Dorico is here: A review

News

Innovative breakthroughs

Let’s look at a few of the engraving innovations in Dorico.

The appetizers

To start things off, here are a few appetizers, presented without much comment.

Octave lines can be angled to follow the material’s contour:

an-c00-1

Tremolo strokes will automatically stay out of leger lines:

an-c00-2

Cross-stave tuplet brackets are drawn with correct hooks:

an-c00-3

Dense chromatic clusters can be displayed with split stems:

an-c00-4

Glissando lines between notes of the same diatonic pitch slant:

an-c00-5a

For better or worse, tuplets can cross bar lines easily:

an-c00-6

You can even (with a little effort afterwards) re-create the multi-segment slur in Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin:

an-c01

ravel-2

Challenging avant-garde scores

Assuming that you are appropriately dazzled, now here is an example that shows the power of Dorico’s Engrave mode — in particular, the concept of music frames in connection with flows.

Leonard Bernstein, at the beginning of his Mass, writes four mini-cantatas to be played (from tape) simultaneously, but completely independently. The score of the section, which merely acts as a rough guide for minimal synchronization, was virtually impossible to create without highly specialized tools and knowledge.

Guess what: I did it within a few hours in Dorico, with most of the time spent on note entry (click for the PDF).

bernstein

Keep in mind that this is a proof-of-concept to illustrate this point; many details from the source score have been left out and it’s not suited for proper publication.

So, what is happening here?

The four separate pieces are four separate flows. With these put in, all I had to do was to draw independent music frames in Engrave mode at the appropriate positions on each page, and then override the default “frame chain”; which simply means that I tell Dorico exactly which flows I want to have “flowing” through which of my custom frames.

Perhaps it is better illustrated in this schematic (click to enlarge).

im-c-01

Next up is a short excerpt from Ligeti’s Nouvelles Aventures. Again, it’s a proof-of-concept with details left out but also, this is a bit mean; in Dorico 1.0 the functionality demonstrated here is not entirely available.

Note how all notes between the various players are connected with a single beam. In the publicly released build this is only possible between multiple instruments belonging to a particular player (and within any multi-staff instrument, of course). I include it here to show that Dorico is actually much more powerful than it might appear at first; there are some phenomenal things waiting to be unleashed once they are completely ready.

And since I know that there are people out there who won’t take a scorewriter serious unless it passes the Ferneyhough test; here you go (click for the entire PDF):

ferneyhough

Disclaimer: the above excerpt from Ferneyhough’s Opus Contra Naturam was provided by Steinberg in form of a MusicXML file. The statements of previous disclaimers apply, but it should be added that all I did to make the XML import presentable was to set a page size, to introduce breaks, to move a small number of rests and to fine-tune the right-hand offset of a comparably small number of tuplet brackets to cater to my personal taste. I spent about ten to fifteen minutes on this, from XML import to PDF export.

Comments

  1. Wilkins

    It is very disappointing that Dorico will not play Sibelius scores. So I shall not buy it!

    1. Eek

      Implementing the ability to do that would be illegal, otherwise other scoring apps would have added that YEARS ago.

    2. Carl-Henrik Buschmann

      It is very disappointing that my diesel car doesn’t run on gasoline.

      1. Carsten

        @Wilkins: There is MusicXML!

        Side notes:

        Even if it were not illegal to implement (in certain countries, it’s not): Sibelius’ (since the beginning) and Finale’s (since 2012) formats are encrypted. Therefore, it might be very hard, if not impossible to code such a file import…

        The former Sibelius Development team knows of course, how the file format has been implemented—not everything by heard though I suppose. While they could have taken away the file format documentation from Finsbury Park at the time they left, this
        would have been data theft (as this is owned by Avid).

        Other less known music notation software have open data formats, which makes it easier to implement file imports—from a technical point of view…

        By the way: How is Dorico’s file format “composed”? Based on XML? Compressed? Encrypted?

      2. Max Power

        It is very disappointing that I can’t play the Pink Floyd CD in my tape player. So I shall not buy it!

