Choosing a music notation program in 2023

I drafted the following write-up for the director of a local choir I sing in (who currently uses MuseScore) and wondered if it might be of interest to some here, too even though our reader base won’t need convincing!

If I understood correctly you are thinking about the possibility of learning the music notation program Sibelius. I used Sibelius for 20+ years and it was amazing. However, a lot has happened in the realm of music notation software since Sibelius was purchased by Avid Corp in 2006 from the two brothers who originally developed it (British twins, Ben and Jonathan Finn—hence the program name since Jean Sibelius was Finnish, unlike the twins). Several years later, in 2012 Avid fired the Sibelius development team with the plan of hiring cheaper developers in Eastern Europe and also converted Sibelius into a subscription service. Both moves were highly unpopular and controversial. Sibelius development suffered for several years but is in somewhat better shape today although it remains on a paid subscription model apart from the free introductory version.

After being let go by Avid, the ex-Sibelius team was hired by Yamaha-owned Steinberg Media Technologies (the developers of Cubase) and given the mandate to develop a new music notation program that would take advantage of the latest advancements in computer technology and the huge experience and technical expertise of the team. The new program was called Dorico and after four years of development the first version was released in 2016. From the outset, Dorico offered visually stunning output that allowed even inexperienced users to print music that looked like it might have come from a publisher and also allowed many notation chores to be done with minimal effort, thereby reducing the time and effort required to complete projects. However, Sibelius and Finale (the other major player in music notation programs) had been in development for 25+ years and at first there remained some things that were possible only with one or other of the older programs. However, seven years after Dorico’s birth and constant development, that potential shortcoming is no longer a significant factor.

Today, for users who don’t have long Sibelius or Finale experience that encourages them to stay with a program they already know, I encourage anybody moving into a new music notation program to choose Dorico. Apart from its speed in completing music notation projects and its visually stunning output, Dorico has unmatched product support for new and longtime users—there are large numbers of tutorial videos (several of which are linked below), a readily-accessible online manual, and a fabulous forum where users of all levels can get help from other users and members of the development team, including the legendary Daniel Spreadbury. Even the free Dorico SE 5 is very powerful and allows projects with up to eight staves of music (or more: grand staff instruments such as piano and organ count as single staves).

NOTE: I have edited my original post to correct the factual inaccuracy noted by @pianoleo, the incorrect spelling of Jonathan Finn’s name noted by @prko, and the faulty grammar at the beginning of the third paragraph noted by @Rinaldo. I have also divided the original single paragraph into 3 more readily “digestible” paragraphs as suggested by @wcreed and included reference to linked videos (which I will need to choose before sending this write-up) as suggested by @Andro . Thank you for the suggestions!


Nicely worded. Just one factual thing: Avid acquired Sibelius back in 2006 and kept the London office (and its staff) through to 2012.


I think that’s several paragraphs


This should be perhaps as follows?

Ben and Jonathan Finn

Your writing is great!
I would like to add my experience:
I had been using Finale for a long time. I knew the convenience of Sibelius and had done some work with it, but I insisted on using Finale.
After testing Dorico 2.x, I decided to leave Finale behind. The Finale user forum also played a part in my abandonment of the software. Every time I asked for a new feature, someone would write that the feature was not needed and that I should do step 1, 2, 3 and so on. These ways are mentioned in the manual and I already know them from long experience, so it was not very pleasant to have someone tell me in a reprimanding tone. The reaction of the Finale development team was not great either, although no worse than Apple’s.

The Dorico team is different! The best service I have ever experienced! Completely satisfied user experience in composing, arranging and communicating!


Thanks, @pianoleo. WRT Avid’s takeover in 2006 I relied on my fallible memory rather than doing research into a field I was already reasonably familiar with.

@wcreed, I agree my words might have been (and arguably should have been) spread among several paragraphs. Indeed, I generally dislike writing that hasn’t been broken down into sentences of reasonable length arranged into “bite-size” paragraphs! (Is that the ghost of William Faulkner laughing at me?) :wink:


Thank you. The original post has been edited to correct the spelling of Jonathan Finn’s name.

And yes, I love the way Dorico works but probably the biggest Dorico feature of all for me is the fabulous customer support.


Excellent essay - bookmarked incase my choir decides to standardise on a notation program.

I like what it says. My teacher’s eye can’t help picking out an incomplete clause at the start of the third paragraph of your statement: it needs “what they are familiar with” before the comma. If you don’t like having “with” twice so close together (though it’s correct grammatically), you could say “what they already know”.

Thanks, @Rinaldo! The error you identify had caused me discomfort, too, but I somehow let it pass instead of dealing with it. The original post has now been edited to correct the faulty grammar.

That’s an eloquent short letter, but in this period of time (after all, print is dead :slight_smile: ) you could also point them to many fine videos about Dorico that Steinberg and others make on youtube. For example:


It may also be worth printing some choral works in Dorico to show as samples to see the superb quality attainable. Or see for example @dan_kreider - his superb hymnal:

[I don’t work for Steinberg, just a full time engraver who uses Dorico.]


Thanks, @Andro. I like the idea of including links to several videos and have added a related reference to the edited write-up included in the first post to this thread. I’m hoping appropriate links to Dorico-generated choral works might also be an easy and effective way of showing off Dorico’s capabilities.

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It’s great to see that #DoricoDoesItBetter video again. @Anthony_at_Steinberg really did a beautiful job with that one.