Dorico 3.5 Update

Today, May 20, 2020, Steinberg is announcing Dorico 3.5. So far they have posted a few videos on their YouTube channel, but at 9:00 am EDT (or 6:00 am if you live on the west coast of North America!) they will unveil the whole thing.

So far the most useful and desired features added seem to be the vast improvement to the VST plug-in playback capabilities. These are truly stunning and should make scores play back much more naturally.

The other is a search field for drop-down and other menus that have too many choices to find the desired one quickly. Now you can search to find what you are looking for. Yes, this is much like the Feature Browser in Band-in-a-Box, but in this case rather than being global, it applies to a single set of options.

If you can, tune in to watch this announcement live. If you have not yet subscribed, go to YouTube and search for “Dorico channel”. If you can’t watch it live, I’m sure the video will be archived there to watch later.


Now that I’ve seen the presentation I’m even more impressed. Wow! They barely got through the MAJOR new features in the one-hour demo with John presenting and Daniel answering questions in the comments section.

I cannot hope to cover even all that they covered in the official announcement so I’ll give you the highlights from my point of view. You should still watch the archived announcement demo on YouTube here.


We guitarists really lucked out with this update! For starters, we can add rhythm to TAB parts now, so you don’t have to switch between staves to play. You can show tapping with a “T” and also with dots. The search option I mentioned earlier can help find the guitar options. and it is a “sticky” search so that you keep the options you searched for on the screen to work with them. Alt-8 brings up the search dialog, appropriate to where you are.

Bends play back using pitch bend. Dorico 3.5 automatically creates the playback bend, but you can edit it as well, drawing with the pencil tool for really fancy bends. Double bends also display and play back too. You can use the popover to choose bends, scoops and other whammy bar techniques, including adding text such as “w/ bar”.

In Layout option you can “show chord diagrams at start of flow” and they show up automatically in the order that they appear in the song. You can edit all of these for fingerings, size, and even add different versions of the same chord. This is a great feature to keep your songs from becoming cluttered.

Note Entry

You can now enter pitch before duration (as opposed to the normal Dorico duration before pitch). The shortcut for this is “K”, and it allows you to hunt around for the note that you want, and then choose it and give it a duration. You can even do this with chords. It’s a very handy feature for composition or for transcribing by ear, and it is most useful with a MIDI keyboard.

Global vs. Local Settings

You can now enter local settings, say to make a change to a part that will not show up in the score. This could be a comment, moving an object for easier reading for the player, and so on. It was asked for and has been provided.

Playback Improvements

There are too many improvements here to list them all, but one of the most important is Mutual Exclusion Groups. Here you list techniques that cannot be played at the same time, such as arco and pizzicato for strings. This allows other techniques to be played together, for example pizz. and con sordino.

Expression maps are probably the most asked-for feature in Dorico, and there are great improvements in Dorico 3.5. The default expression map included in Dorico is for Halion SE which comes with it. However, other sample libraries such as NotePerformer and Garritan provide different playing techniques and options. Because there are so many libraries, and different options even within libraries, Dorico 3.5 lets you create your own expression maps for the libraries you own.  The example in the announcement video has an excellent demonstration of choosing shorter note samples for shorter note values. Since many sample players use one long note sample, they sound great with longer notes, but tend to “bleed” notes together in short note values  (say sixteenth-note) passages. If your library has different notes values to choose from, Dorico lets you choose a short value for a particular value of duration.  This is shown in the announcement video at the 14:53 mark. Quite a difference!

Figured Bass

If you use figured bass your dreams have come true with Dorico 3.5 since it has tons of new features! You can now enter virtually any style possible. You can set these easily in the score or with the popover. Dorico 3.5 will even calculate the proper figured bass for you if you give it the name of the chosen chord! It will even automatically transpose if you change the bass note. You can add hold lines as well, if you use them.

Having said that Figured Bass could cover an entire session on its own, John suggested checking out the Scoring Notes blog, which had a preview version of 3.5 and has a lot more information on Figured Bass (although even the team there said they would need another post to cover all the changes).

And More …

Just some more of the new features:

You can choose different colours or gradients for each mode to remind you where you are.

You can export parts of a piece as graphic; just choose a “slice” (any section of the visible screen) and export it with all sorts of graphic options.

There is now an option for “Hollywood style” final pages, which adds blank staff lines to fill the page.

There are more option for slur positioning, especially when a slur goes past the end of the current line. You can also get rid of some backgrounds if things get too cluttered.

Musicxml has many more features included for both export and import.

Some Indian Drum sounds are now included, as well as some others, in the application.


