Today Steinberg has released Dorico 5, a major upgrade to its scoring program. The last major version, Dorico 4, was released in January 2022, with ten subsequent updates, up to 4.3.30 in March of this year. Coming only a few months after that final update to the 4 line, Dorico 5 is the next iteration of the software and, like its predecessor, it comes with a multitude of improvements across the gamut of the program.
The many new features and improvements found in Dorico 5 range widely and touch most areas of the program. Among them are the inclusion of many SMuFL music fonts and accompanying text fonts, giving users a broader aesthetic palette; speedier note input workflows that encourage live note editing with the mouse and multi-selection input; a number of playback enhancements such as scrubbing, space and stage templates, pitch contour emphasis, MIDI trigger regions, and the inclusion of Groove Agent SE, a dedicated drum kit playback device; a powerful instrument editor addition to the Library Manager; and a host of other smaller but worthwhile enhancements.
Given the number and scope of the changes, this review is a whistle-stop tour. As ever, Steinberg’s own version history document will have a meticulous introduction to each new feature.
The Dorico tiers, and this review
Steinberg offers three tiers of Dorico:
- Dorico Pro, the self-explanatory professional tier;
- Dorico Elements, an entry-level version aimed primarily at students and amateurs; and
- Dorico SE, a free version that is limited to eight players.
In addition, there’s Dorico for iPad, which generally mirrors the features of SE (albeit limited to four players) when used without subscription or lifetime payment, after which it matches the features of Elements.
Everything in this review refers to Dorico Pro, except where noted, although many of the new features have made their way to Dorico Elements and Dorico SE, too.
Font of all goodness
The first thing you’ll notice is an enlarged assortment of music and text fonts bundled with the program. Previous versions of Dorico installed two music fonts: Bravura, the SMuFL reference font, and Petaluma, Steinberg’s handwritten-style font. With the increased adoption of the SMuFL standard, Dorico 5 now adds eight more music fonts to the installation! They are:
- Four fonts from Finale: Finale Maestro, Finale Ash, Finale Broadway and Finale Jazz
- Leland, the SMuFL font from MuseScore
- Leipzig, used in the Verovia project
- GoldenAge, an updated version of a classic handwritten font by Don Rice
- Sebastian (about which much has already been written on this site)
Installing the metadata files for SMuFL fonts can be a bit fiddly, so it’s good to have this done automatically; and the inclusion of these fonts makes transferring documents from one app to another easier. These fonts will also be included in the iPad version, so documents will look the same there.
Dorico has previously included a few text font families: Academico (a New Century Schoolbook clone), Crimson (an open-source Garamond), Libre Bodoni, and the sans faces Lato and NotoSans. To these are added several typefaces that accompany the music fonts: Finale Maestro Text, Finale Ash Text, Finale Broadway Text and Finale Jazz Text; and Nepomuk (also written about on this site).
Note, somewhat confusingly, that Bravura Text, Petaluma Text and Sebastian Text are music fonts designed for use in text apps (e.g. for adding musical symbols in a critical commentary); whereas Finale Maestro Text is a text font with no music characters, designed as a stylistic companion to Finale Maestro.
When selecting a Music Font, you have the option to “Update text fonts”. This option was available in Dorico 4, but it didn’t really work, as none of the fonts (except Bravura) had associated text fonts listed in their metadata. Now, selecting Finale Ash will make Finale Ash Text the default text font. Selecting Sebastian will choose Nepomuk. GoldenAge is, cunningly, both a text and music font, so it selects itself!
(Disclaimer: the reviewer was involved in the development of Sebastian, Nepomuk and GoldenAge. But the other fonts are very nice too!)
Several new features have been added to improve the process of getting notation into the program, making it easier, quicker and (dread word) more intuitive. Firstly, popovers and other items now respond to multiple selections. So, you can select, say, three staves and change the clef for all of them with only one popover command.
Dorico acts ‘intelligently’, depending on what you’re adding to the selection. For instance, if you apply the upbow playing technique to a series of notes, you now get an upbow symbol on each note, instead of one upbow symbol that happens to apply for a duration. The properties of a given playing technique will determine whether it appears as separate items on each note, or one continuous line.
Selecting staggered entries across multiple staves and applying a dynamic will add that dynamic at the start of each entry, rather than on the rests at the start of the selection. (As ever, there’s an option to suppress the behavior, if you prefer.)
Multiple sections work for all kinds of notation, including glissandos and arpeggios, slash regions and ornaments, each with their own logic.
