Note: This post about Dorico 2.0 is from May 2018. Read about the updates to Dorico since then:
Strictly speaking, it will come as no revelation that a major update to Dorico was due to arrive sometime this year. At the time of the last update — Dorico 1.2.10, which was made available barely three months ago — Steinberg product marketing manager Daniel Spreadbury told us:
The team is already hard at work on the next Dorico release, which will be available later in 2018… the next release will be a paid update for existing users, but the update cost will be modest, and we will pack as many features and improvements into that release as we can. I plan to tell you a bit more about some of the things we’re working on for this new release in a new installment in the development diary series in early Spring, all being well.
So one could understandably infer that such a major release wouldn’t come until the fall, like we saw with Dorico 1.0, and preceded by Daniel’s development diary entries. Yet here we are just days away from June and there had been no new entries in the development diary — until today. Surprise!
Among the good reasons to push out Dorico 2 earlier, though — not the least of which is the opportunity to charge for an update — is the introduction of Dorico Elements, which is a new offering that Steinberg says “packs all of the essential power and time-saving features of Dorico Pro into a smaller, simpler package, suitable for use at home and by students in secondary education.” In order to make this new “junior” product attractive to its intended user base, having it available well in advance of the fall, before students go back to school, is a wise move. Daniel gives further context on this in today’s blog post announcing Dorico Pro and Elements: “It was always our intention that big new Dorico releases should come in the spring or early summer.”
Wait, what is this about “Dorico Pro”, you ask? Yes, that’s right — The plain-vanilla “Dorico” moniker is retired with the 1.x version (something we wish Avid had done when moving to their new naming scheme with Sibelius). So today we see two new flavors of Dorico: the aforementioned Dorico Elements 2 (a new product), and Dorico Pro 2, the rightful successor to Dorico 1.x, and the main subject of this extensive review.
Dorico Pro 2’s new features are impressive, sophisticated, and — as we’ve come to expect — lay the foundation for even further progress in the future. Here’s what’s new:
- Smart staff management:
- Extra staves for solo instruments
- Divisi for section players
- Slash and rhythmic notation
- Bar repeats
- New arranging and editing tools
- Move/duplicate to staff
- System track
- Playing techniques editor
- Large time signatures
- Editing tempo, dynamics, CC in Play mode
- Video support
- NotePerformer support
- New handwritten font
- Other improvements
Read on for our take on Dorico Pro 2, with team coverage from our expert reviewers:
- Claude Lapalme on smart staff management
- Anders Brevik Gleditsch on slash and rhythmic notation, bar repeats, and new arranging and editing tools
- Florian Kretlow on the system track, playing techniques editor, and large time signatures
- Andrew Noah Cap on editing tempo, dynamics, CC in Play mode and video support
Alexander Plötz also contributed to this post, in the section about the new font.
Smart staff management: Extra staves for solo instruments, ossias, and divisi for section players
“Good things come to those who wait,” as they say. This is very true of Dorico users. Their patience is richly rewarded since Dorico tends to go (as we have often noted on this blog) from feature “x” being unavailable to becoming, overnight, the uncontested leader in the field of feature “x”.
Let’s explore Dorico’s operation of extra staves, something heretofore missing from its panoply of features, but now fully developed in the newly released Dorico Pro 2.0. The ingenuity and intelligence of this tool’s implementation is once again a game-changer in the landscape of music notation software.
Dorico’s development team has wisely divided the realm of extra staves into three separate entities, each precisely fulfilling specific requirements. They are:
- Temporary or permanent extra staves for solo instruments
- Ossias for any instrument
- Divisi for section players
While these will often be variations of the same feature in other software, Dorico treats them as being very distinct from one another, both in their function and their implementation. All of them are available through a context menu called Staff which is also available through the Edit menu.
Extra staves for solo instruments
Let’s take the simplest feature of this triumvirate: the extra staff for solo instruments. Nothing too earth-shattering here. From an instrument such as the piano, we select a point on a staff where we want the extra staff to appear, invoke the Staff Menu, select Add Staff Above (or Below, of course), and a staff will appear until the end of the flow which can then be populated with music.
Choose another point in the flow, select it, click on the “Remove Staff” command, and the staff will stop at that point.
As usual with Dorico, there will be signposts assigned to this event, and those, if made visible through the View > Signposts > Divisi, can be moved or extended with the mouse and/or Alt+Left/Right Arrow command. What is wonderful, though, is that these extra staves are not “hidden staves” with visible content at chosen locations — they are discrete entities, and the blank space on either side of them cannot be accidentally moved.
Another helpful choice is available to these extra staves. One can decide, on a per layout basis in Setup > Layout Options > Staves and Systems > Ossias and Extra Staves, to have them cut off at the Remove Staff point, or to have them drawn for the entire length of the system in which they appear.
Note that the Extra Staves command only works with solo players; for section players, one must use the divisi tool.
Ossias are treated similarly, but here Dorico — always aware of semantics — acknowledges that ossias are an editorial tool. The differences are subtle, but helpful. Although creating ossias is done by selecting a point on the score and selecting Staff > Create Ossia Above or Create Ossia Below, Dorico realizes that ossias are generally short, and so will limit the length of the staff to that of the selection itself. Again, should one change his or her mind, moving signposts around is as easy as pie.
The staff will be created at a 2/3 size ratio to the normal staff by default (I also added a text box to give further editorial explanations). This is customizable, alongside various other options, in Engrave > Engraving Options > Staves > Ossias.
It is important to reiterate — in order to underline Dorico’s sophistication in these matters — that these options pertain to ossias only, and to no other types of extra staves. Similarly, the editorial aspect of ossias is made all the more clear when one discovers that in Setup > Layout Options > Staves and Systems > Ossias and Extra Staves there is a Show ossias checkbox if one wants to publish an alternate layout with no ossias.
The coup de théatre in Dorico’s new arsenal of staff tools is unquestionably the handling of divisi. Divisi in Dorico are not just a collection of staves. With this tool, one can create any constellation of solos and tutti partitions at any place in the score, all with great ease and flexibility. Furthermore, should the layout create a system break a few bars before a divisi section starts, Dorico will cleverly populate those previous unison bars automatically.
Here is a simple example.
