Today Steinberg has released a new version of Dorico, its scoring program. Dorico 3.5, which is a paid upgrade, brings forth dozens of new features and improvements for users working in all areas of the program.
As we’ve grown accustomed to expecting in a Dorico upgrade, there’s lots here. The pitch-before-duration method of note input, often referred to as “Speedy Entry” thanks to its use in Finale, comes to Dorico. Proper figured bass is a new Dorico exclusive. Another exclusive — condensing of instrumental parts — is now possible for section players and divisi.
There’s lots new in the guts of VST expression maps, making it easier to set up Dorico to work with your favorite sound library or combinations of several at once. Guitar notation and playback, new to Dorico in 3.0 and updated further in 3.1, sees even more updates. Common engraving staples such as the appearance of slurs and beams, which Dorico already handled with great facility, are refined even more.
The user interface gets more functional and more appealing, with filter, search, page colors and background colors enlivening the drudgery. And there is so much more, besides.
With all that’s new, why Dorico 3.5 and not 4.0? In a video interview released today, Steinberg product marketing manager told Scoring Notes, “We could have called this Dorico 4.0 — and I think there’s enough in there to do [justify] that — but actually what we’re trying to do with this release is reset our schedule. Really, we would prefer to be releasing our major releases at this time of year… the late spring/early summer… Because we know that people only bought the update to Dorico 3 in September last year, we didn’t want to hit them with another big update fee so soon. Although this is not a free update… it’s relatively inexpensive — about $60; £50.”
When asked to summarize Dorico 3.5, Daniel told us, “Part of it is about improving workflow and making the software fit you a bit better; part of it is about refinement, because we’ve taken features that were already in the program, whether it’s something big like condensing or divisi, or something that’s been there right from the beginning, like slurs and beams, and making incremental but solid improvements to those features; and hopefully about broadening the appeal of the software as well.”
If you’re reading this post first thing on May 20 and want to catch the official live-stream announcement from Steinberg, it will be broadcast at 2pm BST / 3pm CEST / 9am EDT / 6am PDT, and available later on-demand.
About this review
Steinberg offers three tiers of Dorico:
- Dorico Pro, the self-explanatory professional tier;
- Dorico Elements, an entry-level version aimed at students and amateurs, limited to 12 players; and
- Dorico SE, a free version that is limited to two players.
Everything in this review refers to Dorico Pro, although many of the new features have made their way to Dorico Elements and Dorico SE, too. Dorico Elements and SE don’t have Engrave mode, so, generally speaking, an engraving feature or improvement won’t appear in the lower tiers. The thoroughly documented Dorico version history document will sport a little “Only in Pro” badge to distinguish Pro features.
As we’ve done with other major Dorico releases, this one necessitates team coverage. Scoring Notes veteran contributors Andrew Noah Cap, Douglas Gibson, Dan Kreider, Florian Kretlow, Claude Lapalme, and Leo Nicholson have spent countless hours kicking the tires of Dorico 3.5 in order to share their expert opinions here.
Pitch before duration in note input
Though composers, arrangers, and engravers may hold strong preferences in various areas of music notation, perhaps the one area where habits are most ingrained — and resultant preferences most strongly developed — is in note input. It’s vital that the process of placing notes in the score, whether by creating or copying, is as fluid and seamless as possible. And this is doubtless part of the reason users are more likely to stick with what they know: it’s much easier to enjoy the dance if you don’t have to think about where to place your feet.
Today, Dorico officially adds support for note input using pitch-before-duration. Previously, users were required to specify the duration first (including the dot), then press the appropriate letter key or note on their MIDI keyboard to choose the pitch, at which point the note was added to the score. This pitch-after-duration method can be a challenge for users making the switch from Finale, as well as some users coming from Sibelius (where both input methods are available). It’s especially problematic when arranging at a keyboard, where the user will often wish to noodle for a bit before entering the desired notes. To this point, it’s been necessary to leave note input mode, audition the notes, and re-engage note input.
But today, Finale converts, rejoice! While in note input, simply press K. You’ll see the new icon in the left panel turn blue…
…indicating that you’ve switched to pitch-before-duration! (Note: as you can see, the order of the icons in the left panel has changed.)
The first change you may notice in the UI is that the notes you press, or press-and-hold, are previewed in light-grey:
Noodle as much as you like: when you’re settled on the desired note or chord, press the number for the appropriate duration.
In Dorico’s Preferences (Ctrl+comma on PC and Cmd+comma on Mac), you can set defaults for note input behavior:
You might also notice an interesting option below it: users now have the option of adding rhythm dots and articulations after the note! This may trip up some users, but I found it instantly more natural. It just made sense to me: pitch first, then assign a rhythm (and a dot, which comes after the note visually and conceptually, since it’s additive), then assign an articulation to the note you’ve just entered.
If you’re using pitch-before-duration with a computer keyboard, Chord input (Q) and other functions work as they did previously.
One small detail: when the selection is set to notes that have been inputted, and you’ve just input a chord, pressing the down arrow will allow you to select and modify different notes in the chord without leaving note input — a small but helpful function!
Dorico’s first iteration of pitch-before-duration is a giant step that largely hits its target. Users coming from Finale and Sibelius should be aware of a few small differences in functionality.
These differences share a common underlying behavior: at present, Dorico does not account for a MIDI-off message. That is, it doesn’t know whether the selected pitch has been released or is still depressed. While this behavior is understandable for a use case involving only a computer keyboard, it does have some implications for use on a MIDI keyboard.
In Finale’s Speedy Entry, a number pressed with a held note gives you a pitch, and a number pressed without a held note gives you a rest. In Dorico, you can advance the cursor by the current duration by pressing Space, but if you had just entered a quarter note and now need an eighth rest, you can’t switch to eighths by pressing 5; that will give you an eighth note instead (because Dorico doesn’t know that the note has “stopped”). You’ll need to invoke Rests (comma) to advance (or use the Right arrow key). When you do, the shadow note change to a shadow rest, indicating rests are enabled.
The second slight difference (and this one is less disruptive) is that each new chord needs to be depressed afresh. In the following example, the bottom note cannot be held while the notes above are changed, but must be played each time:
These tweaks aside, pitch-before-duration is a welcome addition to users, especially those composing with a MIDI keyboard!
