We are delighted to announce the immediate availability of Dorico 3.5, a brand new version of our professional music notation software packed with new features. Dorico 3.5 brings major workflow improvements, new and improved notations, enhanced tools for playback, and a raft of improvements that touch every aspect of the software. Check out this short video that introduces you to just some of the highlights to be found in this new version:

Pitch before duration input

Let’s start with one of the major workflow changes in Dorico 3.5, the introduction of a new pitch before duration input method. When using step-time input, it has always been necessary to specify the duration of the note before the pitch: you specify (say) a quarter note duration, add any articulations and accidentals you want to appear on the note, and perhaps activate the rhythm dot to make the note dotted, then either type the pitch name, play the note on your keyboard or click it into place with the mouse. This feels very natural when copying out existing music, but some people feel more comfortable thinking “F sharp quarter note” rather than “quarter note sharp F”. For these people, we introduce pitch before duration input.

This input method can be found in both Sibelius and Finale too, but Finale is where it came from: in Finale, it’s called Speedy Entry, and it’s a truly venerable input method, having been introduced in the very first version of the software. We’ve tried to take the fundamental approach of Speedy Entry and integrate it as seamlessly as possible into Dorico’s input method, and we’re really pleased with how well it’s turned out.

Switching between duration before pitch and pitch before duration input is as simple as hitting the single-key shortcut K. As you’ll see, it can be very useful to swap back and forth between the two methods during input. You can also specify which input method you would like to use by default when starting a new project on the Note Input and Editing page of Preferences. When pitch before duration input is active, you will find that a shadow note appears on the caret, the pitch of which updates as you play notes or chords on your MIDI keyboard, or as you type pitches on the computer keyboard. Although the caret is active, nothing will be input at this stage, allowing you to freely experiment with different ideas; only when you hit one of the number keys to specify the duration of the note will the note or chord at the shadow note actually be input.

A further change is a second new option on the Note Input and Editing page of Preferences, which allows you to specify accidentals, articulations and rhythm dots after the note has been input. So if pitch before duration input allows you to go from “quarter G” to “G quarter”, being able to specify these other properties after the note has been input means you can now go from “G sharp accent dot quarter” to “G quarter sharp accent dot”. This might not matter to you at all, or it might be the greatest thing since sliced bread. Give it a try and see what you think!

As always, my inestimable colleague Anthony has produced a series of helpful introductory videos to showcase many of the new features in Dorico 3.5, so let’s hand it over to him.

Figured bass

Dorico 3.5 introduces comprehensive support for figured bass, the shorthand way of indicating harmony in music of the Baroque and early Classical periods, and in typical Dorico fashion it takes a semantic approach to handling this notation. When you enter figured bass, behind the scenes Dorico interprets your input and figures out (pun very much intended) which actual notes those figures equate to, taking into account the prevailing bass note at the input position. If you specify a single digit, for example, Dorico will work out which other pitches are implied by the single figure provided, and create the appropriate figures, even potentially showing additional figures if that would make the harmonic context clearer. And Dorico is the only music notation software that can correctly transpose figured bass.

To get started with figured bass input, select a note on the bass instrument (or the lower staff of a keyboard instrument) to which you want to add figures, and type Shift+G. This opens the new figured bass popover, into which you can type figures between 1 and 9 in any order, so 46 and 64 are equivalent and automatically parsed out into a a second inversion triad, or 6 over 4. You can type just 6, for example, and Dorico will automatically infer that you mean a triad in first inversion, or 6 over 3, and then determine exactly which figures to display depending on  the current engraving options. You can, of course, specify accidentals using # for sharp, b for flat and n for natural, so you can type 6#42 and Dorico will correctly split this into three figures, with a raised 4 in the middle. Specifying suspensions is as simple as typing 4->3, which will prompt Dorico to show the suspended note and its resolution as separate figures, and you can move the rhythmic position of the resolution either using the Properties panel, or simply by clicking and dragging the resolution figure to move it rhythmically. Showing hold lines, which denote that the same figures apply over a series of moving bass notes, is also simplicity itself: just select the stack of figures and type the standard Dorico shortcut Shift+Alt+right to extend the hold line.

In short, figured bass is integrated into Dorico in exactly the way you would expect, with all of the usual thoughtful details that set it apart from other music notation software. It’s fast and efficient to input, intelligently responds to changes in the music, is endlessly configurable by way of dozens of engraving options, and looks beautiful. Watch out for a moment of “Dorico magic,” as Anthony puts it, in his video introduction to this feature, which you can watch here:

Condensing for divisi and section players

Condensing, Dorico’s unique feature for automatically producing a condensed conductor’s score with a single click, was introduced just last year in Dorico 3.0, and expanded upon in Dorico 3.1, with the introduction of condensing changes, that give you ultimate control over exactly how Dorico should condense your music. Dorico 3.5 now takes condensing further still, with support for condensing section players, and for condensing divisi passages.

