Dorico vs Finale

I’m not trying to be adversarial here, seriously, if there’s a workflow using a DAW that would make my life easier, I’m all for it! I still haven’t really grasped how it would help me though. Here are a couple real world examples. 1) Let’s say this is 8 bars of a 240 bar big band chart you are writing. The lead trumpet line is given, but you have to orchestrate this passage, that will be played on a gig with human musicians. It may eventually be recorded, or may not. A score is necessary for the conductor and obviously all musicians need parts. How will a DAW help at all?

Or 2) let’s say I want to transcribe this composition and arrangement of “Grew’s Tune” to play on a septet gig next week. Obviously all musicians will need notated parts. How will a DAW help here?

I’m producing “traditional music notation” but am still failing to see how a DAW is going to help at all. Both of these situations are fairly common for me. How would a DAW improve my workflow in either of these situations?

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Indeed. Cubase started out as a computer emulation of a multitrack tape machine from a pop music recording studio. Of course, by the time it came out, many music creators were already using the entire recording studio itself as a tool of composition, but I think this process is not unique to music and has never really stopped.

I am reading Nestiev’s book about Prokofiev and I think he would have genuinely loved Dorico with DAW capabilities.

From the notation side, he invented a whole new orchestration shorthand (“clavier avec direcion”) because he didn’t have the Jump Bar and “copy to staff below” and “explode” and “copy/paste” and all the other functions we have now. He would have loved Flows, because he methodically re-copied all ideas he wanted to save onto separate pages and kept them all in a box.

And from the DAW side, there’s an anecdote in the book how he would spend hours playing the same chord on the piano over, and over trying to imagine how some non-traditional instrument combination would sound. Wagner apparently did something similar when he was orchestrating.


I wouldn’t do it with a DAW. I am accustomed to looking at charts. As you certainly know, an experienced arranger can quickly look at the score and see range issues, rhythmic conflicts and many other things. If I tried to do it in a DAW, I would be concerned that the notes wouldn’t show up correctly in the notation. And I tend to add slurs, articulations, dynamics as the need strikes me. so I’d want to be looking at the notation all the time.
But I know there are some people who are much more comfortable playing their “arrangements” right into the DAW. They may sound great, but if they will be played eventually by live instrumentalists, somebody has to go over the notation carefully. I have never, ever seen a case where somebody played parts into a DAW that were good enough to give to professional musicians without further editing.
Dorico is developing one of the two directions – allowing a person to compose in notation and seamlessly fine tune the MIDI for optimal playback. That is great, but it does little for the other direction where the composition might start in the DAW. The new key editor does, however, allow significant editing in the MIDI that is reflected accurately into the notation. So maybe we aren’t that far away from a full two-way seamless system. If we had that, then we wouldn’t have to debate in our minds which workflow was best for the task at hand. You could do either at liberty and end up at the same place.


I take your point. It has certainly been mainly an engraving application. I suppose there will never be an end to the requests from those involved in more exotic or esoteric engraving. But surely Dorico 3.5 covers 98% of the engraving space pretty well, hence the focus on productivity and workflow with Dorico 4.

I think your point is well taken that, even these workflow improvements are not “compositional tools” per se. They are mostly about making engraving more productive. That’s a good thing for all of us, but I do think one of the frontiers (apart from DAW convergence,) should be compositional tools. A small example is the color coding for notes out of range. That is an orchestration tool, if not a compositional tool. And I suppose one could argue that the retrograde transforms are compositional tools, although I personally struggle to think of such things as “composition.” but that’s just me.

I think there is much that could be done to help with the music theory and orchestration side of things. The request list is not going to go away, that’s for sure.

