Adventures with Dorico 1.1 – The Intro

Dorico 1.1 is a huge upgrade to a fantastic program, and the changes are so vast that a single review just cannot do them justice. As if to underscore that, the email I’ve been getting has not been “Should I buy it?” but “Does it do X?” or “How well does it do Y” or even more questions about the alphabet. (OK, I’m kidding, but you see what I mean, I hope. People want to know about specifics.)

So before I start with my “adventures” using this software, I will say that YES you do want to buy it if you use or are considering a professional notation package such as Sibelius or Finale. NO, it still does not do guitar TAB so if you want that I would suggest MuseScore. It is an amazing FREE program that outdoes several paid ones.

Dr. Dave Dives In

Early in my computing career I worked for a major corporation that employed a rather strange person who seemed to do nothing most days, but when a project was ready for testing, to the distress of the project manager and entire team, she was able to break it in under 5 minutes. Virtually every time, and no matter how simple or complex the system was! She had little computer training, and as such was at the same level as the product’s customers. She had what the company began to call “tester’s mind” — an almost psychic ability to find the one flaw in a program. I tell you this seeming digression because I’m afraid I may be developing “tester’s mind”!

As my first test of Dorico 1.1 I decided to arrange a simple folk tune for various ensembles in differing styles.Unfortunately I was unable to find just the melody in MIDI, but found an acceptable version of it in an arrangement that was public domain. When I imported the MIDI file it came in as a 4-part song on a single violin in one clef. No problem, I thought, I’ll just use the “explode” feature that most of the same team had written for Sibelius years ago.

But there is no “explode feature.”

Yes, I had to select each line separately, and copy them into different instruments. OK, not much drama in that, as it’s a simple thing to do to select the whole piece, then just the top notes of the chords, cut and paste into new instrument, repeat until done. But it gave me a new appreciation for the task Daniel Spreadbury and his team have set for themselves. Not only do they have to compete with the other professional notation programs, they have to compete (in many cases) with their own work, which was brilliant in the first place! Certainly they can’t just copy what they did before because of copyright. So they would have to create a different way to do something that has one obvious solution. In this case they did just what I would do: they left it with a “good enough” solution and moved on to more innovative and important features. (I’m sure they will come back to this when the time is right.)

Exploring New Features – Chord Symbols

By now the excitement of having chord symbols has overshadowed the gloom when Steinberg seemed to be saying that they would not be in Dorico 1.1, so let’s not forget that they delivered more than they promised. Had that happen with much else lately?

I could go on about the range of chord symbols covering virtually every way of notating them in our notation, but I couldn’t do as fine a job as the folks over at scoringnotes.com, Philip Rothman’s fantastic blog that used to go under the name Sibelius Blog and was started by Daniel Spreadbury himself when he was the key member of the Sibelius programming team. Philip did a great job of covering other notation software as well as Sibelius (including Dorico) and so he changed the name to Scoring Notes (scoringnotes.com) this past April. Their look at chord symbols is here.

To get an idea of the options for chord symbols, scroll through this massive list of them from that same article (you may need to click on the “magnifying glass to see it clearly). This brings me to my next point. The choices may seem overwhelming, but remember that you only need to use the style that you prefer, and that covers virtually any style. But it can also be an educational or reference opportunity as well. If you are used to standard pop charts and for some gig you are required to read jazz symbols, you can use the different options on the menu to translate from one to the other, either to rewrite the chart or to learn a new set of symbols.

And of course this doesn’t just apply to chord symbols. Dorico is constantly surprising me with the number of ways there are to notate slurs, ties, note heads, stems, you name it.

Next time I’ll get into notating this “exploded” folk tune, but why wait for me? Download the 30-day free trial from here and try Dorico out for yourself.

