extensive sound library expression maps vs. just using Note Performer (opinions sought!)

These two can however already be done in Dorico.

  • Type D to switch to the pencil, and S to switch back to selection. E is the eraser, and I assigned L to the line tool.

  • Cmd-Right and Cmd-Left move the selection (both in Write and Play mode) to the next or previous bar.


This isn’t quite the same thing, though. I’m not a big fan of switching tools when doing related tasks - not because of the additional key presses, but because it feels as a change of mindset as well. This is probably just a personal preference, and possibly something that would grow on me if I spent more time in Play mode, but it’s one of those minor things that makes midi editing in Logic flow so well for me.

Thanks, this is something I use all the time in Write mode, but it never crossed my mind to try this in Play mode. I’ll give it a try, but I think I’d still prefer moving the playhead when working in a piano roll, as this gives visual feedback, gives you a consistent downbeat and generally is more predictable than navigating through “hidden” concepts of rests, voices, chords etc.

F9 or F8 will move the playback head by a bar, Ctrl+ F9 or F8 will move the playhead for small amounts

When using the pencil via Cmd-click, in Logic, you are in any case changing tool. The only difference with the method used in Dorico is that in Logic you are in latch mode, in Dorico in toggle mode.

An advantage I see in the Dorico way, is that you can switch between various different tools, without having to reassign them to the Cmd-click shortcut. I very often wish to be able to quickly switch between Select, Pencil, Scissors, and Line. Unfortunately, with Logic you can only switch between two tools.


That’s true, and a better description of my preference. When I edit and input in a piano roll, I use pointer and pencil interchangeably as my main tools, so I’m very happy with the latching behavior.

Well, there’s one more keypress involved, but you can easily change tools by bringing up the tool menu with T. T E for eraser, T V for velocity, etc.

There are obviously different cups of tea in this area, but since all modifier keys seem to be unused, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest expanding the mouse tool with latching behavior. I think this is fairly common in mouse-based editing in a wide variety of applications. The developers are obviously the ones that know what makes the most sense for Dorico, so this is not meant as a critique, and I’m not going to pursue this any further, I simply wanted to present what I like about Logic’s piano roll, which I use quite heavily.

Thanks for the feedback, Michael and Anders. Other people who read this thread and are heavy users of the piano roll and associated editors in Cubase, please keep the feedback coming.

Here are the things I use all the time in Logic Pro’s Piano Roll that I’d love to see in Dorico Pro (apologies if some of these features are already there and I just haven’t noticed!):

  • Logic has robust quantization options in the Piano Roll I use all the time - directly selecting a group of notes in a give region I’m editing and then setting whether to round them to the nearest 16th notes, swing values, etc. and also the percentage of 100% I’d like to move my performance to retain the “human” feel of the original input (but with more quantized accuracy). From what I understand, Dorico has the option of retaining the originally performed MIDI, OR “resetting playback overrides” to have the notes start times line up exactly with timing notated in Write Mode (but nothing that retains the perfect notation, but which then allows you to finesse the playback separately via quantization, other than by manually moving things note by note). For example, it would be nice to be able to have Play Mode set to show just played durations (as is now possible), and then to select those notes and have access to menu-based, more tweakable quantization options a la Logic Pro (including things like different swing values, etc.) that ONLY affect the playback (not the notation) (right now if I invoke the Quantization menu after selecting notes this way they also affect the way they’re notated, as far as I can tell).

  • Love the presence of the Velocity lane in Play Mode in Dorico (a great start). However, it would admittedly be EXTREMELY helpful if the actual notes displayed in Piano Roll were colored (as they are in Logic) according to their velocities (or to at least have the option to turn this on). For example, in Logic, very high-velocity notes are colored red, medium green, all the way down to purple. This allows one to look at a range of Piano Roll notes and immediately grasp what the velocities are. Logic also allows you to then select a range of actual notes and quickly raise their relative velocities up or down as a group, or set them all to the exact same velocity and then raise or lower them. Logic also has a separate Velocity Lane below this similar to Dorico’s, where you can further act upon the data. To this end, it would at the least be helpful to be able to grab a group of velocities in the actual Dorico velocity lane and with a key command set them all to the same velocity, and then raise or lower them as a group (right now it appears that all I can do is Draw new velocities across them with the Draw or Line tool, though this is certainly also helpful).

