Slash Notation in Dorico Pro 2

I am glad to see that so many of my friends from Just Jazz Guitar have taken the time to email me about this blog. I welcome all of your email, even (sometimes especially) the critical ones.

Many of you are waiting for tablature to be implemented in Dorico, and so far it is not in Dorico Pro 2. The “Clefs” menu includes “TAB6” and “TAB4” but at this time they just create the standard “TAB” as the clef but do not adjust the lines to become “strings”; if you create a guitar player you get the five line staff and notes, not numbers.

However, one new feature that you have asked for has shown up: Slash Notation. This allows the composer or arranger to specify the chord and rhythm to be used, but the voicing is left up to the player. John Barron discusses Slash Notation in the May 2018 edition of Discover Dorico on YouTube, so I thought I would show you how I used it to re-create a very interesting timing issue in a classic song, Jimi Hendrix‘s version of All Along the Watchtower. If you have tried to play this with a band, or even paid close attention to the timing, something sounds wrong when you use most standard sheet music.

The secret is that Jimi used anticipation chords on the eighth-note before the downbeat of each bar, and then accented the first three chords of the following bar. This gives the proper accent to the downbeat, which does NOT coincide with the chord change. A good place to see this (as well as the solos in the song) is in Hal Leonard’s “Signature Licks” series Jimi Hendrix: Volume 2 by Chad Johnson. Chad does outstanding transcriptions, so I thought it would be worthwhile to try to reproduce the first 4 bars of the song:

Here I created a “slash voice” from the Write menu in Write Mode. There are a couple of interesting things here. First, the slash notation displays on the middle line. Although it is displaying slashes, I am actually typing notes but getting just the slash noteheads, which I want. However, some stems go down and others go up. This might have been OK, but I have chosen to notate the guitar that plays the rhythm pattern at first, then plays the lead (the three notes at the end are the start of it). This is a great feature: you can combine slash notation and regular notation in a single voice, or so it seems when entering it. But you can see in that final bar that rests fill in the bar for the notes, while under them rests fill out the slash notation.

 

My first decision was to force all stems up. I did this from the Edit menus in Write Mode.

Next I selected all slashes and moved them up to the top of the staff. I had to choose each slash individually. There may be an easier way to select them but Select All is not it. Choosing the rests kept it from working for some reason I do not understand, but it looks OK so far.

Finally, I added the chord names. Usually you would do this earlier but since the whole idea was using slashes, I figured I’d make sure they worked OK first. I also added the accents on the first three notes of each bar. The documentation says that the accents are attached to the noteheads but you can see that in the last bar they are on top of the stems, probably because the note voice is considered the lower one (at least now that I have moved the slashes up;  it was the higher voice earlier). If you do compare this to the Hal Leonard book, you will see that the slashes in Dorico are not at such a steep angle, so that while both of them place the chord name over the notehead of the slash, they tend to cover the whole thing in the book, while Dorico puts them directly over the notehead (e.g. the B chords above).

Of course there is more tidying up you can do, like hiding some of the rests in the last bar. And I must admit that this is a bit of a “cheat” since in the HL book the slashes float above the staff and are clearly separate. In Dorico I had to move them to the G above the staff; any higher and I started getting ledger lines, which I did not want. Still, this is a constructed example, since most slash parts are just slashes, and Dorico does those very  easily. The notes are a different story. There are no guitar notations to show the slide into the first note, nor the bend to the third note.

Of course the guitar is not the only instrument that plays from slash notation, but it is a very handy feature for guitarists. Given the level of interest in guitar-related features, I thought this was a good place to start looking at Dorico Pro 2.

 

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Some Special Dorico Demos

Thank you for all of the email about Dorico 2! It’s an all-time high for this blog.

A number of you asked for some specific examples of different things. I thought that John Barron did an excellent job of explaining slash notation but since I had so many questions about it I thought I’d do a few examples of tricky chord phrasings that you can do just using chord names and slashes. I have a couple in mind, one of which is a “Golden Oldie” — one of the most Golden of all — that is almost always played incorrectly, and can BEST be transcribed into slash notation.

Feel free to send in more suggestions for future demos. I have three terrific ones so far, so keep them coming. I’d prefer specific features that neither John nor Daniel have demoed, but they don’t have to be string-related (one upcoming post will feature the oboe).

Dorico Pro 2 and Dorico Elements 2 Released TODAY!

Steinberg continues to amaze with THE notation program of the future by releasing TWO versions of version 2 (yes, you read that correctly). Dorico Pro 2 is the next level of the Dorico that we know and love already, while Dorico Elements 2 is a new version of Dorico aimed at students and those with less stringent needs in notation (e.g. it is limited to 12 players, NB not 12 instruments as each player can play more than one instrument).