Long-time (nearly 30 years) Finale user here. Trust me; I rant to MakeMusic all the time as a beta tester and user for them to get back to innovation and enhancing features/functionality. There is certainly a lot that could be done to update some features and also bring some nice new features to Finale. No doubt. That’s true of any software that has been around for that long, and also keep in mind that only Finale and Sibelius, for all practical purposes, have been around since then. Most other notation programs are either extinct or occupy a very small niche. So clearly for many of us, Finale has been useful otherwise we would have ditched it long ago. When Sibelius first came out on the Mac in the US, I certainly considered it since it was rumored to be much easier to use than Finale, which took me at least a good year to partially master. But it didn’t serve my needs then and I stuck with Finale.

Finale has a lot of functionality and I always knew that if I needed it to do something, it could do it so long as I was willing to put up with any challenges or quirks inherent in the software. At this point, that’s still true. I’m not an engraver nor am I commercially published; I don’t make my living as a composer, either. So my needs are not the same as many folks here, and Finale is more than sufficient for me, warts and all.

Kudos for what is clearly a lot of progress over a very short time for team Dorico. I wish Finale had that level of interest and excitement that your notation program of choice has. But at this point I have nearly 30 years of Finale files, have that many years of muscle memory etc, and as I have a day (really a day and night) job that is not related at all to new music composition, I don’t have the time or inclination to switch. That’s just a recognition of reality. If I were starting out or if it were 20 years ago, that might be a very different value equation on my part and I’d switch.

But I’m not seeing anyone on the various Finale forums going out of their way to diss Dorico. Yet I see people making a conscious effort to deride Finale on this and other forums. What did Finale do to some of you that you have PTSD about having spent time using Finale? Was it that traumatic to use? I’ve not found it that way. Again, I have nothing but respect for what I hear about Dorico, and the new Insert functionality is something I really wish Finale had, as it would have definitely saved me time and effort over the many years. But I also appreciate things about Finale that are not either present in Dorico, or else reflect a different flexibility in workflow that works best for me personally. I have no interest in dissing Dorico or being snarky about some things that, at least to me, are preferable about Finale. It’s like the Mac vs PC arguments back in the 90’s. It’s a waste of everyone’s time.

I still like Finale. With luck, and with more input from me and many other dedicated users, its interface will evolve. If not, it will eventually die out. Nothing is forever. But yeah, some of us still use it and even choose to use it. We’re not idiots nor are we oblivious to what other options exist. I’m sure the Musescore and Sibelius folks feel just as strongly about their notation programs of choice. Choice is good. Dorico doesn’t “win” by having Finale losing. It succeeds by being better. And maybe that will stimulate Finale to innovate again. I can hope.


Hi Fred,
Thanks for the taking the time to provide a couple of real world examples.
Here are a range of ways in which an app with DAW merged with music notation capabilities might help someone with the first task.
Firstly you said it may be recorded. If it was then you would have the ability to display some or all of the notated lines during the recording to keep track of the bar you were up to.
If there were sections of the arrangement which repeated in any part you could ensure that they were broken up into separate regions that could by copied by option dragging them to a different bar for the same instrument or to a different instrument. Imagine that the repeated section was two bars long and happen four times (eight bars) - in a DAW you could loop the region for the desired number of times instead of having to copy and paste - ensuring that if you change the first two bars that bars 3 to 8 would change automatically (or you could cause the different two bar sections to become separate having copied them so you get the benefit of the quick copying without the ongoing interdependence.
If this piece had a vocalist you could sing their line into a microphone and as you played back the arrangement you would hear your voice which may be a helpful reminder to you as to where in the score you are.
If you were a pianist with some basic capability you could play the chord symbols in your example as a part - ensuring that you heard piano part play back as you were arranging.
Finally, if you were arranging a song you might have the liberty to decide the exact order of verse, chorus, bridge etc - but you might want to try different options without doing lots of permanent copying and pasting. An app with DAW capabilities would ensure that you could do that.
Imagine that you were given the audio by a trumpet player and your job was to build an arrangement around it. You might want to speed the audio up or slow it down as part of doing that - the DAW would be able handle jobs like that.
I hope that this gives you some kind of insight into real world examples which if they don’t exactly match yours are not untypical.