Just in general in Dorico’s Play Mode it feels like you could do more with the utility of color (much as you use it in Write Mode already in Dorico optionally to differentiate voices or show red notes out of range). To facilitate this, it would also (admittedly) be nice if there was much less “brightness” in Play Mode in general (understandable for more of a “notation on paper” metaphor but with Piano Roll I’ve often seen things against darker backgrounds when you have to stare at them for long periods of time and do “micro-tweaks”, etc.).

  • Would be helpful to be able to select a note in the Play Mode’s vertical “piano keyboard” (up the left hand side) and have all notes of that position/pitch be selected, as I believe others have mentioned (since right now this of course does nothing).

  • More quick “zoom” options in Play Mode. In Logic’s Project Window, for example, you can set a zoom level for a given track (by dragging the height to where you want it), and then have that zoom level automatically propagate to any other selected tracks whenever you hit “Z”. This sort of thing could be very useful for all of the Play Mode windows to zip in and out of them more quickly.

Just a few quick things -
Best and keep up the great work -

  • D.D.

I think Dorico is on the verge of being the best option for notation composers looking for good mockups. Right now the simplicity of NotePerformer may still be more appealing to notation composers who are uncomfortable with MIDI programming, but soon, with a few well-constructed expression maps, the ability of Dorico to play well with the best sounding instrument libraries will put it over the top.

I am in the middle of switching my current workflow to load my orchestral template in Cubase, but control it with Dorico MIDI routing using virtual MIDI cables. I used to use Finale as the MIDI driver, but I think that time is over…!

As I continue to refine my expression maps, I will be able to apply them for all future pieces, until at some point I imagine my MIDI tweaking will be minimal and I’ll just be working in notation (as it is with NotePerformer)

Where possible, we have modelled the UX of Play Mode in a similar way to Cubase. There are some constraints though that are more difficult to work around. The scrolling behaviour is controlled by the underlying Qt framework and that’s harder for us to override to work in the other way, but it’s something we may look at in the future.

There are some other things though that do work like Cubase:

  • Shift-G/shift-H to vertically resize the current lane (unfortunately ‘G’ in Dorico is used for note input so we can’t use G/H for horizontal resize, but you can do this with Z/X)
  • Drag the bar/beat ruler vertically to zoom in or out
  • Change the vertical scale of the piano roll. In Cubase there’s a scaler control in the scroll bar, but in Dorico you can shift-drag the piany keyboard vertically to rescale.

We do hope to add support for multiple automation lanes in the future.

Parts of this thread should be moved, I think …

For me, Dorico’s scrolling behavior in the piano roll is very practical. What I don’t like is that it’s the other way around in writing mode. That is annoying - is quite a challenge. :wink:

The ability to filter automation would be good. As an example, filter all velocities over 100 and set them to 105.

It’s very similar in Cubase. With [Strg] + [Shift] + mouse wheel (Windows) you can wonderfully correct volume levels, e.g. single notes of a piano chord. The volume of the selected events is shown in addition to the color coding during editing as a number - my most used function in Cubase …

If you want something easy to simply turn it on and start composing music without having to fight your instruments, I think note-performer is a good investment. It’s easy to use, and won’t shred your ears when you’re stuck in a room with it all day.

As for more musical and realistic mock-ups…we tend to crank these up while mixing, and the annoying flaws of ANY library can be exposed (they all have them). It’s the stage where we compromise, substitute, and spend as much time trying to remove/cover/substitute than we do thinking about how a ‘real musician with the real acoustical instrument would be doing this phrase’ (often using tricks that won’t be on the score, or are even quite different from what the written page says ‘in theory’ a ‘human musician on stage would be doing’).