In this well-known piece for string orchestra, I will create a divisi section in the first violins by selecting bar 9 and issuing the Edit > Staff > Change Divisi… command.
The Change Divisi dialog displays the options that are now available to me. (To access this dialog again, double-click the signpost that appears in the score.) I do not want much, however, I simply want the section to divide into two equal sections and for this I have to click on the Add Section Division icon in the Divisions section.
Dorico will then split this staff in two and automatically label them 1 and 2.
I can easily change those numbers by selecting the appropriate division in the Division box and entering the letter “a”, for example, and the “b” for the second divisi. There are also display options in the tool dialog box (and of course more in Engraving Options and Layout Options). If the divisi starts at the last bar of the system, the entire system will display two staves, and both of them will be populated with unisons until the division occurs (these unison notes are colored in light gray).
If I opt to insert a system break right before the divisi, the automatic unisons will simply move accordingly.
This is very powerful because the divisi tool interacts with the layout. There is no need to plan where extra staves start or end on each layout because Dorico will alter the number of staves on any system according to the initial positions of the divisi. To resume normal non-divisi display, once simply has to issue the Restore Tutti command from Edit > Staff.
With this in mind, I will now complete the phrase by adding other divisi.
Adding solo parts as part of a divisi is just as easy. Clicking the Add Solo Division icon will add a soloist. Clicking it again will add another soloist. The solo will be named “Solo” and the section will be named “gli altri” by default, with additional soloists enumerated.
But there is more. Various sets of divisi can be gathered into groups by selecting them in the Divisions section and clicking on the Add Group icon.
These groups can then be renamed at will and labeled as one wishes though the options visible in this dialog box and/or with other choices available on a per-layout basis in the Setup > Layout Options > Staves and Systems > Staff Labels.
Let’s take a look at the string section from the end of Richard Strauss’s Rosenkavalier. Strauss and his editors are notorious users of elaborately deployed divisi that are at once complex and easy to read. Can Dorico handle this challenge?
Absolutely, and better than any other software currently on the market.
Let’s examine the beginning of the finale, after the spine-chilling trio. The strings are laid out with no divisi.
Twenty-six bars in, the string section explodes into multifarious divisi in each section except for the double-basses.
Each divisi has its own structure and labeling, as can be seen in the violins:
Or the violas:
Later in the following system, the divisi change again and are displayed cleanly and clearly on the next system:
As of now, labeling of solos mid-system are not displayed until the following system. However, they can easily be identified with text if need be.
This, of course, is transferred neatly into the parts layout, while Setup mode still shows that this comes out of a simple, five “players” setup.
This is heady stuff. Divisi in Dorico is a revolutionary tool.
As a bonus, I cannot help but think that it gives us a peek, combined with the way Dorico handles instrument changes, into the “reverse” tool which is likely to come in the future, and would allow displaying more than one instrument on a single score staff while preserving their individual layouts. We can see what’s under the hood at the moment and it promises great things for the future.
Slash and rhythmic notation
Dorico 2 brings a much sought-after slash notation feature. Slashes in Dorico look great, both in Bravura and in the new handwritten font, Petaluma (more on that later):
The default appearance can be set through Engraving Options > Notes, which also provides an additional Muted design. Slashes can also be toggled to use the Small slash design on an individual basis through the Properties panel, which provides some clever on-the-fly flexibility.
All slashes are placed on the middle staff line by default, and they are unaffected by transposition and clef changes. Additionally, all slashes are muted by default.
Dorico 2 provides two separate methods for rhythmic slashes, which together gives a great combination of flexibility and automation.
The first method is called slash regions. These can be input by selecting one or more bars, using one of the following ways:
- From the Repeat Structures > Rhythm Slashes section of the right-hand panel, and clicking Create Slash Region.
- By invoking the Repeat Structures popover (Shift+R), and inputting slash or slashes.
- Via Write > Create Slash Regions.
You may also assign your own key command to the slash region tool, which gives a total of four different input methods. In other words, it couldn’t possibly be faster nor simpler!
By default, slash regions are highlighted in green, with the same clever mechanism for emphasizing at different zoom levels that can be found on cues. I personally prefer having minimal distractions on my workspace, and I’m therefore happy that there’s an easy way to disable the highlights with View > Highlight Slash Regions.
Individual slash regions can be tweaked with a number of useful options in the Properties panel:
Various global options are available in Engrave > Engraving Options > Notes > Rhythmic slashes.
Similar to Staff styles in Finale, slash regions in Dorico are dynamic, and adapt to local or global time signatures. This feels like a tiny bit of magic, and simplifies editing operations that can be very cumbersome with the native features of Sibelius (though there are external plug-ins that makes it manageable).
Slash regions are easily editable with familiar tools, such as using the Scissor tool (U) to split, or Shift+Alt+Left/Right Arrow to shorten or lengthen. One minor function I miss is the ability to merge existing regions, which could help tidying up the mess I tend to make.
Slash regions can co-exist with any other notation element, including cues, which is helpful. However, slash regions appear in all layouts, and there’s no way to have other notation hidden behind the slashes. This is something that would be very useful when writing for rhythm sections, where one might need drum grooves for playback, and slashes for parts and/or the score.
I find Finale’s use of Staff styles to be clearly more powerful and flexible in this area, although some might find Dorico’s slash regions to be easier to use. Sibelius provides flexibility through the hide/show in part/score mechanism, but I’ve always found this to be so cumbersome that I prefer using a separate instrument for playback — which is very much an acceptable workaround in Dorico as well. Still, I hope to see some further development in this area in a future version of Dorico. These notions apply to bar repeats as well, which I will come back to later in this review.
Slash regions work great for adding sections of slash notation that adjust dynamically to time signatures. Rhythmic slashes that indicate a specific rhythm are dealt with using a completely different method, called slash voices. These voices work similar to normal notation in Dorico, with a few exceptions:
- Slash voices are muted for playback (though this can be overruled by a setting under Playback Options > Repeats).
- As with slash regions, slash voices default to the middle staff line, but can be moved using the Slash position property. Opposing voices (normal or slash) will make the slash voice move automatically, to avoid collision.