This is yet more vindication for those few of us who foresaw the HUGE leap in music notation technology that Dorico represented way back before the first version was released. Every new feature has the fine-grained control and options that we have come to expect from Dorico, and which only Dorico provides.

What are these new features? By now you should know that Daniel Spreadbury has detailed information on his blog Making Notes which I suggest you start with. Since you should have the most information and since I don’t have the services of half a dozen gifted tech writers, I suggest that you read the excellent review page of Scoring Notes, Philip Rothman’s invaluable blog on the world of computer music notation. Finally, today’s (May 30) installment of Discover Dorico by John Barron demonstrates many of the new features and answers the questions of those who watched it live.

There’s a lot of information out and it might seem overwhelming. Right now I want to get this news to you, but I have some advice on reading it. Remember that you will forget much of what you read, so I suggest that you first decide on your focus. If you have Dorico already, then you want to see if the new features are worth the $99 upgrade fee (easy decision – they are). If you are considering buying Dorico, then ask yourself if you need the full version; in this case you can compare Pro and Elements and decide, so you will want to read Elements very closely. (A trial version will be available in a couple of weeks.) So if you use a full orchestra, 12 players may not be enough for you. If you write for strings alone then Elements may be what you need, unless you need features like micro-tonal playback for large orchestra, say. Daniel Spreadbury’s blog gives a long list of new features that are available in both, so you definitely want to read his blog.

Enough from me for now. Read the official news.

Slate Digital continues innovation: with tech support

I have been a fan of Steven Slate‘s several companies ever since Mixerman dubbed their digital plug-ins the only ones that sounded as good as their analog originals. From such a hardcore analog enthusiast, this was a huge endorsement. And an accurate one, as usual. Steven Slate and his colleagues have revolutionized recording, from pro studios to home hobbyists. He has made the dream of working with ultra-expensive, classic gear affordable and sonically better than perfect as he often adds features that give many great pieces of classic gear some help from newer technology while retaining their vintage sound.

Slate digital

That and Slate’s continuing innovations alone would have made his name revered among recordists, mixers, producers, and musicians world-wide, but he proceeded to overhaul the way plug-ins are sold by leasing the entire set of Slate Digital effects in the suitably named EVERYTHING Bundle at a price that virtually anyone can afford. And unlike some plug-ins that leave you with buyer’s remorse when you realize that you haven’t used them in months or years (often because the upgrades were just too expensive), you pay Slate Digital only for the months that you are actually using the plug-ins; those fallow months when you are either writing or just taking a break from recording, you don’t pay a cent. And when you return to recording, you will find that all of those plug-ins that have been upgraded are ready for your use.

So what’s new? Well literally, the Virtual Mix Rack has just had a major upgrade, which Slate users (or those subscribed to Steven’s blog, now a vlog) already know. It may shock you to learn that I am not an EVERYTHING Bundle user, only because I have licenses for several individual products, but still I qualify for the upgrade, and there the new story begins. It didn’t work.

VMR 2

This is a surprise, but I admit that I am a special case and the problems arose from the upgrade including ALL of the plug-ins available to EVERYTHING Bundle users, so I just had to delete files for products I do not own. It was a simple fix, made even simpler by an excellent video showing exactly how to carry it out. I then ran into a second problem where my iLok dongle was unrecognized, and here I learned the true depth of the innovation in tech support. I received a quick reply that directed me to another video (with text and graphics for those who prefer that format) that addressed the problem (and that I used to fix it in under a minute), but the reply also included several other ways that I might have caused the error. Paying closer attention this time, I looked over the page and found an entire list of possible problems, including problems that a user might cause themselves by making a mistake during the fix or other problems that a user could run into. So beyond just having instruction on fixing problems, they have figured out issues and problems that users might run into and have pro-actively created support solutions for these! This sets an even higher bar for tech support by plug-in makers.

These DIY videos for fixing problems are great for people who can’t afford to be offline waiting for someone to possibly get back to them. This focus on video education (which it really is) may have come from Steven Slate’s vlog, where he has set aside marketing hype in favour of demonstrating how to use several of the plug-ins to fix specific problems that we all are likely to face. A “great problem to have” is still a problem, and having so many plug-ins, it can be daunting to choose among them in live situations. Steven’s demonstrations show his own working methods as he chooses effects and tweaks them, commenting on what he is doing and why. As he says, fire up your copy and work along with him to get the feel for doing it, then vary it to suit your own taste.

I’ve written more about the technology a lot already (here and also earlier in Just Jazz Guitar), so to return to today’s focus: hats off to Slate Digital’s tech support team for not only solving my problem, but telling me which pitfalls I’m liable to encounter with fixes for them when I ignore the warnings. As usual, a very welcome improvement in an often over-looked part of any business.

