Dorico for my 13 year old son?

My 13 year old son has started writing pieces for piano. He has a lot of experience performing with choirs, sometimes with orchestral ensembles, so he is more sophisticated than typical for someone his age. He’s studying piano, but is not an advanced player yet. A lot of what he writes has an orchestral feeling.

I have been considering buying him notation software for Christmas. My question is, is Dorico a reasonable option?

The three options I’m looking at are Finale, Sibelius, and Dorico. I’m sure he would be fine with almost anything for the near future, but I want to start him on one of the major programs so he doesn’t invest time in something that he’ll eventually outgrow.

One big consideration is cost. I can’t find an inexpensive entry level version of Dorico. Finale and Sibelius have cheaper entry level versions. Am I missing something? I can’t afford to pay $600.

I’ve been a longtime user of Finale but I’m intrigued by Dorico because of its support for complex notations like alternative scales and complex tuples.

I’m a Mac user and have no interest in switching to Windows at this time. He uses both Mac and Windows. He lives with his mother, but I see him frequently. Is there any possibility of our sharing a copy of Dorico?

I think Dorico would be a great choice. Dorico is pretty easy to use, and while it’s obviously missing certain things since it’s so new, this is clearly the future of notation software. By the time he’s ready for professional work (between 3~7 years), Dorico should be far ahead of the competition in nearly every area.

Sibelius would be the second best choice, but it’s being developed by a horrible company and it’s unlikely to improve much in the future. It sounds good now, but it’s basically a dead-end choice.

An entry level version is in the planning but still months away from becoming available.

Sharing among computers is possible if you put the Dorico license onto a USB-eLicenser (aka dongle). You then can install the software on multiple machines but only use it on the one that actually has the USB-eLicenser connected to.

I second Romantique Tp’s advice. Go for Dorico. I think it’s the obvious choice in this case. Dorico’s flexibility during note input is unrivaled already now. Your son will be able to focus on composing while Dorico produces legible notation reliably.
And yes, this is an investment in the future if there ever was one, so hands off from Sibelius!

Here’s a small anecdote that might interest you:

There’s an educational discount available and I think that the crossgrade offer from Finale is also still valid.

Yes, I think it’s important to say that as your son is in full-time education, then you can buy Dorico at the educational discount, which will reduce the price by around 50%. You may also find that purchasing from one of our reseller partners rather than direct from the Steinberg online shop, you will save a little more. In the US, one reseller who is very reliable and usually has stock on hand is Sweetwater: you can find Dorico on their site here.

I believe, if you investigate, you will find out that Finale is phasing out its entry-level versions for the foreseeable future. Although I am a long-time Finale user, for your purposes and the age of your son–and considering the capabilities and advancements being made by the Dorico Team–I would give serious consideration to Dorico for your son, especially considering the educational discount.

You mentioned in your post, “A lot of what he writes has an orchestral feeling.”

One question that comes to mind is: Does your son have access to an orchestra?

If the answer is yes, then Dorico would make a good choice because it produces the best sight-reading ready engraving you can get today.

If the answer is that much of what your son wishes to do will depend on the scoring program’s playback for orchestral work, then I (reluctantly and not desiring to be “provocative”) cannot recommend Dorico at this time or even after the next update based on what is known today. If he needs a reasonable simulation of orchestral playback from score, then I would recommend (despite the remarks concerning competing products made here) a copy of Sibelius and Noteperformer (a separate product offered here: The strength of the recommendation is made solely on the playback issue. For engraving, Dorico will likely beat Sibelius every time (after the upcoming update which will complete support for unpitched percussion and a few other significant details in orchestral scores.)

There are several YouTube videos available from Wallender instruments with classical scores for your listening evaluation. You can download Dorico’s trial with Halion SE instruments and judge for yourself.

Later, if Noteperformer should come to support Dorico (the author is apparently waiting for some maturing of Dorico’s playback and interpretation functions), your son can switch to Dorico at a discounted price since Steinberg has announced that it is continuing it’s discounts for Sibelius crossgrades “indefinitely.” This (in my mind) lowers the barrier of chainging over to Dorico when it is more mature.