- A slash voice will always display as reduced to a single slash, though it will retain any number of notes from input or conversion. This can be useful for playback, converting to or from a normal voice, or export.
To create a slash voice, enter note input and use Write > Create Slash Voice, or use the key command Shift+Alt+V. Invoking the same command again will cycle thru a few alternatives, specifically: up-stem slash voice, down-stem slash voice and stemless slash voice. The current voice type is indicated by a symbol next to the caret. To toggle between existing voices, use V.
Existing music can easily be converted to slash voices by making a selection, Edit (or right-click) > Voices > Rhythmic Slashes > Slashes with Stems / Slashes without Stems.
Using slash voices on a percussion kit requires an extra step – one must add a slash voice to the kit manually. Steinberg product marketing manager Daniel Spreadbury explains this in the following way: “[…] we didn’t add them to the default drum set because there didn’t seem to be a single location where they were conventionally positioned on the staff.”
While it may seem that this complicates the process for any user that relies on complete automation, the following video proves that it can be done in less than eight seconds, which illustrates that this isn’t a significant issue:
Once this is set up, the slash voice can be input as any other instrument on the percussion kit – move the caret vertically until the Sl. label appears, and start typing using Y.
Note that slash voices only appear in the 5-line Staff presentation – they are hidden in Grid and Single-line Staff presentations.
To try out the combination of slash voices and slash regions in a practical example, I decided to recreate one of the examples from the Dorico 1.1 review written by Alexander Plötz, which now can be fully created using native features.
This example can be done a few different ways in Dorico, but I found the following method to be the simplest:
As the illustration above shows, I used slash regions for every section of complete bars. Everything else is done by a single slash voice. I could have used the combination of a normal slash voice and a stemless slash voice, but this would pad the voices with rests, which I then would have to remove. I found it simpler to remove the excess stems by using the Hide stem property, which can be found in the Properties panel in Engrave mode. This is also the simplest way of making the ties shown in bar 100 and 104.
To summarize, the two new slash notation tools in Dorico 2 are very simple to use, and the results look great without any tweaking. There is a good amount of cleverness behind the tools, which makes them appear at the right staff position, and dynamically adjust to time signatures when using slash regions. The combination of slash regions and slash voices works great, and I find it to be easier to operate than similar tools in Sibelius and Finale. The tools are elegant and predictable, and provide a fair amount of automation, while retaining the flexibility to cover an infinite number of different use cases.
I miss some of the flexibility provided by the Staff Styles tool in Finale when it comes to having underlying material for playback, as well as different options for parts vs score. Yet I find Dorico’s implementation to be a very good first step, which will probably cover the needs of most users.
Alongside with slash notation (which is sometimes referred to as beat repeat), comes a comprehensive bar repeat tool. These tools are somewhat related in Dorico, with several similarities in the way they are created, edited and tweaked. The level of consistency is one of the things that makes Dorico so easy to use, without compromising power or flexibility — once you’ve learned one tool, you know how to use several others. Similarities and consistency aside, the tools are kept separate, which I think brings out the greatest potential in them both.
Bar repeats are created by selecting one or more bar, and using one of the following methods:
- From the Repeat Structures > Bar Repeats section of the right-hand panel and clicking Create Bar Repeat Region
- By invoking the Repeat Structures popover (shift + R), and inputting %, %2, or %4 (this way allows to specify two- or four-bar repeats directly)
- Via Write > Create Bar Repeat Region
As with slash regions, you may assign your own key command, which makes it a breeze to use.
Bar repeats are treated as regions, and every region can have its own properties and automatic numbering. The regions snap to bars, which allows this beautiful way of editing, using the lengthen/shorten tool (Shift+Alt+Left/Right Arrow).
Bar repeat regions can be grouped automatically by changing the Group property in the Properties panel. Groups can also be specified directly from the popover, by typing e.g. %1,4 – which will make a one-bar repeat that groups every four bars.
As with most other features in Dorico, bar repeat regions can be tweaked individually in the Properties panel, or globally through its own page in Engraving Options. There are a number of useful options, including the appearance and frequency of the bar repeat count.
As with slash regions and cues, bar repeats are highlighted, which is particularly useful when dealing with abutting regions. The highlighting can be enabled/disabled from View > Highlight Slash Regions.
There’s one rather hidden feature that I find absolutely astonishing: the ability to consolidate bar repeat regions in specific layouts, through Setup > Layout Options > Players > Consolidate Multi-bar Rests and Bar Repeats. To understand what this means, have a look at the example below, where the very same notation is displayed differently in the score and part, all done dynamically and automatically:
While this isn’t necessarily conventional notation, I think it’s a brilliant feature that allows ultra-dense parts, which I’m sure many drummers will appreciate.
As with slash regions, bar repeat regions can co-exist with other notation, which can be useful for a crescendo, for example. There’s no way to replace bar repeat regions with the written-out pattern in one part only, which means there isn’t any way to restate the original pattern at system breaks in the part without disrupting the score. This is a rather cumbersome operation in both Sibelius and Finale, but at least it’s possible. We hope this is an area that can be revisited in a future version.
There isn’t yet a way to play back bar repeats the way Sibelius does, though Daniel Spreadbury has said that this is something the team expects to address “as soon as it is practical… By the way, we already know what the next cry to go up will be, and we will be working on both idiomatic articulations for brass instruments and more complex repeat structures as soon as possible.” For now, a decent workaround is having a separate player for playback.
The above-mentioned limitations aside, the new bar repeat feature is a fantastic tool. It comes with a great level of dynamic automation and flexibility. It is easy and intuitive to use, and it feels more elegant than similar tools in competitive software.
New arranging and editing tools: Explode, reduce, multi-paste, and move/duplicate to staff
Dorico 2 offers a handful of new tools for arranging and note editing, which simplifies a number of everyday operations.
First out is the Explode feature, which distributes any note material on the clipboard to the selected staves — an approach Sibelius users will be very familiar with. One big advantage with this approach is that one can explode to another rhythmical position, which can be a powerful compositional tool.
To explode music, make sure to have material on the clipboard by making a selection, and using Edit > Cut or Edit > Copy. Next, select the desired target staves (if only one staff is selected, Dorico will use adjacent staves), and apply Edit > Paste special > Explode (there’s no key command by default, but one can easily assign one – as described in this help file).