If instead the job you are doing is just a transcription (your second example) you could import the audio file that you were transcribing into the DAW capable app - then create a tempo track which mapped the speed of the audio file - and could then set sections of the audio file to automatically loop until you had finished transcribing the section. If there was any part of the audio file which was monophonic you might be able to automatically transcribe the audio into MIDI data (which the DAW could display as notation). If you wanted to repeat sections of the audio file being transcribed it would be a simple matter to copy the sections so that the audio file continued to reflect the exact arrangement you were creating. These kinds of things are a big deal - we are human - we need all the help we can get - if we start a transcription then leave it for a week and return to it will we remember that we chose to repeat the bridge just before the last chorus if our audio file doesn’t repeat the bridge? Better that the audio file be edited and included with the arrangement.

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The overwhelming majority of big band writing never gets recorded because it’s obviously quite expensive, but at a big band date there is usually a printed score for the “ears in the booth” to keep track of what’s going on. The recording engineer will have all the Pro Tools tracks open and will sometimes mark approx rehearsal letters as you go, but I’ve done a lot of big band dates and no one ever has had the notated lines open in Pro Tools.

I’m not really seeing any benefit here. The musicians still need to read the music. Stating “Play 4x’s” in the part doesn’t seem any slower than telling a DAW to repeat something 4x’s.

Similar to the above, the vocal line still has to be notated for the vocalist. It has to be entered into the score anyway. I can just follow along in the score, I don’t need to hear it, and if I need to send a mockup, a VI voice is fine. Jazz vocal phrasing in notation and mockups in DAWs is strange anyway, because the actual vocalist is almost always going to phrase it differently.

I typically hate this. I’d much rather just have chord symbols that I’ve correctly typed in via keyboard (I never use Dorico’s “guess at chord symbols” input) than any sort of comping playback. Sure, if it’s a written piano part I want to hear it, but if it’s comping I usually don’t want any mockup pianist at all. Hire good people and let them do their thing.

For this I’m in agreement with you! I’d love to see more transcription capabilities within Dorico. It’s not much of a hinderance (for me personally) now though. I use Transcribe, which I can control with my MIDI foot pedals while it runs in the background and I input directly into Dorico. I’m on Win11 and I use Bome MIDI Translator to route the MIDI signal to multiple devices at once.

Agreed. This would be a nice feature. I don’t want Dorico to lose its focus of being the premier notation program, but built in transcription productivity features would be quite useful, if they could be as comprehensive as something like Transcribe. Ability to program keycommands to foot pedals, speed adjustment, fine pitch adjustment, octave adjustment (often essential for transcribing bass parts to get them out of the mud), and occasionally some rough pitch guesses are all features I regularly use while transcribing. I have 14 students in my Masters level improv class this semester, and they each have to do a transcription project where they transcribe 8 solos by a single artist, so that’s over 100 I’ll be checking. Most mistakes I can just catch visually, but tricky passages I’ll end up transcribing myself. I don’t have perfect pitch, but I’m pretty fast at it by this point.

Obviously we’ve gotten pretty far away from the initial Dorico vs Finale discussion. Now that D4 is out, there are very few aspects where Finale has an edge anymore. The ability to design instruments with any number of staff lines, any clef or transposition is certainly one. Staff Styles is another (esp with cutaway scores). Finale’s Chord Symbol Suffix Editor is a horrible bit of code that hasn’t been changed since around 2000, but it does allow you (quite clunkily) to create any suffix you might want with a flexibility Dorico doesn’t have. The way Finale allows you to modify Staff Labels on a system by system basis, and the way Finale offers control over what staves show system text (using Score Lists) is better, but that’s about it off the top of my head. Dorico is better or equal in just about every other aspect of notation and has many features that I’m sure Finale will never have.


Thanks for the detailed reply Fred.
I think that I have shown enough about how DAW style features work to have caused you to see how you would benefit - and I am sure that you can accept that others might wish to use the features I describe that you didn’t want to use.
And there were features which I mentioned which your reply didn’t comment on such as being able to edit an included audio file - or speed it up or slow it down.
I therefore think that in advising a young composer it’s helpful to point out - if they do a broad range of writing (and surely that would be a good idea) - that DAW like features will likely be valuable.