Dorico 3.5 introduces comprehensive support for figured bass. If you’re familiar with Dorico, there’s really not much that’ll surprise you about the new feature: It works swimmingly out of the box, there’s a plethora of options available, and yes indeed, there’s a popover. Maybe that’s the most surprising thing about it after all — they still found an unused letter for the popover keyboard shortcut: Hit Shift+G to fire it up, freely input your figures without worrying much about syntax, advance to the next position, repeat, confirm, done. Let us show you what it’ll look like to prepare an edition of baroque music with figured bass from now on:
Now, we’ve come to expect no less from Dorico, but allow me to direct your attention to a few things that one shouldn’t just take for granted: Firstly, the figures are automatically stacked and correctly aligned relative to each other. There are no collisions, neither within a single figure, nor between figures and other elements of the score. It all just looks right with no fine-tuning required.
Secondly, take a moment to appreciate how easy it is to draw continuation lines. Simply select a figure and extend its duration with the familiar shortcut shift+alt+right arrow. It’s similarly straightforward to input suspensions and resolutions directly in the popover by mimicking an arrow:
By default the resolution will have a graphical offset close to the suspension, but you can move it to a distinct rhythmic position and even draw a line between both numerals with a flick of a switch.
And last but not least, Dorico is smart. Provided your input makes sense as a figure, Dorico will most likely be able to “figure” out what you mean, so you needn’t stick to a particular syntax or order when entering figured bass. In case of overwhelming ambiguity you can always help Dorico along by separating figures with commas. The range of legal characters is small enough: numerals from 1 to 9, #, b and n for accidentals, + to raise a figure… We were slightly surprised by the fact that two-digit figures like 10 and above are not supported — granted, they’re rare, but they do come up occasionally.
Dorico’s smartness doesn’t stop with parsing our input. Did you notice that the rendered figures are correct but not slavishly the same as my input? Dorico ‘understands’ figured bass. It parses the input, stores the implied harmony in a so-called “figured bass event” and then renders that event according to the general appearance rules for figured bass. Because the underlying representation of figured bass events is really just a list of notes in a chord, Dorico can treat them as such and transpose them both diatonically or absolutely. In the latter case it intelligently alters accidentals if necessary.
The smart parser works well most of the time, but sometimes its internal assumptions can get in the way. Luckily, you can also force Dorico to draw every figure exactly as you input it. In fact, this is probably the single most important option you should be aware of when you start using the feature: If you find that you’re struggling to get the exact figures you want, go to the Figured Bass page of Write mode > Note Input Options and select Follow input literally. This will sort of bypass Dorico’s smartness — a bit of a blunt-force approach, but indispensable if you need to reproduce some original as closely as possible.
If you decide later you in fact wish to revert to the Dorico way of doing things, there is a Edit > Figured Bass > Reset Figured Bass option. Change your mind once again? Do Edit > Figured Bass > Force Current Appearance.
However, if there’s any editorial leeway, do try to adjust the rules on the new Figured Bass page of Engraving Options first — there are a great many of them: Want to always show all three numerals in inversions of seventh chords? Want to use the alternate SMuFL glyph for the raised six, or select a plain font for all figures? Want to tweak distances, continuation line thicknesses or any other visual aspect of figured bass that you can possibly think of? Make your adjustments in Engraving Options, save them as default, and you’ll likely not have to worry about it again any time soon.
In a more global perspective, Dorico treats figured bass in a similar way to chord symbols: Figured bass events are usually not bound to a particular voice or player. This is handy because you can easily show figured bass on multiple bass instruments at the same time (the pertinent tick boxes are on the Figured Bass page of Layout Options > Players). If a second player doesn’t play the exact same notes, Dorico will adjust the figures accordingly, or hide them if you prefer that. Should you ever need a sequence of local figures that belong to one player only, you can input them as such by switching to local mode in the popover with the keyboard shortcut Alt+L.
There’s quite a bit more to say about figured bass in Dorico, but we’ll save the nitty-gritty details for a separate upcoming post so as to not blast the scope of this review.
In summary, we are talking about the very first full-fledged figured bass feature in any commercial notation software. The fact that Steinberg has dedicated such a considerable amount of time and resources to a complex niche feature that will only benefit a rather small part of their user base is remarkable on its own. The implementation works well and seemed very robust in our tests. Baroque specialists will still miss advanced features like enclosing figures in parentheses or two-digit numerals. However, we are fairly certain that the remaining lacunae will be addressed in due course.
Until then, there’s plenty of opportunity to enjoy the truly unprecedented ease with which figured bass notation can now be created.
Condensing for divisi and section players
Dorico 3.5 further expands the program’s unique capabilities in the area of dynamic staff management for divided and merged groups of players, in short: divisi and condensing.
This update closes the gap between these features by lifting the most glaring previous restriction of the condensing machinery: Now section players can be included in condensing just like solo players. Furthermore, it is now possible to condense divisi passages. This is a useful capability for orchestral writing, where you can now show, say, a divided string section on a single staff in the score, while still laying out the music on separate staves in the part so as to gain optimal legibility for the players while keeping the score as compact as possible.
To enable condensing for section players head to the Condensing section of the Layout Options > Players and set the new Section players option as needed. You can limit condensing to divisi passages or include regular adjacent groups of section players.
The overall mechanism works exactly the same as for solo players, so there’s not really much for us to describe here. A few specificities of condensed divisi passages should be noted, though.
Firstly, manual condensing changes applied to divisi passages are annulled by any subsequent divisi change. This is logical, of course — but worth to be aware of since condensing overrides to regular players tend to live on to infinity. Secondly, and equally logically, solo divisions in divisi passages will never be condensed. And thirdly, as opposed to normal players, Dorico does not care whether two divisi sections are really adjacent when it considers their music for condensing, so it’s possible to display, say, the first and third Viola divisions on one staff and the second on another.
There are also a couple of new options concerning player labels for condensed and divisi passages. Most notably, the customary ‘a 2’ label for passages where two players play in unison only makes sense for solo players — the new equivalent setting for section players defaults to ‘unis’. Generally, handling player labels for complex condensed divisi passages is not necessarily straightforward, but Dorico does a good job. If necessary, you can always change the label text with a local property.
That’s about it, though one more improvement to the condensing feature is definitely worth mentioning: Performance has drastically improved! Condensing is expensive in terms of CPU resources because Dorico has to perform a large amount of complex computations. We can only guess how much careful profiling and optimizing has gone into this invisible but very much noticeable improvement. Way to go!
