Does Dorico 2 satisfy the Jazz afficionados?

Jumped off the Dorico bandwagon a while ago and eagerly awaiting the Dorico 2 Trial to give it another go.
Curious to hear from the Jazz afficionados here if version 2 has met their needs and if there are still features missing.

From what I hear, see and read, it certainly looks promising for me as a Cubase Artist user.

Keep up the good work Steinberg and thanks for taking music notation a leap further!


I did the Dorico 1 trial. My opinion was that if they added slash / rhythmic notation and ditto repeats, then it would have met the “must have” list. Those items are in 2.0. I have bought 2.0 and am starting on my first jazz band arrangement. I don’t anticipate any road blocks.

Does it “satisfy” me? No, but that’s a different question. None of the products out there satisfy me, and Dorico is as good or better than anything else.

There are various things that would make life easier. Most of what I would like to see falls into two categories: Harmonic awareness, and Playback.

Playback isn’t particularly a jazz thing. It should be of interest to any Dorico users in any genre. There are certainly playback advances in 2.0. The big advance I would like to see is a seamless integration between Dorico and Cubase where it will be possible to compose on either platform and have the material automatically synchronized with the other platform. Compose in Dorico and play back in Cubase. Compose in Cubase and have that appear in Dorico notation. And so on. That is a long-term goal, comparable to the vision of combining MIDI sequencers and audio recording to make what we know now as a DAW. Convergence.

A more immediate wish list item, and one that could make heaps of difference in productivity is “harmonic awareness.” The foundation for this is already in Dorico’s chord architecture. And the concept of “chord tracks” is becoming common in DAWs. Cubase, in particular, has a powerful chord track capability where you can tell any track (or all tracks) to “follow chords.” If you change the chords, the MIDI adjusts itself to fit into the revised chords.

I wouldn’t necessarily use “follow chords” in most jazz arrangements because there often are passing tones that are not in the explicitly stated chords. But what I would really like to see is the option for a color coding scheme where, for example, basic tones (root & 5th) and guide tones (3rd & 7th) show in black, color tones (b9, #9, #11, 13 etc) show up orange, and any other notes show up as red. And even more than that, I’d like to have a “harmonically aware nudge” which is like a diatonic nudge or chromatic node (moving the selected notes up or down a diatonic step or a half step respectively), but follow the chord entered for that particular beat instead of following the key signature. With such a capability, you quickly write a “Supersax” passage by writing the lead alto as usual, copy that material to the other 4 saxes, and then do the harmonically aware nudge on each of those other parts as many times as necessary to get the voicing cluster you want.

The closest thing I have seen in any product is Finale’s inclusion of the Band-in-a-Box harmonization plug-in. But they dropped that when they went to 64-bit, and it was actually broken a release or two before that.

Dear cparmerlee,

Thanks for your response.

The integration and exchange of data in both Cubase and Dorico would certainly be valuable.
To be honest, I don’t know to what extend there’s and exchange already, but from what you write there’s room for improvement.
Dorico isn’t there yet and as such can not be expected to have all the features many here wish, but I think it is good to mention what users would like to see in coming updates.
Like many on this forum I still work with both Finale and Sibelius and kind of switch back and forth which between these two and it would be nice to have one piece of software where all the magic can happen. Funny thing is that even in the latest version of Sibelius, which they named Ultimate, Daniel Spreadburry is mentioned as product manager although he has left the Sibelius building a while ago.

The chord-voicing option you mention would certainly be nice and maybe sometime in the future it can/will be implemented. Don’t know if it’s even on the dream-team list, but who knows.
I will certainly wait for the Dorico 2 Trial and hope to be able to evaluate it within the given 30 days, which - as I’ve read a couple of times of this forum - is too short. Not only for Dorico btw, but for most pro audio software.

Finale seems to have fallen asleep, no substantial updates, nothing exciting. Long time bugs remain as such and Sibelius has gone the Ultimate way…

Well, given the weak response it seems that most users seem to be fine and comfortable with 30 days, otherwise I would have expected more “+1” votings when I wrote about it. Another practice seems to be that people buy the software after or before the trial period is over to further test it, only to start ranting that it doesn’t deliver…
I think I remember having read sometime that it is possible to extend the trial period if you ask nicely for another trial activation code. Don’t take my words for granted – maybe that was in another forum :wink:

+1 for swing playback pretty please :slight_smile:

I think normal repeats with endings are playing back now, but as I understand it, D.C., D.S. and the related variants do not play back yet. That isn’t a strictly jazz thing, although it comes up a lot in jazz scores.

This restriction does not prevent an arranger from producing the arrangement and parts. But in most cases, I will want to generate a decent rendering for the client. I am sure the Dorico team understands that is an important area to complete. If I must, then I’ll send it into Cubase and use the Arranger Track in Cubase to put the correct roadmap into the payback.

The typical jazz articulations (scoops, falls, etc) are not supported. You can design your own, but it is tedious to position everything properly.

The markings common between jazz and classical (staccato, tenuto, accent, marcato) are supported.

Getting back to the original question, I am doing a relatively simple jazz combo chart in Dorico 2 Pro. I think there are two key questions:

  1. With Dorico, can you somehow do everything you need to do in a typical jazz chart; and
  2. What is the productivity.

On the first question, Dorico 2 gets pretty close. Certainly the chord support in 1.2 together with slash notation, rhythmic notation, and n-bar repeats makes it possible. Each person will have to decide if the remaining missing pieces are show-stoppers. On this particular project, I can probably live without the jazz articulations. I may draw them by hand, 1980s-style. But I doubt I will do any more jazz projects on Dorico until it is a bit more complete.

The second question, productivity, is a lot more complicated. The underlying architecture of Dorico is more elegant and expansive than the other products. And there is very little development effort on Finale and Sibelius these days. Clearly there will come a time when Dorico passes these other products and any serious notation user will want to position for that. But there are enough missing pieces that we may not be there for another year or two.

There is a huge learning curve on any new product like this. The project I am working on would probably take 3 or 4 days (maybe 10 hours total) with Finale, given the advantage of 15 years practice. I have already spent 25 hours on this project and am only 30% done. But that is because I am also taking the time to compile my own user guide. To be productive with Dorico, you must learn many, many key combinations and keystroke patterns. I am taking the time to document all the functions I will normally use.

Music entry feels extremely uncomfortable to me right now. But there are many features of Dotico’s note entry that will allow me to work faster than ever, once they become second nature. It is clear that Dorico will save loads of time on parts layout. These will be big time savers.

But I also find some missing things that are turning out to be major time wasters. The thing I am missing the most right now is the ability to quickly hear individual notes simply by sweeping the mouse over them. It is common to have a bad note here and there. And as I enter parts, I will typically try several different voicings. I need to be able to hear this to make sure it is what I want. In Finale, if you hear a chord conflict, it only takes an instant to sweep over all the notes to identify where the problem is. With Dorico, the closest thing I have found is to select individual notes, then press “P”. But this may or many not find the problem because to “sweep” over a chord, you may have to do this procedure 15 times. Because of this, I don’t believe I will have the patience to really work out the voicings as carefully as I usually do. I will power though it with this project, which uses mostly simple harmonies. But I don’t think I can take on a more ambitious arrangement until there is a faster, easier way to “zoom in” on the playback.

I would very much like to switch to Dorico for everything, because it is hard to remain proficient at multiple programs. But my guess is it will be another year before that is possible.

I’m using Dorico 2 for a lot of complex jazz charts and I’m loving it.

Thank you Dorico team for taking care of all the little details in the parts so that I don’t have to!