Dorico Elements feedback

Hi folks, I recently finished my first project on Dorico Elements, so here’s some feedback about the results. The finished product looks professional, and I’m generally pleased with the results. But there are some issues caused by the complete absence of Engrave mode, and I’m going to have to think carefully before I start another project in Dorico before I can afford Pro.

Two types of projects that you might expect entry-level notation apps to handle well would be song sheets (piano grand staff and vocal melody “sheet music”), and lead sheets, or “chord charts”. Here’s some problems that might arise:

  • Minimal ability to control the number of bars in a system, if desired. If a stage player receives a sheet that has almost everything on two pages and just a single system on page 3, you know that either the arranger is lazy, or the notation program is deficient. The arranger needs to have adequate tools to fix this scenario.

  • Chord symbols need to allow font changes. For a lead sheet, they’re often the most important thing - if you can’t customize the readability, then you can basically forget Dorico Elements for this type of project.

  • Chord symbols - you need the ability to place them in the middle of a grand staff.

  • Repeat endings/jumps/sections - also need some ability to change font size, at least. The Segno, whilst technically the same size as old-fashioned pop sheet music, is essentially useless for stage use. The player needs to be able to see it at a glance when sight-reading. In my project, I replaced “To Coda” with regular text, just so I could make it larger - this meant I had to dispense with the coda symbol at that point, which isn’t a good look.

  • Text needs more freedom in placement. 3 things I want to do are impossible:

  • Text underneath the stave. In a lead sheet, it’s often convenient to have chord symbols on top and some of the “explanatory” text underneath, to keep everything “tight”. There are many other scenarios.

  • Text to the left of the left-most note in a system.

  • Text in the top LH or RH corner of page 1. For example, if you’re producing several versions of a song for different instruments, then a label at the top is a good idea. Or, the name of the artist who commissioned the chart.

  • No Petaluma font, or ability to use anything but a traditional look, is another reason that Elements won’t be used for serious lead-sheet production.

  • The Project Info dialog has fields for many things, but only Title, Composer, Lyricist, and Copyright appear on page 1 in Elements. Subtitle would be very useful, and some others. As would the ability to have multiple lines for composer. What if there are 3 or 4 writers? The credit could extend most of the way across the page!

  • The ability to move the position of the composer credit up or down could be very useful.

Elements for me will be a stepping stone to Pro, as soon as budget allows. And that is the main reason for the existence of Elements, I know - to entice people upwards. But in order to achieve that aim, Elements must be sufficiently editable to allow people to use it in the first place, so that they then WANT to upgrade!

Thanks for your great work so far.


Thanks for your feedback on Dorico Elements, John. A few of the things on your list are actually possible with Dorico Elements, though you are certainly to be forgiven for not finding them, since at the moment there’s no dedicated documentation for Elements and it can be difficult to figure out the differences between it and Dorico Pro.

To control the number of bars per system, you can make manual adjustments using system and frame breaks, which can be created in Write mode and which are found in the Edit menu (though they lack their Dorico Pro shortcuts of Shift+F and Shift+S, as these do other things in Write mode). You also have control on the ‘Staves and Systems’ page of Layout Options over how in general the score should be cast off, with options to fix a certain number of bars per system and systems per frame/page.

You can change the placement of text via the Properties panel: select the text item, open the Properties panel, and set the ‘Placement’ property to ‘Below’.

For text at the top left-hand corner of the first page, try looking at one of your part layouts rather than the full score layout, which automatically shows that text; alternatively, on the ‘Page Setup’ page of Layout Options you can tell Dorico to use the ‘Default Part’ master page set for the full score layout.

You can change the music font from Bravura to Petaluma via the Edit > Music Fonts dialog (this appears in the Engrave menu in Dorico Pro).

Although it’s non-obvious, you can have carriage returns in the single-line fields in Project Info: enter the desired text, including carriage returns, into one of the two multi-line edit boxes in the dialog, then cut and paste the text into the appropriate single-line box: the carriage return will be preserved.

Wow, some good suggestions there, thanks so much Daniel. That does indeed take care of many of my concerns. The major ones left are font size/positioning of Chord Symbols and Repeat Endings/Jumps, especially segno and coda.

One more thing - I understand that a system break can be used to reduce the number of bars in a particular system. What if I want to increase the number of bars in just one system?

Thanks again.

That’s “Make into system,” which I don’t believe you have. You could tighten the note spacing in Layout Options. Try reducing it to 3 3/4 or similar.

If you’ve got the functionality to create system breaks and frame breaks, do you have the properties to “wait for next” in the bottom panel? That would give you exactly the same functionality as “make into frame” and “make into system”.

Thanks, Dan and pianoleo, for those excellent suggestions. No, there doesn’t appear to be “wait for next” unfortunately. Note spacing adjustments is a great idea for lead sheets. For vocal/pno “sheet music”, it won’t work where there are lyrics. There’s no real way to change the size/font of lyrics in Elements, other than with overall staff size, etc. But my project is looking good, as I said - for this one, I didn’t need to worry about size/position of Chord Symbols or End Repeats/Jumps.