Manual staff visibility
Condensing is one way to change the visibility of staves on a system. Dorico already had global rules concerning staff visibility for empty staves which resided in Layout Options under the section Hide Empty Staves. Those global rules are still there, but are now called Staff Visibility, and Dorico has also added a tool in Edit > Staff called Manual Staff Visibility which allows the user to easily hide or show staves throughout a score.
In an orchestral score, especially for large orchestra, it is customary to hide empty staves throughout the score, except for the first page where a display of the full instrumentation at a glance is de rigueur. (See Gould, pp. 521-522.) This is achieved in Dorico by setting the Staff Visibility option to Hide Empty Staves After First System in the Vertical Justification section of the selected layout.
However, there may be instances where a page will show too much white space as a result. Sometimes, inserting a system break and adjusting the staff size for a single page can be an excellent way of dealing with this, but making a few empty staves that are about to appear with music on the following system is also a good way to deal with this issue.
Let’s take a look at a score where the right page is quite a bit greyer than the following pages because of the paucity of staves containing music.
I can select the first note on any instrument on that page and use the command Edit > Staff > Staff Visibility to create a system break which I can then double-click to access a menu. Alternatively, as in this case, insert a system break in Engrave mode and double-click on it, or select it and press Return.
The menu that then appears could not be clearer:
Any switch will activate an instrument to be either hidden, shown or reset. Notice that in the case of this condensed score, you can also choose individual instruments as well as their condensed pairings. In my case, I will select condensed oboes, condensed trumpets and timpani, which are just about to play on the next page. By selecting them with the switch and setting them to Show, I will now get the following result…
…which removes some of the extra white space.
The visibility status of those two staves is now set until the end of the flow. As the remainder of the score looks quite balanced, I will not need those staves to remain visible when empty, and so I need this to be a temporary override instead. Therefore, I can create another staff visibility system break at the start of the next page, choose the same staves, but set their status to Reset. Note that Reset will make those staves behave according to the Staff Visibility options chosen in in Layout Options. Choosing Hide instead will keep the staves hidden until the end of the flow, whether there is music on them or not.
Notice that there are some selection shortcuts at the bottom of the Manual Staff Visibility screen which can help accelerate the process by clearing, resetting, showing or hiding all the staves at once.
I mentioned Hide briefly, but this choice deserves some extra explanations. Any staff can be hidden at any time — even if it contains music. There are a variety of scenarios where this is useful. Since the hidden staves still play back, one could create a score of a Biber Rosary Sonata, complete with scordatura and custom key signatures, but with an extra staff that is hidden…
…containing the proper playback while the playback of the published violin part is suppressed:
Using Hide with other staff management tools can be useful show an instrument at the beginning of a flow, despite the fact that we don’t want to see the music for that instrument on the first system.
Here is a full score of a movement from Bach’s BWV 106. Although the bass line is written on the continuo staff, it is almost always performed on the viola da gamba. As it turns out, I have copied the continuo line to the gamba part, which I can now hide in the score; however, if I hide it from the beginning, it won’t appear as being part of the ensemble for that movement, and if I hide it after the first system, it will show a duplicate of the music engraved in the gamba part, which is superfluous in the full score.
Therefore, one can add a staff to Gamba 1 for the first few measures of the movement and hide only the staff which contain music:
The additional, empty staff will appear on the first system and the rest of the movement will hide the populated gamba staff until it plays in earnest later on, where I can make it reappear using a reset with the Manual Staff Visibility tool.
In the part, I simply hide the extra staff at the beginning of the flow:
Note that since there is some scholarship concerning the Gamba 1 part being played on tenor viol — therefore requiring the Gamba 2 to play this movement — I can just as easily duplicate the process on the Gamba 2 part, and be ready for any eventuality while the score remains uncluttered.
As with many Engrave mode tools such as condensing overrides, brackets and brace overrides, this tool is best used after note entry is completed. It is a formatting tool and is best used by working on a score starting at the beginning and progressing through it to the end. However, again like all of those tools, all signposts generated by them can be simply moved by grid increments (which can be set for the value of entire measures in most cases), so that changing one’s mind in the process of editing with those tools is really quite painless as well as being extraordinarily comprehensive. This feature is therefore a most welcome addition to the ever-growing arsenal of tools at the disposition of the Dorico user.
Line style editors
Dorico 3.1 introduced a predefined bank of horizontal lines, vertical lines and end caps, and we were pretty complimentary about it in our review. In basic terms, you could stick any predefined cap at the start of any predefined line body, finishing off with another cap. You could also put some text in the middle; either on, above or below the line body. The predefined library was pretty comprehensive, too: dotted lines, dashed lines, double lines, squiggly lines, wedges, not to mention brackets, arrows and more.
In Dorico 3.5, all of this remains pretty much the same, but you can customize everything about every component of a line. The four new line editors (on the Engrave menu) open the door to seemingly infinite possibilities.
The first, simply called Lines, brings everything together. Tell it which start cap to use, which end cap, which body and, oh, annotations? Annotations were limited to text in Dorico 3.1, but now they can be pretty much anything you like! They can fall at the start, middle or end of the line, or they can repeat throughout, evenly or accelerating/decelerating. If you stick with text, it can be broken into syllables (or in this case, words), split over the course of the line. By way of a (nonsensical) example of the sort of thing that’s now possible:
The other three editors handle customization of each constituent part.
The Line Bodies editor gives exactly the sort of customization you’d expect to dotted, dashed and solid lines and wedges.
Repeatable Symbols are where it gets really exciting, though.
In this section, you can use any number of individual components to build a line body. See those vertical orange lines? Those are the Repeat Points — they tell Dorico exactly where to join repeating symbols together, and of course they’re adjustable, in the Repeatable Symbols editor. This editor gives you further access to another editor, which looks suspiciously like the Edit Music Symbols dialog.
If we have one wish regarding the Lines functionality, it’s the possibility to stretch symbols in just one direction. As things stand, it’s not possible to scale up the X value without scaling up the Y by the same value. It is, however, possible to use anything as a repeatable system, whether it be an individual glyph, a group of glyphs or an imported graphic.
This brings us nicely to the Line Annotations editor, which also houses end caps. Arrows, chevrons, hooks and terminal lines can be edited exactly as you’d expect, given they’re primitives that Dorico draws on demand, and Text options match what you’d expect if you’ve come from one of the other main notation programs.
