It has been a whirlwind two weeks since Dorico was launched on Wednesday 19 October, and now that the dust is beginning to settle on the initial release, we can talk about what comes next.
Firstly, I want to thank everybody who has supported Dorico so far. It has been very humbling for me and for the rest of the team to see how many people believe in our vision for the future of scoring software enough to have bought in on day one, and we will work hard to repay your faith in us.
The week of the launch itself was highlighted by two great launch events, first in London on the evening of 19 October, and two days later in Vienna. The London event was streamed live over YouTube and Facebook to more than 1000 people watching live, and thousands more who have watched since, and we had more than 150 guests in attendance at Bush Hall in Shepherd’s Bush. After the live stream went off air after 90 minutes, we had almost an hour of Q&A in the hall, and there were so many questions that we had to cut things short and allow the team to start dismantling the staging and lighting so that the hall could be ready for its next event.
The highlight of the London event was the performance of the specially-commissioned work for string quartet and piano, DORICOverture, with composer Thomas Hewitt Jones at the piano and Ensemble Perpetuo up on stage. Thomas was inspired by the flexibility that the metrical freedom in composing into Dorico affords, and the piece explores a single energetic rhythmic motif over its four minute duration. The piece went down a storm, and we are very grateful both to Thomas and to Ensemble Perpetuo for giving us a real demonstration of why Dorico exists, and who it is for.
Two days later I was in Vienna, at the incredible Synchron Stage that has been restored and reopened by Vienna Symphonic Library, for the German-language launch event, where Dorico was demonstrated by product specialist Sebastian Mönch, and the audience was treated to a performance by the Radio String Quartet of a piece they prepared in Dorico called The World According to Ben and Jun. I was interviewed by Sebastian on-stage, and after the event very much enjoyed talking with the people in attendance.
We have had an incredible amount of feedback in the two weeks since Dorico launched. The Dorico forum on the Steinberg web site has been red hot, and there has been a huge amount of discussion about Dorico on social media, especially on Twitter and Facebook. The feedback has broadly been positive, but of course some users have encountered problems with the software, and there has been some disappointment about the fact that some features are missing.
We have tried throughout Dorico’s development to be as transparent as possible about what would be included in the initial release, but there was always going to be a gap between the reality of the product and what people had imagined the product would be. We are very proud of what we’ve achieved in the first release of Dorico, but it is only the beginning, and we are working hard to ensure that the product matures as quickly as possible.
Rather than dwelling on the negatives, valid and important though that feedback is, we’ve also been thrilled to see people making beautiful music with Dorico already. From Twitter:
Showing #dorico to my composition class yesterday: The delighted gasps when I did magic tricks with "insert"
— Bente L Thorsen (@bentelt) October 27, 2016
First chance to have a go with #Dorico. Fabulous UI and design, gorgeous default output. Going to have a go at a real project now…
— Nicholas Freestone (@njfreestone) October 25, 2016
It's like #dorico took the workflow that I actually use to make scores and built its control environment around that. I am very pleased.
— Kevin Clark (@kevinefclark) October 24, 2016
— Gregory W Brown (@GregoryWBrown) October 20, 2016
#Dorico is putting the irregular back into music. A beautifully designed tool.
— James McWilliam (@jimmcwilliam) October 20, 2016
On our own forum, there have also been some lovely comments, like these:
The UI is amazing; I don’t own a piece of software that looks as good as this does.
— T Earl
The workflow I fall into with Dorico feels like composing with paper: play some notes on the keyboard until you like the sound of their pitch relation, change to input mode, write them down all 1/4-notes. Create meter and rhythm later. What’s not to love?
I am sold. just the ability to change back and forth between measured and unmeasured sections as part of the flow is very intuitive (much more so than Sibelius and Finale, which one has to fool to do the same) is great.
It’s passed a major milestone for me. Today I wanted to throw together a simple 16-bar example of something to post the score on another forum, and I clicked the “D” icon without stopping to think “shall I do this in Musescore, or Lilypond, or Sibelius, or Finale, or…..”
— Rob Tuley
This programme may be the future of music notation for others, but it is my present, and what a lovely present to receive… To capture the free flow of musical ideas I couldn’t recommend any other programme but Dorico. Already.
— John B
We have also had a couple of great reviews already. If you haven’t read the in-depth review of Dorico written by Alexander Plötz, Philip Rothman, and Andrew Noah Cap published on the Sibelius Blog, you should go and read it now.
The first update
But of course it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. Like any complex software at version 1.0, Dorico has its fair share of problems, and the team is already hard at work on the first update, which we expect to be available before the end of November. We cannot say with absolute certainty what will be included in the first update, which we are calling 1.0.10, but here is what we are working on right now.
