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.

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Learn Bass from the Best Teacher

Just a few centuries ago, music was considered an art and a science. The scientific part was theory, of course, and its practical application was where art came in. Beethoven studied with Haydn to learn how to compose contemporary music; theory was still the way to learn the materials and the proper way to use them, and while a good composer deviated somewhat from them, there were limits set by what was considered good taste. While recognizing his student’s undoubted genius, Haydn felt that Beethoven had strayed too far from the standards of good taste, just as Beethoven felt that Haydn had stayed too conservatively bound by societal norms to truly express the strong feelings that imbued Beethoven’s music. However, throughout a career that would change the sound of classical music and inspire composers to express their innermost selves, Beethoven stayed much closer to his early training than most composers who followed. Thus began the rift between theory and actual practice that is considered the norm by almost all musicians, composers and performers alike. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries composers tried outdo one another in breaking rules, too often disregarding the taste of their audience (if they had one). All of this was justified as “advancing theory.”

Music theory got a bad rap, so that nowadays it takes an extraordinary teacher to bridge that gap and show the relevance of theory to performance and composing (including improvising). Enter Ariane Cap, a trained teacher whose pedagogical approach to the the bass links the critical elements of theory to playing so that her students are those incredible musicians who know what to play when, and how to blow your socks off with their improvising.She teaches theory as it is used today and in this course, how it applies to brainwork like fingering and improvising with the right notes, as well as building muscle memory and physical stamina to use what you head tells you. This is how Beethoven could improvise an entire sonata at the piano, and how you can improvise a great-sounding solo on the spot. Just one priceless example: a major triad consists of a root, major third and perfect fifth, which means that you will play the low root with your second finger, unlike a minor chord. Maybe you knew one, or even both of those things, but did your teacher link those two up when you first learned about chords? Ms. Cap’s point is that theory should strengthen your playing so that brain memory and muscle memory work together, and knowing the theoretical basis so well that your mind is free to concentrate on expressing yourself, just like Beethoven.

HOW TO BECOME A BETTER BASSIST

1. Remember the name Ariane Cap.
2. Buy her Truefire course “Pentatonic Playground for Bass.”
3. Work through the course.

Truefire has so many excellent courses that it’s hard to pick just one, but you really need to buy one (per instrument maybe) and put all of your energy into mastering it before moving on. My advice to all bassists is that this is the one you need.

If you have any objection that this is “just the pentatonic scale” remember that this is the basis of many of the greatest players’ style, including John Entwhistle. Ariane Cap gives you the solid foundation to be able to step outside the scale when you need to, or just want to, and how to get back into it seamlessly.

You will have to work, but this is truly a course where the more effort you put into it, the more you will get out of it. You will learn more about the Pentatonic Scale than you thought there could be to know about any scale, never mind a 5-note one. But that’s just the start, so don’t take the title too literally. If you play along with Ms. Cap you will also learn every note on the neck of the bass, as well as the step of each note in the current scale. This is a theory course in which you always have your bass in your hands and your ears open. Soon you will find yourself hearing the next note before you play it, an amazing experience if you don’t already have perfect pitch; some of you may find that you do.

One of the keys here is focus. It’s very easy for your mind to slide into auto-pilot as you play a scale by shape, but not so easy if you are calling out the notes as you play (and learn) each one, or if you are saying the scale degree. Because it’s the pentatonic scale, each one is a major and a minor version of the relative keys (e.g. G major is relative to E minor — they have the same notes but different key notes). This requires even more attention but pays off big when you realize you are learning two scales at once, and reinforcing the notes on the neck. An added bonus is that you will see and hear why so many songs slide into the relative major or minor for a while before returning to the main key. You will find it much easier to learn songs, pick them up by ear, or even fake songs you don’t know.

The course is broken into three sections: first you learn the 5 patterns that the scale creates, starting on each of the 5 notes. Each is introduced with an overview of the pattern, then its particular features and special applications, some technical exercises to develop both brain and muscle memory, and finally grooves and fills that use this particular shape. By the end of each pattern, you know it pretty well! Ariane’s fills especially show you how versatile this scale can be

The grooves and fills are the real meat and the rewards of this course. If you aren’t blown away by these it can only be because you are too busy working in a major studio! Not only are they great to play, but they will inspire you to get the patterns more completely into your mind and fingers so that you can concentrate on making music like this. They range in difficulty, but thanks to the Truefire player even a beginner can slow the tempo enough to get into these grooves, and the musicality of every one is top shelf.