In this case, it’s the seemingly-dull Music Symbols category that’s interesting. If you’re familiar with the Music Symbols editor we referred to earlier, you’ll know that it’s possible to combine musical glyphs with characters from any font you like, as one “music symbol”. These are dynamic, too — if you tell Dorico to draw text within a music symbol in your “bar numbers” font, for instance, and then change your “bar numbers” font down the line, Dorico will automatically update the music symbol.
Here, for example, is a single custom symbol built into a standard line, saved as default for the next time I’m asked to write this particular sort of tuplet:
It’s really powerful functionality, and we like it a lot.
A couple of other little lines improvements: starts of notehead-attached lines can now be aligned with the notehead, the center of the notehead or the left-most accidental, via a new Horizontal start position property. Horizontal lines can now be colored, via the usual Color property.
When it comes to expression maps, Dorico 3.5 is focused is on user-friendliness. The team has also added some clever features.
One thing worth waiting for is the new Init switch that shoots out a defined set of controller data and key switches to initialize the VST instrument whenever the playback is started.
The Init entry can be modified like every other expression map entry to fit one’s needs.
A newly added conditional switch allows an even more detailed control over articulations and/or controller data. It’s terrific.
Depending on the calculated playback duration of a note based on the note length, the tempo, the time signature and tempo will change the conditional switch to set different articulations.
In the Conditions area, an entry can be added by clicking the plus icon.
The middle column allows the user to set one of the following conditions: equal (==), unequal (!=), equal or larger than (>=), equal or smaller than (<=), larger than(>) and smaller than (<).
The length can be set to very short, short, medium, long and very long.
The conditions in use are reflected by the name of the expression map entry. for example: “Natural, Note length >= Medium”
Any of and All of allows you to use all entries (if multiple entries are added) in a Boolean AND or OR; all conditions have to be fulfilled or just one of them, respectively.
A simple example would be adding two expression map entries, both natural, but one with a condition smaller than long and the other with the condition equal to or larger than long.
The first one would trigger the articulation sustain, no vibrato while the other would trigger sustain, vibrato exp. The result is that only long notes would be played back with an espressivo vibrato starting after a while.
A more complex example would be three different legato patches being triggered depending on the note length which would allow you to use more adequate short legato patches for runs.
Another important and welcome new feature in the Expression Map editor is the capability to stack multiple playing techniques on top of one note.
The expression map entries are now categorized into Base and Add-on. While the base entries still trigger the common articulations, in our testing setup the Add-on entries allowed us to crossfade between muted and open (see above) or loose and tight, etc.
The main difference between both categories is that the Add-on entries do not allow you to set conditions.
While testing, we were able to set up the freakiest combinations without any trouble!
It might be just a little thing, but the Enable checkbox is really helpful when programming expression maps. Too bad there is no indicator or color code to spot disabled entries in the list of switches — that seems like something that could be added in the future as a helpful overview.
Mutual exclusion groups (the relationships between playback playing techniques and how they can be combined) got an overhaul and are now generated automatically unless more specific settings are required or wanted. This makes programming expression maps a bit more user friendly.
Also, importing expression maps set up in Cubase becomes easier now. Dorico 3.5 now allows you to import multiple Cubase expression maps in a single operation via Play > Expression Maps.
With the expression map editor open, expression maps or *.doricolib files can be imported by dragging them from a folder right onto the editor.
When editing an existing switch in an expression map, hold Shift before you click the edit button in the action bar; now when you choose a new technique in the dialog that appears, any techniques you choose will be added to the existing technique, instead of replacing the chosen technique.
A last thing to mention is that the dynamics fp, ffp and pf now can be used to trigger patches, if provided by the VST instrument.
A final word: With every new update, the playback features are keeping apace with the huge variety of users’ needs and requirements. This is true especially for the expression map, as it is the main unit to communicate with the increasingly complex virtual instruments and sample libraries currently on the market as well as those to come in the future.
A few tips: When learning to program expression maps, start with just few important articulations. Try to unify the patches if the instrument or the library allows. Recycle already programmed expression maps or use given maps for Halion as a starting point. The growing community of users around the world will be a good resource.
The saying: “with great power comes great responsibilities” describes how properties were handled in the early version of Dorico.
While many of the choices that would appear in the Properties panel when selecting an item in the score would change automatically in part layouts, some other choices would remain “unpropagated” in those same part layouts. This gave the user a great amount of flexibility in terms of what could be published from a single document. For example, in the case of a youth orchestra, one could have the score of a baroque string work with editorial slurs for the teacher/conductor, while the students could receive their parts with normal slurs.
While this was extremely powerful, it left the user with the ponderous task of remembering which properties propagated by default and which didn’t. In addition, this approach would incur a great deal of extra work from the users in terms of having to manually propagate certain properties. To address this state of affairs, Dorico implemented a simple brute command called Propagate Properties, which immediately transferred all properties of a selected item into the other layouts.
While this worked, the user had no way of verifying the status of an item’s properties after propagation other than taking a peek at that layout, and any further layouts that were created in the aftermath would not benefit from that command until it was issued again. The Dorico team was very clear as to the nature of that tool: it was meant to be a stopgap measure until they would develop of more comprehensive way of dealing with the propagation of properties in way that would keep the flexibility displayed in version 1.0, while at the same time making it easy for the user to propagate properties automatically when required.
This has now been realized, and the propagation of properties is now a sturdy, under-the-hood feature. It allows the user to change properties in two modes: a global mode where the properties are immediately propagated, and a local mode where they are set in the active layout only.
Global properties will have their respective labels display in bold white in the panel, while local properties will be more modestly highlighted. Furthermore, the panel is now equipped with new filters where the user can see which properties have been set and whether those have been set globally or locally. The Properties panel also has a search bar to help the user find a specific property, something that is very useful when the panel gets heavily populated with choices.
There are now two choices available to the new Set local properties option seen on the upper right corner of the panel: Locally and Globally.
Since most of the time, we want instant propagation, let’s set it to Globally. Let’s select the first dynamic (forte) and flip it using the Properties panel with the Placement switch (the flip command F will also work). The dynamic mark moves above the staff as expected, and the Placement label is now conspicuously bold. This indicates that the placement property is now global and will appear in all layouts.
