Dorico 2.2 is the best update yet

Reviews

Today Steinberg released Dorico 2.2, its latest update to the scoring software that has already seen major updates this year. New features have been added or rebuilt in Dorico 2.2 in the areas of trills, group bracketing, repeat markers, jazz articulations, tempo track import/export, real-time MIDI recording, flow headings, tacets, and a new music symbols editor. Improvements to existing features touch on virtually every area of the program, and there are a good 100 or so bug fixes, besides.

In his blog post announcing the update, Steinberg product marketing manager Daniel Spreadbury said that the Dorico 2.2 update is “possibly the largest and most significant update to the software yet”. In a way, we’ve come to expect these enormous updates as the Steinberg team continues to add features to a rapidly-improving product. Dorico has been available for more than two years, but owing to its still-emerging place among music notation programs, each update brings a great many changes. Whether you already own Dorico or are looking to acquire it anew, you’ll be pleased at the bevy of presents that you’ll find.

The update is free to all registered Dorico 2 users, and it’s available now from Steinberg’s web site, along with the version history.

Let’s rip open the Dorico 2.2 package before Boxing Day is upon us, shall we?

(Editor’s note: Once again we’ve got team coverage for this review with contributions from our experts: Florian Kretlow, Claude Lapalme, Ian Partridge, and myself. — Philip Rothman)

Trills

These are not just trills, these are Dorico trills…”

Ever since the first release of Dorico, trills have been available. But they were purely graphical, and did not possess the musical intelligence that Dorico is generally renowned for.

In Dorico 2.2 trills are redesigned from the ground up, and in one stroke the need for the kinds of complex and time-consuming workarounds that are pervasive in other programs is eliminated.

Before we dive into the detail, let’s quickly list the headline improvements.

  • Trills which intelligently understand the interval they represent.
  • Flexible display options. Either traditional accidentals, Hollywood-style (W.T./H.T.), or auxiliary notes.
  • Microtonal trills.
  • Control of the display of trills across system breaks.
  • Trill playback.

Let’s take a look at each of the improvements.

Contextual awareness

In Dorico 2.2, trills are not merely a graphical addition to a note on a page. Dorico knows what musical interval they represent, and the correct accidental is automatically generated according to the prevailing key signature. Dorico also generates appropriate cautionary accidentals elsewhere, as in the following example.

Cautionary accidentals are automatically generated, including in different voices

Display options

Dorico offers three different display styles. The first and default style displays accidentals, as is traditional. The accidentals can be positioned either above (the default), below, to the right, or superscript according to your preference.

Traditional notation, showing accidentals

You can also choose Hollywood-style whole-tone and half-tone abbreviations, with a full set of Engraving Options depending on your taste:

The different display options for the Hollywood style.

The third option is to show auxiliary notes – small parenthesised noteheads indicating the note to be trilled to.

Auxiliary notes – generated automatically without workarounds

Each of these three display styles has a full set of engraving options, plus there are a plethora of properties allowing fine control over each individual trill. For example, you can choose to show the trill line or not, to show the “tr” sign or not, to vary the start and end speed of the trill (to show an accelerating or decelerating trill), to show a stop line or not, etc. etc. Pretty much every imaginable option has been catered for.

Microtonal trills

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here you go.  All of this was created in just a few clicks using the built-in 24-EDO tonality system, but you can use any EDO tonality system you define yourself too.  The trill intervals are specified in terms of the number of divisions from the written note and Dorico calculates the correct accidental to display automatically.

Microtonal trills in action.

System breaks

Dorico offers three preset appearances for trills across system and page breaks. Either the trill can be restated (the default), or it can appear in parentheses, or just the continuation line can be shown. Interestingly, Dorico doesn’t offer one of Elaine Gould’s preferred options – to precede the trill sign with a short wavy line.

A trill across a system break.

Playback

And now for another biggie – Dorico 2.2 implements full support for trill playback. This can use sampled trills for those VSTs which have them, and simulated trills otherwise. There is seamless playback of any adjacent grace notes or Nachschlag, and Dorico also plays back microtonal trills correctly.

There are copious playback options for controlling the playback of trills, including trills which accelerate or decelerate. You can make a trill accelerate during playback but not on the page, and vice versa. Options allow you to choose whether trill playback should start on the upper or lower note, and you can also make trills accelerate by default if you wish.

Regardless of what options you choose, Dorico always plays a musically coherent trill with no glitches or interval jumps in playback.

Summary

Yet again, the Dorico team has knocked it out of the park, with a comprehensive implementation of trills that should satisfy pretty much everyone, from those engraving baroque music to those writing contemporary art music. The only preference I couldn’t find was the ability to show a trill extension line when a note is tied, but not otherwise. Also, it would be nice if a Nachschlag could be created as part of a trill, instead of as grace notes. But these are tiny wrinkles in what is overall by far the best implementation of trills on the market.

Brackets and groups

Dorico users have by now been used to upgrades adding unexpected but welcome twists to newly implemented functions. Dorico’s new bracket editor is no exception. Most of its implementation may seem predictable but for one very important difference: it is found in Engrave mode. While this means that there are circumstances when using the tool means some switching back and forth from Write mode to Engrave mode, it also allows greater flexibility if one wishes to change brackets or barline joins from system to system or page to page. This is one example where Dorico’s modal structure displays its formatting powers.