    3. Henry Howey

      It reads MusicXML

      Sibelius can export

      1. Steve

        I hope that an early adopter will report back on how much work it actually is to export MusicXML from Sib and get it formatted correctly in Dorico! Personally I’m thinking that I’d keep Sibelius around for previously-created scores but move forward with Dorico.

        1. Theo May

          I imported a range of my Sib files via music XML into Dorico– I was shocked at how accurate the default output from Dorico was. That being said, I’m no Ferneyhough, so I would imagine that depending on the notational complexity of your scores, your milage may vary!

    4. Chris

      All the more Dorico for us!

    5. Hans Nel

      Wilkins, it’s not Dorico’s fault that it’s software cannot work with Sibelius file. Sibelius files are created (by the software itself) by encrypting all the properties and objects that make up your score in a file. The ONLY software that has Sibelius’ “decrypting”‘engine (maybe a dll file) can open Sibelius files. Sibelius owns the rights to Sibelius files and will not give other companies like MakeMusic and Avid the right to decrypt Sibelius files. So you see, it’s NOT Dorico’s fault, but Avid’s “fault”. But Dorico will do the same. Steinberg will not allow other DAW’s and Notators to open Dorico files. It’s nobody’s “fault”. Software companies have the right to protect their property, don’t they? But…you are only spiting yourself by not obtaining Dorico’s. The very Sibelius you cling on was built by the very same coders that are creating Dorico! Dorico, in the short future, will surpass ALL other notation software. So, if you are like me…one who always want the latest versions of software, you should get Dorico. In time, Sibelius won’t even come close to it. :-)

  2. Carl-Henrik Buschmann

    A absolutely wondrous review, guys. Dorico seems to be a miracle come true. Imagine the work these guys have put down, my deepest and outmost respect! I want to buy them coffee.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Thank you!

    2. Stefan

      Thanks, we like coffee (and tea incidentally).

  3. Jean-Paul Gilles

    Thank you for this exhaustive review of this wonderful software I will hasten to try.

  4. Ron Puente

    Hey Philip:

    Hope all is well. One question, will “DORICO” accept all of my Sibelius work? Thanks. Ron.

    1. Thijs

      You will need to go through your Sibelius projects, export them as an XML-file, and import that into Dorico.

      1. w^3

        There’s also a Sibelius plugin that can batch process folders to convert to XML.

  5. Donsta

    Looks great! I can’t wait till they add support for chord symbols. The day they do that is the day I buy it.

    1. Steve

      Agreed, this is a must-have for me. Hope it comes soon!

    2. Stan Martin

      I pulled the trigger yesterday and bought it just to get used to it. I can’t actually use it until the chord symbols are in place. 90% of my writing uses chord symbols.

    3. Bobby Rice

      I’m 100% with you on that comment. Perhaps it will be a “jazz/commercial” version of the software?

  6. Gordon Thornett

    The boxed package is a little more expensive than the download version. Do you know if it comes with any extras (such as a printed manual)? Is there any other reason to go for the boxed version (e.g. perhaps the packaged version takes a very long time to download)?

    1. Philip Rothman

      You don’t get the USB eLicenser with the download. It’s covered in the last section of the review.

    2. Aaron

      According to a reply by Daniel in a post in the Dorico forum, the box includes: 2 DVD-ROMs (containing the sound library), an empty USB-eLicenser, and a multi-language quick start guide sheet. Dorico’s program documentation is online-only; there will be no printed manual.

  7. Bob

    I realize you can’t cover everything in one review, but I’m eagerly awaiting to hear how well Dorico imports Sibelius 8 XML files.

  8. Tony Rickard

    Great article gentlemen. Honest and with the same thoroughness as Dorico! You achieved the impossible of keeping me awake and fascinated throughout my hour-long homeward commute and on a day that had a 5:30am start!

    1. Philip Rothman

      Thanks, Tony! That is high praise, indeed. I’m hugely grateful to Alex and Andrew, who worked tirelessly at all hours with me to put together this comprehensive review.

  9. David H. Bailey

    Great review — I shall revisit it a few more times as I begin to get into the inner workings of Dorico. This is the first time I’ve ever bought a version 1.0 of any software, but knowing Daniel and his development team I can see great things coming along as Dorico matures.

