of many songs that have become legendary over time and you will inevitably find articles saying how awful they are and how the artist will disappear, just as that very artist is starting a decades-long career as a major star. You might not like songs that I do, but you should like, or love, every song that you write. It should speak to you, even if to no one else.

Rather than go on and on, I’ll let you read the first page of the introduction to the book here. You can find a little more on the Hal Leonard site here, and order it from there or from Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, or find it in your local music store.

 

Legendary Bassist “Duck” Dunn Bio and Transcriptions

Few people become legends in their own time, and even fewer are unaware of it when it happens, but this itself is part of the legend of one of the most influential bass players ever – Donald “Duck” Dunn.

Soul Fingers is sub-titled “The Music & Life of Legendary Bassist Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn” and the ordering is as it should be since the bulk of the book consists of transcriptions of some of Duck’s most famous lines along with some basic analysis of his style. Author Nick Rosaci writes “I have to admit, I’m not much of an author. I was the student who barely passed my English composition classes so I could spend more time in the practice rooms.” This explains the one problem with the book: the biography section is somewhat disorganized with some events out of order, and several places where information is repeated a couple of paragraphs later. This seems to be the result of one of the strengths of this section, which relies on the reports of family and close friends who were there at the times mentioned. Their statements are kept intact, and they often wander or span Duck’s entire lifetime. But the important events are there, and even those of us who admire his playing will likely be surprised at the range of artists whose recordings Duck’s bass added groove to. For example, his work at Stax with Steve Cropper is well-known as is his work with The Blues Brothers, but Tom Petty was also a great fan who wanted Duck on at least one track of each of his albums “for luck”! Even his passing from this world befits a legend, waiting until after his tour of Japan was completed before slipping away in his sleep after the final performance, a pro right up to the end.

Possibly the strangest session Duck was on was for Elvis Presley, who sent a demo which he wanted the band to copy exactly, note-for-note. Here’s one of the greatest bassists being told to suppress his own legendary style to play a different part entirely. To top it off, Duck didn’t even get to meet “The King” because he sent an Elvis impersonator to do a guide vocal during the recording of the backing track, over which Elvis added his voice later, alone!

Being given so much work and pressure to crank out “hits”, it may be understandable that Duck had no idea of his growing reputation outside of Memphis, at least until the Stax European tour where sold out shows and wildly enthusiastic audiences showed him the effect that his music was having worldwide. Once he started playing sessions it seemed that everyone wanted to record with Duck. The range of artists he played with is attested to by the 57 transcriptions included in the book (which includes online access to 28 play-along tracks performed by Duck’s son Jeff, Will Lee, and the author). The play-along tracks are great, with the bass on one speaker and the band on the other, so that you can study the bass alone, or mute it to play along, or hear the entire thing together. The performances are very good, but of course you need to listen to Duck’s original recordings to get that “deep pocket” feel that sets his playing apart.

Hal Leonard keeps improving their online music delivery system, which you access via your personal code at the front of your book. When you have more than one book with audio access, you can form a collection called “My Library” that contains all of the tracks arranged by book. You can download the play-along tracks one at a time or choose to “Download All” to save time, OR you can play them right from your “My Library” site using the PLAYBACK+ software that appears if you click on a song and choose “Play” rather than “Download.” It allows you to adjust the speed without affecting the pitch; to reset the pitch by semi-tone up or down as much as an octave; set loop points to concentrate on a particular section; and adjust the balance between the speakers, and thus between the amount of bass and of the band.  It’s a great way to learn a tricky song correctly at a slow tempo, and then speed it up gradually, or to do the same with a difficult phrase. Pitch adjustment is great if you play with a singer who needs the song in a different key.

The transcriptions range from Booker T. and the MG’s, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and Bill Withers; Muddy Waters, Albert King, and The Blues Brothers; Eric Clapton, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; Jimmy Buffett, Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers; to the Manhattan Transfer and many more artists. No matter what style or artist Duck plays with, he holds down the groove and keeps the rhythm section solid, a master of the “less is more”school of playing. Usually his most memorable performances are close to frugal in their use of notes, but each note is just the right one for the song, a lesson for all bass players regardless of their level of achievement.

This book is essential for Duck Dunn fans, firstly because it is the only complete biography of this legendary player, incredible as that seems, with assistance from family and friends and a foreword by fan and fellow Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd. Also, it is a terrific collection of accurate transcriptions that show you how Duck played in many different styles and genres. It can also be an introduction to genres that you may not be familiar with that still have Duck’s inimitable bass playing holding them together.

