Help - please. New setup advice.

HELP please!

Didn’t know Dorico 2 existed until a couple of days ago, but a synthesiser breakage has forced me to reconsider my system setup.
As a reasonably successful composer, I work entirely in notation (used Sibelius right back since version 1 and have been a Beta tester in the past) but require a realistic-sounding output for demos – without spending hours of extra work using Cubase/DAW/etc.

A long-time Sibelius user, I am increasingly disillusioned with Avid and have stuck with Sib 5 as I did not want to make the transition to VST from midi instruments (was happy with my synths), and didn’t like the way the company was going.

However, need to update my system (or buy another Sib-compatible synthesiser – too expensive) and realise VST is probably the only way to go. I have always used my Motif ES (with a module) and Yamaha DGX for playback – giving me the 3 x 16 midi channels to get enough voices I need to play back, say, an orchestra + choir + organ + soloists. I also write for brass ensembles (including brass bands), wind bands, choirs, as well as orchestra and chamber groups.

So, do I switch my (educational) version of Sib 5 to Dorico 2? or stay with Sib and get the latest version? How do I get the number of channels/voices/sounds (at least 48) that I require?

I am a total beginner in VST, so what do I need to buy in addition to Dor 2 to get realistic (ish) orchestral, brass, and choral voices so that I can play my stuff back and get a decent output, suitable to send off as a demo? Can I still use my Motif ES for playback as well as VST? Does Dor 2 support this synth (unlike Sib where I was forced to write my own compatibility program)?

I have a Windows 10 HP Spectre X360 laptop, with i7 processor, 64-bit, with 16gb RAM and an 1000g SSD. I also have another i7 laptop if more processing power or tandem working is needed.

I don’t have a huge budget but want/need that realism to playback from notation without too much ‘twiddling’. I am successful in having my music played all over the world – but making money? Nah! So budget has to be limited. I really appreciate your help. Thanks


You can try Dorico in combination with NotePerforner. Use the trial versions and listen to what you get.

NotePerformer? Sorry, really ignorant of the latest programs available.

Sorry - is this an extra program or included with Dor 2.

Thanks for the quick reply

This is NotePerformer.


It also works with the latest versions of Sibelius (and Finale) but not with Sibelius 5.

You can use Dorico to drive MIDI synths if you want (no limit to the number of MIDI channels) but you will probably have to do some work to create your own “expression maps” to convert the score notation into MIDI, if you want more than basic dynamics and simple articulations like staccato. (arco/pizz for strings might be problematic, for example).

I don’t think you will find many third party VSTs with a better combination of price, sound quality, and compatibility with Dorico “straight out of the box” than NotePerformer. Try out the demo versions of NotePerformer and Dorico.

With Dorico 2 Pro, there are two playback options that work ‘out of the box’ - the HALion Symphonic Orchestra supplied with Dorico Pro or NotePerformer. NotePerformer is felt to be more realistic - HSO is a rather old virtual orchestra, but it has the advantage of being small and Steinberg owned. You can use other virtual instruments, but it’s up to you to provide the expression maps. I would be surprised if Dorico 3 did not have built in playback support for Steinberg’s Iconica Sections & Players, but that is just a guess on my part - and you will have the cost of Iconica on top, which is not cheap.

As ReRei says, use the trial and see what you think. If you are still entitled to educational pricing, your Sibelius licence should entitle you to an educational crossgrade to Dorico 2 Pro, otherwise you should be entitled to a regular crossgrade.

I would not bother waiting for Dorico 3 - it is still some way off, apparently.

Are the number of MIDI channels limited to 16 per each VST? So, to get more I need to buy more VSTs? Sorry, as I said - new to all this side of the business

You can have different instances of the same VST open at the same time, to have as many x16 instruments. The limit is the power of your computer, the transfers from the hard drive, your RAM… You’ll have to test ! But no need to “buy” the same vsti twice :wink:

If you use a sample library that has a “playback template” for Dorico (e.g. the bundled Halion samples, or NotePerformer) the software will automatically load the samples for each instrument, into as many copies of the sample player as needed. Each copy has MIDI 16 channels but is connected to a different MIDI “port”.

