Appreciation for “Music Theory for the Bass Player” by Ariane Cap

This is my second review of this great resource for every bass player. It was first published in the January 2016 issue of Just Jazz Guitar, and when I copied it to this blog I goofed: I made the review a “Page” rather than a “Post”. However, over the year and a half I have had this book, it has been my go to book for fingerings and ideas. Now that the 89 videos are complete and available here it is even more valuable. Ariane Cap is a no-nonsense “this is how you do it” teacher who leaves the work of reading and grasping the content of the book to you, so the videos are the perfect complement. “OK, I’ve told you the theory and the value of the different fingerings, this is how to play them and what they look and sound like.”

The book and videos form a powerful combination for learning, but not everyone has the discipline to take so much of the burden of following through on their own. Fear not! Ariane Cap will teach you online, taking you through the book and its content to ensure that your playing and improvising are much better by the time you finish. You can also take regular lessons tailored to your individual needs.  And you still have fallback resources if you forget anything later. Her latest addition to her wealth of teaching materials is a wall chart that summarizes all of the important information from book, course, and videos.

There’s more. You can sign up to receive weekly tips and tricks from Ariane herself. These contain solid information that will clear up concepts and get you out of some sticky situations. For example, last week she taught the difference between a #11 and a b5, both of which sound the same but require different scales and imply very different keys. Knowing the difference will save you in many situations, even if you have perfect pitch. Of course Ariane’s web site is full of these tips and more, and I encourage you to check them out and learn a lot of really useful information for free!

As some of you know, I have been very ill and Ariane’s teaching materials have kept my fingers working and my musical mind active throughout. The good news is my newfound appreciation for a first-class teacher who every bass player should know about.

I’ll be writing more on the wall chart as soon as it arrives and I put it on my wall (I have the space reserved!). I also hope to do a review of Ariane’s DVD Pentatonic Playground for Bass published by our friends at Truefire.


Here’s the original review:




by Ariane Cap

CapCat Music Publishing

Bass players rejoice! Music Theory for the Bass Player presents music theory as it matters: to improve your playing and your hearing. And all from the perspective of the bass player. Ariane Cap has put together a challenging book that will reward you with more confident and capable playing and improvising with a solid knowledge of what you are doing and why. In fact it is just as much about fingering as it is about theory, and Ms. Cap explains how fingering patterns relate to theory concepts and how these work together to strengthen your ear, so you know the sound before you play it. This is how theory should be taught: to improve your playing.

This is a book that could only be written by a top-notch bassist with a deep understanding of educational principles. Information is presented in easily digestible chunks that are illustrated in several ways including the fretboard. Each concept should be fully understood before continuing, and this is reinforced by a brilliant set of exercises at the end of each section. DO NOT SKIP THE EXERCISES! To do so would be to miss the whole point of the book: for you to get each concept into your head, your fingers, and your ears.

This is a robust book with no “filler.” For example, when speaking of Whole-Half step scales Ms. Cap notes that there are four possible roots for each of the three different scales. Most books illustrate all 12 possibilities, whereas this one shows the three unique ones; if you are going to master them you need to be able to figure out for yourself how the roots are related. While the text does actually explain the relation (and from a playing perspective) the point is made that when you see musical examples, they are important. Study them.

You could certainly learn to play the bass with this volume, but that is not its aim. This frees the author from providing those boring “quarter notes on the first string” exercises that turn off so many beginners. Instead, we get really “hip” patterns that illustrate what can be done with, say, a single interval using a more contemporary rhythmic style. It also allows accomplished players to learn the theory that they missed without feeling like they are in grade school again.

Many of the concepts are important for bass players, such as how to deal with chords that contain several different extensions or alterations, slash chords, and even how to determine the key of the piece. There are few “rules” given, which is a blessed relief, with the emphasis on why music works as it does. Somewhat ironically (and perhaps to illustrate this) the one spot where rules are given – forming major scales – they immediately require more rules for exceptions, which are explained more clearly in the section on the circle or cycle of fifths. So don’t worry if the rules sound complex at first – the explanation coming is simple.

Fingering is given such prominence in the book that it is as much about proper fingering as theory. This instills good habits in new players while keeping more experienced players on their toes, all the while establishing the sound of the theoretical idea in our ears. Do you know why you want to start with different fingers under a major or minor chord? Have you thought about alternate fingering that will save you from awkward shifts on a single finger? Many such tips demonstrate the interconnection between good technique and solid theoretical understanding. Others are handy for guitarists who try to use their one-finger-per-fret system on the lower bass positions. At the time of writing (January 2016) not all of the audio/video examples were on the web site, but it is likely they will be there by the time you read this.

Of the many extras at the end of the book, the suggestions on technique stand out. The pictures (often tongue-in-cheek exaggerations) show both good and poor positions for your body and hands that will help you to relax and play your best. The overall impression left by this book is of the relation and interdependence of theory, technique, body movement, breathing – all of life as we live it really, and how it affects the bass player. If you are a bass player, want to be one, or care for one, get this book. Ariane Cap has given an excellent gift to the world of music.

Order this great book here.

MuseScore 2.1 a MAJOR Update

What’s better than FREE? High-quality notation software that is as good as (and in some cases better than) paid software, but still free! Welcome to MuseScore 2.1.

The MuseScore team has demonstrated their integrity with their great programming, but they have reached new heights with their announcement of MuseScore 2.1, the first major update since 2015’s version 2.0. After working for a long time on version 3.0, the enormity of the project and issues of backward-compatibility kept pushing a release date farther back than they liked, so they came up with a great idea: cherry pick the best features of 3.0 so far, make over 300 bug fixes,  spiff up the user interface and simply call it MuseScore 2.1.

That little “.1” is deceptively simple; this is an enormous “update.” There are far too many great improvements to copy here, so I’d suggest you head over to the MuseScore web site and check out the video that gives a short but inspiring look at a few of the new features, followed by a text list of many of the best new features. Don’t skip the video, because with the new support for all SFZ libraries, you really do have to hear it to believe it. You can also mix different SFZ’s to get just the instruments that you want.

You can upload your pieces to the MuseScore site, for private or public viewing. This version will also upload an MP3 of your score so that it plays back with the instruments that you chose, and now others can hear it just as it sounds on your computer. You can even keep a change log if you upload different versions of a piece.

Some of the innovative ideas go far beyond what you might expect for FREE software, such as the “swap” function that allows you to swap two sections of music by cutting the first, swapping it into the place you want it to go, while the function takes the music to be swapped out of there and onto the clipboard so that you can simply paste it into its new spot. A great time (and sanity) saver!

Of course the one feature that the MuseScore team has been working on for years is importing a PDF file as flawlessly as possible, and now with the enhanced playback options the project with the IMSLP to make thousands of classical scores available and playable is closer than ever to reality in a version that will please most classical music enthusiasts. This is a project with ambitions, and so far they have outdone themselves. Bravo!

Remember that YOU can help too. Gaze over their development page to see the myriad ways that you can help, from editing words to writing code, to testing, and yes of course to donating. Just think — you can be a part of computing history and help musicians all over the world! Even just playing around with it and finding obscure bugs is a big help.

If you don’t have MuseScore 2.1 yet, try it out TODAY. If you do have an older version, update right NOW. You will be glad you did.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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 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 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.


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 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.


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 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.


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.