The notes are distributed across the target staves, and any excess notes are distributed evenly from the top staff. This is illustrated in the example below, where the five-part voicings in bar 1 are exploded onto an increasing number of staves:
Sibelius, Finale and Dorico all use different distribution models, which gives slightly different results than the example above, using default settings (Sibelius can only explode to four staves):
There’s no right or wrong here, but in this very example, I find Dorico’s distribution to be slightly more predictable than Sibelius’ and slightly more usable than Finale’s.
There doesn’t seem to be any practical limit to the number of voices in the material nor the number of target staves, and the feature seems as responsive as any other copy-paste operation.
Exploding music works very well and predictable with other elements such as text objects, articulations, dynamics and more, putting a copy in every voice where needed, while retaining differences in the source material. This is best illustrated with an example:
When there’s an uneven number of voices in the source material, Dorico evens it out by copying adjacent voices, making all voices uniform and without rests. While this might be preferable in most situations, this is an area where I can see the usefulness of a few options.
The explode feature seems to omit any voice information, and puts everything in up-stem voice 1, overwriting any material in that particular voice. Experimenting with the limits of the functionality, I’ve found this behavior to be slightly disturbing, and I wonder if it would be better if it overwrote all music in the target staves.
In simpler examples (where everything is up-stem voice 1), there’s a nice way to disable overwriting: activate Chord input (Q). This has applied to all paste operations since version 1, which makes it a nifty way of using existing tools to provide a little bit of flexibility.
The lack of options streamlines the user experience, but also limits the flexibility of the tools. Both Sibelius and Finale offer more flexibility (either with native features or via plug-ins), and can transform the material directly into, e.g., a drop voicing. Personally speaking, these tools have never found a natural place in my workflow, but I know other users make extensive use of them.
Daniel Spreadbury shares a few of the thoughts behind the Explode/Reduce features, and a very exciting idea that might cover some of the need for flexibility:
We are trying to make the tools simple and predictable and then provide tools to edit the result quickly. We are planning on adding a command to swap the contents of two selected staves, which we think will be a good way of providing the flexibility needed to handle interlocking voices without having to build complicated dialogs or rules, etc. That said, we’re certainly not ruling out further developments in this (or indeed any other) area in the future.
I fancy the predictability and simplicity of the explode feature in Dorico. The fact that it uses the clipboard makes it feel as if it’s never more than one key command away. The algorithms are clever enough to give me what I want most of the time, and that makes it very usable. Having said that, I don’t see why simplicity should exclude flexibility, and I welcome future development in this area — either through native features, or through a more robust scripting environment.
The Reduce feature works very much as the opposite of Explode, and can be invoked from Edit > Paste Special > Reduce. Like Explode, there are a few smart mechanisms that make the simplistic design powerful, as described in the version history document:
Dorico pastes the copied material, and performs some transformations as it does so: if the rhythms match, it merges the material into a single voice; it removes unison notes, so that only a single note of the same pitch is pasted at a given rhythmic position; and it strips out clef changes, octave lines, and cues.
The Reduce feature successfully retains most information, such as dynamics and playing technique, but ignores any articulation that isn’t present in all voices. I find this to be reasonable, and in line with Dorico’s rather strict, but useful, articulation handling:
Another handy use case of the Reduce tool is to tidy up content on a single staff, collapsing multiple voices to a single voice:
The Reduce feature works so reliably, that I feel as if there’s nothing more to say. It gives me what I want every single time, and has already found a very natural place in my workflow.
All in all, Explode and Reduce are very nice additions in Dorico 2, and I’m sure that their elegance, simplicity and predictability will make the vast majority of users happy.
Some users will probably miss the advanced options from Sibelius or Finale, while some users that have never used explode or reduce tools much may find Dorico’s elegant implementation to be addictive!
Dorico 2 introduces multi-paste, which allows pasting on multiple destinations simultaneously. It can be used both vertically and horizontally, and when the material is derived from a single staff, Dorico reliably excludes staves that aren’t in the target selection.
Multi-paste isn’t really a new tool, but rather an extension of the existing paste feature, which is invoked from Edit > Paste or the familiar key commands Cmd+V (Mac) or Ctrl+V (PC). The only difference lies within what happens when the target selection exceeds the source material.
The source material may consist of more than one staff, but Dorico will stop when there are not enough staves for the full material to be pasted. In other words, pasting dual-staff material on five staves will keep the fifth staff unaffected. I find this to be a nice detail that may prevent me from doing something unintentional — especially useful when operating with a bigger scope. Note that multi-staff material breaks the mechanism that allows excluding staves from the target.
Seemingly identical functionality was introduced in Sibelius earlier this year, and we’re pleased that it has already found its way to Dorico. A minor difference is that Dorico ignores any other than the first staff on multi-staff instruments. Whether this is a strength or limitation depends on the situation, but I don’t think it will make huge difference either way.
Move to Staff / Duplicate to Staff
Another set of useful tools new in Dorico 2 are Move to Staff Above/Below (Alt + N /Alt + M) and Duplicate to Staff Above/Below, which can be found in the Edit > Paste Special menu. Only the former has key commands by default, though these can easily be assigned to the duplicate function as well. The tools are rather self-explanatory, but I’ve made these simple animations to showcase some of their potential:
The new tools work great, are predictable and easy to use, and simplify a number of everyday operations. Dorico now provides a solid arsenal of note editing tools that are on par with (if not even better than) competitive notation software.
For some users, adding and deleting bars was a potentially awkward operation in Dorico 1. Fair enough; once you got used to how the bars popover works, summoning it and typing things like +1 or –4 was reasonably easy and straightforward, though maybe a bit… abstract?
In Dorico 2 a new user interface element has been introduced. It’s called System Track and it makes adding and deleting bars as intuitive as it gets. Actually, it makes selecting, inserting and deleting any quantity of time that may or may not be equal to a number of bars as intuitive as it gets. (After all, this is how Dorico thinks of our music: events in time, structured by, but not fenced behind barlines.)
Here’s how to add and delete bars: Select any number of bars by clicking and dragging across the system track, then click the plus button that appears at the right-hand extent of the selection. Dorico inserts as many bars as you have selected at the position of the plus button. Select any number of bars and click the trash can that appears at the left-hand extent of the selection to delete the selected bars.