    Thanks for posting such an in-depth review — regarding not being able to open Sibelius or Finale scores — I don’t think that’s a big deal. My Sibelius scores will stay in Sibelius format, same for my Finale scores, until/unless I need to modernize them and then it will be a toss-up whether I try to import into Dorico or simply use their native programs to make any changes.

    In the meantime I can tell that it will take a while for me to begin to get comfortable working with the various modes of Dorico so any major projects in the near future will still be done in Sibelius.

    Thanks again for the great review!

    1. Philip Rothman

      Thank you, David!

  10. Peter Roos

    Excellent review, many thanks! I’m very much looking forward to getting my boxed version in the mail.

  11. Thien Bich Hoang

    Congratulation to Daniel Spreadbury and Philip Rothman and other members who were involved in this creating teams.

    Well Done Mate, Big Thanks.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Thien Bich Hoang, thanks for your nice comments, and as always for reading the blog! Just to be clear, I am not on the Steinberg development team. Daniel and his colleagues at Steinberg are responsible for creating Dorico. Also, I must give the credit for this blog post to Alexander Plötz and Andrew Noah Cap, for they wrote the vast majority of it.

  12. Bob Zawalich

    Great review. Thanks to all of you!

  13. Abraham Lee

    This is an incredible review! Well done Alexander, Andrew, and Philip! Everything is exceptionally clear (especially the part about not being able to read Sibelius/Finale binary files) and was a pleasure to read with all the picture examples. I especially loved the short comparison between Dorico, Finale, and Sibelius. For me, that is a major selling point: getting to where I want to end up faster, with fewer things that need tweaking.

    The Dorico team should feel very good about where they’ve been able to bring this really amazing piece of software in a few short years. The only direction to go now is UP as long as they remain responsive to user feedback. Nicely done!

    1. Philip Rothman

      Thanks, Abraham! Glad you enjoyed it.

  14. Hannes

    Will there be a trial version?

    Why should I spend money on a product I didn’t even test?

    1. Terence Jones

      Near the end of the review it does mention that there will be a 30 day trial available in about a month.

  15. randy woolf

    very very well written review. sounds exciting, but for me, no cues=no sale. professional parts have cues.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Hi Randy! Absolutely, the ability to place cues is an essential feature in professional notation software. There are a number of other features missing that make Dorico unusable for many people at the moment. From what the Steinberg developers have said, we expect that they will add those items in due course.

      1. Max Tofone

        Thanks guys for this extensive review…

        I really like what I have read and seen so far about Dorico but I also feel that this release should have been released later with all the important scoring features in place. At the moment for my work Dorico is not an option until they had all the missing important elements and an improved playback.

        Cheers, Max

  16. Rich Pulin

    To Philip and Staff!

    A HUGE Congratulations on your exciting new product!
    The Early Childhood Music Education Foundation, a jazz-ed mentorship,
    attached to and servicing the Las Vegas School District since 1993, would like to
    participate in this launch, in ANY way that we can…PLEASE call upon us, if we can help!
    Again, CONGRATULATIONS!

    Kindly,
    Rich Pulin
    http://www.theearlychildhoodmusiceducationfoundation.org

  17. Bob

    Dorico is unusable for me till it gets chord symbols, repeat ending lines, cues, etc, but there were several cool things in tutorial video 2 that made me eager to get my hands on it. For example:

    1. No meter required – very useful for educational illustrations. I don’t do this very often, so I have to look up how to do it in Sibelius every time, and the procedure is a bit of a hassle. Looks to be much easier in Dorico.

    2. I’ve been longing for something like ‘Insert Mode’ for a long time. No more copy/paste to make room for new material (or notes I forgot to enter).

    The intelligent dot-adding feature also looks good.

    Looking forward to it!

  18. VicDiesel

    Could you also do these examples in Lilypond? In the “development diaries” for Dorico I consistently found the Lilypond output better than each of Sibelius, Finale, Dorico.

    1. Abraham Lee

      If you are referring to the two “stress test” snippets, here’s the first one ricercare-1-compare-all.pdf.