In Note Entry, you can now toggle dotted notes on and off by double-tapping a note duration. For example, press 5 twice in short succession to get a dotted eighth note; or 6 twice to get a dotted quarter.
Depending on how you use music notation software in your daily life, you might find this little gem the most valuable new feature of the whole lot. Let’s please see this in other software!
By your command
There are a few new menu commands. Delete Bars now appears in the Edit menu, which makes its eponymous task easier than before, e.g. by using the System Track or invoking the mysteries of the Bars popover.
Add Bar at End of Flow can be found in the Shortcuts editor (Preferences > Key Commands) and the Jump Bar.
Edit > Notations > Text > Change Paragraph Style is a new function to … you guessed it… change the Paragraph Style of a selected Text item, without having to enter the Edit panel. Select More will now select more Text items with the same Paragraph Style.
Other enhancements to notation input are:
- The leading of a Paragraph can now be altered in the Text Editor popover.
- Repitching notes chromatically in ‘other’ tonality systems now behaves more intelligently.
- The Dynamics popover now recognizes cresc… and dim… (with dots) to create dynamics with lines, (instead of having to set the line Property afterwards).
- If you manually re-order Players of the same instrument type in Setup mode, you can now renumber them, using Setup > Renumber Instruments.
What a drag
A common cry of frustration for new Dorico users is: why can’t I move notes with the mouse? The answer: Dorico was originally conceived with the ‘safety-catch’ of holding Alt to move a note with arrow keys.
Now, notes can be dragged up-and-down or left-and-right with the mouse. A ‘ghost’ notehead appears, so you can see where you’re moving it to, before committing yourself. Holding Alt will copy, not move your notehead; so you can manually build chords, for example. (Other methods of chord building are available…)
You can also drag selections of multiple notes.
Scrubbers love it
Another popular request that has been granted is audio scrubbing.
You can now ‘scrub’ the mouse pointer over the music, and notes will play as you pass over them. There’s a button in the transport panel to activate this mode or you can use Ctrl-Space on a PC or Option-Space on a Mac. If you’ve got a spare finger, holding Shift will solo the instrument under the pointer. (Finale users will find these keys familiar; Sibelius users have a slightly different method.)
I’ve already caught a few wrong notes in a dense texture, thanks to this!
The Library menu gains another welcome addition, in the form of an instrument editor.
You can now create and edit instruments and variants, defining their names, staves, clefs, and pitch range. Strings and tunings can be edited for Fretted Instruments.
Like all Dorico’s editors, you can save your changes as your defaults, so they will be available in every new document. This fulfills every request for exotic instruments, or queries about range, transposition and scordatura; and provides another region of flexibility to the program as a whole.
Space: the final front ear
Dorico 5 builds on the work of version 4 with some powerful new capabilities for audio playback.
The first of these are templates for ‘Stage’ and ‘Space’. A Stage Template is a plan that lays out where different instruments ‘sit’ in the stereo mix: left and right, front to back (as they would on a stage).
A Space Template defines the reverb effects that apply to the Stage.
There are five built-in Space templates, such as Ballroom, Concert Hall, Recording Stage; and 12 Stage templates for common ensembles, like Big Band, Orchestra, Choir. These templates are assigned to Playback templates, making the panning and reverb settings of each instrument in the mix an automatic part of assigning a playback template.
Expression maps now have a setting to define a delay in milliseconds for each technique. This can be a negative number, in order to offset ‘slow’ samples.
Playback Options has settings for a feature called Pitch Contour Emphasis. This mimics the natural human tendency to play rising phrases with a slight increase in dynamic, and falling phrases similarly with a slight reduction. (This is more sophisticated than just a sliding scale – there are complex algorithms at work!) This creates a humanized, phrasing effect. You can also override these settings in Expression Maps.
Another feature in Playback Options sets the maximum and minimum range on the dynamic curve: reducing the numbers from the defaults of 6 and -6 will essentially cut off the extreme dynamics from being considered in the range. A setting of 3 and -3 will make fff the loudest level and ppp the quietest, which will exaggerate the steps between each dynamic.
You can Suppress Playback of various elements for a given Repeat pass. These settings are found in the Common section of the Properties panel. You can suppress notes, dynamics, and many other items.
Groove Agent and MIDI Trigger Regions
Dorico 5 now includes the option to install Steinberg’s Groove Agent SE, a drum VST which comes with hundreds of drum patterns. You can either drag a pattern from Groove Agent directly into a track in Play mode, or you can use Write > Create MIDI Trigger Region (or Shift-0).