In case my recommendation for music notation was lost in the various submissions I clearly stated above that Dorico is for anyone doing traditional music notation (I don’t know enough to comment how the apps stand for non-standard notations) a mile ahead of anyone else. But I also made the point that that may change more quickly than we expect - because of the 80 20 rule - that 80 percent of people are using 20 percent of features in many programs - and so if a DAW provided 50 percent of what Dorico did that could create a significant market shift. Of course that company could be Steinberg! I wish those reading this a great weekend.

I believe the technical term for this is “bad arranging”.


Is your response all we can expect from you @Alexander_Ploetz? If so it reeks of wanting to find fault instead of respond to the broad canvas of things I said above. Even the minor point you make is nonsense - you’re saying that no good arrangement involves people playing the same two bars four times in a row - that’s simply not true. But you didn’t even take in the point I made which you chose to reply to - I explained that one might want to copy a two bar section to the six bars following it - but then BREAK the connection between the original bars and those following - this enabling quick copying but no longer having interdependence. But this wasn’t the only example I gave of how apps can provide more flexibility with musical content. Another might be that whether or not it’s currently a common feature (it is in video editing programs) users might need to move specific sub-elements in music around - while maintaining their relative relationships. For example there may be a reason why one would want to copy bars one and two of the trumpet part and bars one to four of the trombone part to a different location ensuring that all bars are moved and also maintaining relative relationships - but not move other parts.

Maybe everyone here is a genius - maybe they plan their entire compositions in their head and therefore never experiment by for example moving blocks of music around. If you need me to say it Dorico already caters well for the genius market.

If Dorico is not going to be a cottage industry for grumpy old men who experience abnormal delight when engaging with minutiae (do the users who don’t fit this category generally not come to the forums?) both Steinberg and users capable of it will need to be open minded. Many young people will be turning first to a DAW - this being another reason to take music notation to where the younger users are - so that they learn music notation as they learn the other features in their apps. The way in which apps like Dorico present every likely notational element in one app is enticing - wherever this exists it provides a way for people to go from ignoramus to being competent in engaging with music notation (even if not composition) in a very short time. I think that’s brilliant - and incredibly necessary as the arts are not valued in increasingly small minded education systems. The young are I presume using DAWs. Committed younger musicians don’t - generally speaking - appear to be here on the forums.

So we have an education problem - but we also have an artistic problem - we need to lead younger people to see that great art - in order to move the emotions and spirit - must first - or at the same time move the mind. As say Sting’s pop music did. Our art needs to have greater substance - deeper foundations - and music notation is I believe a key part of ensuring that it does.

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If you want to see how gripped this forum is by Pharisaical attitudes I point out that I can make broad points which surely have SOME merit and yet cannot find anyone willing to speak in open support of what I am saying (because they know that the general attitude will be against what I am saying). I rest my case.

"Many young people will be turning first to a DAW - this being another reason to take music notation to where the younger users are - so that they learn music notation as they learn the other features in their apps. "

Maybe I’m misunderstanding you but I’d be surprised - very surprised - if music notation is learned as part of the process of getting to grips with a DAW. One already needs a fair amount of knowledge about music notation just to get DAW’s to deliver notation to an acceptable standard.

On the old “is Dorico is DAW” question - I personally think it is but that’s only because I don’t believe the defining aspect for a DAW is whether it can record audio. If the digital audio is already present on hard drives - and Spitfire, VSL and co have done their best to persuade us it can be - all we’re left with is wondering whether it meets the definition of being a “Workstation”.


I support some of the points you are making, but I definitely don’t support the attitude in which you are presenting them. Maybe that’s why nobody is willing to openly support you?


The discussion of DAW’s belongs in its own thread rather than hijacking this one. Someone interested in discussing DAW’s will only arrive here by accident, given the title of the thread.