      1. Philip Rothman

        Thanks for posting this, Abraham.

    2. Abraham Lee

      For the curious, here’s the Chopin prelude that Daniel showed during the London live stream: chopin-prelude-no-7.pdf.

      The only “local” adjustment I had to make was the horizontal position of the very first dynamic marking. I made two other “global” setting changes: increased the vertical space between the staves a little and allowed the slurs to be a little more curved. Everythjng else is the default appearance. It’s not a complicated score, but take it for what it’s worth.

    3. Abraham Lee

      And here’s the second of the two stress tests: ricercare-2-compare-all.pdf

      Both stress tests show 100% default LilyPond spacing/layout although I’m not entirely sure I voiced each passage properly. Anyway, here it is.

      1. Philip Rothman

        Thanks for doing this, Abraham!

        1. Abraham Lee

          You’re welcome, Philip!

      2. Abraham Lee

        By the way, I used LilyPond version 2.19.36 for my additions.

        @Andrew Noah Cap: which version of Sibelius and Finale were used in the stress tests?

        1. Harvey Richardson

          These examples are not really useful.
          I would want to see both default output and secondly an improved/edited version. For example with the Sebelius examples I would have moved horizontal note positions and edited ties to make the score more readable.

          What would be a very useful community service would be a site that would host score snippets which people could provide
          default and edited renderings from so we could compare withouth having to purchase trial applications. A trial is only as useful as your ability to learn the application in time.

  19. Sanley Auster

    “There is no reason to doubt that this will happen eventually.” Hmmmm . . . I think this should be a bumper sticker or t-shirt slogan. I’m skeptical. Today, we live in a corporate environment where there is every reason to doubt that something will happen eventually or not eventually. I worked in the music business for many years and watched the corporations and start-ups run it into the ground. I’m skeptical but maybe, just maybe, this will be the exception to the rule.

  20. Jorge Grundman

    Great, Great, Great Review! It is almost a tutorial on how to use Dorico.

    The only thing I miss from this review is if Dorico has script abilities like Sibelius Manuscript. Does it have this?

  21. Brandon

    A $500 notation program that lacks the ability to do standard things like *transpose a section of music* at release is…kind of unacceptable to be honest.

    My understanding was that Steinberg was wanting Dorico to be taken seriously as a music notation software product. Sure, it’s coming “later”, but why is it not there at release? This is bare bones stuff.

    1. Dan Kreider

      I agree, and this was my first thought upon reading the review (which was excellent, by the way). Why not wait and release Dorico without these fundamental, glaring omissions?

      As an almost 20-year Finale user, I’m very intrigued. I’ll be watching Dorico’s progress closely over the next couple months.

  22. Steven Lebetkin

    One of the nice things about Sibelius is its interface with NotePerformer whose algorhythm takes all the brain damage out of the process. Simply take the time to notate your score carefully with attention to the detail of dynamics and articulation and press the play button. The you have a really good demo of the music without programming and having to be a sound engineer.

    The question is can Dorico do this? Or is there brain damage involved?

  23. Bob Zawalich

    >The only thing I miss from this review is if Dorico has script abilities like Sibelius Manuscript. Does it have this?

    It does not currently have the ability to write plugins like Sibelius does. There is a Script window that will let you record and play back a single macro.

    A full plugin facility, using the Lua programming language is planned for a future release, but I would not expect it to be available in the very near future. There are some threads about this on the Dorico user forum.

  24. Fabian

    Great review of a great software! Thanks a lot!

    One question concerning playback: does it integrate Vst-Instruments in the articulation and dynamics of the score like it does with its own HALion instruments? In Sibelius, Vst-instruments are played with reduced dynamics…..

    Thanks for an answer!

    Best wishes,
    Fabian

  25. Aaron Gervais

    This was so exciting until I got to the last page and saw that you can’t create cues yet. It seems really odd to release the product with no cue capability. Basically makes it useless for professional use.

  26. Martha

    I ordered the boxed version the first day. No word about it yet–what is the wait time?
    I eagerly await. . . .