By creating a MIDI Trigger region, you can assign MIDI notes to be used as triggers for events in VSTs like Groove Agent (thus distinguishing them from ‘real’ notation that plays). As each pattern in Groove Agent can be assigned to a trigger note, you can trigger each pattern at different points in your score, and have them loop for the duration of the region.
Built-in Playback templates also let you use Groove Agent’s samples for drum kit playback, which are of much higher quality than the HALion defaults.
Some other Playback-related improvements:
- Each item in a Percussion Kit can once again be routed separately.
- The labels for each Mixer channel can now be edited.
- Double-clicking in the Key Editor’s ruler now starts playback from that point.
As often with Dorico updates, it’s the little things — the small improvements and the extra options, which provide greater flexibility or better functionality — that are as welcome as the headline features. There are many additions, enhancements and fixes to the way that notation is displayed or configured.
- Notation Options now has settings for cut time to use the same beaming and note grouping as common time.
- Clef changes and ottava lines have a Hide property, so they can be hidden per layout, for occasions when the score might want to use them, but the part might not. (Hiding them nulls their effect.)
- Layout Options has more choices and controls for sub-brackets of adjacent Violin players, and for what to do if a sub-bracket and primary bracket cover the same instruments.
- The size and position of the niente circle on hairpin dynamics can now be adjusted; the text style of the niente n can also be configured.
- Notation Options > Rests has more options to provide better control over the alignment of ‘floating’ rests in voices.
- There are several options for the alignment and fine positioning of chord symbols. These include the vertical alignment of single-line chords with multi-line chords; the horizontal alignment of capo chords with default chords; positioning of accidentals and parentheses; and display options for 6/9 chords with additional alterations.
- It is now easier to see Note Spacing adjustments in Engrave mode (you no longer have to select the spacing column’s anchor first).
- Lyrics have also received improvements to the handling of hyphens and extension lines, including the option of Japanese-style hyphens instead of extension lines. Non-breaking spaces are now shown as dots in the Lyric Editor, to make them more identifiable.
- More ornaments have been included in the Ornaments panel.
- There are improvements to the positioning of Rehearsal Marks.
There are several improvements in other areas, too:
- Better logic in various processes, such as merging Pedal Lines, importing and exporting Page Templates, and Note Length conditions in Expression Maps.
- New properties for Text Frames let you assign a color to the background and the frame.
- You can now Change Instruments for Players that have ossias, divisi, and additional staves.
- Creating a Condensing Change on a position that already has one will edit the existing Change.
- There are tokens for the project’s total duration, matching those for a flow’s duration.
- Tool tips have been restored to all the icons and buttons in the project window.
- MIDI Middle C can now be set as either C3, C4 or C5, depending on which of these feuding factions you support, with an option in application Preferences.
- The Status Bar has revamped with several new abilities. You can now toggle Concert / Transposing pitch and Page / Galley View directly from buttons in the bar. The MIDI pitch number of a selected note (or notes) is shown next to the pitch name. There is also a switch to control whether each window follows playback or not.
- The Missing Fonts dialog will now list which Styles are using the missing fonts.
Dorico has had basic scripting functionality from day one, but this is the first release since that has touched on this part of the app.
It’s now much easier to save a script and have it listed in the Scripts menu. When you End Recording, you are prompted to save the script in the Scripts folder with a name of your choice. You can create sub-folders, which will show as hierarchies in the menu (though new folders created while saving will only show on restart.) Saved scripts can be triggered from the Jump Bar, and Undone in a single action, rather than going through each step.
The Console, where you can type interactive Lua commands, has had some interface improvements, making it easier for scripters to try out their code.
Dorico now correctly imports and recognizes a much wider range of notation, including Holds and Pauses (such as fermatas), harmonics, playing techniques and ornaments such as trills. It handles staff labels and music on grand staves with greater thought. MusicXML export is also improved.
Elements, SE, iPad editions
Changes have also been made to the cut-down edition, Dorico Elements. The number of players in a new document is now unlimited. Elements users can now access Playback Options, and font selection dialogs. Note spacing and Staff spacing tools can be used in Engrave mode. This makes Elements exceptional value: its main limitation being the lack of customization. You can’t access most of the ‘editors’ (which includes the new Instrument editor), nor can you alter Page Templates or Flow Headings. Engraving Options is still out of bounds.