Steinberg Releases Dorico 1.1

Today Steinberg has released Dorico 1.1, a major update to their acclaimed notation program. You can get all of the details from their press release here. There is also very interesting information on Daniel Spreadbury’s Making Notes blog that goes into detail on why they under-promise, so that if they can add a certain feature by release time (fully tested) they will, but they will not promise a feature if they are not sure it is ready yet. So those of you who were disappointed when it came out that chord symbols would not be included will be delighted to discover that not only are they included, but they are far more comprehensive than anything else currently available!

I will do a fuller post ASAP, but I really suggest that you go to Daniel Spreadbury’s Making Notes blog and watch the videos to get a true idea of what makes Dorico the notation package of choice for most composers, orchestrators and arrangers. If there is some way to notate virtually anything (e.g. piano pedalling) or to make workflow suit you personally (e.g. moving groups of items around together logically), Dorico has that option.

I have taken some serious flak for my unstinting support of Dorico even before it was released, and I feel that this update justifies every bit of my seemingly crazy enthusiasm. My one regret is that guitar diagrams are TAB is not ready yet, but watch the videos and I think you will have some idea of the level of detail they will have when they do arrive. Dorico marks a whole new paradigm in notation software programming (which is “under the hood” and you won’t see) as well as in features and options, which you will see immediately.

Now please excuse me as I work through this amazing software. I’ll share my experience soon.

 

 

Thoughts on Dorico 1.0.30

When I first began raving about Dorico in Just Jazz Guitar magazine it was based purely on Daniel Spreadbury’s blog about Steinberg’s then-unnamed notation software. The programming techniques were state-of-the-art and beyond (if possible) and with almost the entire team that created Sibelius 7.1.3, I had complete faith that their creation would amaze us all. And it did — but in different ways.

It all depends on the type of user you are, what software you use, and the music you want to notate. Playback is also an issue, since some just want to check that they haven’t made an obvious mistake which is easier to pick out by ear, while others want a virtual “record-ready” playback sound. So the first thing to do before looking into Dorico is to look into yourself and see what you want from a notation program, and what you need. If these differ, you have some more thinking to do.

If you don’t have it yet, download the Dorico 1.0.30 update here, where you will also find a link to the latest version of its documentation. You can download the trial version of Dorico here.

Classical and musical show composers and arrangers have the simplest choice. Dorico is amazing in its versatility, the latest version flies on my oldish laptop Mac, and there are so many ways to do almost anything that your score can look just like you want it to look, while mine might look completely different. Unless your situation dictates that you use free software (in which case MuseScore would be my choice) I’d say choosing Dorico is a no-brainer. The only caveat is for those ultra-modern scores that most publishers are still doing by hand. If you use some really wacky notation symbols (I know, they make perfect sense to you) I would suggest using the trial version to be sure that you can do what you want. If you can’t, try the Dorico forum to see if someone has come up with a workaround. If not, request it.

If you are one of the many guitarists, bassists, and other plucked string players who have written in to ask me whether to buy it I’d say that’s an easy choice for now: save your money. I have no doubt that when TAB and chord diagrams become available they will most likely astound us, but that’s still a ways off, and even the expected June update will lack both. As I wrote earlier, chord symbols (names) should be added, and in some pretty cool ways, but that is unlikely to satisfy the bulk of serious guitar and bass players, as well as lutenists and other stringed instruments like the oud, sitar, etc. I’m personally sticking with Sibelius 7.1.x for this stuff. (The ‘x’ is there because I’m actually using 7.1.5 but I keep swearing I’ll move back to 7.1.3 for my next project because I find it more stable and more sensible in general.) If you don’t already have software, download MuseScore here, where you can also find a series of lessons on how to use it. Pretty amazing deal for FREE!