We can also verify this by using the new filters on the upper left of the panel. Clicking on Show: Global Only will trim the panel down to the Placement property as well as the two properties that are obligatorily global: prefix and suffix. Selecting the “All” filter will trim the panel further to “Placement” only since this is now the only global override for our selected item.
Opening the corresponding part layout will confirm this: the dynamic will be above the staff.
If you create a new part layout, you will will see that the dynamic will also be above the staff without any further intervention from the user.
Now let’s say that I change my mind and I want the property to be active in the score only. It is best to unset the property first by flipping the switch. Then I can Set local properties to Local (it is best to unset the properties first because the Set local properties option deals with how a property is set when activating that property — it does not change whether a set property is global or local). If I now flip the dynamic, it will only flip in the score, and the label will be highlighted, but in pale white…
and all other layouts will display the dynamic below the staff. Any new layout will also display the dynamic in its default position.
Do remember that some properties are “obligate global citizens” such as Prefix and Suffix in the case of dynamics. Those will never accept a local status, and will shine bright, white and bold when set, even with the Locally option turned on. If one filters the panel choices to Local Only while Set globally is chosen, any of the options displayed will magically disappear once their respective switches, paddles, or checkboxes are activated because they are no longer local. They will, however, magically reappear with the Global Only filter activated.
This also works with the properties shown in Engrave mode, including slur control points. And that brings us to the fact that we can have a sort of hybrid status to properties.
Some Engrave mode properties, such as positions, may work very well in one layout and not in others due to differences in note spacing, staff size, etc. So entering changes in Local Only is often preferable for those cases. However, one can set properties to Globally, execute a change (such as moving a slur control point)…
go to the corresponding part, set the options to “Locally” and execute a minor correction to that slur. The property will still appear as being Global in the original layout, but the correction will be localized in the part only.
This can be a good way to avoid completely reinventing the wheel when dealing with a complex, multipoint “Tombeau de Couperin-type” slur that may require only small corrections in a part after being set in the score.
This “hybrid” status can be very useful in the case of the “baroque editorial slurs” example I gave above. One can do a score while globally setting some editorial slurs which will then transfer to the parts. This can then become the “professional set”. However, once that is done, I can create another set of string parts, set the local option to Local, filter all slurs and change the property to Solid (don’t flip the switch though, that will make everything local), and you will end up with two sets of parts: one for advanced players who can discuss the slurs, and another for youth orchestra students who may find slashed or dotted slurs simply confusing at that stage of their musical development.
And what about the Propagate Properties command; has it disappeared? Not at all, but it now sets any selection to Global instead of propagating changes to other layouts as a bunch of local changes, as was previously the case.
This is an incredibly powerful way to work. If you never want to be bothered with this, set the option to Global and work happily with the secure knowledge that everything is being propagated. But if you desire greater control, this new feature will make you have your cake and eat it too.
Engrave mode has a new sub-mode: Graphic Slices. This mode allows you to quickly draw boxes around excerpts of music, then export them as PDF, PNG, SVG or TIFF files, in mono or color.
This sort of feature will be familiar to users of the other big notation programs, but in previous versions of Dorico it was necessary to export a whole page and then crop it in third-party software. These boxes can be resized or moved using the mouse, with the same keyboard shortcuts that are used in the Frame Editing submode, or from the Properties panel.
The stand-out functionality is this: you can set up your slices and settings, name them in the left panel, and then Dorico retains that information in the file. This is really handy for situations where minor revisions need to be made down the line, or for batch purposes.
Clef and transposition overrides
When writing for flexible ensembles, wind bands, brass bands or training groups, it’s often necessary to generate duplicate parts for different instruments. Dorico 3.5 introduces a quick way of doing this.
First, create a new part layout, from the bottom of the right panel in Setup mode. Then assign the existing player by ticking it in the left panel. Now right click on the new part layout and select Clef and Transposition Overrides…
The top section of the dialog shows the instrument(s) assigned to the layout, and the bottom section operates on a per-instrument basis. In the event that you have, for instance, a doubling part for Alto Flute and E flat Clarinet, but a player that owns a standard concert Flute and a B flat Clarinet, you can setup one transposition for the Alto Flute to Flute and another for the E flat Clarinet to B flat Clarinet.
The Transposed pitch clef choice is used regardless of whether you view the layout in transposed or concert pitch, unless you flick the concert pitch switch and set a different clef. It’s important to note that the Written middle C sounds as: setting refers to concert pitch. Dorico doesn’t care whether the original music is for E flat Clarinet or F Alpenhorn; you just need to tell it the transposition of the target instrument.
Once you’ve hit OK, you’ll probably want to rename the new layout to reflect the name of the new instrument(s). You can do this by double-clicking the layout in the right panel and typing over the existing name.
You might also want to right-click the new layout and go Propagate Part Formatting… This dialog will quickly transfer the Layout Options, system breaks and frame breaks from your original part layout to the new part layout.
All in all, it’s pretty flexible functionality. If you want to take some violin exercises and make a viola version, down a fifth, you can. The only caveats are that if there are explicit clef changes within a flow, they’ll take precedence, and if you have notes outside the range of the target instrument(s) this method is not suitable.
For most cases, this is a quick and easy solution to a common need. For the few cases where this doesn’t work, bear in mind that the new Manual Staff Visibility Changes may help you.
Hollywood-style parts and blank staves
Dorico 3.5 now includes new features to create empty staves either at the end of a part layout, or simply in order to create custom manuscript paper.
In the first instance, what we are discussing here are sometimes referred to as “Hollywood”-style parts. In the old days of hand-copied parts, maximum legibility meant that a part would be copied without necessarily paying attention to whether or not a page should be full, or even whether the final system should justify or not. Since the paper already had staves on it, it meant that parts inevitably contains blank staves after the final measure and/or system.
While this may at first seem undesirable, years of usage of such parts by professional studio musicians has shown that the possibility of taking notes regarding the movie cue on the score in front of them was extremely useful. Normal engraving procedures, while beautiful and legible, became automated in computer engraving, and players dearly missed the ability to write helpful notes and changes on their part.
Dorico solves this problem most elegantly with a simple feature in Layout Options.
