NAMM 2020: Wrap-up


Note: This past week, we’ve published posts from the 2020 NAMM Show in Anaheim, California. It’s a huge exhibition, so we focused on what we do best: covering the field of music notation software and related technology. Follow all of our NAMM 2020 coverage at Scoring Notes, and on our social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

In this post, we summarize all of our coverage of the show.

The 2020 NAMM Show is over, and we had a ton of news coverage, product reviews, interviews, photos, and videos. Whether you missed any posts from the past few days or just want to relive the excitement, here’s a wrap-up of all our activity from sunny Anaheim, California.

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Thank you! On with the (NAMM) Show!


Getting started

Once again the hub of activity was the Anaheim Convention Center. Yes, I was really there!

In case anyone had any doubt about the social media hashtag…

On the morning of the first day of the show (Thursday, January 16, 2020), Steinberg and Avid released significant updates to Dorico and Sibelius respectively, within hours of each other. That was the first time I could recall updates to more than one major notation product on the same day.

And yes, we had timely coverage and full reviews of each! With the Dorico review, it would not have been possible without my intrepid colleagues Andrew Noah Cap, Douglas Gibson, Florian Kretlow, Claude Lapalme, Leo Nicholson, and Alexander Plötz.

It was time to celebrate, and we did so in fine fashion with the second annual Scoring Notes/NYC Music Services happy hour.

Dorico 3.1

The very latest out of the Steinberg scoring team (or “STEAM”, as they’re known) was another hefty package full of goodies. Features in Dorico 3.1 included some that built on those introduced in the major 3.0 release, such as score condensing, guitar fingering, and chord diagrams, and improves many others. Long-awaited features such as lines and bracketed noteheads debuted in Dorico 3.1, and a new dynamics lane appeared making it even easier to adjust playback without compromising the notation.

Condensing changes in Dorico Pro 3.1

What’s more, in addition to the professional Dorico Pro tier and the hobbyist/student-level Dorico Elements, a completely free offering of Dorico was released for the very first time. Called Dorico SE, it is essentially very similar to Dorico Elements but is limited to a maximum of two players per project.

As soon as was Dorico 3.1 unveiled to the public, it was on display in Steinberg’s area in the Yamaha section of the NAMM exhibition, with John Barron at the controls:

Here’s a snippet of one of John’s daily Dorico presentations, in which he breaks the “fourth wall” and says hello to Scoring Notes!

In addition to our extensive review of Dorico 3.1, I had a one-on-one conversation with Steinberg’s Daniel Spreadbury, who, although he wasn’t actually present at the NAMM Show this year, managed to find time to speak extensively with me about Dorico SE, all of the major new features in Dorico 3.1, and lots more, besides.

Sibelius 2020.1

The first update of the year from Avid bodes well for 2020. Headlining the Sibelius 2020.1 release was a new automatic staff spacing feature, known as Auto-Optimize, based on Sibelius’s existing Optimize Staff Spacing function. 2020.1 added proper dashed and dotted ties for the first time and a new “tied-into” option for second endings and other situations.

The automatic staff spacing feature introduced in Sibelius 2020.1

The default house styles and manuscript papers have been refreshed for the first time in a while, and wildcards that automatically produce items like the title and composer name are more discoverable thanks to a new contextual word menu.

For the first time in 2020.1, Sibelius now has a dedicated Accessibility section in Preferences, from which the user can control the level of verbosity to suit their needs. At the NAMM Show, Avid joined with Native Instruments and with accessibility leaders from Berklee College of Music, I See Music, and other presenters in the NAMM Pro Accessibility Panel with demonstrations of the latest in accessibility for music creation, and Avid presented two accessibility presentations at its mainstage stand and another as part of the TEC Tracks presentations.

Chi Kim and Slau Halatyn give a presentation about accessibility in Pro Tools and Sibelius at the 2020 NAMM Show

Accessibility was a topic I discussed with Avid’s Sam Butler at length, along with the Sibelius team’s approach to development, in my interview with him and colleague Sarah Rossy during the show. As with other interviews conducted on the floor of the NAMM Show, this one had more than its share of background noise, and due to that not all of the video was usable, but we edited some of the more audible parts and transcribed a good portion of it in the blog post.