I realise that what I am saying will either lead to condemnation of the attitudes on this forum or will lead to condemnation of my attitude - or both.

My observations about the attitude here relate to the suggestions I am making - that there is a closed mindedness to engaging with what will be necessary to see music notation effectively part of the apps that dominate in the years to come - the apps which are and will be chosen by younger users who are the future.

It seems to me that these composers, and most of the others between Beethoven and Stravinsky did a pretty good job without needing a DAW – and could do it quite efficiently and happily in a remote place without running water or electricity!



With respect, I think this is exactly backwards. This is like saying: look at all these composers who wrote for the cimbalom. They did a pretty good job without ever needing a piano.

They all made do with what was available at the time, no doubt. We can only guess at what they’d come up with had they have the tools we have today. But to me there is no doubt they’d embrace everything that enhanced creativity and expression.


Chill, amigo. I think others have acknowledged the merit of many of your points, even if not explicitly agreeing with a particular direction you are suggesting. I share the bulk of what you are saying about the function of DAWs, their growing importance in the music production business, and the importance of meeting younger musicians where they live.

OTOH, Dorico is definitely moving in the direction of adding more and more DAW-like capability with every release. Personall;y I would prefer to see better integration with Cubase and other real DAWs, but that realistically requires a level of standardization in an industry that has been famous for its inability to embrace standards, MusicXML being the prime example. So I understand Dorico’s strategic direction to try to build it all within the Dorico wrapper.

We got a reasonably robust key editor with Dorico 4.0 – certainly no match for a real DAW, but respectable as a first step. If that thought process continues, then we will probably see some DAW-like recording/audio import capabilities in Dorico 5 or 6 and so on. If this is coupled with a better commitment to MusicXML, it will probably be fine.

Meanwhile MIDI 2.0 is finding itself and may present some opportunities for building better bridges between notation and DAW products.

Agreed. Steinberg made a really weird strategy here, implementing Dorico in Qt, providing different (worse!) user experience than Cubase and I assume it also makes them way harder to really integrate.

Do they even want to integrate them going forward? Who knows…

Thank you @ebrooks.

David is making the point I have already addressed - pencil and paper works pretty well if you are a genius. The idea being presented is no different to saying that Jane Austen wouldn’t use a word processor if she was alive today. (In as much as composers are writing music with standard notation).

@cparmerlee I agree that in the comment you replied to you I was behaving as one who is too insecure.

@J.K I think that if at this point it was necessary for Steinberg to build notation features in another environment to support Nuendo and to some extent Cubase that this would not be a disaster. The framework which they have used has enabled them to produce a brilliant desktop app and an amazing iPad version. It isn’t likely that Dorico on the iPad would be that viable currently with a host of audio features. So they have a perfectly good INTERMEDIATE strategy. I am arguing however that it isn’t going to address user needs in the years coming unless Dorico morphs into a full DAW.

I realise that Dorico is being introduced to many young people in schools - but it’s still notable that they generally speaking aren’t on this forum. But this may be a general thing with young people.
But what about adult women? Are there many adult women on this forum? If not, why not? If I’m right am I correct that the reason cannot be that adult women don’t use user forums - as it might be said about young people? Or do adult women generally not contribute on pro app forums?

If Steinberg want to attract a wider user base then along with moving their technology towards the young user they could choose not to handle tech support on this forum - so that people who feel most alive when experiencing difficulty don’t dominate their product image. Instead - since they reply to everyone on this forum why not make tech support happen privately (while making public announcements about widespread issues) confining the forum to product suggestions - and ideas about how to use Dorico effectively - if even that proves to degrade into discussions about things that don’t deserve the words they are being given - why not close the forum altogether? To send a message to your main market that isn’t people who pay to own Dorico primarily to experience the autonomy they don’t have in real life who dominate the user base.

Another way to keep things positive is to provide opportunity to comment only under something which is already positive - such as a YouTube training video.