Dorico First steps guide published (Update: Translations now available)

Good evening,

It’s after 5pm here in the UK, which means it’s the perfect time for us to publish some new documentation. Except, it’s not exactly “documentation” in the traditional sense.

As hinted here before, and explicitly mentioned a few weeks ago when we asked for volunteers to give it a test drive, we’ve been working on a revamped “first steps” introduction to Dorico that’s aimed at total beginner users, to help them get a feel for how Dorico works by working through a piece of music. There used to be a chapter at the start of the manual with this name, but it was rather short and on reflection, we decided it would be best to remove it from the manual entirely and create a separate guide specifically for this purpose.

This we have now done, with heartfelt thanks to the users who responded to our call for testers and gave us some really insightful, precise, and very useful feedback.

EDIT July 2021: Translations of the First Steps guide are now available! Auf Deutsch, en Français, in Italiano, and 日本語で.

You can find all the First Steps resources here, and also on the landing page for each 3.5 product version as well. On that page, you will find:

  • The guide itself, as PDF and webhelp versions
  • A Zip file called “Piano Piece Resources”, containing a PDF of the piano piece for reference and a Dorico project of the completed, but not yet formatted, piano piece - suitable for starting the “Laying out and formatting pages” chapter from
  • A Zip file called “Blues Song Resources”, containing a PDF of the blues song excerpt and a Dorico project set up for you to start the “Further notations” chapter from

I really hope this is a beneficial addition to the available Dorico learning resources. Any ongoing feedback you have is always welcome.

Best wishes,


I always delete the full score layout when working on a piano piece, following the advice from I believe John in this. Is there any advantage in working in the full score layout instead in this project?

Primarily educational: by working from the full score, where staff labels are shown by default, it provides the opportunity to demonstrate how to hide staff labels (where to go, what the options are). There might be a few things in the guide that an experienced user wouldn’t necessarily do, in order to take a beginner on the scenic route to take in the view.

Additionally, part layouts show the layout name at the top, which for a solo piano piece is arguably superfluous and isn’t something that Elements/SE users can easily remove.

This looks very helpful, thanks!

One question - how common are the use of these cases in “l.H.” and “r.H.” abbreviations? That looks odd to me. Gould says use “R.H./r.h.” or “L.H./l.h.” on pg 305. Read says the same thing on pg 302 of his book. Stone has “R.H.” and “L.H.” on pg 260. Maybe it’s an accepted style, but I don’t see lower case r or l combined with upper case H in any style guides I have. Perhaps it’s an accepted house style of some publisher, but it definitely jumps out as strange to my eye.

Ah yes, I can see this. Thanks for this great new tutorial, Lillie!

I was recreating an original version that I found for this piece. People are welcome to have their own opinions on the specifics - the important aspects of the guide are the fundamental processes.

Sorry, stuff like that just jumps out to my proofreading eye, LOL! (The “A tempo” vs “a tempo” inconsistency bugs me too :joy:)


That is true - keeping track of all the steps and all the projects was/is something of a pain and yes I changed my mind about the A tempo capitalisation at some point. I’ve made a note to fix that one, thanks.

1 Like

Thank you Lillie - this is going to be really useful

As an enthusiastic advocate for Dorico that is often interacting with brand new users, I’m really thrilled for a resource like this. Thanks Lillie!

The First Steps guide looks good. For nearly three years, I’ve been using Dorico religiously to engrave salmos responsoriales – simple liturgical chants in Spanish. I’ve been notating only one staff and a single voice with stacked Solfege and Standard guitar chord names.

Now it is time for me to learn more about multi-voice and orchestral engraving. This First Steps guide will be very helpful to me. By the way, I am intentionally capitalizing the guide’s title as First Steps (instead of First steps). That looks better to U. S. English writers and readers who are used to title case rather than sentence case for book titles.

Thank you for this educational tool. Bravo.

This is a fair point - back when it was a chapter within the manual (within which we opt to use sentence case) it was sentence case, and that became familiar. It should really be title case now it’s a standalone - I’m just updating that now.

1 Like

Another minor detail — I know it’s just for demonstration, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a “con sord” indication for trumpet or cornet in a jazz chart, so it looks a little out of place. It’s always Cup mute, Harmon mute, Bucket mute, Plunger w/Pixie, etc. “Con sord” in an orchestral trumpet part will be assumed to be Straight mute, but doesn’t have a lot of meaning in a jazz chart as the mute is always specified. The recording fidelity isn’t great on See See Rider, but I think Pops might actually just have his hand over the bell on that and isn’t actually using a mute. (He never used a Cup mute AFAIK, but I’ll defer to any brass players that might know more about this.)

Behind the l.H. and r.H. lurks the German linke/rechte Hand, which accounts for the eccentric (to an English eye) use of lowercase and uppercase letters.

1 Like

Thanks - as you said, it’s simplified for demonstration, and an excuse to show beginners how to use the playing techniques popover, which is one of the few with entry suggestions, and how that links to playback (via playback techniques).

As I said in an earlier comment, there are probably a few things in the guide that an experienced user wouldn’t do or would be done a bit differently if one were publishing for real - it’s designed to introduce users to as many common and useful aspects of Dorico in as short and succinct a journey as possible.


All good stuff.! Thanks for your hard work.

Couple of quickies…

As an Elements user, I would give the following line more gravity (bottom of the Introduction, p4 ‘Notes’):-
Screenshots in this guide show Dorico Pro. Tasks are possible in all product versions unless *
stated otherwise

Why not move it from being just a ‘Note’, boldened (as you desire) and inserted right after the ‘Welcome to the First Steps guide…’ line/paragraph…? Its something I immediately looked for (which edition does this guide apply to.?) and as such would provide more assurance for the newcomer by being upfront from the outset.

Presently it (the message) may too easily slip past the quick reader.

Also, P5 ‘Note’
Dorico Elements and Dorico SE do not have an Engrave button as they do not Engrave

Is there a second ‘have’ missing…?

Thanks for the explanation, I wasn’t familiar with that convention.

There is indeed, thanks, I’ll fix that now.

As to the position of the clarification about product versions - thanks for your feedback, but I think I’m content with where it is. There are relatively few Pro-only tasks, and also few screenshots that show parts of Dorico only available in Dorico Pro (like the Engrave mode button) which I’ve tried to make a point of highlighting as they occur throughout the guide anyway.

i was thinking if Dorico could make a sample project like Musescore did, all the instruction written on the score itself, so it is easier to follow. Just a suggestion though.

1 Like