Dorico: Why it’s my choice for music notation and composition software
Versatile and brilliant is how I’d describe Dorico Music Notation Software. I spent years working happily with Sibelius, but it’s a bit long in the tooth now. Dorico is quicker, giving me beautifully laid out scores that I rarely have to spend time adjusting. And it seems to have the musical intelligence to know just how I want to work, and how I want my scores to look.
Dorico SE: No free trial is needed to try Dorico out since the basic level Dorico SE is free, with no time limit. If you have a good laptop or desktop, Mac or Windows, then download it, register and activate it, and you’re away. It’s the same as Dorico Elements, except limited to at most two instruments. However, that includes, for example, singer and piano or flute and guitar, which is plenty for learning the ins and outs at your leisure – and may be all you need! Playback and printing to paper or PDF are included, as is exporting to MP3. Sharing your music is simple.
Dorico Elements: A friend’s daughter is studying music at school and is already an imaginative composer. She has upgraded to Dorico Elements to write for a variety of instruments, getting a good impression of how her musical ideas sound. Individual parts are automatically linked to the main score so that you can work in either. Repeating a music phrase, or moving it left or right, or from one player to another, can often be done with a single keyboard shortcut. If you change your mind or need to alter notes or rhythms then ‘Insert mode’ is your friend, which makes the following notes shuffle right or left correctly notated (no having to re-write notes tied across a barline, for example). In ‘Pitch before Duration mode’ you can test if the note is what you want before inputting it. If you have a MIDI keyboard then you can try out chords. I have an inexpensive two octave keyboard that takes up little space on my desk and that I can take with me if I’m travelling.
Dorico Pro: I write scores for a living for choirs and orchestras and for soloists with piano accompaniment. Dorico Pro is perfect for me. As with the more basic versions it is excellent for helping me think musically and creatively as I work, and has the tools I need to create complex yet artistic scores. If I find a PDF on IMSLP or CPDL (wonderful free classical music resources) then I can get a head start by using PlayScore 2 to create a MusicXML file that I can open in Dorico Pro.
Setup and learning
YouTube hosts first rate videos made by the Dorico team. Ten short videos “Getting Started with Dorico SE | Tutorials” are a great first guide for all versions: https://blog.dorico.com/resources. Whether this is your first music notation program or you are moving on from another they explain the basics simply and clearly (I love Anthony Hughes’s encouraging voice, by the way). If you are coming from another program then give yourself time to learn new ways. You can run Sibelius or Finale in parallel for as long as you like even if you crossgrade. There are more videos, short and long, covering many of Dorico’s features.
Input and Layout
There is talk on the Dorico Forum about whether Dorico is intuitive. My view is yes, it is, at least as far as any program can be when it deals with something as intricate as a music score. From simple melodies to complex scores Dorico sorts out most of the layout quickly and beautifully with musical intelligence. If you think about the musical language that it’s dealing with and see how easy Dorico scores are to read then you will start to appreciate what a superb job it does. For the last score I input I didn’t need to adjust the layout once in ten pages.
If l find myself puzzling over how to do something, the online manual sorts me out most of the time. If stuck I post a question on the Forum, though often a search will show up that someone has asked the same question before, and there is already an answer. Dorico Forum is the most welcoming and safe group of users that I’ve come across, always ready to help whether you are beginner or already knowledgeable. The Dorico team join in to offer support with musical and technical setup questions.
One of the reasons for Dorico’s success is that their development team are always listening, open to suggestions, and proactively looking for ways to support and satisfy their users. They have the advantage over some other programs that they have built the software from scratch over the last few years, with no legacy code to try and adapt, and have produced a modern, clean interface. I’m amazed at every update of the program how far development has moved on.
If wanting more than the free Dorico SE then have a look online at the cost and scope of Elements and Pro and judge for yourself whether one is worth it for what you want to do. If you may be eligible for an educational discount then check that out. If you’re a Sibelius or Finale user then check out the crossgrade prices and conditions. A month’s free trial of Dorico is available. I didn’t hesitate; for me it was a no-brainer. I recommend Dorico wholeheartedly.
By Chris Davey