When writing for wind and concert band, it’s customary to use section players for the wind and brass parts, because in a massed wind band it’s usual for, say, Clarinet 1 and Clarinet 2 not to be a pair of individuals, as they would typically be in an orchestra, but instead to be a section of clarinettists, all of them playing from the same part. Until now, such parts could not be condensed in Dorico – mainly because this would also necessitate Dorico to be able to handle more complex situations, like violin section players with divisi – but now it’s as simple as enabling it from a new option on the Players page of Layout Options. After that, section players will condense just like solo players do. Set it and forget it!

With divisi, on the other hand, things can get a bit more interesting. In the past, if you wanted to show a passage for divided violins on a single staff in the conductor’s score but on separate staves in the instrumental part, you had to employ some creative solutions, but with the new support for condensing of divisi passages in Dorico 3.5, it’s now much simpler. Again, enabling condensing for divisi is as simple as clicking a single button on the Players page of Layout Options, and Dorico will automatically produce the maximally condensed result for every divisi passage in your score, while still keeping all of the powerful and unique functionality of Dorico’s unique approach to divisi, automatically filling in unison passages before and after divisi on the same system. You can also exercise full control over how Dorico condenses each divisi passage using manual condensing by way of a condensing change.

There is still plenty more for us to do with condensing, including improving support for condensing choral music, and handling multiple instruments held by the same player, and we will continue to refine these areas in future versions, but we hope that these improvements in Dorico 3.5 take an already unique and powerful feature to a new level of utility.

VST expression map improvements

We’ve added a lot of useful new improvements to expression maps in Dorico 3.5, aimed at making it easier to work with third-party sample libraries. There are a number of improvements to the Expression Maps dialog itself to make it easier to use, but more significantly the capabilities of expression maps have been extended with initial support for conditional switches. These allow you to trigger different sounds based on the played length of notes, which can be used to great effect with libraries that provide several different recorded note lengths. For example, libraries often provide a variety of different short sampled notes of different lengths, named after articulations like staccato and marcato, but it often makes sense to use those sounds not only for notes with matching articulations, but also for those that are of the right length, as using samples of the right length gives a more realistic attack and overall sound. So you can now set up to five note lengths – from very short to very long – to trigger different sounds, if they’re available.

In addition to conditional switches, there’s also the new concept of Add-on switches, which are ideal for situations where a library provides a consistent set of techniques or ways to modify sounds – such as a specific MIDI controller for legato, vibrato, or tone, or whatever it might be – so that you can define these switches in a simple, compact way and don’t need to worry about defining every possible combination of each base switch with every Add-on. (In the future, this capability will allow Arne Wallander to dramatically simplify the Dorico expression map for NotePerformer, for example.)

The other big improvement is that it’s not normally necessary to worry about creating mutual exclusion groups in expression maps any longer: Dorico can do a reasonable job of creating the required mutual exclusion groups automatically, so unless you have special requirements you can leave Dorico to take care of this for you.

Beyond the changes to expression maps, another significant improvement comes in the form of automation lanes in Play mode showing you the data that Dorico itself is generating in response to what is defined in the active expression map. For example, if an expression map defines MIDI controller 1 as the primary dynamic controller, when you expand the automation lane and set it to MIDI controller 1, you’ll now see the generated profile of controller data that Dorico will output during playback. You can still override this default output by adding your own data, but it’s now much easier to see, for example, what the take-over value would be at any given point.

There are plenty of other improvements, including initial support for playback of guitar bends, velocity editing for multiple selected notes, and so on. Anthony provides a run-down in this video:

Properties and options

Dorico has a very powerful and sophisticated system for setting properties on items in the music, but some of that power has been difficult to wield effectively until now. Some properties apply only to the current layout by default, while others always apply globally, i.e.everywhere an item appears. Under the hood, it has always been possible for properties that can vary by layout, which we are now calling local properties, to apply globally, but there was no way of achieving this in the user interface. (Eagle-eyed Dorico users may have noticed that when they import a MusicXML file, some properties for things like slur direction appear to be set in a strange way that doesn’t sensibly interact with the Properties panel: that is a glimpse of this hidden power, since those properties are set globally, but the Properties panel has never properly handled that situation.)