For me, it’s still easier to not worry too much about the sound in Dorico (Or Sibelius, or Finale), and move to a DAW when the time comes. It would take me pages to list all the reasons why; so, the short version is this. When I want to compose and collaborate about the score itself, what matters is a setup that doesn’t disturb the creative flow, and goes easy on my ears. When composing, I’d rather have something that is clear at reasonably low volume, yet pleasing enough to sit there all day and work with it than have it be ‘realistic sounding’.

That’s often NOT what you want when doing a mix-down that you intend to master for distribution, that could get played in everything from cheap ear buds to tin button cell phone speakers. The libraries that are often THE BEST for getting a realistic mock-up, can shred your ears to bits, or sound rather ‘harsh/nasty’, during long work/composition sessions.

A top of the line DAW with top of the line features for working with virtual instruments was designed specifically to engineer sounds, with tens of thousands of bells and whistles especially for controlling every minute detail of what comes out of the speakers as quickly and efficiently as possible.

However, It’s not so great at notation (or attempting to interpret what we want it to sound like on its own). It’s not always the most inspiring thing to compose in, and have an ongoing working model to collaborate with others at the drop of a hat though.

Having said that, Dorico is getting much closer with each release to being a total one stop shop for working with virtual instruments. The playback feature sets have been taking rather significant strides with each release. Instrument libraries are also getting better, and their designers are becoming involved in helping them hook up with with the VST3 age and beyond.

Dorico is already quite good for communicating, collaborating, and getting your point across. If you’re willing to put a lot of time into tweaking the score, and the wheels and dials of your virtual instruments for optimal playback, it can already be done fairly well in Dorico, but in my opinion, not nearly as quickly and efficiently as in Cubase (assuming you know Cubase/MIDI/VST/etc. pretty well, and are making the best of its instrument and audio shaping features…so many details that can be done with controllers in real time, or with logical editors and such in minutes or seconds, that often take HOURS to sort out by hand with your mouse and bars/dots/lines on a screen).

In either case, there’s going to be a learning curve to getting realistic mock-ups (no matter how much you spend on instrument libraries). MORE than half the battle is in mixing, and dynamic control.

If working with traditional scores is essential to your work, or even if you simply find that it helps your creative flow to work that way, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in Dorico in the long haul. Get your hands on it as soon as you can and start learning it.

Beware of the pitfalls of trying to be both a composer, and an audio engineer. Both are very time consuming, and require a different set of listening skills and flavors of patience/tolerance. The mix one goes for when he is sitting there composing all day is often WAY DIFFERENT from what you’d shoot for on something you plan to distribute and might be played on everything from ear buds to tin button cell phone speakers. It’s far too easy to ‘learn’ to like things that sounded good to YOU while sitting in that chair, in front of YOUR speakers, yet it sounds ‘terrible’ to people who haven’t been parked in front of your monitors with you all that time, ‘learning to like it’. Kinda like working a high school orchestra with terrible instrumentation, in a bad rehearsal room. Your brain plays tricks with you, that aren’t going on in the heads of others, especially the second you step into another room.

So…maybe it’s just me, but…
Keep it simple when composing. If it’s warm and fuzzy enough that it’s not shredding your ears, yet clear enough that you can pronounce the important phrases and ideas with relative ease, then you’re golden.

When you get ready to do a mock-up, change gears. Think musically. CHEAT! You can use tricks that you’d never put on the score to trick brains into thinking it’s more real sounding than it really is (layering/doubling/room noise track/etc.) :wink: Digital instruments and rooms don’t really work like real instruments in real concert halls and studios, and every set of speakers is different. In time you’ll learn that compromises or psycho-acoustical trade offs often have to be made between ‘realism’ and ‘musical/pleasing’. After all, you’re trying to get an orchestra sound out of paper disks…

Good advice, which I need to follow more closely. Thanks, Brian!