Section Three is the real “playground” part that applies these scales to real music. First come demonstrations of using all 5 patterns in both major and minor so that your playing is freed from “playing out of box shapes.” Then come connections of the different patterns, horizontally and diagonally, so that you have the whole neck at your command. Special topics like fills using fourths and fifths, and fingerings for single string playing follow before you learn a master stroke: how to transpose these patterns into all major and minor keys. This is a more intense lesson and one well worth spending enough time to truly master it. Next come the blues, and then soloing with both major and minor pentatonics. You will also learn the relation of the scales to chord qualities as well as how to adapt them to play smoothly under progressions. Finally, Ariane shares the gear that she uses and explains why she chose it.

Ariane Cap has a teaching style that is good-willed but firm; she is not out to become your BFF, but to improve your bass playing. Don’t expect to be wheedled into doing the exercises. You are expected to do the work, and once you start seeing results quickly you will realize that this is the way you want to be taught. In fact, this is a good course for other instructors to study to learn how to set up a course and teach it well. It certainly deserves a teaching award of some kind.

Truefire is known for the high-quality of their courses as well as their reasonable pricing. This entire course costs less than one lesson with a teacher of this calibre, and there is enough material here to keep you learning for months or years since you can keep coming back to it to catch things you missed the first time, try some new variations of the supplied grooves, and work with the jam tracks.

Check out the course for yourself at Truefire (https://truefire.com/bass-guitar-lessons/pentatonic-playground/c857) and Ariane and her further teaching on her web page (http://www.arianecap.com/).

This course has my highest recommendation.

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.

Music Theory Wall Chart for the BASS Player

BALANCE: the key to having your guitar sit at the perfect angle; the interplay of parts in a well-mixed song; the amount of theory and its complement in playing.I’m looking at Ariane Cap’s Music Theory Wall Chart for the Bass Player on my wall and am impressed by its balance that has displayed pretty much all the theory you need to know without being cluttered and hard to read. This in itself is an amazing feat (try it sometime when you’re feeling impressed with your own brainpower!). The bonus is that if you have worked through Ms. Cap’s book Music Theory for the Bass Player or taken her course, these are instantly recognizable reminders.

The chart is clear enough that you may not even need the legend at the top, but its there so that all is accessible to everyone. There are three major sections set off by the colour of their headline bars. INTERVALS and their inversions are organized so that they go up on the left and down on the right with nice big diagrams readable from a distance, and fingering options visible a little closer. Whenever practical, each is shown on adjacent strings and also skipping a string.

TRIADS and chords are diagrammed in the two ways suggested in the course, with different coloured fingerings and arrows. A side chart shows the harmonic content of each chord and their sound characteristics.A second chart extends this to 7th chords.

A smaller section for “The Cycle” shows the cycles of 4ths and 5ths in sharps and flats and makes their relationship instantly clear. While this is the true chromatic cycle, the second part shows you how a diatonic cycle is created to stay in the same key but still follow the cyclic patterns.

And that’s just the left-hand side!

The whole right-hand column is devoted to SCALES. The Major and (natural) Minor scales are shown in familiar scale diagram form, with fingerings. These also show the distance from the root (lower root for the ascending form, higher root for the descending one). The relations of scales are shown clearly for major, its relative minor, the major’s parallel minor, and its own relative major. (If that’s starting to sound “out there” you’d better get the book). Major and minor pentatonic and blues scales lead into the basic formula for blues “changes” (labelled as ‘411 of Music’ which is true enough, although you might go so far as ‘911 of music’; they both work). The chart ends on the Modes. Rather than just show a C major scale beginning on each of the degrees, this chart starts each one on C, a more challenging and valuable way to know the modes. The ‘melodic and harmonic minor scales’ are omitted, which I find a wise decision. They are simply variants of the natural minor scale to accommodate the dominant chord, so showing them as separate scales is simply confusing.

I think you would be hard-pressed to find a major omission from this chart.

A last-minute addition: On Tuesday I was fortunate enough to have the time to work through part of Unit 4 of the course that Ariane Cap made available free as a ‘special look’ over the Memorial Day weekend while featuring 15% off the regular price of the course. The part I was able to cover was memorable, meaning that it drove the fingerings and theory into my brain and my fingers — both brain and body memory. This looks like a great course that really does build on the book but goes far beyond it. If you are serious about really learning the bass and you are willing to put in the work — real work — then you should come out of this course ready to take on some pretty challenging gigs, even if you’ve never set foot on a stage.

The days of a bassist playing just the root and 5th of each chord are long gone thankfully, and now bassists are expected to make an equal contribution to a band at any level. Ariane Cap may not bring you into Geedy Lee’s class of player (yet), but she will give you a great start, and one that I bet Geddy wishes that he had had!

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:

 

Ariane-Caps-Music-Theory-for-the-Bass-Player

 

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’s Plans for Chord Symbols

By far the most important feature to the readers of this blog seems to be chord symbols, judging from the comments and email I get. (BTW, thank you to all of you who write in with kind words about the blog. Unfortunately this is a common spam technique when a URL is added, so if you do add a valid URL it may take me some time to get to it.)