Most of the time, however, users will simply want to modify bracketing at the beginning of a score and leave at that. The tool is very easy and intuitive to use in this manner. In Engrave mode, the user will be greeted with five tools: Insert bracket; Insert sub-bracket; Insert sub-sub-bracket; Insert brace; and Change barline joins.

To use these tools, simply marquee-select the target staves, and click on the corresponding tool, such as Insert bracket, and the resulting bracketing will override the settings in Engraving Options > Brackets and Braces.

This bracketing will now stick to the end of the flow unless changed later. Deleting the signpost will revert to the Engraving Options bracketing default, as will a menu command designed to reset all bracketing in a flow. Changing barline joins proceeds in exactly the same manner.

But what about changing bracketing in the middle of a flow? Dorico can do this on a system-by-system basis.

Let’s say I add a solo fiddle to my string orchestra. I can join violins and fiddle with a sub-bracket and join the violins with a sub-sub-bracket.

You may have noticed that the newly-created bracket has handles, and yes, those can be used to manually extend the bracket with the mouse with Alt-arrow commands.

As staff labels do not move when adding brackets, I do find that the text is rather close to sub-sub-brackets.

But this is something that can be fixed as a global default with a short trip to Engraving Options > Staff Labels.

What if change my mind later on in the score and decide to get rid of the sub-sub-bracket? I simply have to go to the system where I want to change to appear and select the bracket in question. Then all I have to do is delete it.

Note that the previous bracketing remains unchanged.

This is a very flexible way to work with bracketing. However, if one starts to use very complex bracketing changes throughout a score, it is preferable to start at the beginning of a score and proceed forward rather than proceed randomly and risk bracket and barline join changes stepping on each other’s toes. In this, the new tool can exhibit some fragility, but it is fair to say that such writing is extremely rare.

In addition, sub-brackets and sub-sub-brackets work very well for grouping divisi, but those have to be set at the point where divisi start, and not at the beginning of the system on which they appear. Once those are set, they will also stick to the end of the flow. Therefore, it is advisable to set the options to hide sub-brackets for single staves in Engraving Options to avoid deleting unnecessary brackets later on. One may also find that using a large number of divisi may mean extending the odd bracket manually later in the score. This is a small price to pay for this kind of flexibility, even as greater automation in the field of divisi bracketing would be welcome.

Repeat markers

Dorico 2.2 comes with an extremely intuitive implementation of repeat markers. These elements are found in the Repeat Jumps and Repeat Sections areas of Repeat Structures panel in Write mode, which also includes numbered endings, slash regions, repeat regions and (some would say in a quirkier move) tremolos.

The list of markers on the panel is quite complete. One can simply select a point in the score where the marker is to appear (in Write mode) and click on the appropriate marker. Selecting a barline will attach the marker to that barline, while clicking a bar rest of the first note of a bar will attach the marker to the barline preceding it.

Markers can also be attached at any caret location, although adding at least a dotted barline in front of them would make the intent clearer to the player in these types of situations. All of these are also quickly available through the popover Shift+R followed by typing the appropriate command in the Dorico language I like to call “Popoverese”.

The markers are beautifully positioned; the repeat section glyphs are centered over barlines and the jump markers are left aligned.

Additionally, creating a Coda section automatically splits the system.

But of course, this is not the end. Dorico offers a wide array of engraving choices in regard to the appearance of markers. Available in Engraving Options are different standards of abbreviation, capitalization and the appearance of segno and coda glyphs, as well as two presets: Standard and Gould. (the latter after Elaine Gould, author of the music notation reference Behind Bars). The Standard preset is more suited to conventions in rock and pop music, while the Gould preset is based on recommendations Elaine Gould makes that apply more to classical and concert music.

If you then change any of those settings — which you are free to do, of course — the preset will display Custom.

There is even an option to have longer markers display on two lines in Layout Options.

If Play repeats is selected in the Repeats section of Playback Options (Command-Shift-P on Mac or Ctrl+Shift+P on PC), all of the markers will play correctly (with the option of having repeats play during a DS or DC), and any logical mistakes made in creating and distributing them on the score will become obvious; for example, an orphaned “Fine” may simply become the end of playback in the middle of a score.

The accuracy of playback combined with the fact that egregious errors will not hang the program is therefore a great tool in evaluating the proper use of markers in a piece of music. In addition, Dorico handles multiple jumps in a score through setting indices in the Properties panel, a practice I am not personally fond of, but which is still seen on occasion.

The Properties panel can also be used to hide the markers, scale them to different sizes than what is set in Engraving Options, and also display custom text, such as “Trio”. These options not only demonstrate the flexibility of the tool but can also be useful for workarounds such as adding “Fine” at the end of a flow and changing its text to “attacca”, for example.

Since markers on final bars do not split multirests and are nicely left aligned to the barline, they can be subverted to such use, provided their repeat index is not in the way of actual repeats. The Coda sign can also be used to simply split a system for other use such as an incipit. Again, this is not the intended use, but I am certain that users will not be shy in exploiting workarounds such as these.

If this was not enough, Dorico 2.2 also implements repeats counts through the Properties panel. Those can be placed at the beginning or end of the repeat and are also subject to various display choices in Engraving Options.