FWIW I’ve had no problems running 5 copies of NotePerformer with about 70 MIDI channels in use.

Some VST instruments support more than 16 channels: for example, a single instance of “big” HALion (not the HALion Sonic SE sampler that comes with Dorico itself, but its big brothers HALion Sonic and HALion) can provide four ports, each of which can address 16 channels, and Vienna Ensemble Pro can have (I think) 99 ports, each with 16 channels. But as both Rob and Marc have said, you can simply instantiate more copies of a given virtual instrument in order to get more channels. If you use the built-in sounds provided by Dorico itself, or you add NotePerformer, then you don’t even need to think about it, as Dorico takes care of all of that for you.

Wow - quick and great responses. Thank you all. (Thank you, too, Daniel, you were a great help in Sibelius days.)

The ‘unlimited’ channels is a huge relief, and my budget should extend to a decent symphonic and choral VST set for realism.

One more question, before I make the ‘leap’… (sorry, I know this will sound boneheaded to you experienced guys, but I’ve never needed to know this stuff before as what I had previously produced was adequate)…
I always compose directly in notation and, previously, tinkered with the playback through hidden MIDI commands or articulation within the score to get something approximating the result I wanted through my synthesisers (layering with additional hidden staves). With this ‘new’ system, do I need to export my score into another format/player in order to achieve this? Is layering of different, say, choral voices achieved without the faff of creating and hiding extra staves? All the videos of, say, East West Choirs, show someone playing directly on their keyboard and adjusting the output with sounds and articulations - I don’t work that way, only in notation.

Are the various next steps sequenced in a chain? i.e. Dorico - Note Performer - Halion 6 - 3rd Party choral program to add vowels/consonants - etc? Each adding an interpretive playback/performance layer?

Thank you in anticipation

If you want layer different sounds for the same staff, then you can assign the same MIDI channel to several separate tracks in your VST player (or indeed to separate VSTs), each with different samples or settings. No need for hiding notation.

You’ll probably have to export the MIDI into your DAW to get the level of detail you seem to need. I suppose it won’t be too different in that regard. I’m not sure what your definition of realistic is, but better not to make such a drastic change all at once.

But seriously, if you’re happy with your current playback setup, don’t change it. Just switch Sibelius for Dorico (try the demo!).

When you said “3rd Party choral program to add vowels/consonants” you are starting a whole new ballgame, because whatever program you are using will need information to tell it which consonants to “sing.” It’s unlikely you can do that in a practical way from Dorico notation (or any other notation program, for that matter).

You shouldn’t have any problems reproducing what you are currently doing though. You can use your MIDI synths with Dorico if you want. Dorico can send the playback data to MIDI ports on your system as well as to VST instruments. The beginners tutorials probably don’t mention that because the easiest way to get started to use the VST sounds bundled with Dorico itself, but all you have to do is assign each staff to a MIDi port and channel, and then set up the synths to play the sounds you want.

Dorico 2’s ability to record and play back automation can go so far - but there is only so much flexibility. There comes a point in the pursuit of playback realism where you have to move the project over to a DAW.

Yamaha (Steinberg’s parent) produces a ‘singing synthesiser’, Vocaloid. There is some integration with Cubase, but not with Dorico. I don’t use Vocaloid so I don’t know much about it.

Seapaddler’s hardware synth that he used for Sibelius playback has failed, hence the intended move to soft synths.

I agree with what I sense is the mood in the thread, Seapaddler. When time is available to experiment, get a Dorico Pro 2 trial and explore the software. For additional playback realism, get a NotePerformer trial. Any other virtual instrument requires an expression map that is not supplied with Dorico 2 - you either have to find one or develop one yourself.

When Dorico 3 emerges, I expect that playback will be further refined. Perhaps we will see full integration with Steinberg’s Iconica Sections and Players (and Iconica Opus, which is Sections and Players plus the Iconica Ensembles), but maybe not - the developers can only do so much in one product cycle and I am sure they have more than enough good ideas for several years of work!

Again, thank you guys for such informative answers. I have a much clearer idea of where I want to go… Dorico sounds perfect, coupled with NotePerformer and some VST libraries.

Does my Sib 5 qualify for crossover price?

Thank you all


Thank you