Dorico SE, the free version, now has a limit of eight players, up from two previously. (Grand staff instruments count as one.) If you open a project file with more players than the limit, it will be read-only. The iPad version mirrors the features of SE when used without subscription or lifetime payment, after which it matches the features of Elements.
Now with the possibility of unlimited players and the addition of Note spacing and Staff spacing tools in Engrave mode, Dorico for iPad is even closer to becoming a viable standalone tool and not merely an accessory to “Big Dorico” on the desktop. One notable caveat for iPad users is that any of these tools that require a keyboard on Big Dorico also need one on iPad, so you won’t be able to make use of the newly added Note spacing and Staff spacing tools without a hardware keyboard, though Steinberg’s Daniel Spreadbury says this is something the team hopes to address in a future update.
Another unique feature on the iPad is the capability to send playback to an external MIDI device, which requires the subscription/Lifetime Unlock.
The rest of the story
Daniel Spreadbury has written up the news of the Dorico 5 release on the official Dorico blog.
There is a series of new video tutorials about Dorico 5 created by Steinberg’s Anthony Hughes, available on the official Dorico YouTube channel, which demonstrate many of the features and improvements you’ve read about in this review.
If you’re reading this post first thing on May 24 and want to catch the official live-stream announcement from Steinberg, it will be broadcast at 3pm BST / 4pm CET / 10am EDT / 7am PDT, and available later on-demand.
Here’s the official product page, summarizing what’s new in Dorico 5.
The Dorico version history meticulously details the changes in Dorico 5, and itself has received a nice refresh, with easier-to-read fonts and many more screenshots and explanation than in prior version history documents.
Availability, upgrading, trial version, pricing
You can purchase Dorico from the official Dorico web site, or from an authorized reseller.
Upgrading to Dorico 5
Dorico 5 will not overwrite Dorico 4 or any other version of Dorico, and the two versions mostly coexist peacefully on the same machine. However, it’s not advisable to have both versions open at the same time. The Dorico 5 installer will copy over your settings in your Dorico 4 user application folder. For instance, any custom shortcuts you’ve created from Dorico 4 will transfer over seamlessly to Dorico 5.
You can open Dorico 5 files in earlier Dorico versions, although any unsupported feature will be removed.
Dorico 5 system requirements
Apple silicon native
Dorico supports Apple silicon Macs. If you have an Apple silicon Mac, Dorico will run as a native application by default. However, if you use VST plug-ins, Dorico can only load VST plug-ins that can run natively on Apple silicon as well, and these must be VST 3 (there is no support for VST 2 plug-ins on Apple silicon). It is possible to force Dorico 4 to run under Rosetta 2 on Apple Silicon, which will allow VST 2 and Intel-native plug-ins to be loaded, though at the expense of slower overall performance.
- Mac OS X 10.15 Catalina and higher
- Multi-core Intel or Apple silicon 64-bit CPU (quad-core CPU or better recommended)
- 8GB RAM (16GB RAM or better recommended)
- 12GB hard disk space (SSD recommended)
- 64-bit Windows 10 update 21H2 or later, 64-bit Windows 11 update 21H2 or better
- Multi-core Intel or AMD 64-bit CPU (quad-core CPU or better recommended)
- 8GB RAM (16GB RAM or better recommended)
- 12GB hard disk space (SSD recommended)
- iPadOS 14.0 or later
An Internet connection is required both to download and activate the software. Documentation is also online, but you can download a PDF for offline viewing from steinberg.help. No Internet connection is required after initial activation to use the software.
The 60-day unrestricted trial version of Dorico 5 is not yet available at the time of the publication of this post. In his post today, Daniel Spreadury said that the “trial version will be available in a few weeks.”
Dorico SE 5 is available now, though, and any existing Dorico SE users can just go and request a new download of Dorico SE 5 to get the new version, which is possible to activate on up to three computers.
Suggested retail pricing in USD and Euros
All US prices are exclusive of state sales tax; Euro prices are inclusive of German VAT at 19%; actual prices vary per country, and you should check the Steinberg online shop or your local reseller for the price you will pay.