As for playback, if you are a loyal Steinberg user and are happy with Halion then playback should be a breeze for you. If not, you need to try the included Halion Sonic SE which will probably not give you the quality you want for your final mix. This is an area that is under intense development, and the user community is chipping in on which VST2 instruments work with Dorico 1.0.30. I can use my Vienna Symphonic Library instruments for basic sound, but the little subtleties that make this library so life-like and musical range from annoying to impossible to implement. Much of this is chicken-and-egg dilemma time, where there has to be enough demand from Dorico users for sound library companies to want to invest in interfaces, while a number of users are holding off waiting for more of their favourite (often expensive) libraries to be supported. And no, I don’t have any idea how many people are waiting.  But since virtually every recording is going to require some tweaking in a DAW, I would at least try the included sounds in the trial version and keep in mind that more are on the way.

So my recommendation is still to go with Dorico, unless you are a guitarist or other player who needs TAB and / or chord diagrams; in that case either keep what you have or try MuseScore.

Dorico Releases Update 1.0.30

The latest update to Dorico, version 1.0.30, is now available from their download site.

As I noted earlier (based on Daniel Spreadbury’s comments) this version is more about fixing bugs (about 80 of them) as well as improving performance, with a few improvements in playback, rests, and some more.

I’ll be checking it out later today and will post some comments. I’m not sure how many new users this will attract, but any current Dorico user will want to download it ASAP.

Hints on Dorico’s Next Update

First, thank you to everyone who sent good wishes to me for the surgery. It was a bit more serious than I expected but I’m pretty much back to normal now.

Daniel Spreadbury has given us some hints as to what to expect in the next update to Dorico, which will be 1.0.30. He has resumed his Making Notes column on the Steinberg blog, and you can get the full story there. This update looks to be aimed most at improving performance and fixing bugs, as well as improving work with rests and other “small features.”

The blog entry continues onto what is under development for updates farther down the road. There is detailed information on piano pedalling, enharmonic spelling for MIDI keyboard input, and finally chord diagrams. The Dorico team is aiming to provide all of the major styles of chord diagrams, but unfortunately they cannot add guitar box diagrams until later.

I strongly suggest that everyone read Making Notes to see the level of detail that is put into every feature. While it is not fully ready for guitar music quite yet, when those features are added we can be confident that they will fulfill the fondest dreams of all string players.

Dorico Manual Available in PDF

The first version of Dorico’s manual is now available as a downloadable PDF file.

Click here to download the manual.

At this point the manual pretty much duplicates the online help pages that the  Help menu option takes you to, but it’s very handy to have an offline version. This is not an exhaustive manual, but it does pack a lot of information into 161 pages. The sidebar gives you an overview of each chapter and  links to each topic, as does the Table of Contents (although the TOC links are the page numbers rather than the topic themselves).

The manual is well done but also suffers from the deficiencies of the Help pages. Most noticeably missing is a section on Play Mode, which is no doubt the main focus of programming attention these days. While the manual doesn’t quite make up for the update that we were all hoping for by the end of last month, it is a handy thing to have.

And best wishes to you all for a happy and healthy 2017!

Great Gifts for Musicians

Yes, it’s getting late, but a lot of us have the ultimate gift over the next week or two: time!

firstsong

If you (or a loved one) have always wanted to write a song but never quite gotten around to it, or to finishing one, check out my book How To Write Your First Song. (In Canada, click here.) No previous theory is necessary, just the desire to write a song that you will be truly proud of. I share some of the ways I go about it, but the main aim of the book is to help you find your own way. While your first song is always the hardest to write, there is little in this world as satisfying as finishing one. (BTW, this book is also meant to help accomplished songwriters who have hit a wall and need a way around it that works.)

And if you are feeling really generous, to a friend, significant other, or yourself, Dorico is a great choice. I’ll be writing more on it in a few days, but the 1.0.20 update confirms that they are on track to become THE notation software program to use.

Comment Craziness (and Good News)

I’m sorry if any of you tried to post comments only to have them disappear into cyberspace. I have no idea what is going on with them. At first WordPress marked every comment (at least all that I saw) as Spam, and would not let me change them. In fact, after I saw them once, they all disappeared. In fairness, the first three were spam, but several of the rest were real. Many of those were compliments, so please let me thank all of you who said kind things about the blog.