The Cost

I have only scratched the surface of the new features in Dorico 3.5, and with so many major improvements it has to be a paid update. I realize that times are tight for many people, especially musicians, but watch the video as well as Anthony Hughes’ other videos on the Dorico channel on particular features before you make your decision. There are a variety of prices for the three versions of Dorico, as well as educational pricing.

Much more information on individual features, as well as comparisons of versions and costs are on the Steinberg Dorico page here. The most expensive price for updating Dorico Pro from 3.x is $60 (US), so this is hardly a “money grab” from Steinberg.

My opinion is that Dorico 3.5 is well worth the update price, but feed your family and pay the rent first, and if you have anything left over this is a great choice for any musician.


Band-in-a-Box 2019 for Mac PERFECT for the Holidays

Band-in-a-Box 2019 for Mac is the latest incarnation of a perennial star of the music software world. Hard as it is to believe, it will be 30 next year, and that 2020 version is already available for Windows! But I’m a Mac user so I’ll be reviewing that one which is MORE than exciting enough!

Box Image

I’ll admit that I don’t upgrade BiaB every year, but my last review of it in 2015 — in Just Jazz Guitar magazine — was a rave. The 2019 version has really improved, but I have another compelling reason to revisit this wonderful software: Stelios Panos has upgraded his astonishingly accurate Django Reinhardt transcriptions as well as adding several new jazz guitar artists to his collection, and these take full advantage of the new capabilities of Biab 2019 for Mac.

Band-in-a-Box has come a long way from the early days and each of the many upgrades has introduced lots of features including new songs and styles as well as more realistic performances. Their focus on making fine music and helping musicians achieve their best has remained constant, and Band-in-a-Box 2019 does itself proud in this and every other area. BiaB started as a brilliant MIDI app in its earliest days on the Atari ST, moving to the PC and Mac soon after they became available. The addition of pure digital content in RealTracks was a huge step into more realistic sound, and this realism keeps evolving with studio musicians recording licks, patterns, and even complete songs and studies. The musical content of BiaB continues to expand, taking advantage of new technologies to keep up with computing necessities. With the huge growth in content came the option to purchase BiaB in its own hard disk, and now with speed improvements that we will look at more closely.


Yes you have a band in the box, but do you know all that your band can do? You can work with it to have input from individual instruments to complete arrangers (bandmates-in-a-box to arranger-in-a-box). The best bands get input from each of their members, while the best soloists work with arranger/producers to get that extra input that we all need to do our best. You might be a great guitarist, but how are your drum chops? You might want to call on an expert, or a bunch of them. Then there are teachers in that box that let you study specially-written etudes as well as the arrangements that you like and showing you great licks, chord progressions, melodic ideas, you name it! Whatever you can do with a real band (except maybe fight between members) this boxed version provides. And like seasoned pros, each iteration gets better and benefits from more experience.

So, 2019?

So what’s new for 2019? Real Tracks have expanded the genres of Jazz, Blues, Latin, Pop, Rock, World, Country, Americana, and especially Celtic. There are even vocals! Yes, Gospel “Mmms” can be used as a choir of four doubled voices, or as individual voices mixed or solo.

Bassists will love the new Pop Basses with 6 new MIDI Super Tracks (much like the existing Jazz ones) in both electric and acoustic flavours.

Nashville guitar whiz Brent Mason adds Country Pop Guitar Licks in all 12 keys. The most amazing part of this feature is the way they are presented, showing how useful they are in all sorts of different musical situations. These country cousins are at home in any city.

Drummers have a lot to love in this package including drum notation that can be viewed in the RealDrums Picker by filtering for “RealDrums with RealCharts“. A great way to improve your reading, your ear, and your playing all at once. This is also a real boon for arrangers who are not fluent with the notation but know the sound they want.

One of the more unexpected but very welcome additions is “Low Man” and “Re-amped” Metal/Thrash Electric Guitar RealTracks in all 12 keys. These are previous RealTracks that have been  “re-amped” to give them authentic Metal/Thrash tones, with both rhythm and solo playing over the necessarily wide range of tempo. Like the snarl and growl of tuning a guitar down 4 or even 6 semitones? “Low Man” has you covered with that very particular timbre of distortion.

Brent Mason returns with a country Train-Beat licks as Instrumental Studies in all 12 keys: 10 each for a total of 120. Geoff Kelly, a founding member of Canadian band Spirit of the West,  contributes his Celtic Flute to the Celtic RealTracks for a new sound you want to get to know. There is even Celtic Cello provided by Natalie Haas!

BiaB as a PLUG-IN!

One of the most exciting developments for recording is the ability of BiaB to act as a plug-in for virtual every major DAW. The plug-in generates the same BiaB audio or MIDI that you then drop into a track on your DAW! No need for intermediate solutions and complicated routings. The whole Band-in-a-Box is just one plug-in!