Here is a double bass part as it can normally appear in Dorico:
The second page ends with blank space under the three systems populating that page. In old Hollywood days, this space would be populated with empty, unused staves. Go to the Flows section in Layout Options to see these brand-new choices concerning empty staves:
Choosing Fill page with blank staves will also activate displaying those staves with clefs and also making them identical to the way there are displayed in that flow (for example, if it’s a piano layout, the blank staves will be a blank grand staff).
OK those options, and the second page now looks like this:
If I choose to make sure that the final system is not justified using the Note Spacing option in Layout Options, we can also make it look like this, where the end of the final system continues as a blank staff:
As can be seen from the menu, we can have those staves without clefs or have them display as single staves even on a grand staff instrument if you so choose. Note that those staves are not interactive with the user: you cannot write on them. They will however, be drawn according to choices regarding staves in Layout Options, such as vertical spacing.
Can I add more pages of such blank staves to a part, you ask? Well, not with braces of clefs, but you can now specify that a frame be filled with empty staves. In fact, you can simply create a document from scratch that will create custom manuscript paper according to chosen setting in Layout Options.
Let’s add two empty pages to our bass part:
And let’s draw music frames into them with the Frames tool:
They will, of course, fill with music, as expected, but now let click the arrow on the Flow tab on the upper left corner of that frame:
You will now see an option to make this frame a blank staff frame, which will result in this when selected in both frames:
You can then select any frame and set the number of staves you want to appear in it using Blank staff count in the Properties panel:
As with Hollywood-style parts, the staves are not interactive. This means that the user cannot write on them, which is expected, but also that since they will not respond to system or frame breaks, they can only come in the size stipulated in Layout Options.
This new feature will be very useful in the field of music education where blank staves are still used quite consistently for written exercises and exams. It is very flexible and easy to use.
In addition to the new features in Dorico 3.5, the update brings along about two dozen “improvements” — some of which could rightfully be touted as new features. We’ll call these “major improvements” and explore them first.
Guitar tablature; Chord symbols at start of flow
We have a video review of the new guitar features found in Dorico 3.5, including: Playback of guitar bends and jazz articulations, new notation of guitar bend runs, vibrato arm dips, scoops, and dives, hammer-on and pull-off, tapping, and tablature with rhythms.
In addition, there is a new feature introduced in Dorico 3.5 to to add a grid of the chord diagrams used in a flow above the first system. It’s in the new Chord Symbols and Diagrams page of Layout Options. Activate Show chord diagrams used at start of flow:
In order to change the voicing that appears in the grid at the start, you will need to show them in the music temporarily, which is done via the Players panel in Setup mode, so it’s best not to show the used chord diagrams at the start of the flow until the music is more or less complete.
Slurs see some big improvements in Dorico 3.5. Some of these apply by default in new projects but not in old ones; if you’re updating older projects it’s well worth looking through the Slurs page of Engraving Options.
First up is the design of slurs themselves. By default, they’re a little thinner with slightly less pronounced shoulders.
Next are slurs that span multiple systems. The new Engraving Options > Slurs > Endpoint Positioning > Interpolate vertical position of slur either side of break basically tells Dorico to tilt each side of the slur in the correct direction.
Cross-staff slurs have also seen some love, adjustable from Engraving Options > Slurs > Avoiding collisions > Determine curvature of cross-staff slurs using point at which notes cross to other staff. This option aims to shape cross-staff slurs more correctly, by routing them around the notes on both staves.
Slurs between notes with mixed stem directions now have their own setting, Engraving Options > Slurs > Endpoint Positioning > Slurs starting and ending on notes with opposing stem direction.
Most of these points can be illustrated fairly easily. Here’s what Dorico 3.1.10 does with these slurs, by default:
And here’s what Dorico 3.5 does with the same project, once updated to the new defaults:
Further improvements have been made to stem-side slurs on notes with flags, and there are now global options and local properties for whether staccato, staccatissimo and tenuto marks should be positioned inside or outside the ends of slurs.
Last, but by no means least: experienced users will know that when tweaking individual slurs, you almost always want to hold the Alt/Opt key when dragging endpoints: it’s the magic key that forces control points (the points midway along a slur) to move sympathetically. There’s no need any more; drag endpoints with the mouse or with the keyboard shortcuts and the control points will move appropriately. Control points can still be dragged or nudged independently.
Dorico 3.5 includes some new options regarding beaming. Both notation and engraving defaults are subjects to these improvements which greatly enhance the already large collection of choices available to the user.
First, the Rests in beam groups in Notation Options > Beam Grouping has a new choice which allows rests within beams and at start and end of beams. When this is chosen, Dorico will allow beamed groups to begin or end with rests without requiring stemlets to be shown.
In addition, options pertaining to the length of these orphaned stems have been added to the Stems section of Engraving Options > Notes to provide control over the appearance of beams.
Beaming in Notation Options also includes a solution to a most vexing issue in computer music notation. I am sure most of us remember this:
I use the word “remember” because this is now a thing of the past. In Dorico, you can now achieve the desired result:
This is thanks to a set of choices in Notation Options > Beam Grouping regarding how secondary beams behave:
We could go into the nitty-gritty details, but they are quite self-explanatory. Let’s simply busy ourselves chortling with joy over that one!
Engraving Options now include some seemingly small, but typographically important enhancements concerning beam slants. Some European publishers prefer very shallow slants for beams, typically choosing slants of a quarter space for intervals of a second, and a half space for any interval of a third or more. You can emulate this appearance by adjusting the values in the Slant for beams of more than two notes and the Slants for narrow beams options in the Slants section in Engraving Options > Beams.
Dorico’s default produces this very oblique slant for the spread of a 5th:
While setting the same interval to a half-space produces a shallower slant:
Dorico also includes further refinements concerning quarter spaces for beam lying near the outer staff lines; another refinement often requested by engravers.
These new beaming options are most welcome and demonstrate Dorico’s commitment to engraving beauty and typographical control. However, as the bush of options gets thicker, it will soon be time to let the user not only set values as a default — something that has been available since the start, but also allow him or her to group these choices in some sort of House Style scheme. Dorico tends to find new solutions to old problems, so whether it is in the form of a House Style or not, we’re confident this issue is on the development radar.
Filtering and search
Dorico’s options stretch into the thousands across its Layout Options, Notation Options, Engraving Options, Playback Options, and Note Input Options, as well as Preferences. All of these dialogs now support filtering and search.
This is really powerful and fast. It has three components, as illustrated in this example.