Two of you said almost the same thing: that it was good to have someone who gave an honest, informed opinion on things. This is what I am striving to do. I do not accept money for anything I feature on the blog, nor do I even mention something that I don’t think is a good deal. I do as much research as I can on everything I write about.

I still am not sure about what’s going on with comments because just as I had given up, Neil Sands managed to get a very good comment through somehow. Thank you Neil! My statement about the need for a series of updates having undermined confidence in Dorico was based on feedback I received from readers of this blog and from friends. I realize that I should have said “for some people.” I still have complete confidence that Dorico will be the notation package (if it is not already) and I enjoy using it for much of my own work.

One final note on comments: I realize how difficult it is to speak more than one language fluently (I speak 6, and can make a fool of myself in 3 others). However, it is very important to check your translation as some words carry different connotations although they may share some similar meanings across related languages. The example I am thinking of came today, and while it was clearly from a German speaker (I have a good idea of the words they meant) their request came across to the Spam engine as a threat. If I am right, the answer to your question is to click on the blue “Follow drdavewalkerblog” button just under the search field at the upper right of the page.

follow-button

The good news is that the next update to Dorico is due VERY SOON. I have a date from Daniel Spreadbury but as I hadn’t asked if it was “on the record” I’ll just say that I rushed to post this today even though I am under the weather.  I will let you know all about it as soon as I can. I think this will be a very important milestone in a Dorico’s history.

Dorico 1.0.10 Review

Dorico is the future of high-end notation software. This would be completely obvious if they had released it next August, but the realities of modern business and shopping cycles brought it to market before several key features (for certain groups) were added. Realistically, its core user base works with orchestral and choral groups for concert or broadcast, and these users are very well served by Dorico in its present state.

We all have just one chance to make a first impression, and if only Cyber Monday and the Xmas shopping season were six more months away Dorico would have created the sensation that it deserves. Glowing headlines would have hailed a revolution in computer music well beyond notation. Accounting and Marketing being what they are, Dorico’s arrival was less auspicious than it could have been, and relying on the promise of free updates to fill in the gaps has left its own gap into which competitors have quickly squeezed. Such is life.

In writing this review, I have taken for granted that Dorico is excellent — ground-breaking in many ways — in its design and implementation. My criticisms mostly fall into two groups: 1) missing features, and 2) annoyances (not true bugs, possibly even features). So if there seem to be a lot of problems with Dorico, in most cases they are minor especially compared with the huge leap forward that Dorico represents, and that I believe we will see in the near future in updates.

SETUP MODE

Dorico begins by opening the Steinberg Hub, a very useful starting point that is too often glossed over. More than just a list of previous projects, it is a menu of choices for Dorico and related sites. The top buttons allow you to enter the User Forums, the Download area, or the Knowledge base, while News and Tutorials are available on the left side of the screen. You are welcomed into the Steinberg world in the country of Dorico.

user_interface_steinberg_hub

Recent projects are shown in a list, and it is possible to create the ensemble for a new project simply by clicking on Orchestral, Band, Chamber, Choral and Vocal, or Solo; you can also choose New Empty Project or open another project not shown. Choosing your ensemble is a microcosm of the way that Dorico works in virtually all areas. It gives you the most common choices, which you can then modify to suit whatever grouping you wish. This often makes workflow smooth, but can make seemingly simple requests suddenly complex. For example, I thought I would create a double string orchestra each with its own string quartet — not a common grouping but a combination of two very common ones. It turns out that you only get one shot at the main ensemble, so I chose the first string orchestra in one click.  Choosing an ensemble or soloist takes you directly into Write Mode, which is fine if you are using that ensemble, but if you need to add one or more players, you will need to return to Setup Mode. Back in Setup Mode I chose Ensemble from the buttons below the players list, and chose Strings -> String Section, which gave me a second string orchestra. Unfortunately I was unable to add a string quartet, so I had to add each player of each quartet separately. It would be really convenient to be able to add more  ensembles of soloists from the menu, although perhaps this is difficult to program. Still, this would be my one wish for Setup Mode.

setup-mode

You will now see the Players listed on the left, with buttons at the bottom to choose single players, sections of players, and ensembles, as well as a button to place selected instruments or sections into Groups. As you add players, they add to the bottom of the list, but can be moved to the position you desire. Their staff moves along with them in the Flow, but not in the Layouts on the far right; here you have to move them again yourself.