The icing on the cake: Right-aligned markers such as “To Coda” don’t erroneously break multirests, like they do in the other major notation programs:

Dorico’s implementation of repeat markers is rock-solid. But even more impressive is the ease in which the tool can be used despite the wealth of options that are available.

Jazz articulations

Dorico 2.0 brought support for crucial jazz notations like bar repeats and rhythm slashes, plus the beautiful hand-written Petaluma font. Dorico 2.1 added swing playback. In Dorico 2.2 one of the last major areas of omission for jazz musicians — jazz articulations — is implemented very thoroughly.

Jazz articulations are commonly used in brass and wind writing, but are sometimes used with other instruments and genres too. There is a slight lack of consensus over the naming of some of these articulations — Dorico has chosen a consistent nomenclature which some people will no doubt take issue with regardless!

Plops, scoops and lifts can appear to the left of a note, and doits and falls can appear to the right. Each articulation can either be bent, straight, or wavy. In the case of doits and falls, Dorico offers three preset lengths to choose from too.

The different jazz articulations which can appear to the left and right of a note

In addition to the aforementioned jazz articulations which appear to the left or right of a note, a bend, smear, flip or jazz turn can appear above a note.

Jazz articulations above the note

In Dorico, every note can have a maximum of one jazz articulation in each position.

Adding a jazz articulation is achieved by opening the Ornaments panel in Write mode and choosing your desired articulation from the Jazz section.

Alternatively you can open the Shift+O popover and type what you might expect: “plop”, “scoop”, “lift”, “doit” or “fall”. Other commonly used names like “rip” are also supported. Dorico places and spaces the articulation intelligently, including when multiple articulations are applied to the notes in a chord.

To remove a left or right jazz articulation from a note, select the note and click the Remove button in the panel. To remove a jazz articulation above a note, select the articulation and press the Delete key. This inconsistency seems to be because internally the types of articulation are represented differently; it would be nice if this could be concealed from the user in future so that all the articulations behave the same.

Jazz articulations can be positioned precisely in Engrave mode, and as you’d expect, Dorico offers a large number of engraving options so you choose their default appearance across your whole project.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that these kinds of articulations aren’t entirely limited to jazz music – they are sometimes found in other genres too. Here’s a famous cue from Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho, using the new feature.

One demerit is that there is currently no playback support for jazz articulations. Steinberg says that playback may be added in the future.

Nevertheless, the implementation of jazz articulations is very comprehensive and much superior to other programs. The Dorico team has obviously consulted the literature carefully and covered all the important functionality very well.

Tempo track import/export

Perhaps no Dorico feature better illustrates the synergy between its superior ability to re-bar music effortlessly and the inroads it is making for scoring media than the new tempo track import/feature.

From version 1, a marquee feature of Dorico — and key difference from other notation software — was how it stored the underlying representation of the music more like one would see in a DAW, and then easily applied meters and barlines as desired, or not, freely combining, re-beaming, and re-notating the music as appropriate:

In addition to the compositional utility here (not to mention endless hours of harmless fun), the application for other uses within the program becomes evident when needing to quickly re-score a cue in a film. Many modern composers often score a cue without regard to tempo or meter, and then add that information later — known as the takedown. Say you’re happy with the music, but not the first crack you took at the takedown. So you decide to revise the takedown but keep the music intact. No problem, save one — the orchestrator has already worked on it.

I found myself in this exact situation while orchestrating Marcelo Zarvos’s music for the movie The Chaperone. I had already orchestrated a cue, applied all the markings, and made all of the instrumentation decisions, only to have received a message from the conductor that “we realized that it was not a great realization of the cue itself — namely, it was missing some necessary tempo mapping for an accurate live performance,” along with a new MIDI file and request to re-orchestrate the cue.

It was a totally reasonable request but one that took quite a bit of effort to undo and redo in Sibelius — opening the new MIDI file, taking note of the new tempo and time signature information, setting it up in my template, carefully pasting music from my existing Sibelius file and then manually fixing all the notation niceties.

If I had a DeLorean and been working in Dorico 2.2, all I would have needed to do is go to File > Import > Tempo Track… and barely blink before the music was re-scored before my eyes:

 

I don’t know whether or not showing the denuded version of the music is necessary in the interim second or two while Dorico lays out the music anew — I suspect the developers may have left it in because it’s pretty cool to see it in its temporary state while the calculations are being made behind the scenes.

Various options are available upon importing a MIDI file as a tempo track, so you can optionally import and replace timecode, tempo changes, time signatures, and markers:

You can also export a Dorico file as a tempo track by choosing File > Export > Tempo Track… for use in a DAW, for instance.

Even if this is a feature you don’t see yourself using, it’s great to see the long-term planning of Dorico’s architecture bear fruit in this way.

Real-time MIDI recording

Until now it’s been possible to enter music into Dorico only in “step-time”, that is, first specifying the duration of the note and then playing the pitch on your MIDI or computer keyboard. Dorico 2.2 brings real-time MIDI entry, so you can play music as you would hear it and have Dorico transcribe it for you.

Dorico’s implementation here has some unique touches, but not anything particularly groundbreaking like we’ve seen in other areas of the program. Dorico does not seem to do a better or worse job than other notation software in this area.

