Converting From Finale to Dorico - Interchangeable Time Signatures

What ho, people of Dorico!

I am using the trial of Dorico Pro 4 to evaluate whether to make the switch from Finale. I have been using Finale for almost 20 years but stopped upgrading after 2012. It’s now become quite unstable with more and more weird glitches, so I think it’s time for an upgrade. I’m interested in Dorico, but the crossgrade is more than twice the cost of the upgrade to Finale 27, so I need to make sure it’s the right move.

I use Finale primarily to compose and also to produce sheet music. One of the things I appreciate most is the playback quality that makes this possible. So far that has been the biggest downside to Dorico (not a fan of the HALion saxes and timpani for starters). I know there will be tricks to improving that which can be learnt as I go along. I do see great value in the improved handling of parts and engraving, and even some elements of music entry will result in better workflow as I get used to the different shortcuts.

One thing is looking like a dealbreaker though - I tend to write in 6/8 and 3/4 rhythms interchangeably in a significant amount of my music (it’s just the rhythm in my blood).

In Finale, I use the most suitable time signature for the primary pulse of the piece and notate using dotted crotchets or straight crotchets as appropriate to the moment.

Dorico forces technically correct rhythmic notation for the specified time signature. Mostly this is a good thing and will help reduce errors and produce more readable parts. However, there are times when the technically correct thing is more complex and less readable that something technically incorrect. E.g. in 6/8, a bar with three crotchets is easier to read than a bar with one crotchet, two quavers tied, one crotchet. In isolation it would be fine, but when a piece is filled with these moments it starts to get messy.

I opened the notation options and tried setting all the grouping options to preference single note rather than splits at various boundaries, but it didn’t seem to have much effect. I read there is an option to force the duration, but understand it has to be applied individually to each note? I also read you can set an interchangeable time signature (6/8 = 3/4), but Dorico still groups according to the first selection. To use the other grouping, you need to manually change the time signature (it just doesn’t display on the score). I did try this out, and again, it works for longer passages or here and there moments but is a lot of fiddling around if it’s happening everywhere and on different staves at different times. One of the biggest pros of Dorico is supposed to be how much it cuts down on that kind of tweaking (which Finale gets a terrible rap for).

So, is there is there a better solution that I’m missing?


There are of course loads of other libraries that you can use with Dorico – HALion is the “SmartSoftSynthSounds” of Dorico. You can use NotePerformer, even the Garritan Libraries that comes with Finale; or GPO5 etc; or the more serious libraries like Vienna Instruments, etc. And arguably, Dorico’s handling of playback and “DAW-like” interface is much better.

Probably your best bet is to Force Duration (on a pre-existing note, select the first of the tied quavers, press 5, O, 6 to make a forced crotchet). You can always copy rhythms and repitch. You could also try hidden 3/4 time sigs in specific staves; or even (hidden) triplets of 3 crotchets in the time of 3 crotchets!

Dorico will save you so much time in other areas that I’m willing to forgive it the odd little bit of manual labour. The other advantage is that user’s needs and requests are much more likely to be accommodated in future updates.

It’s the right move! :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: You’ll find quite a lot of people here who have switched from Finale.


Thank you!

I haven’t been a DAW user so far, so the Play interface is a little beyond me (for now, I’d definitely tackle it at some point). I can stretch my budget for Dorico, but picking up more libraries isn’t really on the table. I did get the trial of Note Performer, but it’s doing this bizarre thing where anything that isn’t slurred is played basically staccato and I couldn’t work out how to get around that. I managed to load the Garritan library included with Finale (thanks to this excellent forum), so that’s a backup plan.

I’ll have a shot with Force Duration and see how that goes. Is there some sort of tool / function that would let me map the 5, O, 6 combination to a single keystroke? I went through the online manual and feel like there was something that sounded like it might be able to do that, but I’m not sure.

I am really enjoying the clean modern appearance and performance of Dorico overall - even simple things like the fact it just works with multiple monitors is such a relief!

There are various third-party ‘macro’ utilities that people use; or you can use Dorico’s built-in scripting.

Any sequence you record in the Script menu can be used again and again. It is saved in the user’s library along with the preferences, defaults, etc. On the Mac, that’s {user}/Library/Application Support/Steinberg/Dorico 4/Script Plug-ins. I’m not sure about Windows.

The last script recorded will be saved as usermacro.lua. Rename this file, and it will become available in the Scripts menu. (And stop it being overwritten by the next recorded script.)

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Hello @TonicDjinn – for your time signatures question, the way Dorico handles meters is pretty great in that notes are automatically grouped/beamed correctly according to the meter.

Variable time signatures are absolutely possible in Dorico, and will probably be easier in the long run than forcing durations in lots of bars. If the pattern of meters is regular (i.e. 6/8 then 3/4 then 6/8 then 3/4 etc) you probably want to use an alternating time signature as that sets a fixed pattern of meters.

If the pattern of meters is irregular, you probably want an interchangeable time signature – that essentially says “from this point onwards, any time signatures you input that are ‘mentioned’ in the interchangeable time signature should be hidden”, meaning you still have to input the time signature you want in the bars you want them, but the hiding part happens automatically (as you mentioned in your last comment).