  27. Chinny

    I have used Sibelius for over twenty-five years and Finale since 1986. I use both for teaching. Although I settled more on Sibelius for that purpose. Since Avid took over, it has become increasingly difficult to use the product in the class. Just as soon as you boot up you are confronted with activation even though they have an automatic deduction from my credit card. Of course my students now know to steer clear of Sibelius. I was hoping that Dorico would come to the rescue. But unfortunately with the absence of chord symbols etc, and for a very heavy price tag of over $500 for an unfinished product, is unacceptable. It would seem these software companies are now writing the products for themselves.

    1. Peter Hamlin

      I spent about a week trying to figure out an activision issue with Sibelius — turns out if I activate on my Surface Pro 3 with the expansion dock plugged in, Sibelius will not launch without the dock. Or vice versa. I ended up reactivating without the dock so I can use it on the road, and when I’m home I have to unplug the dock when I launch, then plug it back in to reactivate.

      A long way of agreeing with you about activation annoyances in Sibelius!

  28. Paolo

    I’m surprised they didn’t use the Apple Store, with its handy way of installing on multiple computers. Steinberg has never been too friendly with Mac users.

    Paolo

  29. Paul Rose

    Can one scan sheet music on paper (printed or handwritten) and then edit it with Dorico? I don’t remember a mention of this in the review.

    1. Abraham Lee

      Not directly, but since it can import MusicXML, you can use any scanning software you want to create the MusicXML file and then load that file into Dorico.

  30. Orion

    Fine review. But haste needn’t lead to lousy grammar: “Being a scoring software, one would think that Dorico creates and edits scores.” What, is anyone out there (including the writer) a piece of software? I hope not, but the dangling modifier in that sentence does imply that at least one of us is exactly that. Eek. How about, “Since Dorico is a scoring software, anyone might think that it creates and edits scores.” Computers and software have grown powerful and precise, but our ability to write clearly and precisely has faded.

    1. Hans

      Off course you’re right about the grammar (as if I should know), but you must be an alien from Orion because we humans are fallible and do err at times. I suggest using “Grammarly” to check one’s comments because without it, MY post will look like Egyptian glyphs!! ;-)

  31. Peter Hamlin

    Well, thank you for this very thorough and enjoyable review. I bought Dorico and am in the initial stages of learning it.

    For me, the flexibility of players and layout will be a big game changer.

    Dorico is a very welcome new player in the music notation world. I hope it does well!

  32. Peter Hamlin

    I hope Steinberg will change the licensing. (The comments on this in the review make me cautiously optimistic.) I have a home studio and a travel computer and work on both interchangeably virtually every day. My travel computer has only one usb port.

    I just ordered the dongle to see how it goes — but a two-computer e-license would be a significant improvement for me.

  33. Martha

    Somewhere in all the reviews/blogs/forums I saw a spreadsheet of key commands. Now I can’t find it. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

    Martha Bishop
    [email protected]

    1. Wolfram

      Hi Martha, you can find an excel file of key shortcuts on the dorico forum. It’s posted by Derrek and the thread was opened by JGM 51 under the title of “key shortcuts”.

  34. Sanifu

    Outstanding review Philip; thank you!

  35. Dick Lopez

    1. How does HALion Symphonic Sounds compare with MakeMusic’s Garrison Sounds in Finale (especially the Grand Piano sounds)?

    2. Can Dorico files be saved as AIFF? Or only as WAV?

  36. Martha Bishop

    I bought Dorico specifically to do early barless music. I’ve tried my best to get NO cautionary accidentals, and that aspect simply does not work properly but is vital to early barless music.

    I also very much miss the dot on the number pad for adding time to a note. It’s awkward to have to mouse it.

    Additionally I’m having a great deal of difficulty in keeping the audio aspect working unless I do certain maneuvers which don’t ever seem to save. I’m working on a Mac with Keystation 49es.

    I think the program will eventually be a super program, much more powerful than Sibelius which I’ve used for years. I eagerly await every upgrade in the hopes that it will meet more of my needs, but Meanwhile Sibelius works for my modern compositions.

  37. Davis Eccott

    Not impressed! No sound on playback! Can’t find any help to resolve problem anywhere! Very disappointed!