One other gaffe in Dorico so far is that the instruments show in Play Mode in the order they were created rather than the score order you choose. This makes following them difficult, especially if you are not used to piano roll depiction of the music. In my example case, I had to rename all soloists as well as the second string orchestra to keep them straight when working in other modes. This integration between modes in on my list of of issues that must be addressed ASAP.

The Layout window contains Page Setup Options via the “cog” icon at the bottom that allows you to set defaults for the full score, parts, or custom scores. The Sort arrows do nothing for me, nor do I understand the idea behind the Empty Part. Here a manual would be very helpful.

The score in the middle of the page is labelled “Flow 1” and below it is a dialog box to create additional flows. Flows are perhaps the most powerful feature of Dorico: they let you create more than one piece of music in the project. This means that a multi-movement work can be contained in a single file, as well as works with different instruments and voices in different numbers, or sets of examples. One caveat at this time is that the order in which the flows are created often determines their position in later operations and lists. This is the same problem as creating instruments (or rather players) and should be addressed in future updates as it seems to be unintentional.

Note that setup adds players, either solo or section, rather than instruments. Thus a player can double on a second instrument without complicated workarounds.

At this point I find it most useful to go to the main menu, and under the File list choose Project Info… Here is where you place the title, composer, lyricist, and other data describing the music in the project. Since many projects will consist of a single piece of music, there is a very handy pair of buttons at the bottom that allow you to copy the Project information into a particular Flow or vice versa. Of course if only some of the information is common, the rest can be edited or deleted. I find this an effective workflow as the titles Flow 1, Flow 2, etc. are now replaced with the actual piece names in the other modes as well. Oddly, the Flows window still shows them as Flow 1, etc. but you can edit the names there. It would make more sense to me to update them with the title of the piece.

WRITE MODE

write-mode-2

Write Mode is where Dorico really shines. You can work without barlines if you like, which can be very handy if you want to vary ideas without shoehorning them into a preconceived number of beats and default accent patterns. It is also very handy for transcribing music by ear when you want to get the pitches right first and then overlay the rhythmic values. No assumptions are made about your music at this point. This is very handy for single parts, but can make coordination of multiple parts tricky.

Once again you have control over virtually everything to do with how your music is notated: the groupings within a bar, whether syncopations show each beat (usually requiring ties), different note heads, and on and on. A particularly wonderful feature is Insert mode where you can insert notes without deleting those following — they are simply moved to the right. One oddity of this mode though is that you need to be in Insert mode to delete notes you have entered, which I don’t find intuitive. However, once again the notes move to accommodate the deletion rather than leaving a gap. If you want the gap, simply insert a rest.

Notes can be input from a MIDI keyboard, the computer keyboard, or by mouse. A combination of MIDI keyboard for pitch and computer keyboard for duration can allow for very fast input, especially if you have memorized the keys for dotted notes, rest, ties, and whatever else you commonly use. The computer keyboard must guess at the octave into which to insert the note you have chosen, but you can use Option->Command->arrow key (on the Mac) to move a note up or down an octave. Once again a manual would be helpful, and is surely on its way. The 1.0.10 update added several ways to select notes as well as a comprehensive transposition feature that can transpose to a key, by an interval, or even calculate it for you if you know the starting note and where you want it to be transposed to.

