Cubase

I had a chat to Spitfire Audio and they recommended using a DAW (such as Cubase) over Dorico to best work with their products. Is there agreement on that here?

It really depends on what you’re trying to do. In general, sample library developers and manufacturers tend to think DAW first, and very often give little to no consideration to how their products will be used in notation software. That’s because notation software in general is less widely used than DAWs, and also because historically notation software has not been particularly strong in its support for third-party sound libraries. That is something that Dorico tries to change, but the workflow for integrating a sample library into Dorico is different to that for DAWs.

In a DAW, you can just fumble about, adding manual key switches and MIDI controllers, or you can go to the effort of configuring expression maps (or the equivalent, which is different in every DAW). But because you don’t have to make an expression map, and you can simply whack a random MIDI note in to trigger a key switch, that’s what many DAW users do. And, of course, DAW users are more likely to be recording material in real time, perhaps even playing the key switches in real time, and don’t need to worry at all about the notated results.

If you don’t care about notated results and just want to produce a great-sounding performance that exploits the unique features of the sound library, and if you’ve got the skills to record lines in real time, and are willing to work with the MIDI tools in the DAW to manually shape dynamics, etc., then that may be the right tool for you.

If on the other hand you’re interested in producing a notated score but also want to make use of the sound library, then working in Dorico is probably the way to go. However, in Dorico you can’t easily just go around randomly bashing in key switches, because they will appear in the score. Instead, you need an expression map to provide the mapping between the markings you write in the score for different playing techniques, and the specific MIDI inputs needed in the sound library to produce the right result.

If you’re not interested in working with expression maps yourself, you should consider using NotePerformer with its dedicated NotePerformer Playback Engines, which allow it to drive various third-party sample libraries. Spitfire Symphony Orchestra is one of the supported libraries:

If you haven’t tried NotePerformer, give it a go. A free trial is available.

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Yup, I tried NotePerformer for a while and though it’s interesting concept though I never really thought the output was that good and it didn’t look as though they were planning to improve it (the following release while I was trying it didn’t have any playback improvements.)

Back in the day I used to use Sibelius but thought Dorico might be a nice halfway house between that and a different DAW, but Expression Maps are beyond me. Spitfire was suggesting that UUAC would be a better way to switch between articulations. (See, I do read manuals.)

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I did look at forum posts ( Spitfire Playback UACC and dynamics for beginners - #14 by Cees ) but they seemed to be dead. YouTube stuff was all years old.

Other stuff like this which is newer ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxKq1h6G5-Q&t=321s ) Nope, no Instruments option appears under Library so perhaps you switched things around in the menu, because who doesn’t like that? (Or perhaps the video is just wrong somehow.)

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I figure if I really have to choose between a nicely notated score, and a nice output then I’ll go for a nice output and as such Dorico isn’t seemingly the tool for that.

Anyway, so I’m chatting with Spitfire support and they said for this kind of thing a DAW would be better than notation software like Dorico. So I’m wondering from Dorico users which DAW I should look to switch to.

I think you’re using Dorico Elements, rather than Dorico Pro, and thus you don’t have all features. The Library > Instruments dialog is a Pro-only feature.

If you’ve not tried NotePerformer 4 with its new NotePerformer Playback Engines, you really should give it a go. It’s by far the easiest way to work with larger third-party sound libraries, and Spitfire Symphony Orchestra is already supported.

Perhaps that’s it. Come Black Friday perhaps I’ll go and buy Pro and see if it’s better. Cubase costs the same though and sounds as though it’ll do what I’d like, so I can’t see a reason not to go for that. Dorico feels like a risk, whereas a lot of people use Cubase.

Lots of people use Dorico, too, of course :slight_smile: But yes, as I said in my initial reply, if you’re mostly concerned with playback and don’t want or need to produce printed scores, you may well find a DAW better suited to your needs, and Cubase is the best of the bunch.

I’m sure you’re correct, but when it comes to tutorials Cubase seems a lot better served than Dorico.

Yes, I’m sure that’s right. We are working on a new series of tutorials covering playback templates, expression maps, percussion maps, the Key Editor, etc., and I’m sure they’ll be helpful. But the fact that Cubase has been around forever, and the core functionality around things like instrument tracks, expression maps, etc. have been well established for many years means that you will certainly be able to find a wealth of tutorials out there, both on YouTube and elsewhere.