Once time signatures are input, if they’re hidden they appear as red signposts. You can select these and copy them elsewhere, e.g. by selecting them and Alt/Opt-clicking wherever else you want them. You can do this for multiple selected signposts, e.g. if you have a regular pattern of time signature changes that occur multiple times, you can input the first “set”, then copy all signposts as part of that set to elsewhere in the flow.

Here is how you can specify different types of time signatures in the popover.

Finally, it sounds like you might already have settled into Dorico quite well, but in case it’s of interest here’s a link to our First Steps guide, it’s a walkthrough tutorial designed to introduce Dorico to new users with both instructions and tips along the way.


I quite agree, but there is something called permanent tenuto mode…(dont recall, but it’s in the doc) and you can go into the overrides section of the NP expression map and increase the percentage value for “natural” notes…

Great, thank you. I will have a look at the Script option.

Thank you - I hadn’t picked up on Signposts. That sounds like it would make it easier to work with the interchangeable time signatures.

I do agree Dorico’s handling is good by default, I just happen to do a lot of work in one particular gap where it’s not ideal!

I looked this up in the forum, and someone said to send a value of 1 to CC 108 to trigger the permanent tenuto mode. I must admit I don’t know how to do this! (Also it seemed to indicate this may have stopped working in later versions?)

I found the overrides section of the NP expression map (thank you), and had a play around with that. It seemed to take a lot, like values significantly over 100%, to get this to have an impact. I initially thought it had worked as things did sound better, but then some notes still seemed to be clipped (end of slurs, but other places too that I couldn’t really see a reason for).

Would you (or anyone else) be able to share what specific combinations of override numbers / other settings have worked for you?

Well, the end of slur thing is a Dorico issue I believe, it’s not present in Finale. (which is my other main platform.)

The CC108 with a value of 1 does work in the latest version (at least) and is probably the only “safe” route to changing the NP default behavior. (I put it in the INIT switch in a copy of the NP xmap) As you say, overriding the length parameter for default notes can have a positive effect, but then in certain scenarios it is the opposite. This isn’t surprising as NP have quite a few built-in routines for interpreting the score. And those routines seem to be founded on relatively agile romantic orchestral music… By their own admittance NP is totally unable to render slow string music, e.g. Aases’ death by Grieg…

As time goes by I become more and more convinced that not a single Sound Library developer ever sat down and listened carefully to a professional symphony orchestra rehearsing a Haydn symphony…

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This was exactly what I needed to put the pieces together, so Note Performer is now working rather well. I’ve been browsing the forum on the general subjects of NP, other sound libraries and expression maps - enough to realise that my Garritan Instruments for Finale set isn’t going to work very well for playback without some overwhelming set up work in the expression maps. Without going down that rabbit hole, Note Performer is looking like my best option and it’s exciting to see that NP4 is in development for the not-too-distant future.

I tried this out and it’s much easier to work with the interchangeable time signature when you set up a common pattern and copy the signposts. Unfortunately after applying this to just a few bars in a few instruments in a concert band score, the signposts were stacking up like crazy and made a total mess of the score. I think the only practical way forward would be to input all music first, then just before the engraving stage go through and add the time signature signposts. Once they’re all in, use the View menu options to switch off signposts for time signatures. Doable for sure, but doesn’t feel that neat.

Great info - got this sorted and assigned a shorter shortcut to run last script. Worked perfectly until I tried it to make a minim! Of course, I can see your original instruction did specify it was to make a crotchet - I was overthinking the whole thing and looking for an easy universal fix. It’s not that bad to apply the Force Duration sequence manually after all.

I had some luck with one of my pieces - originally written in an interchangeable 6/8 and 3/4, but organically developed a strong 3/2 pulse in the piano (across 2 bars), so I moved it to 3/2. In Dorico this was an absolute mess of ties and not much better in 6/4. I set the two solo instruments and top piano staff to 6/4 (which automatically beams [3+3]) and the bottom piano staff to [2+2+2] /4. Add in just a few forced durations to clean up the upper parts, get used to a few extra ties, and the final product is pretty good.

Incidentally one of the first things I did was to enter the piece mentioned above into Dorico from scratch while following the First Steps Guide. I got super confused at the playback section (I think this is because some of those features have been disabled pending revamp in Dorico 4). But overall it was a very useful learning tool that really helped to start out and progress to a reasonable work speed in short order.

My overall impression so far is that, like any notation program, there are a few quirks to work around if you want things done a particular way, but the tradeoff appears to be vastly in Dorico’s favour when you weigh up time spent in manual edits over the whole process of writing and engraving. It’s an extremely powerful program with a bright future…but also more powerful than I have the skill to use. I would need to add Note Performer to get playback I’m comfortable with, so that means that the crossgrade to Dorico plus NP is now sitting at more than 3x the cost of the upgrade to Finale 27! Although the question remains, would I still be happy with Finale at this point?

Much to think about. And thanks all for your assistance so far.