For starters, you might find that you have to fiddle with several settings to make the feature useful at all. Steinberg recommends that you test your setup with some basic quarter notes in common time to determine the behavior of your system, review the results, and adjust accordingly. This may have you very quickly knee-deep in areas such as Play > Recording > MIDI input latency compensation or Edit > Device Setup, which no one wants to spend time in for very long at all. The instructions are clear enough in the Dorico 2.2 version history, so you can read up on how to adjust those to suit your specific setup.

Activating MIDI recording in Dorico is easy enough: Select where in the score you want to begin recording, and choose Play > Record or type Command-R (Mac) or Ctrl+R (PC). By default, Dorico provides one bar of count-in, and will helpfully play any existing music in advance of the recording point. The default click sound is a nice tone called DoricoBeep which I find quite pleasant and vaguely reminiscent of early video games; a “click” in the style of a vintage digital metronome is also available. These settings along with subdivision options can be changed in Play > Playback Options.

Dorico’s transcription is unforgiving, which is to say it’s extremely accurate to a fault. You’d best set your quantization options to be as restrictive as possible — if you know that your music won’t be subdivided beyond the eighth note and won’t include tuplets, choose those settings properly. There is no flexible interpretation the way Sibelius has with Flexi-Time, and the quantization settings themselves are rather limited compared to Finale or Sibelius.

That’s somewhat mitigated by the ease with which you can freely renotate music, time signatures, and metrical groups in Dorico, but you have to know what you’re going for. If you’re a notation newbie and expect Dorico to create a human-readable score from playing music directly into the computer, you may get some strange-looking results.

In the holiday spirit I decided to put my formidable keyboard talents to the test, using the default settings in Preferences > Play > Recording > Quantization Options…

Not a whole lot of joy there, but fortunately, Edit > Requantize… is your friend (it also works well on imported MIDI files). Unchecking Detect tuplets solves a lot of problems:

Unfortunately, if you’ve got a great take going and want to keep recording beyond the existing bars in your score, you’re out of luck. Dorico will end recording precisely at the last bar of the score. So be sure to add plenty of extra bars in your score in advance of recording. You also won’t get any real-time feedback in the notation during recording; the score will remain unchanged until you end recording.

On the other hand, a nice and unique touch is a very clever feature known as retrospective recording. If you’re playing the score in normal playback mode and inspiration suddenly strikes, you can start playing along and Dorico will record your input. You don’t need to press any other button or toggle recording mode. When playback stops, select where you want to place your recording and choose Play > Retrospective Record or type Opt-Command-R (Mac) or Ctrl+Alt+R (PC).

Further, you can tell Dorico to record into a specific voice by pressing V to cycle through available voices or Shift+V to prime a new voice before recording. And, while the recording default is to overwrite existing music, you can optionally have Dorico merge your recording with existing music by pressing Q (for chord input) before recording — actually quite useful to fill in empty gaps in the music, but yielding some potentially interesting results otherwise.

As seen in the above screenshot, there’s also a Fixed Tempo Mode, found in the Play menu or by clicking in the transport. When the icon highlighted, the recording tempo will follow that which is notated in your score (thus, Fixed Tempo Mode is off);

When it’s not highlighted, you can drag the numeric read-out up or down to set your desired recording tempo (and thus, Fixed Tempo Mode is on):

Overall, real-time MIDI recording is a welcome addition to Dorico. It more or less achieves parity with Finale and Sibelius, and adds a few unique elements, besides.

Flow headings

Previously in Dorico:

Create a new project with umpteen flows. Allow new flows to start midway down the page. Scratch your head. Google “flow titles in Dorico”, read half a dozen forum posts, watch John Barron juggle with master pages, music frames and text frames in Discover Dorico. Spend considerable time doing what he does for each of your umpteen flows in each layout. Take a well earned break. Come back to Dorico, spot a mistake in the second flow, insert a number of missing bars. Zoom out. Gasp. Pull your hair out. Breathe. Juggle with music frames, text frames and pages again. Take a well earned break. Get a phone call: a coda section, just a few bars need to be added to the first flow … [to be continued]

Now in Dorico:

Create a new project with umpteen flows. Allow new flows to start midway down the page. Smile.

Need I say anything else?

Dorico can now automatically add flow headings to every flow, regardless whether or not the flow starts at the top of a page. Simply set the relevant options on the Page Setup page of Layout Options, design your flow heading prototypes in Engrave mode and let Dorico take care of the rest.

All the options are well described – no need for further explanations here.

The neat thing is that a flow heading can be anything from a simple title to a combination of text frames that contain comprehensive information about every last detail of the flow. Basically, flow headings are very similar to master pages: predefined sets of frames that are filled with content by the layout engine.

In fact, flow headings, like master pages, are part of master page sets: each master page set contains its own set of flow headings. A new section in the right hand panel in Engrave mode shows the available flow headings in the current master page set and allows you to edit and add flow headings. Double-clicking on a heading opens the flow heading editor.

Let’s take a look:

Looks familiar, works familiar, no surprises here. Add as many text or graphic frames as you like (logically, flow headings cannot contain music frames). Fill the text frames with wildcards for Dorico to resolve.

Keep in mind that tokens can relate to specific flows or to the whole project (for example {@[email protected]} and {@[email protected]}). The information keyed by these tokens is defined in the project info dialog. The fact that you are basically free to add anything you like to your flow headings makes them very powerful. One can imagine building entire worksheets, including all instructions, automatically by just using flow headings with tokens for different fields in the project info dialog.

