More about Dorico’s forthcoming support for chord symbols


With its ability to beam tuplets over barlines, support for unlimited voices, and true open meter notation, Dorico is capable of creating some of the most complex music notation imaginable. Yet a simple lead sheet is beyond its powers, due to Dorico’s current lack of support for chord symbols — one of the main impediments keeping potential users on the sidelines for now.

In a post on his blog last month, Steinberg product marketing manager Daniel Spreadbury called chord symbols “the most important” area of focus in a forthcoming large update.

A page from The New Real Book with quite a few chord symbols

More recently, just a week ago on the Dorico public forum Daniel revealed more details about how chord symbols will work in Dorico. The information is sufficiently noteworthy to warrant quoting in full:

Now that we’re in the midst of implementing chord symbols I can share a bit more about how they will work. Firstly, figured bass and Roman numerals used for harmonic analysis are out of scope for the work we’re doing at present, and I don’t think we will be able to squeeze in support for capo chords just yet, but we’ll see.

Chord symbols will not be a separate player, but they will be attached to the system as a whole rather than to an individual player, so there will be a means of determining whether or not they should appear in a particular part layout, and above which staves they should appear in the score layout.

Chord symbols will have a separate track in Play mode to which you can assign one of your existing sounds, if you like, or you can manually load something and assign it in Play mode. At the moment playback is very rudimentary (it plays a single chord of a quarter in length for each chord symbol) but this is something we can build on in future.

Chord symbols will be entered via Shift-Q (analogous to how we use Q for “quord” mode in note input), and you’ll be able to type them in using plain text or play them in via your MIDI keyboard. We hope to make navigating through the score to get to the point at which you want to input the next chord easy and to work a bit like lyrics input. There are a number of options you can tweak to tell Dorico how you prefer particular kinds of chords to be handled when you input them via your MIDI keyboard (e.g. whether you prefer add9 or add2, whether you want to see half-dim or m7b5, etc.), and you can also do things like play a chord in any inversion but then while you hold down the notes, re-strike the root note in order to influence which inversion is actually notated (e.g. whether or not there should be an altered bass note). You can input polychords by holding down one chord in one hand, then playing the other chord in the other hand, and so on. You can also input chord symbols via scale degree on the computer keyboard because we do support Nashville numbers, and I believe you can specify the root using sol-fa, too (as this is used in many of the Romance languages).

As for how chord symbols will appear, there will be a large number of engraving options that influence their default appearance, along with the ability to choose any text font you like, and you will also be able to edit the appearance of any particular chord symbol to look exactly how you want it via a graphical editor.

There’s still quite a bit to do, but we are making good progress, and I’m pretty confident that you will find our implementation of chord symbols to be the best in the field, notwithstanding the lack of things like guitar chord diagrams in this first iteration.

System-attached chords has long been a much-desired feature, as one who creates piano-vocal charts will attest.

Further down the post, Daniel said that “we certainly expect the next update to be out before the end of June,” when the crossgrade deal from competing products expires.

We’ll continue to keep tabs on progressions in this area from Dorico, in accord with our usual coverage.


  1. Derek Williams

    Thanks for this update Philip! Good to see this application growing.

  2. John

    Will the size of chord symbols be able to be changed with ease. I’m currently a Sibelius user because the process to change the size of chord symbols is easy compared to Finale. Is this being addressed?

  3. John

    Changing the size of chord symbols is a piece of cake in Sibelius. Is this being addressed by Steinberg for Dorico?

    1. Daniel Spreadbury

      Yes, it’ll be easy to change the size of chord symbols in Dorico: all you’ll need to do is edit the size of the ‘Chord symbols text’ and ‘Chord symbols music text’ font styles in Engrave > Font Styles. The reason there are two font styles involved is that Dorico can use any text font for the characters like the root note, accidental, description of the quality of the chord and the alterations, etc., and it uses a separate font for the accidentals, the major seventh triangle, the half-dim slashed circle, and so on. By default, the ‘Chord symbols music text’ font style will automatically change size to match the size of the ‘Chord symbols text’ font style, but you can also set them independently if you like.

  4. michael

    Good to hear, as being mostly a jazz player, getting a license or even using the 30 day trial is out of the question.

    Hope the crossgrade offer doesn’t end too rapidly after being able to try Dorico.

  5. Mark Arnest

    The fact that it will play back anything at all is a huge step forward.

  6. Steve Steele

    Using a guitar with a hex MIDI pickup, is it possible for the app to automatically know and add the correct chord symbol?

    Something like a simple D/F# (an open D major with the F# on the 6th string), would be obvious. But how about a D9 without the root (a F#-7b5) coming after an A-7? Or a GMaj13 that only contains the 3rd, 7th, 9th and 13? That could be confused with a D6/9 but that would be doubtful coming after an Aminor7 and D9. I would think that’s a realitivevly easy task for an app to do especially knowing the key, and any context where accidentals occur in typical jazz harmony (secondary dominants, modulations, etc). If the app isn’t sure it could present the user with a couple of the most obvious choices.

    Maybe something like this already excists in Finale or Sibelius but I just started using a hex midi pickup so I’m not sure. But with the Chord feature in Cubase (can’t remember exactly what Stienberg calls this), it seems like something like this could be possible. Having a feature like this would allow a guitarist with a midi pickup to create a lead sheet in literally the time it takes to play it.

    Anything to take advantage of technology to speed up the workflow!



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