Localisation. Because we were adding features to Dorico right up until the last moment before release, there are quite a few unlocalised strings left in the various language versions of Dorico. Our teams of localisation experts around the world are hard at work on translating the remainder of the strings that we added late in 1.0, and the localisation will be complete in 1.0.10. We are also working on addressing a number of problems with key commands or keyboard shortcuts on non-English keyboards.
Documentation. The documentation for Dorico, which you can read at Steinberg.help, is not yet comprehensive, and nor is it available in languages other than English. By the time of the 1.0.10 release we expect initial documentation in other languages to be available, and the English documentation will continue to be expanded upon. This will be an ongoing project for the next little while.
Performance improvements. Although Dorico’s screen redraw is already very fast (scrolling through even a large score is generally very smooth), some important operations are slower than they should be. Dorico is very dynamic, and its architecture allows a large amount of parallelisation, but the danger of this is that you can potentially end up with data out of sync. To guard against that, our strategy until now has been to have the program do more work during editing to try to make sure everything is in sync. Since the initial release, we have already significantly sped up common operations in Setup mode (like adding and deleting players) and most note input operations, as well as eliminating unnecessary screen redraws, all of which make Dorico feel considerably faster than the initial release. We are currently working on changing the way that repitching a selection of music works in order to make that operation as fast as possible, while retaining all of the sophisticated calculations the program performs to ensure that all of the individual transposition operations are carried out correctly.
Playback of playing techniques. We are working on initial support for VST Expression Maps, to allow Dorico to switch between playing techniques such as arco, pizz., mute, and articulations such as staccato and accent. This is an enormous area and it’s not yet clear exactly what we will manage to achieve in time for the 1.0.10 update, but the eventual intention is to allow you to import existing VST Expression Maps from Cubase and edit them inside Dorico, to provide the start of the kind of control that is needed to get the best out of your virtual instruments. For the HALion Symphonic Orchestra sounds included with Dorico, the Expression Maps will be set up automatically such that your score will automatically respond to changes of playing technique without you needing to do anything.
Audition notes during editing. When you click on a note or chord, or hop the selection around with the arrow keys, you will hear the note or chord auditioned right away. If you would prefer not to hear the notes as you move around the score, there will be an option in Preferences to disable it.
Editing vertical spacing. Although Dorico’s default vertical spacing is very good, and beyond what other graphical scoring software can do by default, of course it is often necessary to be able to adjust vertical spacing manually, and we are working on a set of tools in Engrave mode to make this possible. As with editing frames for music, text, and graphics, the tools for editing vertical spacing will be hidden behind a single switch, so you won’t make accidental edits, and you can focus on the task at hand.
Transposition. We are working on adding a dialog to allow a selection of music to be transposed by a specific interval. This is more complicated than it sounds, because of Dorico’s support for microtonality.
Selection improvements. Making large selections in the initial release is very unwieldy, relying almost entirely on the use of marquee selection. The initial update will add new tools for making and extending selections with the mouse and keyboard. We’ve also been working on improving the hit testing for different types of items: in the initial release, you will often find that you select a slur, beam, or glissando line unexpectedly when trying to select something else in the vicinity, which is caused by the fact that their bounding shapes are rectangular. In 1.0.10, the click areas for these irregularly shaped or angled items will track their actual shape much more closely, making it easier to select only the things you actually wanted to select.
Bracketing and bracing. The options to show sub-brackets, or to draw sub-brackets as braces, will work properly, bracketing will respect the player groups defined in Setup mode (so e.g. double choir will show two brackets instead of one), organ will have only two of its three staves braced together, and there will be improvements in the flexibility of staff labelling and numbering (among them, not adding an automatic number if you have already overridden the instrument’s name).
General bug fixing. We are also fixing as many bugs as we can as we go along, and we will provide a complete list of the issues we have fixed when 1.0.10 is ready.
Looking beyond the release of 1.0.10, we hope to issue another release before the end of the year, adding further functionality and fixing further problems. We are committed to improving Dorico as quickly as possible, and to deliver those improvements to our customers as quickly as we can.
We are also expecting to make the 30-day trial version of Dorico available around the same time as the 1.0.10 update, either at the end of November or shortly thereafter. As soon as we have a concrete date for the release of the trial, we will update this post and provide updates via the forum and our social media channels.
I will leave you with this rather excellent piece called Etude Polymétrique, written by Göran Valter Arnberg in Dorico and performed by the composer, which shows off Dorico’s initial support for polymetric music.
If you like this (and how could you not!), check out the prog rock version as well!
It’s so exciting to see the things that musicians are starting to create with Dorico even at this early stage in its life, and we can’t wait to see what else you can create with our new software. See you on the forum!