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.

 

 

Help for Downloading Truefire Courses (Sierra)

I’ve been looking forward to reviewing Ariane Cap‘s course “Pentatonic Playground for Bass” for too long. Literally. It would not download for me and it took Truefire’s tech support three days to get an email to me although the solution is dated the same day I submitted the problem, which tells me that it’s probably a known one. In any case I am presenting the solution for those of you who might have the same problem, and also to explain my tardiness with the review.

We don’t know the cause, but no Truefire courses would download for me, new or even ones I’ve already downloaded. I’m using OS X 10.12.5, the current version of Sierra. Truefire tech WonderWoman suggested I try their BETA desktop version and so far it seems to be working. It’s over 1/4 of the way through the download, while the other version would not even start, so I’m hopeful.

If you are having download problems with Truefire courses, don’t hesitate to report them and maybe even request the Beta version. You will be helping yourself AND helping Truefire if you find any bugs in the new version (which is Beta, which means it has not been completely tested yet).

And don’t forget that a new update to Dorico is due before the end of the month! Interesting days approach.

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.

Slate Virtual Recording System (VRS) – Q & A

My post on the Slate Virtual Recording System (VRS) prompted a lot of questions via email. I still can’t find out what’s going on with comments, but one got through; how many others didn’t I have no idea, so the best route is still email to my address drdavejjg on gmail.

COST

Several questions revolved around my rough figure of about $5,000 (US) for a full Slate setup. This is for a single VRS module, which has 8 physical inputs (digital trickery aside). How many inputs YOU need depends on the group or individual you are recording. Some engineers would use more than those 8 just for a drum set, so for most bands with a full drum set you would need a second VRS joined to the first one via Thunderbolt, UNLESS you wanted to record the drums separately, and then add the band. If I were in that situation I’d prefer to use 7 inputs for the drums and keep (at least) one for the bass and record those two instruments at the same time. Of course that depends on several things, such as how many toms and other percussion instruments need to be miked. Remember that the one bass input can be duplicated on another track in your recording software and treated differently to get a fuller or other type of enriched sound.

Of course, with another VRS you will need more mics, cables, etc. You may even need these with a single VRS if you don’t use and DI instruments.

WHICH COMPUTER?

The other most common question was which computer to use and its specs. This is a HUGE question, and several books have been written about it, most if not all of which are now obsolete because the field moves so quickly, but I’ll tell you what I can for today. I prefer a Mac but that’s my own choice. I can’t comment on the Thunderbolt card for PC’s except for the obvious: an additional component in the signal chain and another potential point of failure. Laptops area great choice for portability, but beware since the trend is to solder the RAM on these, so you can’t upgrade later without a skilled technician re-soldering new RAM onto the motherboard, IF that is possible (i.e. the system will support it) and, if it matters to you, whether it will void the warranty. So choose as much RAM as you can at the outset to put off becoming obsolete for as long as you can (the computer that is; time will take care of your own obsolescence). Go for the most memory and powerful processor your budget can afford. I like the Powerbook Pro, which (maxed out) should be able to handle most bands thanks to the work offloaded to the VRS’s. If you have a dedicated studio and don’t do location work you may be able to get by with a desktop or tower. (If you make enough from your dedicated studio you should be able to afford a laptop if you need it, and the extra work should pay for it once you have it.)

LEARNING

As for learning about recording, especially using the Slate plug-ins remember that the Everything Bundle (included for a year with the VRS)  includes the Tutorials created by pros who use the plug-ins in their work as well as Slate engineers. You can view several of these on YouTube just searching for things like “Slate Digital” “tutorials” “Everything Bundle.”  Some people have done their own tutorials, some of which are very good, but be careful about ‘knowledge’ that might be mistaken or the long way around a simpler method. In general, I’d stick to tutorials from Slate Digital or well-known recording pros (e.g. Mixerman). If you sign up to their newsletter you will be notified when they make some of these available for free, as they did over the holiday season. But like anything, if you want to do good work, you need knowledge of your tools, how they work individually and how they work with each other and the full system.

As for recording in general, Mixerman’s books and e-b00ks are invaluable resources.

NEAR FUTURE

I do read all of your emails, as well as every comment that gets through (they all go to the Spam folder). I can’t provide tech support for your particular system, nor can I compare big systems that I don’t use. A lot of questions asked for comparisons of ProTools  and Logic or another program. I don’t have ProTools and the comments from engineers seem to agree with Steven Slate’s own, so I’d suggest you look those up or contact Slate pre-sales support who I am told are quite approachable.

I have to go in for minor surgery so I’ll be offline for a little while, but I’ll get back to reading your emails as soon as I can, although I might just be checking News once a day for a few days.

I hope to return soon.

Slate Digital Completes Its Virtual Recording Studio

If you have been following Steven Slate realize his dream, you have been expecting this day. After revolutionizing software plug-ins to rival classic effect and pre-amp models, it was only a matter of time before he moved into the hardware side of recording. The Raven replaced the physical desk with a virtual one via touch screen, and provides a great interface for using the plug-ins. The Virtual Microphone System brought the same kind of software modeling of classic hardware to the microphone realm. Now the Virtual Recording Studio picks up the rest.

video-thumb-virtual-recording-studioYou can find out all of the details of the Virtual Recording Studio and how it fits into the entire Slate ideology by clicking on the link or image above. It looks and sounds great to me but I am NOT a hardware engineer, so I can’t comment on how it compares to the high-end gear that Steven discusses, nor on their custom components. I also can’t A/B the mics as he does in the demo video, so I suggest that you check out the engineering forums to see what the recording  pros really think.

The deal itself seems incredibly great, which is why I think it is worth your while to check it out. For about $5,000 (USD) you can set up a state-of-the-art studio with the mics, inputs, plug-ins, and extras that you need (stands, booms, cables, etc.). (Oh, except for the high-end computer that’s going to be running this thing. A modern Mac Pro or PC tower should do, and if you are into recording it’s quite likely that you have one now or are planning to upgrade soon.) That’s pretty amazing — if you have a space that can make the most of such precise equipment.

So now you have 8 inputs for your sound, which you can make seem like more by doing things like adding second mic emulations on a different track but using the same physical mic, as Steven does in the latter part of the video. You can get more physical inputs by joining several VRS’s via Thunderbolt too. You now have a choice of large- or small-diaphragm mics that can emulate different vintage mics (or in some cases, the same ones, at least close enough). Because most studios outside of bedrooms need more than one mic, the VRS can be purchased with 5-packs of either type of Slate mic, and it comes with permanent licenses for the mic emulations, as well as a 1-year subscription to the Everything Bundle. But remember that it won’t be long before you want a Raven to control those plug-ins.

Slate has always provided great value for the money, and the Virtual Recording Studio looks to be the epitome of their line-up. If you do any recording, you must look into this one seriously.

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.