There are so many features and options in Write Mode that it would require a review longer than this one just to cover them all. It can produce amazing results, but there are quirks that should be fixed in future updates. One is dashed barlines, which cannot be restricted to a single staff (as Bartok does in the first movement of Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta) but rather span all staves. While this is a pretty rare use of them, the bigger problem is that they are treated as regular barlines in the numeration, so that if bar 1 has two dashed barlines within it, the next bar is mis-labelled bar4 rather than bar 2. As with most things, there are workarounds to fudge the bar numbering, but this should be corrected.

While many keyboard shortcuts are easily remembered, there are at least seven menus, some of which have sub-menus, that can be shown or hidden to provide note values, articulations clef, octave lines (up to triple octaves!), as well as those for uncommon and even archaic clefs., just some examples of the depth of Dorico and its options. Keep this in mind when I mention missing options; the available list is enormous.

PLAY MODE

Play Mode appears to be the last feature added, and many of the problems with version 1.0 were fixed with the 1.0.10 update. The incorporation of the Cubase / Nuendo playback engine and the HALion SE library into Dorico is a work in progress. For example, in 1.0 the bass sounded an octave lower than scored (i.e. an octave below the actual octave transposition of the double bass and bass guitar) so that the lowest octave did not sound. In 1.0.10 the notes play correctly, but on input and edit they still sound an octave too low (I believe that this is already fixed and should be in the next update).

Playback of articulations is supplied via expression maps, but these are still somewhat rudimentary, giving an approximation of the sound of the orchestra but missing the nuances of the Vienna Symphonic Library or even the Garritan Personal Orchestra. As the Dorico team suggests using the HALion SE library for playback, it seems that there is a ways to go before this part of Dorico reaches the level of its competitors. While Cubase or Nuendo users may be familiar with expression maps, many others will not be and a tutorial on them would be most helpful. However, the manual on the steinberg.help site does not even have a section on Play Mode.

As previously mentioned, the instruments in Play Mode show in the order of their creation. They cannot be rearranged. On my second attempt I placed each section and quartet in its own Group but this did not affect the Play Mode ordering. Using the provided HALion SE playback engine, the instruments are also placed in MIDI channels in the order of creation. This library seems to be created for playback of scores, since the articulations shown by clicking the middle button in the VST Instruments panel are not sounded when the on-screen keyboard is played, nor are all of the articulations available through notation. Another anomaly I ran into was finding that many string sections had solo expression maps assigned to them while only one solo instrument had a section (or combi) map. These were easy enough to change, but annoying since the instrumental layout did not correspond to my score, so I had to work by instrument name.

The results here were so odd that I tried creating a double orchestra-plus-string-quartet in setup again, and found that while the ordering was still in that of the instruments’ creation, the assigned maps were very different, in fact only solo plus “solo-combi” was assigned. Even stranger were the instruments that showed up in the HALion SE rack, which now included a nylon string guitar! Clearly there is work to be done on Play Mode.

ENGRAVE MODE

Many of us will have little need for Engrave Mode, although its feature list is impressive, and it makes possible excellent looking Title pages as well as providing for a specific final page different from the rest of the score. Thus there is no need for a blank page at the end if the chosen printing style would ordinarily require it.

This mode also allows for the adjustment of staff spacing, I task I usually dread because I so often accidentally introduce errors in the notation while simple trying to accommodate an unrelated unusually high or low note. Dorico’s separation of functions here assures me that I will not accidentally change a note because it will not allow it. In fact you actually have to “flip a switch” to enable staff spacing changes, and the distances are clearly labelled including the size of the spaces.  One or several staves can be adjusted at one time. The full use of this feature, along with an overview of all of the changes in 1.0.10, is in the video in this edition of Making Notes by Daniel Spreadbury.

PRINT MODE

Print mode gives a wide variety of print options. I was surprised and disappointed to find that I had to choose US Letter as a page size for a second time here as I had already chosen it in Layout Options, and the need for a link is obvious. Print Mode does add the option for a different final page, which again is very useful.

