Composing first, then Dorico?

I am writing as a complete beginner in the wonderful process of composition. I have found that any thoughts about using Dorico before I have something written down as notes on paper only leads to a sense of panic and confusion.

Any comments, help ? Any help would be most useful

Don’t approach Dorico with the intent to compose, then.

Just think of it as a sandbox in which to mess about with ideas and techniques, as a means of familiarizing yourself with the application. How the interface works, its overall capabilities, the design principles behind it, etc. Approach Dorico as a technical fascination first, then as an artistic tool later.

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I’ve been writing for almost forty years, I still use pencil and paper for the initial phases of composition. Dorico (and I am a former Finale user), for me, is for “typesetting” and distribution purposes. For what it’s worth I do not use Dorico for any audio production, only print. I use Cubase for audio production. It’s a redundant process but (IMHO) DAWs do not do notation very well, and print programs do not do audio production very well. Yet. They’re getting closer! Use what works well for you. Getting those ideas down is what’s important, not the method. Hang in there.

I also used pencil and paper until notation software was invented. I now find it just as intuitive (and a lot faster!) to put my thoughts down in Dorico rather than on paper. {After less successful attempts in several other applications before that.)

However, I must say that I think Milo’s suggestion is a good one, till such time as composing direct to software feels comfortable to you.

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If you are new to both the software and to composition itself, it’s indeed quite understandable that those two things will clash and inhibit each other at first. IMO, a good way to become more fluent in both is score-study by way of copying. Grab something you like off IMSLP and try and reproduce it as accurately as possible in Dorico. It’s easier to learn the details of the software when you have a clear end goal to achieve, and you will get to know the piece itself very well.


If you’re still getting familiar with Dorico, and using it is a task in itself, then keeping the two separate might well make sense. As you get more and more comfortable using Dorico the way you like, the two might naturally merge.

For what it’s worth, I very rarely compose directly into Dorico – I find that for me, starting with pencil and paper, even just blank paper that I doodle mind-maps and stuff on, works best and results in music I’m most proud of. It helps to know how quickly they can become good-looking scores in Dorico, ultimately!

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For years I’ve been a “jot ideas down on paper and then fool around with them in the computer notation software” person, but with Dorico I’m finding that the Write mode is actually very helpful to me for composing. I like the flexibility that it gives to move things around and then instantly listen to see if what I thought would sound right actually does.

However being new to composition AND new to Dorico (and computer notation in general) would be a very daunting situation. The technological learning curve can be pretty steep, especially with such a powerful notation program as Dorico is. So divide your time between your compositional work on pencil and paper, but be sure to work at learning Dorico in a logical manner. Work through the First Steps tutorial (even though it’s designed for Dorico 3.5 it works excellently with Dorico 4) and read every post in this forum, even if it has a subject which you might not think is important for you because there are hidden gems of insights into the workings of Dorico often hidden among the responses. And be sure to watch the videos on the Dorico Youtube channel.

Thank you, everybody - it has been such a positive response. I thought it was just me, and everyone else was able to step form ideas, to Dorico. I now know that there is much more to do with both aspects, composition (even just on paper) and being able to make use of the tremendous complexities of such a program as Dorico.