Just started diving more into Dorico 3.5’s Expression Maps/Playback Template functionality - definitely very extensive. But I keep coming back to the same question: is it “worth” the investment of time to try to get Dorico to behave like a “proper” DAW in terms of being able to easily tweak and get a realistic playback using my more extensive, sizable sound libraries, etc.? Or (after all of this), is it still better just to use a DAW to achieve my desired realism, export the project’s MIDI to Dorico to help create the corresponding score (if I need it for live instrument playback), then use Note Performer in Dorico for playback reference? Certainly, I’m still quite impressed by Note Performer’s interpretation algorithms and would love to be convinced that there is some equivalent, equally musically-expressive interpretation possible using my “better” samples in Dorico that doesn’t require a crazy amount of extra setup and programming time (time that I could otherwise spend just doing it the “old” way - in a DAW, exporting the MIDI to Dorico later for the notation component).

I also question the value of trying to achieve this in Dorico since I’ve lately also been doing detailed mock-ups in my DAW (Logic Pro in my case), exporting a stereo audio bounce and attaching it to a static video image, importing the same Logic project’s MIDI into Dorico as a starting point for the corresponding Dorico score, then attaching that video so I can combine the audio from my Logic session with what I’m doing within Dorico (for reference, and - in some cases, so I can get the best of “both worlds”).

But I AM, again, intrigued by the prospect of trying to do something completely in Dorico using my same plug-ins, etc. (instead of NotePerformer), if it’s “worth” it and people are finding they’re getting “mock-up” type results, etc., so I do welcome any further thoughts, with thanks in advance.

  • D.D.

This interesting thread seems to have split a bit into two, namely a discussion about Note Performer v other VST’s and Dorico v DAW. They are linked by the theme of ease of use v best quality.

NotePerformer is easy to use because it’s (pretty well) fully integrated into Dorico. The major downside in terms of ease of use is the read-ahead latency which makes it impossible to play in a new track synchronized with the existing parts. A big plus point is the note duration automation but now in D3.5, we can automate this for all better libraries in the Expression Maps. Both will require a little touching up but as the Note Length feature develops, it’s quite likely to ultimately give actually superior results in terms of articulation choices (though obviously NP is so different in concept, it is a bit of an apples v oranges comparison). NP, as a number have said before, excels in instrumental separation in the orchestra mix and it’s not at all groundless to claim that it sounds more like a well-conducted real orchestra than most others. There is also a certain energetic dynamism with this library which makes it particularly useful for strongly rhythmical orientated pieces yet there is a certain amount of passion in the lyrical string sound as well.

The downside in quality is simply that on the individual instrumental tonal accuracy, it can’t compete with the more detailed purely sample- based libraries. I’ve found it generally unusable for chamber music yet in certain symphonic works, I simply can’t generate the drama any other way.

DAW v Dorico. As someone with no up to date DAW other than Cubase Elements 10.5, I’m not very well placed to comment. Certainly there are are still MIDI editing features yet to make it into Dorico but the question is, are they sufficient to spend time using two different applications which are so far not much integrated? My current judgement is probably not as Dorico increasingly has its own playback features, particularly with 3.5 which don’t feature in a DAW. DAW’s are ever more devoted to audio processing and overall studio production and those who require this will no doubt continue to use a DAW.

The short answer (at this time) is that for fine control over many controller or VST lanes, YES.

Cubase 10 (yes, even the Elements version) has some of the best MIDI editing capabilities in the industry. In time, the Dorico play tab, in combination with lua scripting abilities may catch up, but for now, the difference is huge.


Imagine you want increase the velocity of every note that falls within half a second of beats 2 and 4, from measures 17 to 30 by a random amount between 10% and 20% of the current value.

In Cubase you can build a ‘logical editor’ that can do this in less than a minute. (Dorico will probably be able to do this someday, via lua, and tools added to the play tab, but it’s not there ‘yet’).