USB 3.0

If you are like me and constantly run out of disk space, you will be glad to know that the HD version of BiaB now blazes at USB 3.0 to keep the music flowing. If you prefer (and have the space) you can still install and / or download the app to your own hard disk, of course. And with USB 3 there is no need for an extra USB port “just in case.”

New SongPicker Design

The SongPicker was overdue for a rewrite, so it’s great to see that the new one has many added features that users have requested or dreamt of. Most outstanding for me are the filters, which let you choose songs by genre, feel, time signature, style, and many more musical features or by the more traditional sub-folder choices. Interesting results can come from filtering files with similar chord progressions or melodic fragments. This is a great way to find variations on your favourite progressions or melodies. I like to combine both approaches and save particular favourites that I’ve filtered for into their own folders and sub-folders.

The filter for RealTracks, RealDrums, and MIDI SuperTracks uses a hash tag (#) to trigger the Advanced Filter with many new options. The StylePicker has been rewritten as well. All these filters for choosing songs are very welcome improvements when dealing with up to 50,000 songs! (If these are not enough for you their are also optional Xtra Styles PAKs that you can purchase separately to keep up with the very latest styles!)


PG Music has been providing videos to help you learn about Band-in-a-Box for quite a while now, and if you’d rather see the new features than read about them (or best of all, do both) you can find the videos here. You will not want to miss “Band-in-a-Box 2019 in less than 6 minutes!” because, if you notice that it actually runs just over 10 minutes, it contains special offers that you want to know about! Other than that one, there are many helpful videos from “What is Band-in-a-Box” to dozens and dozens of videos on specific topics to make sure that you get the most out of BiaB in the shortest time.

Of course the whole idea of Band-in-a-Box is that you can create your own music and save it. This extensibility also means that you can create your own libraries of greats that work with BiaB, which is exactly what Stelios Panos has done with the great jazz guitarists. My next post will look at his new transcriptions of Joe Pass, Grant Green, and the upgrade to his stellar work on the music of Django Reinhardt. Stay tuned for that one!

I have only scratched the surface of the capabilities — and even the new features — of Band-in-a-Box 2019. There is a full 32-page booklet included with Version 2019 for Mac that is the New Features Guide! At least you don’t have to worry about upgrading to run Biab. Here are the System Requirements for Macintosh and Windows. Windows users are in luck as Band-in-a-Box 2020 for Windows is already here! For more information on special offers, new features, and even to chat online with the experts visit PG Music here.

Create, arrange, learn, record — is there anything musical you can’t do in Band-in-a-Box. With some creativity there is very little, so be sure to get a copy and dive into the deep end of music!

BiaB name


NotePerformer 3.3 released

Wallander Instruments has just released an update, version 3.3, at the usual update price — FREE. Yes, if you have ever bought a version of NotePerformer you have had and continue to have free updates.

If that sounds too good to be true, it is GREAT and it is also TRUE. I have no idea how Arne Wallander manages to keep producing this fantastic software and upgrading it for free, but I am incredibly grateful for this man and his company’s generosity.

NotePerformer on computer screen

If you don’t have it already, BUY IT. It gives your notation the expression of a fine musician, as if a virtuoso were performing your score, with terrific sampled instruments. For more information see my full review of NotePerformer here.

If you are a registered user you will be getting an email announcement shortly. If not, give them a day or two and then contact NotePerformer here.

NotePerformer keeps getting better and better!

More Jazz : Swingin’ in Dorico

I like to hear what I’m writing from time to time and the feel is important. When I include Dorico in recordings it becomes crucial, and since I’m not alone in this I thought I should share how to make the most of Dorico’s virtually unlimited nuances of “swing.”

Many of us were taught that “swing” meant to play eighth-notes (or quavers) as if they were triplets, where the first note got the first two and the last note got the one left over, so the first was longer (twice as long) and the second shorter. Some people (embarrassingly often guitarists) find this difficult so a few books write songs that are definitely in 4/4 as 12/8 so that the swing is written-out as quarter-note then eighth-note. A more complicated version is the dotted eighth-note followed by a sixteenth-note (semi-quaver), usually with the word “swing” above it. (Let’s leave out a discussion of whether Bach meant this notation as being swing, for now at least.) Technically this is “triplet swing” but since it is the most common we’ll use it for our discussion here and I’ll point you to more complex uses of swing later.