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Yup yup. It’s hard to fight against the wealth of knowledge out there for another product. I’m sure a coupon code / black friday deal will tip the balance before year’s end.

I did flick through the differences but in playback it feels it’s mainly instruments that I don’t want (I’d never use the HALion Symphonic Orchestra, I’d never use Groove Agent, for example), and nothing to show differences in articulation control. £400 just to be able to switch between longs and pizzicato is pretty impossible to justify.

You don’t need Dorico Pro to achieve that, Matt. All of the features required for working with playback with third party libraries are included in Dorico Elements.

I must have misunderstood when you said that the “Instruments” option was only in Pro. I just (“just”) want to map between Long and Pizzicato.

I fully appreciate there’s a learning curve involved in every new thing we try, but when I carve out some music time I spend all of it trying to get Dorico to do things and go away having written zero music.

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although I basically agree with Daniel on just about every point in his initial reply, I might still come to a different conclusion. No, I don’t agree that using a DAW is the best way to work with Spitfire products unless you’re entering everything live which is actually how these libraries are largely designed to operate anyway. If you simply use step entry, then Dorico has various advantages: You can easily produce a score but even if you don’t need one, you can use a NotePerformer Playback engine to support both BBC orchestras and the Spitfire Symphony Orchestra with little user programming required. This is not available with any DAW. And if you don’t want to use NPPE and prefer to do your own Expression Maps, the Dorico ones are easier to use and more powerful than in Cubase (at any rate from what I know of the latter).

I’m mainly interested in playback but still prefer to use Dorico

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Careful of this setting (Playback Options->Timing):
Screenshot 2024-03-14 at 12.03.09 PM

I believe it’s 1/8 by default.

You did. Daniel was talking about the Instrument definition editor, which is only available in Dorico Pro. That’s what’s being shown in the video you linked to.

Okay, well which DAW would you suggest I buy?

It’s totally impossible to make a helpful recommendation without knowing some basic info about how you compose.

Do you care about printed music? Will actual human musicians ever play your music, or will it be created only using virtual instruments (VSTs)? If using a printed version, will it need to be up to a publishable standard to be offered for sale, submitted for grants or “call for scores,” etc.?

If your music uses human musicians, do you need software to handle the recording and mixing process too? Would it ever be a mix of virtual instruments and human players?

If only using virtual instruments, do you mostly write for traditional orchestral instruments? Jazz instruments? Pop? Electronica? Another one of the gazillion styles of music out there? What instruments, sounds, effects, etc. do you require?

How do you get your music into the computer? Input notation? Record audio files? Record MIDI via a MIDI controller? Arrange existing samples, arpeggiators, chord presets, etc.?

I’m guessing the timeframe isn’t crucial as you seem willing to wait for Black Friday, but some DAWs have a steeper learning curve than others if you need to produce something immediately. When do you need to be up to speed?

All those factors are really needed to be known if you expect someone to provide any sort of useful recommendation.

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I’ve covered some of this in the thread, but…

I do like printed music but if I can’t have it, then I can’t have it. Sometimes I print it out so I can go and play piano pieces elsewhere.

I’m unaware of all gazillion styles, but you seem to have a wider grasp of genre than me. I could probably only name about twenty. I like to write with orchestral instruments. Recently I’ve been using the Spitfire Symphony Orchestra.

Mostly I notate with a PC keyboard, but but sometimes I use a MIDI keyboard (but for note entry, not live playing.)

Correct, timeframe isn’t important in that there’s no deadline I’m working to, other than I don’t have loads of free time so when I do carve out some time for music I try and be productive.

Given that, what would be the best DAW that’ll give me access to the articulations in the library?

What is your objection Halion Symphony Orchestra (or Iconica), which will give you your articulations out-of-the-box (and for free) - apart from perhaps not liking the sound?

You are clearly going to have to invest time in learning something. Either learn how Dorico Expression Maps work, or learn how to use a DAW.

IMO, if you work with notation, Dorico expression maps are much easier to understand than DAWs. Certainly if you are attempting to learn a DAW workflow from scratch.

Apart from sound? Sound is what makes one VST better than another. I like the Spitfire stuff.

If it’s true that Dorico expression maps are easy to understand then maybe I’m simply an idiot.

I suggested they were easier - not easy.