    1. Davis Eccott

      I now have sound on playback working. The fault was entirely of my own making. I didn’t realize that the “edit” referred to was the edit on the mac menu. I was looking for an edit on the play section of Dorico. As soon as I changed the device setup to use “built in audio” everything worked, all thanks to the great team in Germany!
      Haven’t explored all of Dorico’s possibilities yet, but it looks to be a great piece of software with many thoughtful and interesting capabilities.
      My sincere apologies if my earlier grumble caused anyone to be put off. All I can say is, don’t be put off!!!

  38. Steve

    I’m a relatively new user of notation software. I got Finale 25.1 and then 25.2, and find it maddening to use. It seems buggy, and things don’t work like the manual says it will. Is Dorico pretty stable? I’d rather have fewer features and it be robust!

  39. Hans Nel

    Ok, personal opinion so far.

    Dorico is a well fed fat toddler at the moment and is quite a tough little bugger to learn, but make no mistake, it’s growing like “Smallville” and will soon be a SUPERMAN! I really like Dorico (shortcomings and all), but their has a LOT of work being done creating it so far and I see NO competition in the near future!

    1. Hans Nel

      there (Orion)

  40. Maximumspatium

    First of all, thank you for the review!

    My enthusiasm for Dorico’s impressive innovations is quickly tempered by some obvious “legacies”:

    1) Steinberg’s legacy high-margin low-volume business model behind Dorico plaguing users with restrictive and intrusive copy protection systems like eLicenser (do you know that you have to buy their hardware key in order to run demo?)

    Steinberg‘s advertising is speaking about customer‘s freedom but what‘s about the freedom to use your legally purchased software in more than one machine? No way! This situation isn‘t likely to change soon. Otherwise, why to swallow Syncrosoft together with their nearly uncrackable copy protection if not for forcing it unto the customer to make a bunch of money?

    2) I‘m quite sure Dorico is working with its own (binary, compressed and encrypted) file format like Sibelius and Finale do so it‘s subject to the same legacy like its competitors. The legitimation of this decision doesn‘t matter much. The fact is that encrypted binary formats are useless as far as their creator becomes unavailable. This is in short the old good way to lock customers to expensive proprietary products. Did you even try to switch your score library from Sibelius to smth else? Don‘t tell me about MusicXML export! It doesn‘t work that way!

    What‘s about customer‘s freedom to use tools of their choice? Or even the ability to share your work/ideas with non-Steinberg customers? What do you think, what‘s the reason for not having an interchangeable, open file format for score exchange?

    That‘s why I ain‘t going to buy Dorico, at least in the near future. My advise would be to wait and watch where does this journey end up. Dorico‘s price is high and there is neither „Dorico first“ nor „Dorico lite“. Dorico‘s advanced features are impressive but honestly rarely needed (unless you‘re going to publish that unnatural piece by Ferneyhough :)) There are several notation products outside of this Finale-Sibelius-Dorico circle doing less but being both cheap and good…

  41. Kristian

    Being a bit lazy I’ve never bothered to properly learn notation since I mostly write music on the guitar and use tabs (with notation attached) for composing. It seems like a simple request, but is it possible to add inputting music by tab?

    Being a guitar player I find myself thinking more of the movements along the neck than as notes themselves. Harmonizing and adding melodies is alot easier if I can visualize my self playing the notes on the guitar.

    I guess at some point I should just learn notation once and for all, but untill then, I’ll stay lazy :)

  42. Deke Roberts

    Maybe I’m not understanding something here, but writing a program that would allow you to feed music written on program A into program B is not illegal, only using anything that is part of either programs A or B is illegal. This is why Open Office can read documents produced on other word processing formats.

    I will lay odds that somewhere, someone, probably in the open-source community, is even now working on writing a program for this very purpose, at which point the owners of the propitiatory software which they perceive as being under threat will tear the program apart searching for matching code, and if they genuinely can’t find any, they’ll rewite their code so that their next update won’t work with the ‘pirate program’.

    And that’s when the phrase “Cat and mouse” will start appearing in reviews.

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