Dorico 5.1.21 update is available [updated]


Steinberg has released Dorico 5.1.21, a minor update to Dorico 5, and the second of 2024. The improvements in this release include more options for hairpin placement, better spacing, and workflow enhancements, among other areas. In addition, more than 30 bugs have been fixed since the 5.1.10 release last month.

The version history documentation for this release thoroughly documents the improvements as well as the bug fixes.


Here’s what’s new in Dorico 5.1.21.

Hairpin placement

Although it’s possible in most any notation software to manually adjust the positions of crescendo and diminuendo hairpins to conform to any engraving convention, Dorico easily has the most inbuilt engraving options to achieve automatic placement of such hairpins without further user intervention required.

That’s thanks to the myriad of choices found in Engraving Options > Dynamics > Gradual Dynamics. With Dorico 5.1.21 comes a new one: Position end of hairpin relative to note or chord in the Advanced Options section.

Choosing Right side of note on main stem, which is the default for newly created projects, will do what it says, yielding the following result:

Earlier projects will have Left side of note on main stem selected, like so:

Just think how difficult life was before the Mannheim orchestra. No one had music notation software available to notate all of the possible options of crescendos and diminuendos consistently. Not to mention, no one had crescendos and diminuendos.

Spacing improvements

It is an axiom that it is always possible to improve upon the appearance and handling of ties in any software. The combination of ties and barlines has always proved especially tricky. A tie must have a minimum length in order to be visible. But what do you do when a tie crosses a barline? What about at the end of the system? These are but a few of the knotty scenarios that can throw a curve.

Thankfully, in Dorico 5.1.21, it is possible to no longer enforce the minimum length for a tie at the end of a bar, except at the end of the system, to reduce the spacing distortion that such ties can create. There is a new Enforce minimum length for ties before barline option in Engraving Options > Ties > Length that will assist here. To enable the new before, you would actually uncheck this option, because in the pre-5.1.21 paradigm, the minimum length was always enforced.

So that there are no loose ends here, if the ties at the end of a system look too long to you…

uncheck the following option, and you may see a more desirable result:

Other spacing improvements:

  • A caesura that appears immediately before the barline – which is rhythmically positioned at the same position as the barline, and which shows an attachment line to the start of the following bar – no longer causes the bar in which it is drawn to be split from an ongoing multi-bar rest.
  • A fermata set to appear on the barline will not cause the bar in which it is attached to be split from an ongoing multi-bar rest, regardless of the fermata’s actual rhythmic position within the bar.
  • In new projects, for organ instruments with three staves, Dorico now uses a new Braced staff to unbraced staff gap value in Layout Options > Vertical Spacing to determine the distance between the braced staves for the manuals and the unbraced staff for the pedals.

Workflow improvements

In the mixer, a subtle but handy new feature: the ability to type in the desired value by Alt-clicking the numeric field, entering a value, and pressing Return. Sliders such as fader levels, pan, and EQ values can all be adjusted in this manner.

You can now choose which items of metadata appear in the Comments panel. For example, if you don’t collaborate with other users, all of the comments in your project are presumably authored by you, so you might not find it necessary to see the author repeated in every comment shown in the panel. Similarly, if there is only one flow in your project, you don’t need to insure that Flow will be seen in each progressive comment.

Now you can right-click on any comment in the Comments panel and choose from a new context menu which fields should be displayed.

Unchecking the Author option would be less narcissistic

You can also choose how comments are ordered in the panel. When you export comments, these choices are also reflected in the exported comments as they appear in your browser.

Other improvements and bug fixes

There are even more improvements in the Dorico 5.1.21 update, in the following areas:

  • Cautionary accidentals
  • MusicXML export of chord symbols and guitar techniques
  • Glissando playback to and from microtones
  • Playback of trills and tremolos with NotePerformer
  • Bowing marks
  • Flat slurs
  • Aggregate time signatures
  • Dorico 5.1.21, released a day after 5.1.20, added a hotfix update to Dorico 5.1.20 in the areas of note input, playback, and staff spacing

These improvements, as well as the bug fixes, are listed in great detail in the Dorico 5.1.20 Version History PDF.


Dorico 5.1.21 for Windows and Mac desktop is a free update for current registered users of Dorico Pro 5, Dorico Elements 5 and Dorico SE 5 users, and is available now via the Steinberg Download Assistant.

For full coverage of Dorico 5, please read our comprehensive reviews of Dorico 5.0, Dorico 5.1., and Dorico 5.1.10.

Dorico 5.1.21 for iPad is available in the App Store. If your device hasn’t already automatically downloaded and installed the update, you can find it in the Updates section of the App Store app on your iPad.

For the latest information about compatibility for Finale, Sibelius, Dorico, and MuseScore, as well as links to the latest news and reviews about product releases, please see the Scoring Notes Product Guide.


  1. Waldbaer

    Mostly welcome features. I wonder though, what the “right side of note on main stem” option should mean: If I read this as a musician, should I continue the crescendo through this half note (in the example) or have the maximum at its beginning? The crescendo actually was entered selecting the left note only, so the second option should be meant but this definitely does not look like that for me anymore. I would actually prefer a possibility to enter a (small) distance to the next note, that a crescendo of the last should keep, to make this even more clear.