When you press and hold down Alt, grid lines are drawn on the system track. Now you can select any quantity of time by clicking and dragging across the system track. Then you can add as much time as you selected by clicking the plus button, or you can delete the quantity of time that you just selected by clicking the delete button.
There’s a third button that appears when you make a selection on the system track. It’s somewhat ambiguous in shape, but it turns out to be equally useful. Click it to select all the music on all instruments in the range specified by the selection. This is particularly convenient when you need to copy and move around sections in large scores with many players where selecting the music on all instruments would otherwise involve a virtuoso combination of scrolling and Shift-clicking.
Admittedly, when you’re working on a 30-instruments score it would be nice if the system track didn’t stay so stubbornly above the first staff. Thus it’s out of sight most of the time! I envision a glorious future with this semi-transparent manifestation of musical time hovering peacefully above our scores, ever visible, ever accessible, ever ready to assist us in dividing and expanding space and time. But let’s not get carried away. After all, most users are likely to use the system track at certain points of their workflow, but not all the time. Therefore it’s probably good that you can even hide it completely, by unchecking View > System Track.
Playing techniques editor
In previous versions of Dorico, users had to make do with the built-in pool of playing techniques. The list was pretty comprehensive, but for those coming from other major notation software, not being able to create new playing techniques or change the appearance of existing ones naturally felt like a rigid restriction. Let me put it straight: it was no less than a pain in the ass when the composer you worked for stubbornly insisted on using the abbreviation ‘vibr.’ for vibrato – but Dorico only offered ‘vib.’!
Such situations would force you to fall back to using normal text objects, which was potentially awkward, definitely not elegant, and not at all a solution if you cared for playback. Speaking of which: without being able to create custom playing techniques, pro users might have had difficulty in exploiting the full potential of their advanced VST sample libraries.
You see, now and again, dealing with playing techniques in Dorico 1 would become a slightly frustrating experience. But lo and behold, the developers have heard our cries. Allow me to introduce you to the newly implemented Playing Techniques Editor.
In order to understand the new editing dialogs let’s take a quick look at how playing techniques work in Dorico. Basically, there are two separate libraries of playing techniques:
- Notation playing techniques are shown in the score.
- Playback playing techniques are linked to key switches and other playback triggers via the Expression Maps editor in Play mode.
Each notation playing technique is linked to one playback playing technique. Each playback playing technique can be linked to one ore more notation playing techniques.
The new Edit Playing Techniques dialog gives users control over playing techniques and the links between them on both the notation and playback side of things. It can be summoned via Engrave > Playing Techniques… in Engrave mode or by clicking one of the buttons below the lists of playing techniques in the right hand panel in Write mode.
Editing notation playing techniques
In the first dialog that opens you can create and edit notation playing techniques. As usual, the list of options provided in the editors is comprehensive. Nevertheless, the dialogs are mostly self-explanatory and intuitive.
Notation playing techniques can be represented as plain text (using any font style defined in the font styles dialog in Engrave mode) or as glyphs consisting of any number of components. The latter can have different shapes depending on whether they are drawn above or below the staff. You can specify the corresponding string for the playing techniques popover and choose the playback playing technique it should be linked to.
There’s also one setting that doesn’t currently have any visible effect: notation playing techniques can be set to have a duration. Such durations can’t yet be shown in the score, but I guess it won’t be much longer now until we have the much anticipated comprehensive set of solid, dashed, dotted, wriggly and curly lines with all sorts of solid, dashed, dotted, wriggly and curly hooks and arrows to choose from…
Clicking the pen-shaped icon below the image of a glyph type technique brings you to a subdialog that looks basically identical to the Edit Chord Symbol Component dialog, and it works in just the same way. Choose the components you want to add on the right side of the dialog, then position and scale them to your heart’s content by dragging them on the canvas or using the controls below.
Editing playback playing techniques
Back in the main editor, clicking Edit… next to the dropdown list for playback playing techniques brings you to the other side: it opens the editor for playback playing techniques. You guessed it: here you can edit existing and create new playback playing techniques.
For each technique you can specify the group it belongs to, an alias, an alternate fallback technique, and you can decide whether it affects only the current note or all the notes onwards until stated otherwise. Keep in mind that new playback playing techniques you define here don’t do anything on their own. In order to make them affect playback you need to route them to key switches or other triggers in your vst sample library via the Expression Maps Editor.
There’s basically just one thing that I wish to be improved: With the current implementation you need to create separate instances of the same technique if you want, for example, both the full indication and an abbreviated version to appear in your score. Wouldn’t it be neat if you could bundle different appearances of what’s semantically and playback-wise the same thing in one library item? You could switch between the full indication, one or two abbreviations and a symbol (on a per layout basis) via the Properties panel. Ah well. We haven’t become spoiled by what the developers have delivered with every update so far, have we?
Anyway, with the new amount of user control over playing techniques on both the notation and the playback side the above-mentioned problems are history, and that makes the playing techniques editor a huge and important addition. Combined with the new automation features in Play mode, the ability to define any number of visible and hidden anchors for key switches in the score is also a significant improvement for playback in Dorico.
Large time signatures
Composers and copyists that work with film scores or with rhythmically complex modern art music will be pleased to find out that Dorico 2 introduces comprehensive support for large time signatures. Large time signatures can now be drawn either once per instrument group or above the staves as system objects.
The usual plethora of settings in Engraving Options and Layout Options allows you to tweak the size and style of large time signatures to your heart’s content. If you choose to display large time signatures centered on staves in Layout Options you’ll usually get one large time signature per instrument group. It can appear vertically centered or aligned to the top of the corresponding bracket. By default, each staff of a grand-staff instrument will then receive one time signature that is slightly larger than normal, but it is also possible to treat percussion and keyboard instruments as one group with one large time signature. You can set independent scale factors for time signatures that are centered on one, up to three, and four and more staves, and also for time signatures shown at system object positions in Engraving Options.
At long last you can choose between three built in designs (normal, narrow, serif and narrow, sans serif) or use any custom font. Needless to say that the choice of position and font style is made on a per layout basis so you can have large time signatures in the full score and normal time signatures in the parts.
