Dorico as a composition tool

I’ve been using Dorico for about a year now, and I’d like to offer some thoughts about Dorico from my perspective. I’m an amateur composer, writing in classical tonal harmony styles from 1600 to 1900 for solo instruments, voice, ensembles and small orchestra. I produce pieces for local amateur players and singers. (I’m not interested in film or video composing, and I’m the kind of fellow who reads and writes dots on a page rather than using a piano roll in a DAW.)

I want notation software that helps me through the composition process, that has a good notation editor, that can produce good quality scores, and from which I can create a demo that’s good enough to share with amateur musicians. So I need a bit of mixing and mastering capability, but nothing too fancy – I will never see the inside of Abbey Road.

In many respects, Dorico measures up, and I plan to continue using it. Bits that are particularly good include the notation editor, playback options and templates, and expression maps. However, I think Dorico could be improved for my purposes. Specifically:

Fermatas, turns, mordents and other ornaments are not rendered. (Especially annoying having to manually adjust tempo for fermatas.)

Would be really nice to have some composer aids, particularly a tool that could review musical grammar against basic voice leading and counterpoint rules (e.g., by flagging parallel 5ths and octaves, voice crossing, voice distance too large, no contrary motion, doubled leading note, etc, etc).

Dynamics using the key editor is weak. D4 has actually regressed from D3.5 in that there’s no separate dynamics lane. There’s a bug causing drop-outs or complete absences of dynamics when they are rendered to CCs. Also, when dynamics are changed in the score, they’re not immediately reflected in the CC lanes. So although I may have set up expression maps, I don’t have confidence that the instruments will actually receive the dynamics as I intend.

Mouseovers in the key editor are absent. It’s great having the editor visible in the Write window, but I’d like to be able to lock the CC lanes to the scale of the music and have them move in step with the music so I can hop back and forth easily.

The new mixer looks good. However, I would prefer to have a clean audio chain by default, not have instruments go through reverb and a compressor by default. It would be nice to be asked this when starting a new project. (The reverb default it particularly puzzling. Lots of instruments have inherent room reverb, so why shove them through another one without asking. And why LA Studio? And why is the FX channel called FX at the top of the mixer, but labeled Reverb?)

It would be nice to have a 4-channel graphical EQ plugin rather than the separate slider EQ in the fader column. I find the EQ sliders difficult to use, and you can’t see the overall EQ envelope. Very clunky. (Incidentally, I’ve tried both VST2 and VST3 3rd party EQ plugins, but so far haven’t been successful in getting any recognized by Dorico.)

It would be nice to be able to assign additional faders to instrument groups. I’d also like to see the audio channel numbers included in the fader labels at the bottom.

Engrave mode is pretty good, but I find it takes a lot of fiddling to get the score as I want it. I’d like better text/image/music management. I’d like to be able to attach non-music pages to flows so they move with the flow if I change the order or change the music format. Right now, non-music pages can end up in the middle of flows. If I add a non-music page and then decide I don’t want it, I should be able to delete it by clicking on a minus icon next to the plus icon.

I’ve seen comments from others about creating the text in another app, and then merging with the music in a PDF editor. But I feel that suggests a deficiency in Engrave. I want to do it in one place, so I don’t have to worry about pagination etc.

Dorico is a complicated bit of kit and there’s lots of documentation and videos. However, I find documentation is scattered, particularly with new releases coming out, and in some places deficient. (The classic example for me was trying to figure out what the numerical slider in the fader EQs did. The user manual doesn’t appear to mention that it’s the Q value.)

That’s it. Thanks for reading this far. I recognize that this is a personal perspective and that there are many other users of Dorico who wouldn’t share my wishlist. And I know that many of the issues I raise are apparently in the pipeline.

Finally, I wanted to say that this forum is excellent and I really applaud the Dorico team for reading and responding to all the messages that are posted. That in itself is a big job.



Play mode and topics relating to playback/the Mixer etc haven’t been added to the Dorico 4 manual yet, but they are most certainly planned and will be updated as soon as possible.


Hey TBB,

I have no wish to subtract from your feedback. I thought I would share a couple of things to shore you up though, if you like.

A) Good mordents, for me so far, seem to depend on having a library that has actual mordent sample like Spitfire Abbey Road. They are triggered by keyswitch, and its not a lot of trouble but I had to create several custom PT for them depending on the interval/quality I want. I don’t think I want to hear simulated mordents with current tech. :slight_smile:

B) Dynamics lane not showing - They aren’t broken though - Dynamics are interpreted just fine for me, and they can still be drawn/shaped in the CC lane if needed as long as I know which CC the instrument uses for them. It is not quite as perfect I know, but it is a way to get you going for now. If its definitely broken for you, that might be worth a discussion?

C) Reverb is NOT on by default. Okay, there is a VST in the slot, but it has no audio routed there by default unless you go to each track and enable the FX send. No blood no foul. :slight_smile: Compressor - yah, I do have my own FX chain. The most time saving answer for all of that though IMO is to create and save a project template. I think that would remain the best answer over changing the default VST in a setting, since there are a number of things I prefer to set up for a certain kind of project.

D) I use 3rd party plugins routinely, and I would make figuring out the issue there a priority. Though Dorico has some pretty good VST, there are some 3rd party that are just my goto regardless of host.

Lily is very open and very on top of any specific suggestions or issues with the documentation. I think she makes best use of specific examples like you gave - I don’t know how she could make constructive use of them otherwise. Mention more then :slight_smile:

Nice having you BTW.

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Thanks for your feedback, Tony. I won’t respond to every point, but I want to assure you that I have read it. On the specific subject of EQ, we are planning to add the same Frequency plug-in that is included in Cubase in a future update – we’re just waiting for our (very busy) colleague in Hamburg who can make this happen for us to have time to take care of the request. However, you should certainly be able to use any third-party VST3 EQ plug-in you have installed – if you need any specific help getting that going, let us know.


Hi. Tks for your note. Re dynamics, I definitely have hit some problems with dynamics being interpreted into the CC lanes. See screenshots below. Re reverb, perhaps it’s a setting, but by default FX is on for me, so Reverb is in the chain. Re plugins, thanks for the info. You haven’t come across a graphical EQ that works with Dorico, perchance? Thanks again.

Many thanks Daniel - will look out for the new EQ when it comes. Cheers.

That would be great!


Sure - Toneboosters EQ 4 or Slate’s infinity EQ are two of that type I’ve used with Dorico. I’m not sure there is anything EQ4 can’t do, with M/S and dynamic options.

Good post. I use Dorico as a compositional tool, with the difference that the output (MIDI) gets tracked up in Nuendo for final baking and mastering for game audio (also write in a semi-classical style).

The final piece for me is the upcoming Key editor changes - with that I’ll have everything I need from Dorico for this purpose. The team neatly solved the huge (annoying) problem of humanization - now just doing it in Editor while I write is painless. Previously I had my audio engineer do it, but now we’ll just use Nuendo for tweaking up the specialty bits like Fermatas as you mention. I’ll continue updating Dorico and enjoying it but a fleshed out Key editor pretty well circles the wagons.

Otherwise yeah composer analysis/tools would be great too :grin:

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Many thanks for the recommendation - EQ4 looks great - I’ll give it a go.


If you’re looking for a free parametric EQ, I’d recommend TDR Nova. The free edition provides four dynamic bell/shelf filters and additional high- and low-pass filters. It works nicely with Dorico – at least on Windows.

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Thanks Martin. Yes - that looks really good.

Oh thanks, I did not know they had a free edition. Most appreciated!

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I tried it out last night, and it’s just what I needed. Thanks again.

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