Way back in Dorico 2.1, we introduced a command called Propagate Properties that was intended to bridge the gap between the power of the properties system and the current limitations of the Properties panel interface: this would take a property that is set locally, and copy its value to every other layout where that item appears. Not quite the same thing as just setting the property globally, but that wouldn’t play nicely with the Properties panel, so it was the best approach available at the time.

The good news is that Dorico 3.5 brings with it a significant overhaul of the Properties system, including making it easy to tell at a glance which properties will apply locally and which will apply globally, and allowing you to specify that local properties should be set globally. And we’ve added a simple filtering tool to the Properties panel as well: simply type Alt+8 to put the focus into the filter box, then type the beginning of the name of a property or property group to filter the list down to only those proprerties that match. Check out Anthony’s video to see this in action:

In a similar vein, we’ve made some changes to the options dialogs to make it easier to find the options you’re looking for: each dialog now has a filter box at the top left-hand corner that you can jump to with Ctrl+L: type the item you’re looking for, and select the page or section from the filtered list. Now you will hopefully see the option you’re looking for right away, but if you don’t, type Ctrl+F to bring up a search bar at the top of the dialog page, allowing you to search for a specific word, just like in your web browser. Ctrl+G jumps to the next result, and Ctrl+Shift+F jumps back to the previous result. Try it out!

Part preparation improvements

Composers, arrangers and publishers working on concert and wind band music not only benefit from condensing for section players, but also from the ability to easily create multiple instrumental parts from the same source instrument in different transpositions. In different countries and types of ensemble, players have different expectations about how their part will be written: should the euphonium part be written in C or B flat, in treble clef or in bass clef? Now you can easily create all four versions within the same project without duplicating the instrument, using the new Clef and Transposition Override feature.

Further options for clefs allow you to specify whether octave reminder clefs actually affect the transposition of the music (against my better judgement), and a new Octave shift property for clef changes allows you to easily reproduce all of the various different conventions employed in parts for horn and bass clarinet, which have – to the uninitiated, at least – a bewildering array of conventions specifying the octave at which different clefs in the same part should be read. Now, if you can get your head around it, Dorico can notate it.

Beyond the fun with clefs, Dorico 3.5 also introduces a time-saving feature for commercial music copyists, who often need to mimic the appearance of hand-copied parts written on factory-produced, pre-ruled manuscript paper, by having any incomplete page at the end of a part filled with empty staves. I think this is part homage to the golden age of hand copying, and part practical approach to ensuring that the players have some room to make any additional notes or cues that might be needed on the stand. In any case, achieving this has proven pretty time-consuming for copyists using other music notation software, but in Dorico 3.5 this is as simple as activating a checkbox in Layout Options.

Line editors

Dorico 3.0 introduced grouped playing techniques with the ability to show continuation and transition lines, so that indicating things like sul ponticello to sul tasto with perfectly aligned instructions joined by arrows is the work of a moment, and Dorico 3.1 then made horizontal and vertical lines available more broadly via the new Lines panel in Write mode. Dorico 3.5 now makes it possible for you to go beyond the 40 or so preset lines included in Dorico 3.1 with a suite of sophisticated editors that allow you to produce horizontal and vertical lines with such flexibility that practically the only limit is your imagination. Seeing is believing, so check out Anthony’s introduction to the editors:

Graphic slices

A new tool has been added to Engrave mode allowing you to quickly define areas of the page in layouts to be exported as graphics in any of Dorico’s supported formats – PNG, SVG, TIFF, and PDF – and these areas, which we call graphic slices (because this concept is similar to the Slice tool in Adobe Photoshop), are saved in your project so you can quickly export them again later, if the music changes. This is ideal for creating short musical examples for teaching materials, orders of service, academic papers, online learning resources, and so on. Since I produce every one of the thousands of graphical examples in Dorico’s options dialogs using Dorico itself, this new tool is going to save me a huge amount of time in future, and I hope it will save you a lot of time as well.

Guitar notation

Another area that opened up for the first time in Dorico 3.0 last year was guitar notation, and we have continued to expand and refine Dorico’s support for our fine fretted friends both in January’s Dorico 3.1 update, and now in Dorico 3.5. There’s new support for right- and left-hand tapping, and expanded support for vibrato bar techniques such as bends, dives, scoops, and dips, with a new Guitar section in the Ornaments panel in Write mode and expanded support for creating them via the Shift+O popover. And chord diagrams have also continued to evolve, with the ability to create chord diagrams for any tuning you create in the Edit Strings and Tunings dialog and, most excitingly, the ability to dynamically generate a grid of the chord diagrams used in the flow at the start of the music, above the first system. This is something that rock and pop publishers often do as it helps to economise on the space needed for chords throughout the song, especially if a relatively small number of chords with common shapes are used throughout. In other music notation software, setting this up is laborious and involves complicated workarounds – but in Dorico it’s as simple as clicking a single button in Layout Options.