I would also talk (if possible) to one of your son’s instructors and find out what they use.

I own (and use) all three of the product you mentioned in your original post and compose primarily music for full orchestra. From the point of view of what a beginner in orchestration and arrangement needs, I feel they can be well served today by either Dorico or SIbelius (both were created by the team currently working on Dorico.) Finale would potentially be more frustrating, but I do know several users who still produce material in it every week.

I think if you asked me the same question two years from now, I would speculate that the answer will be Dorico; however I do not believe it is sufficiently mature today and will potentially create unnecessary limits on a beginning composer.

Regardless of your choice, both firms can offer you educational discounts for your son and you should take full advantage of these offers. I can also echo Daniel’s recommendation of Sweetwater in the US. They have a very knowledgeable staff and can help you navigate to the best deal for quite a variety of music products.


Personally I believe that Dorico’s more flexible approach to input and editing places fewer limits on a beginning composer than a tool like Sibelius, which is more rigid in its approach: even the fact that an empty score in Sibelius is implicitly in 4/4 and C major is a sign that the software has taken decisions away from the user right from the outset. Dorico doesn’t take decisions for you, and it allows you to make and re-make those decisions as many times as you need to as you develop your musical ideas.

Here’s my 2 cents:

As someone who has used all 3 (Finale since v2.2, Sibelius since v1.2, and now Dorico since the day it launched), I can second what Daniel has stated. Dorico does offer a lot more flexibility in “creating” music.

Traubitz does make some very good points (playback still has some work to be done, etc.). However, I truly feel that Dorico’s shortcomings are not that of music making potential, but rather some “niceties” when it comes to engraving (such as the repeat symbol that looks like the percent sign %). You can get around the % symbol by just copying the bar. And everything that Dorico can’t quite do yet only needs some time, or there is a sufficient work-around at the moment.

In several years, I believe Dorico will be the only product that will truly be worth anything. I have seen what appears to be a constant demise of Sibelius. Finale, while it’s fighting to stay there is pretty far behind. And if they plan to compete, they will almost need to rewrite the software. They rewrote a lot to get it to 64-bit, but they kept it exactly the same with little changes.

I got my first copy of Finale when I was 14, and I have been hooked on notation since then. It is cool to see that others might do the same. Good Luck!


I would recommend Dorico as I recommend it for all my colleges. I am very disappointed with Sibelius support and price politics. They do not care if I am on Sibelius 8,7,6 or even 5 - price for an upgrade is the same and pretty high. You have to purchase support as well wich is really very pure. I own Sibelius licence and I was Sibelius user many years, but for today I see clearly - Dorico is a future:)

As others have stated, Sibelius is dying a slow, horrible death. Don’t go there because you don’t know whether or not your investment will be any good two years from now. As for Finale, it has a horrible learning curve. Everything is hidden behind menus and submenus and weird icons with other menus… It does not produce very nice looking music right from the get-go. Having seriously used all three options, I can only recommend Dorico. (I know Dorico has a lot of menu options too, but the defaults are great for nearly everything and once you get it how you want it, it is “set it and forget it.”)

Every. Single. Time. the developers of this software release something new or show a preview, it is an “aha!” moment. It is very exciting. They have so thoroughly thought (and rethought) the ways to interact with a scoring program and it is, imho, far superior. If I were Finale’s development team, I would honestly be sweating bullets. They are living on borrowed time. They either need to start copying Dorico’s methods or close up shop. Once Dorico is fully-baked, I suspect people will flock over in droves.

Another thing popped into my head as I laid in bed last night: while there are many who are quick to point out the areas where Dorico is currently lacking, fear not, because as it is now, Dorico is still an incredibly well-featured program. As your son is so young, I’d be loath to think that he could even exceed its current capabilities. By the time he has advanced enough musically to do so, Dorico will have no doubt caught up.

Never mind. Trust your ears.