- Dorico Pro 5 – $579.99 / €579
- Dorico Pro 5 Educational – $359.99 / €359 (you need to qualify for Steinberg’s educational pricing: teachers, educators, currently enrolled full-time students of universities; currently enrolled full-time students and teachers at public and private music schools and the SAE Institutes)
- Dorico Pro 5 Crossgrade – $299.99 / €299 (Proof of ownership of Finale or Sibelius required)
- Dorico Pro 5 Educational Crossgrade – $179.99 / €179; (Proof of ownership of Finale or Sibelius required as well as qualifying for Steinberg’s educational pricing)
- Dorico Elements 5 – $99.99 / €99.99
- Dorico Elements 5 Educational – $66.99 / €66.99
- Dorico SE 5 – free
An “update”, in Steinberg-speak, is when you get the most recent version of the same product tier that you currently have (i.e., an update from Dorico Pro 4 to Dorico 5).
- Dorico Pro 5 from Dorico Pro 4 – $99.99 / €99.99
- Dorico Pro 5 from Dorico Pro 3.5 or earlier – $159.99 / €159
- Dorico Elements 5 from Dorico Elements 4 – $29.99 / €29.99
- Dorico Elements 5 from Dorico Elements 3.5 or earlier – $39.99 / €39.99
If you first activated your existing Dorico Pro 4 or Dorico Elements 4 license on or after April 1, 2023, you are entitled to a free grace period update to Dorico Pro 5 or Dorico Elements 5. If you think this applies to you, sign in to Steinberg’s self-service portal using your Steinberg ID and click Vouchers. If you are eligible for a grace period update to Dorico 5, you will find it listed there: click Redeem to activate the license in your account.
An “upgrade”, in Steinberg-speak, is when you upgrade to a higher product tier than the one that you currently have (i.e., an upgrade from Dorico Elements 5 to Dorico Pro 5). An upgrade might also encompass an update (i.e, from Dorico Elements 4 to Dorico Pro 5).
- Dorico Pro 5 from Dorico Elements 5 or 4 – $479.99 / €479
- Dorico Pro 5 from Dorico Elements 3.5 or earlier – $499.99 / €499
- Dorico Elements 5 from Dorico SE – $74.99 / €74.99
Multi-user pricing for educational institutions is also available; schools, colleges and universities can buy multi-user licenses directly from the Steinberg online shop if they can pay with a credit card; otherwise, they can take advantage of Steinberg’s network of authorized resellers.
- Dorico Pro 5 multi-user license: $139.99 / €139.99 per seat, minimum order quantity of 5 seats
- Dorico Pro 5 crossgrade multi-user license: $69.99 / €69.99 per seat, minimum order quantity of 5 seats
Notation Express for Dorico
If you use Notation Express for Dorico 4, you should be able to use it just the same in Dorico 5, although you may need to update your Stream Deck’s preferences to switch to the Notation Express for Dorico profile when you bring Dorico 5 to the foreground instead of Dorico 4; you can do this in your Stream Deck Preferences > Profiles > Notation Express (or Notation Express XL) for Dorico 4; select Dorico 5 (it may just be called Dorico). In time we will issue an update to Notation Express to take advantage of additional features.
You may also need to re-authorize the connection between the Notation Express Stream Deck plug-in and Dorico, by clicking OK on the pop-up that appears once, when asked: “Allow remote connection for remote control from ‘Notation Express Stream Deck Plugin for Dorico’?”
To sum up
The strap-line for the release is “Create Music That Moves”, which clearly references the Space templates and perhaps even the emotive effects of Pitch Contour Emphasis. However, they could equally have chosen something like “Work Smarter”, as this version of Dorico adds many useful features and functions that reduce effort and make getting music onto the page (or out of the speakers) easier and faster — particularly for new users.
Many of these are direct responses to requests from the user community (as evidenced on the Steinberg forum), and I dare say there’s something here on most people’s lists. While there still remain some limitations in Dorico’s notation abilities, that list gets smaller with each release. New editors, properties and options bring increased flexibility for different types of notation. Dorico’s capabilities for audio output are amongst the strongest of any notation app, (though the release of NotePerformer 4 has leveled the playing field somewhat). The new Stage and Space templates make creating a decent mix effortless.
There will be incremental updates to Dorico 5 to correct bugs and add improvements as time goes on; indeed, in his post today, Daniel Spreadbury said, “Dorico 5.0 is only the beginning of the story… You can expect future Dorico 5.x releases to follow. For starters, we expect the instrument editor to evolve, and we are working on further ideas to improve the expressiveness of playback.” And, as we have often seen before, Daniel dangled a teaser: “We have something exciting up our sleeves for the second half of this year.”
For the latest information about compatibility for Finale, Sibelius, Dorico, and MuseScore, as well as links to the latest news and reviews about product releases, please see the Scoring Notes Product Guide.