Dorico adds the necessary vertical space and inserts the frame structure of your heading automatically above the first system of each flow (provided automatic layout has not been disabled by any page override on the page where the flow starts):

Flow headings are anchored to the first system of the flow. If the music is moved, the flow heading will happily come along. Frames that are part of a flow heading are drawn with dashed borders in Engrave mode to distinguish them from other normal frames. You can work with them like you would with normal frames. Keep in mind, though, that once you have moved them manually or changed their content, your changes will be saved as overrides to the current page. This will keep all flow headings on that page from being updated, moved or even removed automatically afterwards.

Like with master pages, there’s always one flow heading that Dorico uses as default. If you want to use another one at a specific point you can do so by adding a flow heading change to the corresponding page in the pages panel and select another prototype in the dialog. If you’ve ever inserted a master page change before, this dialog, too, does not come with any surprises.

Note that you can use a flow heading change to set different values for the flow heading margins without changing the actual flow heading if necessary.

All this works very well. As we have come to expect from the Dorico developers, the implementation is easy and yet powerful. What’s more, the new features probably eliminate 90 percent of the cases where users would previously need page overrides.

Due to the way Dorico thinks of pages and frames, individual changes or additions that make the layout on a page differ from the default master page have always been a potential cause for serious headache after significant layout recalculations, because the position of frames could only be defined absolutely in relation to specific pages, not relative to the position of specific content in another frame chain. That’s the big underlying change here: music world and page layout world have established a new means of communication. Flow headings are the most common use case for this positional connection. Other similar features, for example dynamic footnotes, are conceivable.

Once we override the default appearance of a flow heading, the same old question arises once more, though: flow heading changes and changes to individual frames of a flow heading are layout overrides, and as such they, too, are anchored to page indexes, not to ‘their flows’. This surprised me at first, although maybe I shouldn’t have been too surprised because this is just how Dorico works with layout overrides in general.

It can be unfortunate, occasionally. Manual changes to the frames of a flow heading cut their positional connection to the music and bind them to their current page; stuck frames are at risk of becoming orphans with every major layout recalculation. Also, it is not possible to use different flow heading prototypes on the same page because only one flow heading change can be attached to each page, regardless of the number of flows that really start on that page.

Here we need to remember that Dorico is designed in a way that encourages the user to discipline himself. As hard as it may be: restrain yourself from prematurely optimizing the layout! If possible, input everything first (and everything does mean everything, you know, the complete thing, no excuses), then set all the global options that still need to be changed. Then and only then use manual overrides as a last resort.

Stick to that order and you should be fine because by doing so you will dramatically reduce the number of significant layout recalculations during the layout phase. And in the rare case where you do need different flow headings on the same page you can always resort to changing them manually – at the very end of the process.

We’ve asked Daniel Spreadbury whether it wouldn’t make more sense to apply flow heading changes to specific flows rather than to specific pages. Here’s what he said:

The main reason that it works on pages rather than flows is a practical one: it’s how the other related data is already stored, and so it makes sense for flow heading changes to fit into the existing framework for page overrides, master page changes, and so on.

But it is equally practical inasmuch as we think it is going to be very unlikely that you will actually need to use different flow headings on the same page often enough to warrant upending the existing design. And you can still override the appearance of an individual flow heading on a page if you need to.

Tacets

Flow headings are accompanied by another handy feature: Tacets. If a flow is attached to a layout, but no players in that layout are attached to that flow Dorico can now automatically show a tacet indication.

This is very straightforward, too. The relevant options can be found on the Players page of Layout Options. Just set them and forget them.

For the technically interested: tacets are objects of another kind, different from flow headings. Dorico’s music layout engine needs to show some content for a flow in order to be able to attach a flow heading to it. Thus, the tacet is not another text frame, but a special kind of music system – except that there is no music, and, come to think of it, no system either. It’s just the text “Tacet”, or whatever you choose instead. Otherwise, it works the same. All the necessary flexibility is provided: you can attach frame breaks to a tacet indication, and position it with the staff spacing tool in Engrave mode.

The font that Dorico uses for tacets can be changed in Engrave > Paragraph Styles > Tacet. By default, tacets are drawn with a border to distinguish them from adjacent flow headings. The border can be tweaked or turned off in Engraving Options > Tacets. There’s an option there for the horizontal padding inside the box, sadly though (fly in the ointment), options for the bottom and top padding didn’t make it into the release build in time. This can be problematic because the height of the box is determined based on the vertical metrics of the font. Those are different for every font, and with some fonts this results in the text looking vertically displaced inside the box. The same problem exists with rehearsal marks, but there it can be countervailed by setting different values for the top and bottom padding of the box.

Until the developers add the same flexibility for tacets, some of those keen-eyed engravers with a propensity for aesthetics and balance may find that not all fonts are quite usable for boxed tacets:

Music symbols editor

Dorico 2.2 now comes with a music symbols editor, found in Engrave > Music Symbols. It uses the now-familiar interface of Dorico’s other editors. In fact, there has been a noticeable and much appreciated effort in this version to make all editors more consistent in both their look and their UI.