Ctrl/Command+L moves the focus to the filter box (“lines” in our example);
Tab will move the focus away from the filter box, and Ctrl/Command+F shows a find or search box, into which you can type your term (“distance” in our example);
Ctrl/Command+G will navigate among the results returned as a result of the search.
Page and background colors
You may have noticed earlier in this blog post that part layouts now have a cream color by default. This is new in Dorico 3.5, and it’s a very helpful reminder of the type of layout you’re working in at any one time. You’ll find this in Preferences > General, where you can not only set different page colors for the score and part, but a third option for custom score layouts, too.
You can optionally set the background separately for Write and Engrave modes, making it easier to visually distinguish which mode you’re working in. Single colors or gradients are possible. We’re not sure if there’s a compelling backstory for the names of the presets here, which come from WebGradients designer Dima Braven. For now we’ll enjoy Juicy Cake without the calories, thank you.
Measurement spin boxes
You’ll be forgiven if you think you’re using Quicken with this very helpful improvement: the measurement spin boxes now allow you to perform simple arithmetical operations on the value, such as plus (+=), minus (-=), multiply (*) and divide (/).
It’s a little fiddly — you overwrite the existing value instead of appending to it, but it will still save you a trip to the calculator for those head-scratching equations.
Changes to moving the view and navigating in Write mode
You’ll notice a number of changes in the way Dorico moves the view in response to changes in the selection or other edits. Suffice to say these are for the better, although if you were accustomed to the old behaviors, you may be disoriented at first.
Navigating in Write mode likewise behaves more sensibly. In particular, when a whole chord is selected, pressing ↓ will leave the top note of the chord selected, while pressing ↑ will leave the bottom note of the chord selected. This makes it easy to select an individual note in a chord in order to modify its pitch.
Not to be overlooked, there are a great many other improvements packed into Dorico 3.5. We’ll do our best to run through as many as we can. Pick your favorites!
Masking ties through key signatures and time signatures
New Erase background behind… settings have snuck into both Engraving Options > Key Signatures and Engraving Options > Time Signatures. These on or off (though globally adjustable) settings make it possible to white-out (or mask) ties like so:
Hairpins crossing stems
Speaking of masking, there’s a new option to allow the background of stems to be erased when a hairpin crosses them, helpful for clarity in tight spots. It’s found in Engraving Options > Notes > Stems.
In the example below, the background erasure width is set to 3/8 of a space:
In the olden days of the Erard harp, the high G string as well as the two bottom strings — C and D — were not attached to the double action pedal mechanism. While the top G was eventually included many decades ago, the bottom two strings are still free-standing, and require manual re-tuning for each piece or movement a harpist wishes to perform.
Surely this was keeping you awake at night, so Dorico now acknowledges this state of affairs by not including those two strings in it harp pedaling calculations. The two strings in question will also never be colored in red regardless of the pedaling scheme. Enjoy your newfound somnolence.
Dorico now allows the user to set a default barline on a flow-per-flow basis, instead of tediously changing each barline individually. The choices are displayed in Notation Options > Barlines and are quite comprehensive. This will be particularly useful in early music where ticks are often preferred to full barlines. For your inner minimalist, Dorico has also included the double-repeat barline as a potential default.
Dorico has always treated octave lines as transposing and octave clefs as cosmetic. In most cases this works well; octave transpositions are mostly set correctly in (the bundled) HALion Sonic SE patches, and can be manually fixed if necessary.
However, there are situations where users may want to use octave clefs in piano music, for instance, or write a tenor vocal line that drifts into bass clef. Previously, solutions to these edge cases have been a bit workaround-y. Now, a new page appears in Notation Options > Clefs, that handles this approach with a simple toggle.
There’s also a new Octave Shift property for explicit clefs. This makes it easy to get correct playback for certain historical conventions, e.g. for 19th century horn parts that need to sound a fifth lower than written pitch, rather than a fourth higher. If you need this to apply from the very start of a flow, add an explicit clef change at bar 1.
The option for Notes starting on a beat followed by a rest in the middle of the beat has been moved to Notation Options > Note Groupings > Simple Time Signatures with or without a half-bar.
You can now edit the velocity of multiple notes simultaneously. Make a multi-selection in either Write mode or Play mode, then click and drag on any of the selected velocity bars to change the values. Also, the bar numbers in the Play mode ruler now correctly account for bar number changes and pick-up bars, so they’ll match the bar numbers displayed in Write mode.
Print mode and instant print preview
In Print mode, many users seem to prefer Whole Page, so it’s now the default view when switching to Print mode for the first time. Also, to speed up the startup process for a loaded project, Dorico now waits to gather printer information until you switch to Print mode for the first time.
There’s a new instant print preview option which Daniel Spreadbury told us is his favorite little new feature. If you want to see your music exactly as it will be printed or exported to graphics, instead of switching to Print mode, you can now simply hold down the \ (backslash) on Windows or ` (backtick) on Mac to hide all non-printing items. While the key is depressed, all printing items are shown in the color they will actually be printed (typically black) and all non-printing items will be hidden. Release the key to restore the normal view.
The choice of these keystrokes will make the most sense to those using British English keyboard layout, where they appear immediately to the left of Z, the Dorico default for Zoom in. If you wish to change it to something else in Preferences > Key Commands, its proper name is Hide Invisibles, which also happens to be the name of our favorite superhero TV program.
Rehearsal marks can now be displayed below systems as well, via Layout Options > Staves and Systems > Rehearsal Marks.
New string ensembles
There are three new preset ensembles for strings in Setup mode.
Showing a text item in one layout only
It’s often the case that the most exciting features in an update are the little ones, and for many users, this feature will be a huge help. It’s now possible to display a text item in one layout and hide it in another, using the new Hide function in the Properties panel.
You can now use a space instead of a colon to indicate a ratio in the tuplet popover.
Exporting and importing MusicXML both see some love in Dorico 3.5.
Exporting now supports a wider range of dynamics, messa di voce and dashed or dotted hairpins, different notehead types, immediate and gradual tempos, a wider variety of time signatures (including open time, exported as senza misura), and unpitched percussion.
On import, text-based playing techniques such as pizz. and arco come through automatically. In general, Dorico now does a better job of detecting potential duplicates when importing text, so in the past if you had disabled the Text items option on the MusicXML Import page of Preferences, try it again, and you may be pleasantly surprised.