Dorico Releases 1.2.10 Update

Today Dorico announced the release of version 1.2.10, a relatively minor update except for the continuing expansion of percussion capabilities and some other goodies. Of course, for Dorico even a “minor” update contains all sorts of improvements. A great review of the complete percussion suite plus the new features is available at Scoring Notes and is well worth reading. And as usual, Daniel Spreadbury gives a detailed look at the new features on his blog here. Basically, any style of notating percussion can be used or accommodated, a tour de force of music-based programming.

Existing Dorico users can download the update here. The same page has documentation.

Here’s a sample of their drum kit editor. You can move each drum to the line or space you prefer:

A few more examples of the vast array of options in notating percussion. These features are demonstrated by John Barron on Discovering Dorico, his monthly vlog on YouTube. Of particular interest is the number of instruments that you can assign to a single player, and how Dorico can handle different notational styles within the same part. You can see this demonstrated in February’s edition of Discover Dorico here.

Possibly the most interesting note on Daniel Spreadbury’s blog comes at the very end, where he notes that this is the last planned free update, so users will have to pay for the next one. So I will say one last time: if you have not yet bought Dorico, you can download the trial version and see exactly what you will be buying if you purchase it now. Download the full free 30-day trial version here.

I regret to say that there is still no support for guitar tablature or chord diagrams. I know how disappointing that is for many of us, and it looks like we will have to pay for it when it does eventually get added to Dorico. This has certainly come as a surprise to me, and please don’t ask me to explain why (as several of you have) because I don’t know. I can guess that it is difficult to implement without infringing on the copyright of the team’s own previous work in Sibelius, but that is pure speculation. For now, I am doing my guitar and bass projects in Sibelius (7.1.3 as much as I can, 7.5 when I must).

As sad as that is for guitarists, it is the one flaw in what is truly one of the most remarkable pieces of software I have ever had the pleasure of working with. If you work with any ensemble (even one that includes a guitar part that can be expressed as chord names) you really owe it to yourself to check out this amazing program. I still can’t get over being able to keep an entire multi-movement work in a single file, and show composers must be in heaven. And that just one of hundreds of features that makes Dorico the finest notation program yet devised.

My apologies for my long silence, but health issues just keep popping up. I have been saving up some good stuff for the next week or so, including the purchase of MuseScore, some cool new Play-Alongs from Hal Leonard, and a new kind of book layout that lets you be the whole band through some clever arrangement and a looper pedal.

Dorico 1.2 Update Released

Today, December 5, Steinberg has released the latest FREE update to Dorico. The 1.2 update has many new features that users have been requesting for a long time, so there is a lot of excitement about this release.

The NEW DORICO BLOG is at the same address but with a facelift. Daniel Spreadbury’s complete presentation of the new features, along with demonstration videos, is available from https://blog.dorico.com/ (aka “the new blog”).

You can download the free update (if you’ve bought Dorico) from the download page. (Yes, the announcement preceded the actual link’s appearance for some of us, but it’s there now.)

If you don’t have Dorico yet, you can still work with the 30-day free trial to see for yourself what all the excitement is about. With this new update added, you have access to the best Dorico yet.

The Daily Adventures of Mixerman – EVEN BETTER IN AUDIO!

I love to read, but I’m not really into audio books that much. Very few  hold my attention for 8 hours or so, and a lot of authors are not great readers of their own work. So when I recommend an audio book read (in part) by the author, you bet it is a very special audio book indeed! But when I highly recommend one that is around 12 hours, you can be sure that it is fantastic! And when you consider that I have already read this book in paper form, well even the justly-revered Steven Slate would have a hard time coming up with enough superlatives to describe The Daily Adventures of Mixermanthe audio book.

My Black Friday / Cyber Monday / any damn day at all gift to you is my recommendation that you buy this book immediately. Yes, we have almost reached its fifth anniversary but a classic is just that, and this audiobook is a classic. There’s not enough humor in today’s world, and this may be Mixerman’s greatest contribution to mankind. If you’ve read the book in black and white print, the audio version is like Dorothy landing in Oz, seeing the world in full color for the first time. Thus Mixerman and a full cast of characters from the book color his first book with voices and music.

Mixerman is a rare talent – writer, narrator, voice actor, director, producer, even casting director! He could single-handedly create a return to radio comedy! Or even better, audio book comedy. Yes, this audiobook is better than the print book, and even for those who already have the book this is a MUST, for Mixerman fans as well as for those new to him. He manages to combine a hilarious sendup of the recording industry as well as a gold mine of information for those interested in technical details, and a great overview for those with mild interest. It is so good that it can also be enjoyed by those people with no technical knowledge or interest, who are only interested in music in general, or just like to laugh. Anyone except maybe those who object to certain language that is common in the music world (and I don’t mean key signatures and tech talk.)