I’ll admit that I am busy on a project that is beyond Dorico at this moment (odd as that seems) so I have to thank Philip Rothman for alerting me to Daniel Spreadbury’s comments in the Dorico forum. There is very good news and some bad news. Since I prefer it this way myself, I’ll give you the bad news first: guitar diagrams, it seems, are a long ways off for now.

OK, the good news is that chord symbols (i.e. chord names with optional bass notes added) should be ready for the next major update in June. As usual, the number of options for naming them will be staggering, and should fulfill the preferences of virtually any composer, arranger, or typesetter.

One thing to note is that the chord symbols will be attached to a system, which will make lead sheets simple, especially piano-vocal ones.

Chord symbols can be entered from a MIDI keyboard via Shift-Q, and you will be able to enter inversions and specify the root as well as entering polychords.

Rather than steal his well-deserved thunder, take a look at Philip’s web site and read what Daniel posted in the forum.

Make Money While Practising

Every few months the guitar magazines rediscover that regular practice improves playing. This is often touted as the “secret” of the current great guitar player. I’m going to assume that you all know that by now. (If not, try doing 15 minutes of focused practice every day for a few weeks and see what happens.)

I have a few suggestions for your practice sessions that can actually save you money, which is like having more money to spend on that dream instrument while being able to play it better when you get it. It’s like getting paid to practice.

Here’s how: Focus on something you need to learn, not something that you can already play in your sleep (chances are you stopped hearing it a while ago). If you don’t know the whole neck of your instrument, learn it several ways. Up and down one string, across every position, skipping notes, in scales and modes, there are all sorts of ways to make sure that you know where Bb is on the D string, for example.

The second thing is to listen as you play. This will train your ear, and it will also let you hear your guitar (or any other instrument you play). This is crucial, because if you don’t know what your guitar sounds like, and what you can do with it, you won’t be able to spot a better-sounding one in the music store.

Third, I suggest having a set routine that runs through the whole neck, every string and at least every three frets. This should be short and one of the first things your play every day. Notice the changes in tone in all of the various ranges of your instrument. That’s why you want to cover the whole neck.

Finally don’t forget to learn a few songs so well that you can play them perfectly even in front of the person who wrote or played it. You want to be able to listen to the tone you are getting without worrying where your fingers are or if you are hitting the right string.

OK, now that you’ve done that (or when you have) let’s save you some money. Most players tend to freeze when they go into a guitar shop and there are a lot of players there. “Man, is everyone else great on the guitar but me?” Naw, they are just playing their “store set” of exercises and songs. But now you have a store set too! So no matter what that guy in the corner who thinks he’s the second coming of Eddie van Halen is doing, you can do your own thing and listen to the guitars you play. And play a lot of them. Bonus tip: there are subtle differences between every guitar, even ones from the same company in the same model with the same configuration that come off an assembly line. The great thing about wood and the other materials that make up guitars is that you never really know how one piece is going to react to sound. A tip that you won’t need if you listen is that the price of a guitar has little to do with the sound of a guitar. I did a test one day of 15 Les Paul’s in one of my favourite music stores, about half Gibson and half Epiphone (actually 8 were Gibsons). The best two were about the same with slightly different tonal ranges, and they were both Epiphones, over $500 cheaper than the cheapest Gibson (in THAT shop on THAT day; your mileage may vary). The point is that it’s always worthwhile to compare. A friend did a similar comparison with Telecasters and found a Godin that was the best sounding one in the store for less than half the price of a Fender Tele. In that case he wasn’t sure which sounded better, but since I knew a song he’d just learned I suggested he play it on all of them and see which one sounded best. There was no doubt in his mind when he bought the Godin.

You probably see my last example coming, but I’ll tell you anyway. Years ago a friend in a band I was in wanted to upgrade his “Strat knock-off” with a real Fender. We both knew the sound of his guitar well, so we expected great things at the store. He played three Strats and asked me to play them too. Our consensus was that they sounded no better than his guitar — no worse, but no better. In this case we were lucky enough to find the same type of amp that he used, because a better amp can bias you, but in this case he made the biggest savings of all and had a new respect for his knock-off guitar.

So a regular focused practice routine can save you money. At the very least you will end up as a better player. You will also be ready to try out instruments at unexpected places and times. Look into how Geddy Lee and Jack Casady found their favourite basses — the ones their signature models are based on — and you will realize that it was their ability to hear the special tone of the instrument that was crucial.

A lot of the guitar biz is based on players not realizing what they actually have already. As with anything in life (cars, significant others, phones, etc.) be sure to know what you have before you try to upgrade. And if you do upgrade, check out what you are really getting.