As well available printers, Print Mode will create graphic files of your score (or chosen parts of it) as PDF, PNG, SVG, or TIFF. You can also include the date in the filename automatically. You can also include watermarks, crop marks, borders, and date and time on the graphic. If you prefer, you can also use your OS’s print dialog.

DOCUMENTATION

Learning Dorico is needlessly more difficult because there is no complete manual for it yet. There are excellent introductory tutorials, the beginning of a manual on the help page, and user forums where you can often find members of the Dorico team answering questions as well as via tech support. The forum idea for support has become an unfortunate standard as companies cut back on support staff, but the Dorico one is particularly good as the community tends to be both informed and engaged. While this does not ensure that all answers are correct, most tend to be helpful and response is usually quick. There is also Dorico Help option under  Help on the main (top-level) menu. This takes you to a search of the steinberg.help manual but also has an option to generate a support ticket to ask a question. Oddly, mine came up in German, which I can speak but am hardly fluent. Another oddity was that the option for choosing a different language was also in German, so you should know that Sprache in this context means language, and you can choose English in the upper-right corner of the top white box that requires a sign-in to your My Steinberg account. This is a cumbersome procedure because you have to have provided personal information previously (probably during registration) which may have been optional but now is mandatory, and you must give consent for it to be shared with tech support to answer your question, however simple it may be. Still just an annoyance, this is really at the upper reach of them with security implications that disturb me. With hackers having the edge in the battle for data safety (and its defeat) I prefer to give them as little information as possible. As a former owner of a computer security business, I prefer to give out information on a definite need to know basis, and so far have yet to use this mechanism.

SUMMARY

Dorico is potentially a revolution in music notation software, but its Achilles heel may well be too early a release date. While understandable from a marketing and accounting viewpoint, especially with the year’s big shopping season approaching and fans clamoring for it, the need for a series of updates before it has even become completely usable has undermined confidence in it. This is most noticeable in the playback engine, which needs more tuning to be fully functional as well as to be acceptable to third-party sound library manufacturers to adapt to it.

This is most unfortunate since the heart of the program, the actual notation, is advanced far beyond the competition, and despite a few minor quirks it provides a great deal of flexibility that composers and arrangers have been lacking until now. While many were surprised by the number of bugs found in the initial release, the speed at which these were corrected while new features were being added is very impressive. With the exception of some modern music, most orchestral, band, and vocal music is ready-to-go in a package that exceeds by far anything else on the market. Players will benefit from a wider variety of part formats that rival those that so far have been the purview of the major publishing houses.

Limitations of the playback engine are the result of greatly expanded expectations for notation programs. They are now expected to be virtual sequencers, playing back scores with perfect fidelity, mixed with a little “humanizing” to keep them from sounding robotic. It is clear that the Dorico team has concentrated on making the next generation notation package, and is now turning to bringing Play Mode up to the same level. Note that this is the one area where the Dorico team does not have autonomy, but rather must work with soundware developers both internal and external to Steinberg. Such groups have their own priorities, and scheduling is likely difficult.While third-parties reasonably have a wait-and-see attitude toward new software, in-house developers are more accommodating and so we will likely see a Steinberg-based playback engine complete before others develop Dorico-specific interfaces. Similarly, documentation is often a separate department, and work on a product cannot truly begin until that product is near release. Other projects have their own updates that require documentation, and again scheduling can be a problem. Dorico really is quite intuitive once you get the hang of opening the hidden panels and searching creatively, but those who rely on a manual solely will find their learning curve unnecessarily steepened.

There is no reason to put off buying Dorico at this point unless you need tablature or a complete set of jazz articulations and playback. If in doubt, work with the free 30-day trail and experience Dorico for yourself. While I understand the allure of competitors who are selling their products at rock-bottom prices, consider what might cause them to do so. I believe that a year from now the vast majority of high-end notation will be done in Dorico.