And there’s so much more…

Believe it or not, this only accounts for the major new features introduced in Dorico 3.5. Beyond these headlines, there are literally dozens of other improvements and fixes, including:

  • More beautiful slurs, including improved positioning over system breaks, in cross-staff situations, and in mixed-stem contexts
  • Improvements to beamed rests, and to secondary beam groupings
  • More refined behaviour for beam positioning when pursuing European-style shallow slants
  • Define erasures around time and key signatures, and even around stems, so that ties, hairpins etc. don’t crash through them
  • The ability to define a default barline type for each flow in Notation Options
  • The ability to cue from one divisi section to another
  • Significant improvements to MusicXML export, adding or improving support for dynamics, noteheads, tempo, time signatures, and unpitched percussion
  • Playing technique import from MusicXML files, so markings like pizz. and arco are now imported
  • Playback of guitar bends using MIDI pitch bend
  • A new set of basic Indian drum sounds from our friends at Keda Music.
  • A new guided tour for users updating from a previous version to introduce you to some of the new features
  • Customisable colours both for the page background for scores and parts, and for the area around the page for Write and Engrave modes
  • An instant print preview feature – simply hold down the backtick (Mac) or backslash (Windows) key and all non-printing items disappear (my own personal favourite feature in this release!)
  • Improvements to the way Dorico automatically moves the view during input and editing
  • Dorico keeps track of the size and position of every dialog during the session, so that each dialog reopens at the size and position you last used it

…and there are significant performance improvements, both for editing the music when condensing is enabled, and when opening projects with many flows. Plus more than 80 bug fixes. Read the full details in the Dorico 3.5 Version History PDF.

Anthony has put together a video highlighting some of the workflow and notation improvements in this release, which I heartily recommend to you here:

Pricing and availability

Congratulations for making it this far! I hope that all of the above has whetted your appetite sufficiently that you’re ready to make the jump to Dorico 3.5. The good news is that, if you’re updating from Dorico 3, this is the most inexpensive update yet. If you’re making the bigger jump from Dorico Pro 2 or even Dorico 1.x, then the update carries a higher cost, but you’ll also get the benefit of all of the incredible features that have been added in the meantime – among them, support for video, divisi, real-time MIDI recording, jazz articulations, auto-save, flow headings, tacets, smart trills, swing playback, various Engrave mode editors, condensing, guitar tablature, chord diagrams, fingering, smart harp pedals, Play mode editors, comments, harmonics, and goodness knows what else – so, for you, Dorico 3.5 will be an even more enormous leap forwards.

  • Update from Dorico Pro 3 (retail or educational single-user) to Dorico Pro 3.5: €59.99 inc. German VAT / $59.99 USD / £51 inc. UK VAT
  • Update from Dorico Pro 2 or Dorico 1.x (retail or educational single-user) to Dorico Pro 3.5: $159.99 inc. German VAT / $159.99 USD / £136 inc. UK VAT

If you’re currently using Dorico Elements 3 or Dorico Elements 2, the update to Dorico Elements 3.5 is just €29.99 inc. German VAT, $29.99 USD or £25 inc. UK VAT.

All of these updates are available from the Steinberg Online Shop, and you can buy and download Dorico Pro 3.5 and Dorico Elements 3.5 today. A 30-day trial version will be made available soon.

If you have only just activated a new copy of Dorico Pro 3 or Dorico Elements 3, or if you have only just updated to Dorico Pro 3 or Dorico Elements 3 from an earlier version of Dorico, you may be eligible for a free grace period update: if you first activated Dorico Pro 3 or Dorico Elements 3 on or after 22 April 2020, you can download the update to version 3.5 for your product free of charge. To check your eligibility, start here.

And if you’re using Dorico SE, you can update to Dorico SE 3.5 completely free of charge. Just download the new version using Steinberg Download Assistant, and off you go.

What’s next

The whole Dorico team in London and Hamburg have poured our hearts and souls into this release, as we do into every release, and we all hope that you will greatly enjoy making use of the new and improved tools that we have built for you. Speaking personally, I am continually amazed at the skill, talent and dedication of the people I am fortunate to work with and to call my friends, and I believe they’ve knocked it out of the park again with Dorico 3.5.

We are already dreaming up the next new features, but we’re always open to hearing what you want us to add to Dorico. Come to the forums and share your thoughts with us and with the global community of Dorico users. Let us know how you enjoy using Dorico 3.5 – we can’t wait to see and hear what you do with it!