    I just looked up what Elaine Gould says regarding this… as expected: Exactly the same as Dorico did before. She also gives good examples about why and why not – in short: Hairpins should be placed exactly at the rhythmical position they should sound and this position should be shown by noteheads to be clear.

    @Scoringnotes: Thanks for bringing this up, just updated and started Dorico, changed the setting to the “old way” and made sure to save this as my defaults. This is one of the few times I really don’t understand what Dorico wants to do here…

    1. Philip Rothman

      To be honest, I had trouble reconciling what I saw in Gould with the new Dorico behavior as well. But, I think the takeaway is that, essentially, the endpoint for hairpins will align with those for lyric lines, if you choose to enable the Right side of note on main stem option.

      1. Waldbaer

        …well, it should align if it has the same meaning, but in your example, I suppose the lyrics are supposed to be sung as a melisma over both notes (I’d maybe add a slur for this as well), but the crescendo should happen on the quarter notes only (that’s how it was entered at least). So I’d expect the lyric line to go on to the following rest, but the crescendo to the (left end of the note head of) the following half notes only.

        Have there been discussions about this in the past somebody knows about? I’d really like to understand this decision better.,.

        1. Daniel Spreadbury

          Gould says on page 104 of Behind Bars: “Good practice is to start the hairpin on the left-hand edge of the note and to finish it on the right- hand edge of a note.”

          That’s what we’re essentially allowing with this new option, though only when there’s no other dynamic at that position; if there’s another hairpin starting there, then the ending hairpin will end on the left-hand side of the note as before, and if there’s an immediate dynamic on that note or chord, then the ending hairpin will stop before that dynamic as well.

          The other standard texts that we normally refer to (Read, Ross, Stone, et al) don’t tend to have explicit statements about the horizontal positioning of hairpins, but the contained examples show this kind of placement. For example, the Schott style guide shows hairpins without ending dynamics ending on the right-hand side of the target note. Chlapik also does not write in detail about the placement of hairpin ends, but the small number of examples in the book that contain hairpins also show hairpins without explicit end dynamics ending on the right-hand side of the note.

          Furthermore, we also examined a number of scores and parts from the days of hand engraving, from a number of publishers and across a wide range of genres and ensemble sizes, and although there is, as you would expect, a good amount of variability in terms of the precise placement of these items, this convention is very often applied.

          1. Daniel Spreadbury

            By the way, there was some discussion in the team over the precise meaning of Gould’s “right-hand edge of a note”. You could interpret this to mean the right-hand edge of the horizontal space occupied by the previous note, or the right-hand edge of the notehead. I agree that the examples shown on page 104 immediately below the heading “Horizontal Placing” make a strong case for ending the hairpin at the end of the space occupied by the previous note.

            In the end it was looking at a large number of scores that persuaded me that we should consider changing the default to include the width of the notehead at the end of the hairpin.

            We take the default settings in Dorico very seriously, since we know many users will never change them (and indeed users of Dorico SE and Dorico Elements don’t have the option of changing them), so we are of course open to further feedback on this issue.

          2. Philip Rothman

            Daniel, thanks for replying. I think the confusion stems from the fact that (unless I misunderstand) that the Gould reference doesn’t actually provide an illustrated example of this. It does make me wonder by “right-hand edge of a note” she meant the “right-hand edge of the horizontal space that the note represents in time” and not literally the notehead.

            (Edit) I was writing this comment before noticing your further reply. Noted. At least we are aligned :-)

          3. Daniel Spreadbury

            Yes, Philip, exactly so, that was the debate we had ourselves. (I suppose I should have emailed Elaine to ask her to settle it once and for all!)

            But, as I say, in the end I was more persuaded by what I found when I started reviewing scores from the late 19th and early 20th century. Again, without being able to go back and ask the engravers what they meant – did they really mean that the dynamic change should continue through the duration of the note (in which case Gould would say that you should continue the hairpin through the horizontal space occupied by that note’s duration), or that you have arrived at the final dynamic by the start of that note.

            I think Gould might be the first author of a text on music engraving to codify this rule – which doesn’t make it wrong or nonsensical, of course. But I think it might be a new rule that does not reflect a universal practice that all engravers would agree upon.

            As I said above, we take defaults seriously, and if in the end the balance of opinion is that Gould’s rule is superior, we’re open to changing back to the old behaviour.

          4. Waldbaer

            Hey Daniel, thank you very much for your detailed answers and the interesting insight!
            Another perspective I thought about: I suppose there is a tendency for the principle of notation, that the time goes from left to right, may get more strict as people work more with sequencers (or other schemes which show music/sound more mathematically strict). It may be that people during the romantic era of about 1900 just did not get the idea of interpreting a symbol in music as (time-)strict as an automation curve in a DAW. Considering hairpins especially, there are plenty of examples where they describe a very local dynamic inside the same dynamic level instead of a technical transition from level a to b (which is what it’s used for more and more often). Serial and later composers began to think that technical/mathematical way, though, not to talk about electronic music. And today nearly all musicians will have had at least some kind of experience with DAWs and audio processing. Even looking at Dorico with its principle that underlying MIDI/audio generates the graphics supports that change of mindset for me… the generation of notation programs before it is much more dedicated to (or distracted by?) the graphical thing of notation.
            To me personally, this (very specific) decision does not reflect the modern approach of precise communication that Dorico offers us in other areas, but I greatly respect and appreciate the time and thought you put into every comparable decision in general!

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