Now imagine you want to do a Trio section for a march where the melody will rise in volume as pitches to higher, and lower in volume as they go lower, and you also want to fire a couple of CC’s that will change the attack style on every note with a duration of less than a full beat.

Again…you can do this rather easily via automated processes in a good tracking DAW. Logical editors make quick ‘batch work’ of tasks that can take many hours attempting to do one note/event at a time with your mouse and keyboard.

The keyboard editor in something like Cubase is very advanced in terms of the ability to lasso and edit/scale/side/normalize/quantize/dequantize/etc. batches of events in one relative move. Dorico’s play tab isn’t quite up to that level yet.

The percussion editor in Cubase is truly amazing. It makes quick work of getting fine control over every event and velocity. Again, you can also apply logical editors to these tracks.

There’s a whole lot more as well…the ability to work with sysex data. Having fine precision control over things like rpn/nrpn manipulation.

I do understand that expression maps are one way in Dorico to sketch in some pretty good defaults for articulations and other expressive information…but every score is going to have unique sets of needs. What works great for a baroque concerto can sound like garbage with a Romantic Tarantella. So…until Dorico sends tempo information and such…and instruments come along that can get and use things like tempo, style markers, etc…and expression maps get smart enough to go there, it can require MUCH manual labor to fine tune expression maps to go well with different types/styles of music.

With Cubase Pro, you can also opt to keep your controller data in the form of VST Note Expression events that are ‘note bound’ rather than raw channel CC data. It’s pretty easy to convert controller information back and forth as needed. How is this helpful? Well, it’s easier to move notes around, do custom grooves, and more…if the expression data is note bound rather than channel bound.

Real Time expression control…
For some types of scores, there’s no substitute for just muting out whatever the score interpreter engine did to some phrases in terms of expression data (subtle dynamics, smooth crescendo effects, etc.), starting a new track dedicated to controller data alone, and recording that expressive data in real time…with a wheel, breath controller, whatever. A tracking DAW makes it bonehead easy to punch in/out and cycle takes…after a few passes your bound to get one that fits…and you can save your variations of expressive data, even cycle among them at random, and so forth.

Custom grooves…
In time Dorico will get smarter and smarter, and offer a wide array of groove tools and templates, but at this time, if you truly want fine control over the groove of a piece, or sections of a piece, a good DAW (and practice with its groove making/editing features) can make rather quick work of it.

If you also need to sync your music up to video, game engines, audio tracks, external hardware, lighting rigs…the power tools in this area for a high end DAW like Cubase or Nuendo are simply amazing. Cubase (and even better, Nuendo), has the tools to set cue points, and auto stretch-shrink tempo to hit cues with precision.

Monitoring and Mixing…
The audio matrix is far superior in terms of how you can hook things up…route signals…drop in plugins to get data about the mix to scientific precision, and more. Group buses, the ability to bind groups of faders together and automate those in real time, and more. The box of processing plugins is going to be more loaded as well.

Again, a good tracking DAW is more receptive to being ‘remote controlled’ using your favorite controller devices. Nice to be able to try things in real time…and keep up with all your takes of everything you do on the mixing consoled to later edit and/or choose the best one.

Legacy Support…
Cubase has been around almost as long as the MIDI standard itself. It supports hardware and sets of instruments going way back to the late 1970s and early 1980s. So much of what Cubase in particular can do, even today, on a modern PC or Mac…other DAWs and/or Notation packages never have been able to do, and never will.

If you require surround sound…again, Dorico isn’t ready to tackle that beyond some basics yet.

Finally, when it comes to doing the master mix-down, and even mastering an audio mix…the assortment of tools in a higher end tracking DAW are going to much more complete.

Don’t get me wrong, a rather large number of people don’t really need, nor care about super high quality mock-ups. If it’s good enough to compose with, and get the idea across…many will be more than happy.