With this new tool, new symbols cannot be created from scratch. Since Dorico is firmly based on musical semantics, there would be little value in creating new symbols that have no semantic meaning, especially with all of the other editing tools already available. However, semiotic nirvana can still be attained through altering the symbols that are presently available in the program. If one wants a different design for a baroque ornament, or a different arrowhead at the end of arpeggios for example, this tool will make it very easy.

Text, glyphs, or graphics can be used, deleted, moved about, and scaled to taste, as usual with Dorico’s editors.

The potential for workarounds using the editor (as with the other editors, such as the playing technique editor) is also attractive when altering little-used symbols. If I want to create a sfzpp dynamic, for example, I cannot build it as a brand new dynamic that will appear in the panel, but I can take a dynamic that I am not planning to use in a project, such as rf, and use is as a container for my new sfzpp.

Entering rf in the dynamics popover will then result in my new sfzpp dynamic to appear.

Similarly, symbols that are used more rarely, such as the articulations “stressed” and “unstressed” can be used to create symbols that will behave exactly like articulations, such as stacatissimos of different sizes. Another valuable workaround is taking the buzz roll symbol and replacing it with the “x notehead” glyph.

Although in this case the display of the glyph is unchanged on the panel, it will be exactly as it should on note stems and produce convincing Sprechstimme notation, as long as buzz rolls and Sprechstimme do not have to appear together in the same project!

Although it cannot be used to create symbols from scratch, the music symbols editor is a welcome addition to Dorico’s arsenal of tools. It can be used for design alterations, as well as for workarounds if used judiciously.

Fingering improvements

Since version 1.2 Dorico has come with a dedicated feature for fingerings. The implementation was generally praised, though one caveat remained: inputting fingerings was a very time-consuming task because the fingering popover had to be summoned again for every single note. Some users said that they preferred to use text objects for fingerings because text objects could easily be copied (fingerings, like articulations, are intrinsic parts of the notes they belong to in Dorico, and therefore they can’t be selected and copied independently). Others used third party macro programs to develop smarter ways to input fingerings.

With today’s update all of this hardship is history. The fingering popover can now be advanced with the arrow keys, Space and Tab. Left arrow moves the popover to the previous note, right arrow or space move the popover to the next note, Tab lets you jump to the next bar, Shift+Tab to the previous one. Note that this works only for notes in the same stream/voice. If you need to add a fingering to a note or chord in another voice, you have to select that note manually and summon the popover again.

Look how fast it is now:

Pianists, let’s not argue about those fingerings, ok? And yes, I know there’s music for the left hand too.

Tempo equations

Sometimes it’s necessary to describe the relation between beats before and after a tempo or meter change. As of 2.2, Dorico supports simple tempo equations. Steinberg’s Anthony Hughes can “barely contain his excitement” about this new feature.

You can build these in the new Tempo Equation section in the right hand panel in Write mode > Tempo.

You can also input them intuitively in the tempo popover, using letters to specify the note values (whole, half, quarter, eighth, sixteenth).

When a tempo equation occurs at a barline, it is automatically centered above the barline. If the barline coincides with a system break, some manual adjustment to the position is necessary. Tempo equations cannot be split across systems yet.

It’s possible to display tempo equations with arrows by setting the option in Engraving Options > Tempo > Absolute Changes. (For my taste those arrows are huge and too high by default – fortunately this can be changed in the new music symbols editor.)

There’s also a property called Parenthesized for tempo equations. You guess what it does. (The position of the parentheses is hard coded. It could do with some fine tuning too in my opinion.)

By the way, tempo equations play back as expected out of the box. Just in case you were wondering. On the other hand, it’s Dorico we’re talking about, so you probably weren’t.

Music input improvements

As may be evident by now, Dorico 2.2 brings an abundance of new features, improvements and bug fixes. It would be impossible to cover them all in this review. Take a look at the version history document for a full overview.

Let’s pick out some of the most noteworthy improvements here in the area of music input.

Popovers

Double-clicking on an item in Write mode, or selecting it and pressing Enter will now open the appropriate popover, prepopulated with the string that would produce that item. If you input another string, the item will be replaced, provided the newly produced item belongs to the same subcategory. Otherwise, the new item will be added on top of the previous one.

This can be a little confusing at first if you used to think about dynamics as… you know, just dynamics, blissfully unaware of the fine lines between immediate dynamics and gradual dynamics and dynamics of force and combined dynamics:

Also, playing techniques will never be replaced — which occasionally leads to surprising results:

Umhh…. yeah, right, pizzicato does not really make sense here. Still… you know, the concept of mutual exclusiveness exists for playing techniques in playback. Maybe implement it for the notation side too?

One could argue whether the user wouldn’t generally expect the previously selected item to be replaced when he invokes the popover in this way. At any rate, once you have a clear picture about how and when what is replaced, this addition will speed up your workflow. According to the developers, it has brought Dorico a big step closer to how they envisioned it to work. Experienced users may need to get used to the fact that selecting just any item and hitting Enter will no longer activate Note Input (hit Shift+N instead or select a rest or note before hitting Enter).

Force Duration

This has been requested frequently: Force duration can now be set and unset on existing notes after input. I’m not going into details here about what force duration is and what it’s not. If you’re a seasoned Dorico user, you know. If not, just know that force duration is your friend (and read that manual).