Instead of going through all the available options in detail, let’s just take a look at what’s possible in Dorico 2 with a few examples (click the image for a larger version):
‘Yep, it works. Back to business then?’ Basically yes. Then again… would you allow the engraving perfectionist to humbly utter a few wishes?
For one thing, there’s currently only one font style setting that applies to all time signatures in a layout regardless of their size. The condensed styles work well for large but not for small time signatures though — and the reverse is true for the regular style. I for one would much appreciate the ability to select different font styles for different sizes. Also, the current implementation offers only limited control in regard to where large time signatures are drawn. Some engravers (including said engraving perfectionist) might prefer to choose the exact spots based on a graphical approach rather then following Dorico’s rules. Mind you, Dorico can’t (yet?) produce the charmingly neat and clear setup we see in this original edition of the above Webern example:
Generally speaking though, the new implementation of large time signatures seems thorough and solid, and obviously much thought has been given to the available customization options. It feels mostly like a don’t-worry-package: choose the option you want, let Dorico do the rest and enjoy watching how it just works. We have come to expect no less than that during the last one and a half years, haven’t we?
Editable playback info, video support, NotePerformer support, and more
In having many discussions about Dorico’s playback capabilities, two features were often requested: A video feature that allows composing alongside a reel, and drawing continuous controller (CC) data and tempo curves.
Guess what? These are now implemented in a smooth and logical way, following the typical Dorico experience. Here’s a brief overview of each.
The new Video engine was introduced in Cubase and Nuendo last year due to the discontinuation of support for QuickTime. It supports the most-commonly used video formats, and the support of more formats is planned for the future.
A video can be attached to one flow. The same video can also be attached to multiple flows when working on a larger project with a complete reel. Dorico allows you to assign different sections of a video to separate flows.
There are two different ways of attaching a video.
In Setup mode, right-click onto a flow where a video should be attached and choose Video > Attach.
The browser opens and a video can be selected. After selecting the video, the video properties dialog opens.
The upper fields (read-only) show the path and the frame rate of the original video. The next field shows the frame rate of the project which is used to determine the timecode shown in markers and the Transport. The Use video frame rate button sets the frame rate of the project to the frame rate given by the attached video.
The beat count field will specify at which point in the flow the video will start playing. The value entered here is a multiple of the beats of the specific unit. So when a video should start in the second bar on beat 2 with a given time signature 4/4, one will have to enter 5 in the Beat count and choose the quarter note in the beat unit field. Note that the very first beat is actually 0 which might be confusing in the beginning, but one will get familiar to this in a pretty short time. I simply see it as a rest before the video starts.
The Video start offset specifies the frame of the attached video that will appear at the defined flow attachment position. So when working on a full movie within a multiple flow project, every flow can be assigned to different sections of the movie.
To specify what timecode should be shown at the flow attachment position enter the desired value in the Timecode start field.
Once all settings are done and the dialog is closed, a marker will appear at the defined video start point and the video window will open. The video window is a so-called “flying container” that allows the user to drag the window out of the Dorico frame onto a separate screen in a multi-screen setup (if needed).
Another way to attach a video is to drag the video from a folder into the desired position in the timeline in Play mode. After dropping it in, the Properties panel will open and adjustments can be done as described above.
The video will snap to a grid line, so it might be a good idea to change it to a smaller value when a more accurate position is needed. This might help depending on the workflow, but can be set in the properties dialog anyway.
A good idea is that Dorico allows the user to work to pictures even when no video is attached. The properties and markers can be used in a similar way.
The attached video will not be embedded into the project. It will only be loaded into the video frameset following the path given in the read-only field “video file”.
When sharing a project that includes an attached video the video must be shared as well as a separate file. Due to different paths it might happen that such a shared project cannot locate the video. Therefore the flow in where the video is attached shows a warning triangle. To attach the missing video simply right-click onto the flow. The properties will be preserved.
In Play mode the video gets its own track and is displayed as a bar indicating the start point and the duration. By dragging the position, this can be re-defined.
Right above the video track is a separate track for markers. By clicking the plus sign, a marker will be added at the position of the green transport line.
In Play mode, the marker cannot be moved or deleted. Therefore one will have to switch to Write mode.
In Write mode, on the right side panel, a new icon for video is introduced that opens the right-hand panel for video.
On top of the panel, a button to open the Properties dialog can be found. Markers will allow the user to add, delete, reposition or rename markers. Repositioning and renaming can be done in-line in the table.
Beside the timecode and text columns of the table, a third column plays an important role in Dorico’s new video feature. Imp. stands for “important”, and allows the user to mark those that are most crucial to call attention to musical terms and play an important role in another clever feature within Dorico’s video capabilities: The Find Tempo… feature.
Find Tempo… helps in finding an appropriate tempo for the whole flow, depending on the placement of important markers. So this feature can only be used when at least one marker is designated as important in the Markers panel.
Beat unit and Tempo range are self explanatory. The Integral only/Allow increment by 0.25 selector defines how the BPM value will be treated — as integers (whole numbers) or as fractions thereof.
The table on the left-hand side shows the BPM and the average number of “frames off”, where the abbreviations stand for important markers (IFO), non-important markers (NFO), and all markers (AFO).
By selecting one of the items more details regarding the markers used in this flow are shown.
Once an appropriate tempo is found and selected it can be assigned to the flow by clicking Apply. The chosen tempo will then be added to the start of the flow, clearing all other tempo markings.
The appearance of markers in the score can be defined in Engrave mode in the Engrave > Engraving Options dialog. The fonts to be used can be found in Engrave > Font Styles.
In Play mode under Playback Options > Timecode the project Frame rate can be set (if not done in the Video Properties dialog for the video) and whether the Time display should show the timecode or the elapsed time.
Editing tempo, dynamics, CC in Play mode
When switching to Play mode, one will find the new CC lane by clicking onto the “automation lane” symbol.
The drop-down menu allows the user to select the desired control change number.
A new tool called Line allows you to draw a straight line, while the well known Draw tool allows drawing free-hand curves. Hopefully more shapes of curves are planned for the future.
The number of possible lanes in use is limited by 128 which reflects the possible MIDI CCs 0-127.