Pick up a copy of this fine book at your local music store (and if they don’t have it, tell them to order a dozen copies!). Of course you can order it online if you have no local store. Click on either of the images above (or here) to go to the Hal Leonard site to order online or for more information on the book with the full transcription list and Table of Contents, Dan Aykroyd’s Foreword, some sample pages, and even a couple of audio examples.

DORICO 1.1.10 FREE Update Released

Once more Steinberg has updated Dorico with a release that only offers about 70 new features, improvements, and bug fixes! So just as I was going to post my latest “Dorico adventure” something a little more important has come along.

The biggest news is the addition of graphical editing of individual chord symbols. As if it wasn’t enough that you had every conceivable style of chord symbol in use, now you can edit every part of a chord symbol on a grid for fine-tuning. While this may not seem a big deal, think about situations where you have had a chord change on every quarter note with complex harmonies and suddenly that bar took up almost an entire line, with not quite enough room left for another bar. An extreme situation, but you get the idea. Once again Dorico scores a coup in the world of notation leaving little doubt that it is the software of choice for serious composers and arrangers.

And once again Daniel Spreadbury has outlined all of the new features in Dorico 1.1.10 on his Making Notes blog including a video by Anthony Hughes demonstrating the new editor and explaining its use. But that’s not all. In fact, if you want to know all of the new features and fixes you can consult the version history in PDF format and read the first 12 pages.

Set Final Tempo % For Changing Tempo

Just one of my favourite new features is the ability to specify where a rallentando or accelerando ends up. This is found in the Properties panel, and gradual as well as relative tempo changes now play back correctly where your beat units are not just quarter notes.

Learn By Example

There are several example scores that you can study, play back, and learn from. These are great shortcuts to learning the program and also getting ideas for articulations and even instrument combinations that you may not have thought about. If you download the trial version (and you should if you haven’t bought Dorico yet) then the examples should load for you. They didn’t for me in the full version but Daniel Spreadbury’s page tells you where to find them on either Mac or PC. I did think I noticed an odd glitch in the Rameau example, where the repeats did not play, but I had forgotten that Dorico does not play repeats yet. This is probably because of the wide variety of repeat types you can notate.  Still, this is yet another amazing update to THE twenty-first century notation program.

Calibre – The Great FREE E-Book Reader / Manager

As I’ve read more e-books, I’ve come to really appreciate Calibre. It’s an e-book reader for your computer, library manager for hardware e-book devices, and format converter for both, plus a lot more features that let you bookmark, edit, backup and more. If you are online it will even help you shop! It is open source, which means that anyone with the skills can modify it and submit their mods for testing, but it also pretty much assures that it will be around for a long time and will remain free. Big thanks to Kovid Goyal for providing the world with this free app that outshines most if not all of the other e-book software around. I can’t say for sure because after trying a couple and finding Calibre, I’ve never been tempted to try anything else.

I had to write this column because I got a request from a friend for help with a somewhat expensive e-reader that could not read the format of the book she just bought. I read the blurb (there was no user manual) and it vaguely suggested it could read all “common” formats, and her book’s format was definitely a common one. So she switched to Calibre and all is well. I suggest that you check it out at calibre-ebook.com/

The video on that page shows you how to setup the manager for a hardware device, and how to use it to send books from your computer to your device and bring them into the manager from your device. If you have a book that is not in your device’s format, Calibre formats it automatically when you transfer it to the device. Calibre will search online for a book you request, returning a list with the lowest-priced one at the top, a very convenient way to shop for books. It will let you edit the metadata for any book, but if you have a large collection you might want to use its automated feature that searches the internet and finds the metadata for large numbers of books, which you can edit later at your convenience, if you like. To find a particular book, or just find something to read, you can browse by cover or tags such as author, genre, etc.

Calibre also reads PDF’s, so you can manage your PDF scores, articles, etc. along with your e-books in one convenient place.

Calibre has a great way to get news: choosing “Fetch News” brings up a list of languages in which news is available with the number of sources for each (over 300 in English alone!). Clicking on the left-hand triangle opens a list of the news sources in that language. You can set a schedule for downloading news from a source, as well as a number of days before the download is deleted. Of course, if some of them are pay-only you will need to have a subscription, but most are free.

There is so much to Calibre that I suggest you check it out for what you need in an e-reader or e-book manager, and then gradually you will find more uses that you never thought of. But if you read e-books at all, you really should check out Calibre.

UPDATE: A number of people have written that they cannot get Calibre to work on their iPhone or iPad or iPod Touch. The Calibre FAQ shows how to use it with these devices.

The Calibre help page has links to the FAQ, the user forum, and their blog as well as to the user manual, which is available in several formats.