Force duration is not a property — the toolbox icon in the left hand panel in Write mode serves as the toggle. If you select a note and the icon is highlighted, then force duration is active for that note. Click the icon to unset it. Guess what, it works the other way around too.

I’m tying and then lengthening a note with and without force duration.

Dynamics

Three significant improvements to dynamics deserve to be mentioned:

Adding dynamics to multiple staves at the same time: This has been requested frequently. You can now add dynamics to multiple selected staves at the same time. (It works very similarly to the much-touted features introduced in Sibelius 2018.1 and 2018.4.)

Here’s me adding dynamics quickly to multiple staves in some Beethoven chamber music:

Aligning dynamics: This new command is only available in Engrave mode and it allows you to quickly select a bunch of dynamics and align them vertically when you don’t want to group them. Beethoven once again:

I used Select More (Ctrl+Shift+A, see below) to quickly select all dynamics on the staff. Very useful!

Linked slurs and dynamics: Over time there have been a few complaints about how Dorico automatically linked slurs and dynamics during copy and paste actions. Again the developers have proven that they listen to their users. This is likely to be one of the first things some users are going to do when they get hands on Dorico 2.2: head to the Note Input and Editing > Editing section of Preferences and turn off Link dynamics and slurs to existing items when pasting.

Organizing time

Isn’t music just organized time? That wonderful sensation when suddenly our experience of time gets synchronized with all others who are involved, playing or listening?

Be that as it may, a few tools to organize time even better have been added.

It is now possible to insert any amount of time with the bars popover (Shift+B): type a string that would be valid for the meter popover (like 2/4 for two quarter notes), or specify a number and a beat unit. Both letters and numbers are accepted for the latter (w or 8 for a whole note, h or 7 for a half note, q or 6 for a quarter note and so on). If you type two numbers, they must be separated by a space or a hyphen (2q, but 2-6 or 2 6 for two quarter notes):

You can now insert bars both before and after time signature changes. Select the first note after the time signature to insert bars after it, select the time signature itself to insert bars before it.

Selection and key command improvements

Key commands

A few commands have been added that you can assign key commands to: it is now possible to set the resolution of the rhythmic grid to a specific value directly or to increase or decrease it by a specific value. Also, notes can now be shortened or lengthened by a specific value with key commands. All of these can be found on the Key Commands page of Preferences.

Select More

Select More is a new, convenient way to expand a selection. Select any number of items, then type Command-Shift-A (Mac) or Ctrl+Shift+A (PC) to select more items of the same type.

Select More can operate on any number of different items and different voices (streams) at the same time, though it only ever expands the selection horizontally, that means, in those voices or streams that are present in the initial selection. First it selects all target items in the current bar, then (if you are in page view) in the current system, on the current page, and at last in the current flow. This sounds more complicated than it actually is. Just try it and you’ll quickly get the hang of it.

Although this feature shares the same name, key command, and some similarities with the Select More feature in Sibelius, there are some differences, so take a look at the version history document to read about a few special cases in how the command works in Dorico!

Hide/Show

No, don’t get your hopes up: this is not the multi-purpose hiding tool that users of other well-known notation software have been asking for. It’s just another new command. Hide/Show Item is not available via a new menu item because it doesn’t add any new functionality, but you can now assign a key command to hiding chord symbols, playing techniques and time signatures. Essentially, this doesn’t do anything else than toggling that property. Might come in handy.

Options dialogs

The Layout Options and Notation Options dialogs now show the list of layouts and flows, respectively, on the right-hand side of the dialog. Further, if the dialog section has multiple subheadings, those subheadings appear below the section heading and you can click the name of the subheading to navigate to that subheadings.

This makes the options dialogs much easier to navigate, what with the myriad options Dorico presents for customization of a document.

Much more

As usual, there’s so much packed into this update that you would indeed be here until Christmas if we were to cover every last one. And that’s not to mention the 100 or so bug fixes. Daniel Spreadbury’s blog post, in the Lightning Round section, describes some of the items we couldn’t fit in to our review, such as viewing notes out of range, bar number improvements, and the status bar read-out.

There’s also a slew of videos that are as entertaining as they are informative on Dorico’s YouTube channel from Dorico’s product planning manager and UI designer Anthony Hughes, who’s fully embraced his role as “the voice of Dorico”. We counted 11 new videos that were just posted about the Dorico 2.2 update alone, so grab your popcorn and settle in to watch the action.

Availability and conclusion

A full version history is provided at Steinberg’s web site, along with the application updaters. As mentioned up top, the update is free to all registered Dorico 2.0 users. Dorico 1.x users will need to purchase a license to obtain the update, which is €100 including VAT or $100 USD, or the equivalent pricing in your local currency. A free 30-day trial is available.

If you haven’t yet read it, or need a refresher, we encourage you to read our review of Dorico 2.0, Dorico 2.1, and Dorico 2.1.10 to get fully caught up on all that’s new and improved.

“Dorico 2.2 is the final planned release in the Dorico 2.x series,” Daniel Spreadbury said today. “Some work has already begun on the features that will form part of the next major release, and as usual we have ambitious plans for what comes next. We plan to tackle one of the last remaining areas where Dorico falls well short of its competitors, in the area of notation for guitar and other fretted instruments, and to bring you some truly unique features as well.”