Of course, some of the MIDI numbers are already reserved for certain commands such like note-off, pedal etc. and should be avoided.
I personally would love to see more than just one lane at once, due to the fact that a lot of CCs are dependent upon each other, e.g., expression (1, 11) and the dynamic (most likely 12) when the sound library allows such adjustments beyond the simple key velocity.
Similar to the automation lanes, the Time track allows the drawing of tempo curves freely or with the Line tool.
This track can be found on top of the main area in Play mode.
In both the tempo track and the automation lane, the points will snap to the grid. So for a higher resolution one will have to change the grid resolution.
One new feature should not be ignored. In Play mode under Playback Options a new tab is added called Repeats. Yes, in Dorico 2, repeat structures now play back automatically, something that was missing from Dorico 1 (indeed, notated repeat endings were only added in Dorico 1.1).
New in Dorico 2: If you add microtonal accidentals in 24-EDO, or your own defined tonality system, then playback through HALion should reflect those accidentals correctly.
NotePerformer aficionados who have longed for Dorico to support the heretofore Sibelius-only high-quality playback system that works with minimal load and fuss, will be especially delighted this news: Today, NotePerformer 3 has been released not only with support for Dorico, but for Finale as well, along with improvements for Sibelius. We’ve got full coverage of that in a separate post on this blog.
Playback summary (and a tip)
With the added video support and extensive automation features in Dorico Pro 2, the dream of using a notation-based program to score to picture that makes advanced use of certain sequencer-like features has been realized in many respects. Here, more than anywhere else in the program, is where Steinberg’s existing technology is most apparent. While significant development was needed to integrate these features into Dorico, it did not preclude advancements in the rest of the software, and the Dorico team was able to include them in the program in a relatively short period of time following the initial release.
Here’s a little trick for those who want to use the full amount of articulations provided by the sample library as well as to fully control the dynamics:
- Create a new score for print and use the standard full score for playback. Add underneath each instrument a new staff and assign it to the same MIDI channel as the original instrument.
- Assign an empty expression map to these MIDI channels.
- In the newly-created staff, add the keyswitches as notes manually and make sure these notes are triggered before the audible note by changing the start point (-15 is a good value).
- Dynamics can be drawn manually in the automation-lanes.
This is an old fashioned work-around that was used in Sibelius and Finale when there was no proper CC and KS control possible and is comparable to working within a DAW without expression maps. Just in case!
Besides the major new features already described here, Dorico Pro 2 also includes a number of smaller improvements, including:
- Change the clef used by an instrument in concert and transposing pitch
- Dynamics, playing techniques and text items can erase their background, to improve their appearance when crossing barlines and staff lines
- Text items can now have a border, with customizable thickness and padding
- New Shift+R popover for single and multi-note tremolos and repeat endings
- Make any selection of existing notes into a tuplet with any ratio of your choosing
- Change the beat unit for an existing metronome mark via Properties
One more thing… Introducing Petaluma, a handwritten font
Apple is not the only company to have named a font after the Bay Area. Dorico 2 doubles the number of included fonts that shipped with Dorico 1 by introducing its own handwritten font. Called Petaluma, it’s named after the California city that’s home to the Sher Music Company, for reasons that will immediately become clear.
Inspired by the beautiful hand copying found in volume 1 of The New Real Book (and subsequently made into a proprietary font for use in volumes 2 and 3), Petaluma is a SMuFL font that gives Dorico users an alternative to the engraved-style Bravura font that’s shipped with Dorico since version 1.0.
We asked Steinberg product marketing manager Daniel Spreadbury about Petaluma’s inspiration and background, and he replied as follows:
I started work on Petaluma a very long time ago — I think I did the first sketches back in 2015. But the version you see in Dorico 2 was actually made by Anthony, who took up the challenge of producing something like 1350 glyphs in a matter of weeks, since he only started on it a month or two ago. I had already produced what is now called Petaluma Script, which does need a bit more expansion as it’s missing some important glyphs (it doesn’t have a copyright sign yet, for example), but after making a start on the actual music font back in 2015 it then lay dormant until very recently, when we decided that since we had a bunch of features that would increase Dorico’s appeal to people working in jazz in this release, it would be good to finally get the handwritten font finished.
We certainly drew inspiration from the hand copying of Ann Krinitsky and Ernie Mansfield, though of course the repertoire of symbols found in the Real Book is a fraction of the 3000+ glyphs included in SMuFL. So Anthony worked to develop his own hand in the style of Ann and Ernie’s work, and used a workflow involving a graphics tablet, Photoshop, Illustrator and Glyphs to produce the final font.
Petaluma is full of really delightful details. I think my own personal favorite glyphs are the playing techniques: Ant’s work is loose and yet precise, exactly in the spirit of the original Real Book hand copying, and you can see that in the way, for example, the wind techniques and the harp techniques have been rendered.
Actually using Petaluma in Dorico should be simple enough: you just choose Engrave > Music Fonts, choose it, and click OK. Behind the scenes we do a bunch of things to ensure that all of the metadata for the font is updated so that things that rely on metadata (e.g. trills, flags, noteheads, etc.) all look good after the change. If you start changing font and paragraph styles manually, do remember that Petaluma is the music font, Petaluma Text is also a music font but scaled so that it has similar metrics to a regular text font, and Petaluma Script is the font with regular alphanumeric characters in it.
Like Bravura, Petaluma is licensed under the SIL Open Font License, so it can be used and modified by anybody, provided it is not sold on its own. But we hope that Petaluma will be another good reason to take a closer look at Dorico and to help shake off the notion that we don’t care about any music beyond art music for the concert hall.
In a future post we’ll delve further into the details of Petaluma.
Everything mentioned so far in this review pertains to Dorico Pro 2. As mentioned at the outset of this post, Steinberg has released Dorico Elements 2 — its introductory version of the software at a lower price point, in keeping with the naming scheme used by Cubase and WaveLab.
Steinberg includes a full comparison of Dorico Pro and Dorico Elements on the Dorico web site. Here’s a quick run-down:
- Limited to 12 players (but they can hold multiple instruments, etc.)