As you might expect the music in it is superb, with leit-motifs or character themes that describe each character in music as well as marking their appearance on the scene before they even speak — very handy in a sound-only production! The voice actors are top-notch, and you will believe that you are listening in on recording sessions and backroom deals as well as phone calls and messages left. If you have heart problems you will have to monitor your listening as the prolonged gut-wrenching laughter could cause you problems. LOL? Even LMAO doesn’t get close to how funny this book is.

Get this book and give this book, for yourself and for loved ones and friends, for the holidays and just for the fun of it. It’s an inexpensive gift that the recipients will love you for, and that you will enjoy listening to as much as the praise you get for finding it here.

 

New Dorico Update Due “In Autumn”

If you watched “Discover Dorico – October 2017” live or later ( it is still up on YouTube) you will have learned some new tricks with the current version of Dorico as well as some of the features in the upcoming update which is due later this autumn.

Some of the cool techniques shown by host John Barron included setting up a song with the right number of bars and rehearsal letters using multi-rests; extending note lengths easily; and locking durations so that you can change pitches in a part that plays along with another.

The unexpected bonus that took up most of the half hour session was John’s demonstration of some new, previously unannounced features in the upcoming update, a version of which he was able to use for the demos. Some which he did NOT demo (since they have already been shared online elsewhere) but mentioned were “proper” drum notation, orchestral cues, and fingering options.

In the order they were shown, the new features include:

  1. shaped notation, where each note of the scale has a different notehead.
  2. new filter options that will let you filter individual pitches (e.g. choose all “C’s”, as well as more options for filtering vocals
  3. more flexible shortcuts, with system shortcuts stored separately from personal ones, so that new ones the Dorico team creates don’t overwrite your own (we’ll have to see how this one works out in real life)
  4. MIDI import will now let you select a split point for ALL grand staff instruments (e.g. piano) rather than forcing middle C

Maybe the most interesting new feature is Shift-I where you can enter notes above or below the entered note, several at a time. Regular numbers add notes above while negative numbers (e.g.-3) add notes below. All of these are diatonic, i.e. from the key. You can ALSO choose the type of interval, for example typing “m3” over C in the key of C will add Eb while typing “m3,5,m7” will add a Cm7 chord. You can even transpose from this box, so entering “t3” will transpose up a (diatonic) 3rd while “-t3” will transpose down a 3rd. While this is admittedly a more cumbersome way to add just one or two other notes, the flexibility that it adds will outweigh that inconvenience for many users.

The whole video is worth watching to see these techniques as well as others I haven’t mentioned.

The next Discover Dorico session is set for November 22 at the same time.

Discover Dorico September 2017

I hope you were able to attend John Barron’s live Discover Dorico presentation today. If not you can replay the session here. There was a lot of valuable information passed on with some great tips as well.

A few important notes: The cross-grade pricing for Dorico has been extended “until further notice” for the full versions of both Sibelius and Finale. (Sorry Notion users, but yours ends September 30.) Details are available here.

There is also a new Official Facebook Page for announcements and other important things at Facebook.com/DoricoOfficial.

And be at John’s next session at the same time but on WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 18 for lots of good information and to get answers to your own questions.

New Resources for Learning Dorico

If a picture can convey a thousand words, a good video can answer a thousand questions (give or take a few hundred). This figure may well be close to the truth for John Barron’s “Discover Dorico” series. This particular link is to the video from his streamed session on Dorico 1.1.10 during which he demonstrated the new features in the update as well as answering questions in real time such as the one on layout that he mentions in the title. This series is well worth watching as it is loaded with tips as well as information that will speed up your workflow and your enjoyment of working with Dorico. So far he has been conducting these sessions on the last Thursday of the month, and the next one is confirmed for September 28. For more information I’d suggest you check Facebook, where John Barron administers a group for Dorico at https://www.facebook.com/groups/dorico. The posts include links to further resources as well as answers to members questions about using Dorico. Members also share tips and discoveries from their own work, so it can be a very useful resource, especially if you spend a lot of time on Facebook anyway.

UPDATE: John’s next session will be here. It starts at 11:00 am EDT.

If you have tips that you would like to share or have John demonstrate you can send these to him at discoverdorico@steinberg.de, which is also the address for asking questions during his streaming sessions.

As John mentions in Discover Dorico, there is another update coming “in the autumn” which is said (at this time) to include drum notation, orchestral cues, and piano fingering.

NB: The discounted cross-grade price for users of Sibelius, Finale, or Notion has been extended to September 30. This does not mean that the update will be out before then, but even if not it will be a free update so don’t let that hold you back.

Don’t forget to subscribe to youtube.com/dorico for the latest tips on new features and their use. And of course Daniel Spreadbury’s ongoing blog Making Notes will keep you up-to-date on Dorico features and updates as well as real-world users using Dorico in innovative ways.