Dorico 2.2 is the best update yet to the software. It makes you wonder if the team ever takes a break. There’s something for everyone here, and we’re not talking about stocking stuffers. From the jazz articulations and repeats, to trills, note input, advanced editors and so much more, it’s a feast of features and improvements that make Dorico ever-more appealing — continuing to propel it forward and, Steinberg surely hopes, into the hands of many more customers this holiday season and into 2019.

Comments

  1. George Litterst

    Does Dorico export bezier data for slurs?

    1. George Litterst

      Sorry; I was not clear. Does Dorico export bezier data for slurs when exporting a MusicXML file?

      1. Daniel Spreadbury

        No, George, at the moment Dorico’s MusicXML export is extremely rudimentary. It’s something we plan to work on in the future. However, we do not in general plan to export graphical data in MusicXML, instead focusing purely on the musical semantics.

        1. George Litterst

          Thanks for the info, Daniel.

          From my point of view, it would be great to have this feature. My company publishes scores that are consumed in an electronic medium, such as the iPad. (Our platform is called SuperScore.) We would love to try out Dorico as a creation tool for our publishing platform, but having detailed MusicXML data is important.

          Our scores are “liquid.” In other words, we reformat the scores based on the user’s viewing size and the available screen real estate. Bezier data for slurs is critical in this situation.

        2. Itzhak Yaron

          Hi
          I am following this . I like sibelius but under avid it is a sinking ship
          Do you have consideration for writers that use DAW to record parts in midi then export to Dorico sibelius etc?
          Pro tools is so limited as it does not even have a precision clef
          I saw a nice plug in converting midi to xml to scoop the additional expression and convert them to interpretation and dynamics do you have that in Dorico?

  2. Bill

    Will this update qualify for a reissue of a demo license?

    1. Daniel Spreadbury

      Yes, though I believe the updated license codes are not yet available. They will be soon.

      1. Bill

        Thanks Daniel !

  3. Paul Harrison

    Loving the new update. But it appears that tempo equations can’t handle triplets, eg. triplet crotchet = new crotchet. While mathematically more complex, they’re used as much (if not more) than dotted or multiple relationships. Am I missing something here?

    1. Daniel Spreadbury

      No, Paul, you’re not missing anything. Tempo equations currently support only a single unit on either side of the equation, but this is something we aim to build on in the future.

      1. Paul Harrison

        Pleased to hear this, and as you’re constantly impressing us all with how quickly additions and new releases appear, I have faith that this will appear before too long.

  4. Waldbaer

    Once more thanks to the Scoring Notes team for your deep insights in the review! I’m looking forward to finally implement the necessary Jazz articulations to some Big Band Arrangements. ;-)

    1. Philip Rothman

      Thanks, Waldbaer!

  5. Kristian Rymkier

    As a contemporary composer – it has always been a problem not having enough note heads and symbols. Only 15 or 30 note heads/symbols for a project. But If I have made 25 “crazy” objects for just the piano part – I have a big problem for the rest of the parts. I really miss a space where it is possible to build my own library of noteheads/symbols and being able to continue to enlarge this personal library of speciel techniques, instead loading seperate settings for each instrument. How does the new update handle this issue. I am very interested in buying the program, but not sure if its there yet? Also regarding a flexibility with hidden systems (staves). Many contemporary composers are extremely hungry for a new notational program which accommodates their need for a large flexabillity when creating the score. But seems like Dorico is progressing very fast – kudos.

    1. Daniel Spreadbury

      You can create as many noteheads as you like via the Engrave > Notehead Sets dialog, and you can also create a reasonably wide range of symbols for other purposes in Engrave > Playing Techniques. The only area in which Dorico is missing some of the options that other programs have is that you cannot yet define your own lines and arrows, but this functionality is of course planned for the future, and many users are already using the program with great success. There are usually solutions possible for more or less anything: repurposing other lines, importing graphics, using specialist fonts, etc. If you’ve not checked the program out recently, you should download the trial and give it another look.

  6. Kristian Rymkier

    Thanks Daniel. I’m glad to hear it – I will try it out….. All the best Kristian

  7. Peer

    Hey Daniel,
    you’ve been my last Sibelius hero and I’m glad you went to Steinberg, too.
    I’m working day in and out with Sibelius and I hate it more and more. So many bugs, so many things which would be more than important to update – they just don’t do a s*** anymore. They just try to earn as much money as possible with no effort. Their updates are a big joke.
    Please, please integrate a good ‘designing’ platform for contemporary music (like Kristian asked) and please please integrate a good ‘midi-remote-controle’ section. I read your article about that for Sibelius. It’s unbelievable that they still have controllers like the UC33 in their ‘input’ list. If it wouldn’t be so sad, I could laugh about it.
    And maybe you could also get VSL in the boat.
    I’ll be with you guys after your next major update. Promised !!!
    Thanx for the great work…..I can’t wait for more…

  8. Den

    Hi
    See what can do NoteAbility Pro (I work with this), Igor E. and MusicPress and please think serious about some new possibilities in future updates…. Ok?
    p.s. I not use S and F or similar programs in any notation , because fail in many ways…

    Dorico have good start to be better and better, but… Team always must think what is in musician or engraver mind , from very simple to more complex notation… and like that, everything must work together and simple in multi-ways, because “notation” is like that ;-)

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