For high end mock-ups, mixes, and mastering, it’s probably going to be a while until Dorico’s play back engine, mixing console, and editing page(s) catch to what a good tracking DAW can do with relative ease. I think we’re a few years away from Dorico being a true one stop shop for this type of user. The main factor being…how much is your time worth? Once the score is done and looking perfect…then the issue becomes…if a sound shaping task takes several hours in the Dorico, or Sibelius, or Finale, etc., but you can do it in 2 or 3 minutes in a tracking DAW…well, it’s worth it to move the project over and get to work.

This is the ultimate question I’m asking myself as Dorico increasingly adds DAW-functionality (including better Expression Map control and Playback templates, etc.) to the program. It just feels like the combination of using my DAW (Logic in my case) for detailed mock-ups, exporting MIDI to Dorico to do the score (with Note Performer as reference), feels infinitely faster than trying to get Dorico to program my DAW virtual instruments effectively from the start instead. But I’d love to be proven wrong by someone who has truly found a way to program their DAW’s effectively/expressively right in Dorico in a manner that feels at least competitive with working directly in a DAW, and also in a manner that sounds better than just using NotePerformer in Dorico (I’m also exploring the different viable ways people work since I’ll be teaching a course related to this in the Fall :slight_smile:)…

  • D.D.

There are a lot of examples and challenges from Brian here and, rather against my better judgement, I’ve decided to rise to the bait just a little…

  1. The logical editor in Cubase can do a lot and by downgrading from Studio, I’ve lost it. The random presets which replace it are largely a waste of time. However things like random variations in duration, pitch, dynamics etc are supported to some extent both by Dorico and by the competent VST’s like VSL. Things like rising in dynamic as you go higher and falling as you go lower --well there are hairpins for that can be matched exactly to the music and easily toned to the exact context. There are some situations where a good logical editor could come in useful but unless the Cubase one has had a major facelift in recent years, it’ll still be klunky and far from user-friendly imho
  2. Piano roll editor. Yes, here Dorico lacks elegance but with v3 and especially 3.5, the functionality is already close to being fully serviceable (even if probably still behind my Atari’s Cubase 3 in around 1993 but you can’t have everything :wink: )
  3. Custom grooves, stretching/shrinking tempo. The former is a big area of Cubase expansion at all levels. But it’s of little interest if you write “straight” music. If you’re going to write film scores or anything that must fit in to exact time points then you still need a DAW. For me, even small changes to tempo can totally ruin the music.
  4. Monitoring and Mixing --well my understanding of this is rudimentary at best and need equally so.
  5. I do need high quality mock ups. Most of us who try to write serious but non-commercial music will probably not have the chance to get orchestral work performed by a major professional symphony orchestra. After all, even the few well known contemporary composers barely manage. The chance is slightly improved by having an impressive mockup. Quite apart from anything, it makes for much more pleasure for the composers, friends and family to listen to.
    The main requirement for this is a VST that can produce this and of course some ability to programme it. Features like patch automation according to speed/duration, intelligent dynamic control and random variability are increasingly built into Dorico and/or the VST’s. This is precisely the sort of sound shaping I’m looking for and is actually more useful and time-saving than anything I can think of in a DAW for pure instrumental music.

Multimedia production is a completely different ballgame, of course.

re: dko22’s note - it feels intuitively like Dorico SHOULD be able to function pretty adequately to do mock-ups (depending upon one’s needs) as dko22 suggests. It has access to the same potential VST’s I have in my DAW, it has functional Piano Roll and CC editing and expression map control. I’m just wondering if anyone is really doing mock-ups IN Dorico using such extensive VSTs (vs. just using NotePerformer or doing it in a DAW). Is it “worth it” (time and programming-wise)? Does it save time in the end (vs. doing a mock-up in a DAW and then the score later in Dorico?) I guess I’m waiting to be fully convinced as I always thought by now I’d be doing it also but I instead keep defaulting to the DAW plus Dorico/NotePerformer combination instead since it seems so much easier…

  • D.D.