Dorico is the biggest thing to happen to notation software for years. We explore the initial release and discover the thinking behind its innovative design.
On October 19th 2016, after nearly four years of development, Steinberg released the first major new scoring application to appear on the market in years. Named after the late-15th-century music engraver Valerio Dorico — a code name that stuck — Dorico aims to set the new standard in scoring software.
Before we begin, let’s first address the elephant in the concert hall. Dorico’s genesis began when Avid closed the UK office where Sibelius was being developed and moved its development elsewhere, leaving most of the original team with a good deal of time on their hands. Recognising an opportunity, Steinberg decided to hire the group to develop a brand-new notation application, and, over the last four years, Product Marketing Manager Daniel Spreadbury (former Sibelius Product Manager) has been documenting the team’s effort on his Making Notes blog (blog.steinberg.net). To say that expectations are high for Dorico would be something of an understatement, given the general affection people have had — myself included — for Sibelius over the years.
This article was largely written during Dorico’s beta period, and finished just after the first beta release of version 1.0.20, so it should be considered as a preview rather than a review. Also, in writing this article I spoke with Daniel Spreadbury and composer Thomas Hewitt Jones, who was commissioned to write a piece for the Dorico launch at Bush Hall in London. Tommy is a friend of mine and one the most skilled Sibelius users I know, so we’ve spoken about Dorico for a while and I’ve included some of his comments alongside my own. (If you’re unfamiliar with his work, I fear he is now best known for his ‘Fantasy on David Cameron’, based on the now-infamous post-Brexit hum, which can be downloaded from the Classic FM web site.)
When you open Dorico you’ll be greeted by the Steinberg Hub, which serves much the same purpose as it does in Cubase and Nuendo, and is not unlike Sibelius’ Quick Start window. There are various links to web resources, along with the ability to open existing projects, and you can create a new project that’s either empty or based on a template. Templates cover familiar instrumentations, such as string quartet, brass band and solo piano, giving you a quick way to get started if you already have a line-up in mind.
Once you open a project you’ll be presented with the application’s main window. Whereas Sibelius’s traditional menu and toolbar-driven interface was replaced by the Microsoft-style Ribbon in version 7, the team have reverted to good old-fashioned menus in Dorico, and have implemented a single-window interface as opposed to the multi-window world of Sibelius. This approach will be especially appealing to laptop users, although Dorico also supports a multi-monitor workflow with the ability to open multiple instances of the main window.
Dorico’s user interface is unapologetically modal, meaning there are different modes of the program you’ll enter to perform different scoring tasks: Setup, Write, Engrave, Play and Print. Setup is where you add Players to your project, and Write mode is where the actual input takes place in terms of notes, text and performance directions. Engrave mode allows you to carry out detailed formatting of every element on the page, and Print mode, unsurprisingly, lets you preview and print the actual score. Finally, Play mode makes it possible to adjust the way notes are performed during playback without affecting how they appear on the page. The different modes are accessed via buttons on the toolbar at the top of the window, or by using the handy Key Commands: press Ctrl (Windows) or Command...
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