@dspreadbury I’ve mentioned to you before how much I like using Academico because of the spacing it uses for music symbols. However, lately I’ve discovered that using italics changes the line height whwen I’m typing a document in Pages or Word using Academico. Is that fixable?
— 🤓David🦄MacDonald🥃 (@davemacdo) May 12, 2019
This one is fixed!
The rest of the story
Steinberg’s Daniel Spreadbury has written up the news of the Dorico 3.5 release on the official Dorico blog.
The official Dorico YouTube channel is chock-full of brand new videos created by Steinberg’s Anthony Hughes that demonstrate many of the new Dorico 3.5 features.
The official live-stream announcement from Steinberg will be broadcast at 2pm BST / 3pm CEST / 9am EDT / 6am PDT, and available later on-demand.
Here’s the official product page, summarizing what’s new in Dorico 3.5.
The Dorico version history documents the changes in Dorico 3.5 without the pretty photos but with a tremendous amount of detail.
Availability, upgrading, trial version, pricing
Upgrading to Dorico 3.5
Upgrading and installing Dorico 3.5 is straightforward. As always, make sure your e-Licenser software — the necessary evil of the Dorico licensing process — is up-to-date.
Dorico 3.5 will not overwrite Dorico 3 or any other version of Dorico, and the two versions mostly coexist peacefully on the same machine. You can’t have both versions open at the same time, though; one or the other will crash because both two instances of the audio engine cannot reliably run at the same time.
The Dorico 3.5 installer will copy over your settings in your Dorico 3 user application folder. For instance, any custom shortcuts you’ve created from Dorico 3 will transfer over seamlessly to Dorico 3.5. This also goes for third-party setups like the custom profile installed by Notation Express, which will work just fine in Dorico 3.5. (As the official blog of NYC Music Services, we can say here on Scoring Notes that a free update to Notation Express that takes advantage of some of the new Dorico 3.5 features is in the works and will be forthcoming to all existing users soon.)
You can open Dorico 3.5 files in earlier Dorico versions, although any unsupported feature will be removed.
If you first activated a Dorico Pro 3 or Dorico Elements 3 license on or after April 22, 2020, then you are eligible for a free grace period update to Dorico Pro 3.5 or Dorico Elements 3.5 as appropriate; users who think they may be eligible can check their eligibility on Steinberg’s web site.
The 30-day unrestricted trial version of Dorico 3.5 is not yet available at the time of the publication of this post. Steinberg has told us that it will be “soon”.
Suggested retail pricing in USD and Euros
- Dorico Pro 3.5 – $579.99 / €579 box; $559.99 / €559 download
- Dorico Pro 3.5 Edu – $359.99 / €359 box; $339.99 / €339 download
- Dorico Pro 3.5 Crossgrade – $299.99 / €299 box; $279.99 / €279 download
- Dorico Pro 3.5 Edu Crossgrade – $179.99 / €179 box; (you don’t need an educational version of Finale/Sibelius, but you do need to qualify for Steinberg’s educational pricing)
- Dorico Elements 3.5 – $99.99 / €99.99 box/download
- Dorico Elements 3.5 Edu – $66.99 / €66.99 box/download
- Dorico Pro 3.5 from Dorico Pro 3 – $59.99 / €59.99 / £51 download only
- Dorico Pro 3.5 from Dorico Pro 2 or Dorico 1.x – $159.99 / €159 / £136 download only
- Dorico Elements 3.5 from Dorico Elements 3 or Dorico Elements 2 – $29.99 / €29.99 / £25 download only
Dorico SE 3.5 is a free download for new users, and for existing Dorico SE users.
All US prices are exclusive of state sales tax; Euro prices are inclusive of German VAT at 19%; actual prices vary per country, and you should check the Steinberg online shop or your local reseller for the price you will pay.
Multi-user pricing for educational institutions is also available.
The boxed versions do not contain any physical media, but for Dorico Pro 3.5 all boxes include an (optional) USB-eLicenser. The boxed versions of Dorico Elements 3 do not include a USB-eLicenser.
Dorico 3.5’s addition of pitch-before-duration note input, like Sibelius 7’s was, is aimed squarely at Finale users whom Steinberg hopes to entice to take up Dorico as their new notation software of choice. Whether it’s that feature, or something else like the clef and transposition overrides, some of Dorico 3.5’s new features will be instantly familiar to those coming to the program from somewhere else.
Other features, such as the line editor or graphic slices, may have superficial analogs in other software, but in Dorico they are fundamentally different and vast improvements on their predecessors. And there are still the items, like condensing and semantic figured bass implementation, that are truly unique and difficult to even envision ever materializing in other programs.
The ever-growing feature set does feel intimidating, and there are still areas in need of attention (score setup, daunting for some users, hasn’t changed in Dorico 3.5). The brilliant addition of filter and search in the option dialogs comes just in the nick of time. Those preferences, already far more comprehensive than the competition’s, was at risk of being too overwhelming to efficiently navigate and manage. Seemingly little tweaks like the addition of page and background colors, and the instant preview feature, go a long way in improving the overall experience. After all, if you’re going to spend all day looking at this software, you may as well try to make it be as visually appealing as possible.
As to the question of whether you should get the upgrade: It’s unusual for notation software users to pay for an upgrade merely eight months after the last one. Generally we’re accustomed to waiting at least a year or more to open our wallets. But 3.5 is “just a number,” as Daniel Spreadbury said; with its plethora of features and improvements, this version of Dorico could easily be billed as 4.0 and no one would question it. So would you rather be ceremonious and wait a full year and pay full price, or get the same upgrade four months early and pay half price? It’s obviously a silly question. There’s nothing middling about this upgrade except the number to the right of the decimal point. Upgrading to Dorico 3.5 is an easy call.
What to expect when Dorico 4.0 does emerge? In answer to that, Daniel said, “I think I’ll keep my counsel for a change!” While we’ll probably see some minor updates to 3.5 in the coming months, it’s likely we won’t see another major Dorico upgrade until this time next year.
“What I’m hoping is,” Daniel said, “for the first time since Dorico 1.0 came out at the end of 2016, we actually have a clear run of time when we can focus on some longer-term things. Whether that’s technical things inside Dorico itself, or some ancillary things around it. Depending on how the early reception to 3.5 goes in the next few weeks — and once we’ve recovered a bit — we’ll be able to look a little more broadly in the future than we have up to now.”