Finale, Musescore, Noteflight interviews

Although Finale, Musescore, and Noteflight didn’t issue software releases specifically timed with the NAMM Show, their representatives were all present and I took the opportunity to sit down with each of them and interview them about the latest developments and what to look for in the future.


Once again at the NAMM Show, MakeMusic was exhibiting Finale and SmartMusic alongside Alfred Music.

MakeMusic’s David Cusick gave us a sense of what the activity was like at the Finale booth.

Finale’s legacy cuts both ways — both as a venerable platform with a storied history, but also with a lot of legacy code as well, and when we spoke I asked MakeMusic’s Jason Wick about that. “Finale is so many things to so many people,” Jason said. “It’s like a multi-tool,” and because the software is so powerful, “when you’re trying to add value to the user over time and give them the capability to do different things, the challenge of the technical work to be done can be hard. We want to double down on our investment so that we can more reliably and more quickly add feature updates in the long-term.”


With such a large change in Musescore behind the scenes over the last couple of years since the Ultimate Guitar acquisition, I was eager to speak to Daniel Ray, who is in charge of Musescore’s product strategy, about how the product had fared. At the 2020 NAMM Show I had the opportunity to sit down with him for an interesting discussion about Musescore’s recent progress and its future.

The fundamental tenets of Musescore still haven’t changed, Daniel told me. “Musescore is still open source software,” Daniel said, “and it will always be open source.” But coming to Musescore was a new challenge for Daniel two years ago. “My background is from proprietary software,” he said, “so this has been an education for me and a lot of team to understand the incredible value of the open source community. That’s something I really want to stress here. It’s a unique value that Musescore has, to be able to tap into this community. We’re very lucky, and we’re very conscious of the fact that we’re lucky with that.”


It’s been another busy year for Noteflight. “Noteflight,” as managing director John Mlynczak has told us before, “is a web-based music notation software that allows musicians to create, share, teach, sell, and purchase music.

I found time to sit down with John and talk about the latest Noteflight news and developments. We spoke about Noteflight’s integration with Hal Leonard’s catalog, Noteflight Marketplace and the forthcoming offering called ArrangeMe that resulted from the acquisition of Sheet Music Plus, which will officially launch later in 2020.

Other topics included improvements with Noteflight’s embedded interactive player, which aims to simplify the Noteflight experience across all devices, the behind-the-scenes development with MusicXML that was needed to get the product to a satisfactory level, and the importance of having a presence at the NAMM Show.

Wrap-up and heading home

A full schedule at the NAMM Show wouldn’t be complete without joining colleagues from the W3 Music Notation Community Group for dinner at Thai Nakorn in Garden Grove. Led by MakeMusic’s Michael Good, the dinner has become a tradition. New this year, though, was a 360-degree photo of the occasion, courtesy of Musicnotes’ Tom Nauman.

[vr url= view=360]

The 2020 NAMM Show was a blast, and it was inspiring to talk with so many leaders in the field of music notation software who are committed and passionate about what they do.

The show, of course, has a life of its own, and despite our best efforts to have smooth interviews, things didn’t always go according to plan. This photo of myself and MakeMusic’s Jason Wick — along with an unidentified coffee-toting photobomber — encapsulates the fun and surprise of the show:

After the cacophony and hectic schedule concluded, it was very nice to take a moment to reflect on it all with a serene view of the Pacific Ocean before turning around and heading back to New York, excited for the year ahead. Thanks for coming along for the ride!


  1. bob zawalich

    Thanks for all your NAMM posts, Philip. Great to get an eyewitness account. I found the NoteFlight stuff particularly interesting, seeing how Hal Leonard is integrating with NoteFlight.

    There is always something going on…

    1. Philip Rothman

      Thanks, Bob! “Interesting times.”

  2. Bill

    Hi Philip, I understand that Sonic Scores had a booth that was never setup and open. Do you have any info on what happened to Don?

    1. Philip Rothman

      Hi Bill. No, with my tight schedule, I never actually made it over there. Thanks for the report.

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