Of course following this triplet swing rigidly can start to sound robotic and often we feel shades of swing that this theoretical swing doesn’t really cover. We may want to cut the second note shorter, or lengthen it a bit. This is one of those areas in which Dorico shines. To start with: you have light, medium and heavy versions of swing for both eighth- and sixteenth-notes. In Play Mode, choose Play > Playback Options. Under Timing you will see Rhythmic Feel. In the example below I have chosen “Heavy swing 8ths” for my project:

Where to fine swing in the menu

To see your options, click on the disclosure triangle to the right of the current swing setting:

Swing options

What does “(fixed)” mean? The swing timing is kept exactly the same despite the tempo. If you have listened to more than a little jazz, or good blues, you have probably noticed that swing changes with the tempo. Typically the first note is held longer is slow tempos. In very fast tempos “light swing” can even become regular eighth notes! If the swing version is NOT fixed then Dorico automatically shifts it according to the tempo.

LOTS of control, right? But this is DORICO, so there is even more control in your hands. Did you notice the”Edit…” button beside the disclosure triangle in the first screen shot? Clicking on that gives you the ultimate in control of ANY type of tuplet swing:

Exact ratios of swing

You just choose the Swing Unit and then choose your own settings for “Low tempo” and “High Tempo” and use the sliders to select the exact ratio for the swing you want, shown as both ratio and percent of time taken by the first note. You can experiment to find the exact ratio if you like, or you might find one of the simpler versions suits your taste. It’s all up to you.

You can find more information on Swing Ratios on the web site Dorico Help here.

Happy Swingin’!


Dorico 3 has just been released and it is the dream come true for all of the guitarists who have been waiting patiently (or not!) for special guitar features such as TABlature, bends, fingering (L and R hands), string numbers and MUCH more! This is the one you have been asking for, and now here it is.

Better news, the upgrade price is VERY reasonable!

I am very excited about this release because it is the one I have been hoping for since I first raved about Dorico and its potential in my columns on the now deceased Just Jazz Guitar. I know that many of my readers from the magazine have followed me to this blog and have switched to Dorico because of my reassurance that it would provide amazing support for guitarists and their music and today that has come to pass. There is just no other program that comes near the support that Dorico provides! And in the non-guitar-centered world, that’s not even the main improvement.

Seriously, there are too many improvements for me to describe here, although I will include a link to a complete list later. I suggest that you first watch Daniel Spreadbury’s announcement here and then watch the specific tutorials here on YouTube.

The Automatic Condensed Conductor’s Scores are an incredible feat of software engineering in the service of condensing huge scores into more legible shape while allowing the composer to write one instrument at a time. Truly an exemplary tour de force of the programmer’s art.

If you play or write for harp you will be pleased and amazed at the options and intelligence of the harp pedalling notation. And unless you are a seasoned harpist, you need this help to write intelligible harp parts.

Along with the wonderful additions to notation comes the beautiful Soundiron Olympus Micro Choir, which has been modified to work with Halion and is included with Dorico 3.

I suggest that you watch the videos mentioned above first. Now for the complete list of new features go here.

This is the Dorico we have been waiting for!

Want to Publish Your Song or Arrangement?

The burst of creativity in music creation due to computing and the internet has become a reality, but so has the persistence of publishing. Sure, you can put your score up on your own web site for others to take for free, or you can invest in software to sell it, but many of us just don’t have the visibility to bring people to our music or the software to capitalize on interest in it. This was a valuable service that publishers used to provide, and which Hal Leonard still does. In fact, they have recently upgraded their service with two new ways to get your original compositions or arrangements into the public eye, and money into your bank account, with ArrangeMe.

Their recent press release says:

“Hal Leonard has announced a massive expansion of ArrangeMe, their program that lets musicians legally and easily upload sheet music of original works or arrangements of popular songs and sell them on market-leading music websites. The newly expanded self-publishing platform provides a much-needed service for composers, arrangers, indie bands, educators, and anyone else who wants to sell sheet music of their own compositions or arrangements for all instruments and ensembles.

Through ArrangeMe, composers can upload their works for free and set their own sale price for the piece to be sold on sites including SheetMusicPlus and Noteflight. ArrangeMe takes care of paying the appropriate fees to the copyright holders and also pays commissions on each sale to the composer/arranger who uploaded the works.”

Of course the publisher is going to take a major cut of the sale price, but then again they take care of copyright and do the bookkeeping, services you would have to pay for in any case. They also have connections to get permissions that you might find difficult or impossible to obtain otherwise.

This is a huge plus for anyone who has a hit on YouTube. Now you can direct your listeners to a site to download the score to play your song or arrangement while they are still hot to play it. Arrangers can benefit from performers searching for arrangements of their favourite songs for their own instrument or ensemble. You can also find out which songs are available for arrangements, rather than working away at a difficult arrangement only to find that you cannot get permission to publish it. You may already be playing arrangements that are in demand, or songs that your fans are clamoring to learn.  And now those of us playing unusual instruments can find and share arrangements or compositions from other players and fans.

You can find more details, including information on which songs are legal for you to sell your arrangements, at