- No HALion Symphonic Orchestra library (just the basic HALion Sonic SE sounds)
- No Engrave mode
- No Engraving Options, Notation Options, Playback Options, Note Input Options dialogs
- No ossias, divisi, extra staves
- No reduce, explode, etc.
- Reduced set of filters
- Limited to key signatures of up to 7 sharps and flats, no custom key signatures or microtonality
- Limited to the 6 main barline types (normal, double, final, start repeat, end repeat, combined start/end repeat)
In introducing Dorico Elements, Daniel Spreadbury said:
I think the really good thing about Elements is that it includes pro features like video/markers/timecode, Play mode with new tempo and MIDI CC automation, the full Mixer and all 30 included FX plug-ins, the ability to create projects with unlimited flows, and so on. We hope that Dorico Elements will appeal to younger musicians, perhaps at secondary/high school level, who are interested in composition or arranging but who don’t yet need the full power of Dorico Pro; it will also be useful to singers/songwriters, instrumental teachers working on arrangements for their pupils, church musicians, and so on. We also hope that some people who currently rely on, e.g., the scoring features in Cubase will consider adding Dorico Elements to their toolbox.
Any project created in Dorico Pro will open just fine in Dorico Elements. If it has more than 12 players, it will open read-only: you can play it back and print it, but you can’t edit it or save it.
Installation, availability, pricing, specs
Installing Dorico Pro 2 will not overwrite your existing Dorico 1 installation. The two versions can coexist happily, and your license for Dorico 1 will continue to be valid.
When you first run Dorico Pro 2, your existing user data and preferences from Dorico 1.x are automatically migrated to the new update. This includes: key commands; preferences; the list of recent projects; saved default layout, notation, engraving, playback and note input options; and any saved default tonality systems, paragraph styles, and character styles. Furthermore, any VST 2.x plug-ins that you added to the vst2whitelist.txt file for Dorico 1.x will automatically be added to the whitelist for Dorico 2.
Dorico Pro 2 and Dorico Elements 2 are both available today.
If you currently own Dorico 1, the price to update to Dorico Pro 2 is €100 including VAT or $100 USD, or the equivalent pricing in your local currency. The update will be available only as a download, and only direct from the Steinberg online shop.
If you purchased Dorico 1 on May 2, 2018 or later, you are eligible for a free update to Dorico Pro 2, in line with Steinberg’s policy of a four-week grace period in advance of the release of a paid update.
Pricing for first-time customers is the same as it was for Dorico 1: The boxed edition is €579 including VAT, or $579 for US customers, for a full professional license. Educational pricing for qualifying teachers and students is €349 including VAT ($349 USD), and a crossgrade offer for qualifying Sibelius and Finale users is for €299 € including VAT ($299 USD).
A download-only version is available as well; if you’re willing to purchase Dorico that way, you’ll save €20 / $20 from the prices listed above. The reason for this is that you will have to buy a USB eLicenser separately if you want to transfer to it your Soft-eLicenser at some point. It’s included with the box but it will cost you $28 if you purchase it separately.
It’s worth mentioning that Steinberg is offering a special introductory price for multi-user licenses: from May 30, 2018 until October 31, 2018, if you buy five or more copies of the educational version of Dorico Pro, either the full educational version or the educational crossgrade from Finale or Sibelius, you will save a huge 60% off the single-user education price. According to Steinberg, this is to encourage schools who are already locked in to Finale or Sibelius to give Dorico a try.
Dorico Elements 2 costs €100 including VAT or $100 USD. A boxed version is available, but it does not include a USB eLicenser; it actually just contains the necessary Download Access Code that must be entered into your MySteinberg account to access the download. Should you wish to upgrade to Dorico Pro 2 later, the cost would be €449 / $449.
Dorico Pro/Elements 2 will run on a Mac with an operating system of 10.11 or later. Windows users need 64-bit Windows 10. At least 4 GB RAM of is necessary, but 8 GB or more is recommended.
Complete and official information is available from the newly redesigned official Dorico web site. A version history for Dorico 2 is found in this document, listing all the new features along with the bug fixes.
Final thoughts and recommendations
If you already own Dorico 1, then you won’t even give a second thought to buying the Dorico Pro 2 update — you’ll be delighted to open your wallet. Although it’s only been a year and a half since the first release, $100 is more than fair for what it delivers, and if history is any guide, we will see 2.x updates down the road that ensure that you’ll get even more for your money.
If you’ve been following along from the sidelines with interest, but haven’t yet purchased Dorico, you have a few options. When you have a good amount of time to expand your horizons, don’t hesitate to take advantage of the 30-day trial and immerse yourself in it. Read this blog, watch the official video tutorials and excellent monthly “Discover Dorico” sessions on YouTube, and try working on a project or two to see if it meets your needs.
Don’t try to shoehorn your Finale or Sibelius workflow into working with Dorico. There will be a learning curve, and while Dorico shares its DNA with the established scoring programs to some extent, it’s a different product. At the end of your trial, you’ll know whether or not you want to take the leap and purchase the product. We think you’ll be tempted to do so, whether you make a wholesale switch or add it to your toolbox alongside your current favorite program.
Another option is to purchase Dorico Elements for a smaller sum and learn the essential “elements” of the program that way, so to speak, with your knowledge transferring over to the pro version if you decide to upgrade in the future.
For those users who get along well with their current program, there’s still not enough of a reason to jump ship to Dorico — as impressive as this release is, it doesn’t exactly make Finale or Sibelius, or even MuseScore suddenly obsolete; all of those products have real and entrenched advantages, not the least of which is the large user community for each. But Dorico is the clear trailblazer these days, and its appeal to the next generation should not be underestimated, especially with the entry of the Dorico Elements product.
The updates in Dorico Pro 2 have mostly satisfied the requests from potential users waiting it out so far. Whether the new features were a response to the community, or part of the larger plan all along, we can’t quite say — perhaps a bit of both. In any case, the Dorico team is to be commended for devising novel approaches to workflow demands that have bedeviled the current generation of products. This is not to dismiss the real improvements made in competing programs; Sibelius especially as of late has covered substantial and important ground in its updates.
Simply put, though, Dorico has the most ground to cover and the most to prove. And with Dorico Pro 2, it’s proven that the product is worthy of the “Pro” in its name.