Honest reflections on being married to Sibelius and dating Dorico

After getting Dorico 3.5 (because Sibelius wasn’t making upgrading easy at the time :roll_eyes:), Sibelius decides to offer an ultimate perpetual license upgrade at a very decent price. :slightly_smiling_face: My work plays back better and there are some nice improvements in Sibelius. However, the license keeps being annoying. :roll_eyes: I understand that’s supposed to be changing along with Dorico’s. We’ll see.

Then there’s this cool plugin called Graphical MIDI Tools 2 (GMT2) for Sibelius that’s supposed to be something like Dorico’s Play mode. I may fork out the dough for GMT2, but if I can do it in Dorico, it’s just easier to import a Sibelius file through MusicXML and do it that way. But I’ve never really needed to because Sibelius has internal ways to play notes as one would like…most of the time.

I like the thinking underlying Dorico. My frustrations with Dorico lie in two places: note input and writing/engraving. Note input is probably still a problem for me because I’m so used to Sibelius. So that’s probably a matter of practice. I certainly hope so. But I haven’t found a way to adjust engraving or writing so that it’s not messy with staves running into each other and notes overlapping. I’m hoping that’s fixed in Dorico 4.

Dorico 3.5 is nice looking, and I love how one can switch between modes while it’s playing. I like Dorico’s included choir.

I think Sibelius and Dorico should just accept that it’s probably cheaper and certainly all around better (incomparably faster sound loading and playback) for their users if they were to ship their notation software with Arne Wallander’s NotePerformer 3 sounds instead of their sound sets and figure out how to make NotePerformer work even better together. No offense to Avid or Steinberg or HALion. You really gotta hand it to Arne. (Full disclosure: I don’t work for him nor even know him personally nor am I getting ANY benefit from acknowledging the genius of NotePerformer playback).

I end with one observation, a situation for which I am very grateful: Dorico’s development has been the best thing to happen to Sibelius users. The competition has made Dorico great and has pushed Sibelius to be better. (Hopefully, Sibelius will keep learning from Dorico and give up the subscription model altogether).

Just my 3.5 cents. (Blame it on inflation. :slight_smile: )


I’m not sure there’s anything to fix here. Without even a screenshot I can only guess, but best guess is that your combination of staff size, paper size and number of instruments is mismatched. Sibelius can automatically reduce the staff size in a way that Dorico can’t, but it won’t suggest that you use a larger paper size so that your music is actually legible on the stand. In both programs you’re best off making that decision for yourself.


Following on from Leo’s comment, there are some great Discover Dorico sessions by John Barron that cover page formatting and staff spacing in depth, and they’re really informative about how Dorico approaches spacing etc and how to use it to get the result you want, using your own judgement and based on the context of the music etc.


I agree with Leo that we need to see what’s going wrong in your scores. Personally, one of the main attractions of Dorico for me is the effortless layout. The amount of manual adjustment I have to do is minimal.

While I agree that the inclusion of Noteperformer would be a bonus/selling point for users, it would not be cheaper for Dorico than using the in-house HALion library.

Certainly, competition is a good thing for the industry. However, while Dorico may have some gaps in its feature set compared to the long-established products, it also has many unique, time-saving features that the others lack.


It’s interesting that when it comes to notation software, for some reason it seems that people are more recalcitrant to switch platforms. In other software users will gleefully jump to a newer, better competitor. In software development we all constantly are using different IDE’s (Integrated Development Environments), and grab new tools if they work better. Same for 3D artists - 2D have gone to Procreate over Photoshop in droves, and while 3D is usually studio driven there’s been a steady influx from Max to Blender.

Anyhow while I like NotePerformer I don’t see any reason it should be included for free. It’s great for temps, but I happily use HALion iPad with it’s lower quality, or turn it all off and just hear it in my head like the old days.

I agree that NP is better as an affordable add-on. For a number of such resources, being independent frees developers from the Dorico release schedule which lets creators such as sound and font developers work on their projects as they have time, neither rushed to meet a Dorico deadline nor having to wait for a new program release to make improved updates to their projects available.

I definitely understand this. I’m especially sympathetic to the OP’s difficulty in acclimating to a different method of note input. That’s the sort of thing but you can get pretty good at, and if any functionality changes even a modicum, immediate unsettledness ensues. I’ve certainly been guilty of this even when small things change in updates to Dorico.

Perhaps it’s the intersection of mastering tools involving constant repetition as a means for creative expression. Imagine if the width of the keys on a piano were increased by even a single millimeter.

Now in regards to how Dorico handles page formatting, I don’t think that’s a contest.


Yeah definitely muscle memory is involved, but for that reason I brought up the 3D examples. In a 3D modeling app you’re much more dependent on shortcuts and knowing how to accomplish a task, compared to notation. There’s only 12 notes but an infinity of 3D shape. In Blender I regularly use 10X the shortcuts needed in Dorico.

Actually for your keyboard example, isn’t that already the case? AFAIK Organ manuals and Harpsichord keys are sized differently than the piano. I wonder about pianoforte’s, never played one but visually they look a little smaller.

Anyhow not trying to diminish the difficulty in switching, just noting a difference. Actually my pet theory is that in other fields they’re more used to spending $$ on software, where us poor musicians are skinflints and so skeptical of having to fork over :grin:

Yes. My two harpsichords (one Italian style and the other Franco-Flemish) have different key and octave widths, and I can go between them with ease. Even when new, I never had any difficulty. The only problem I have is with an 88-key piano like the Steinway D: I have to think hard to work out which is middle C!

1 Like

Piano is just an abbreviation of pianoforte - they’re the same instrument. Maybe you mean fortepiano?

Except if you live in Poland, where the piano is called fortepian. Musical nomenclature is a mess, but somehow we love it.


Yeah I meant the old Christofori design, used up until the late 1800’s I think? Still a few around, even here on the U.S. West Coast. Not sure but I have a memory the modern piano more or less came about with Steinway around then.

Was thinking a better example even is clarinet/saxophone. I play both, Adolph designed the sax to be easier to the lower register is an octave down unlike the clarinet which is a 12th. But anyhow all my time was with the clarinet, but I can play the sax pretty easily. There the difference is even greater than different keyboards, due to embouchure, hand position and fingering. Other than an initial hump to get over though the main thing I find is the different key inertia being the biggest issue. It’s harder for me to get rapid fluency with those large sax mechanisms.

Indeed, they are smaller. The difference isn’t too terrible though; at least for my part, I have no trouble switching between them. Pedal boards often pose much greater issues. It’s all part of the fun/charm though.

You’d be surprised how many projects are still maintained / developed in MSVC 6.

Plenty of software developers prefer to spend their time improving their products, rather than learning new development environments and migrating code and projects to new systems - all of which don’t directly benefit customers (only potentially indirectly).

Plenty of people also prefer to write music, rather than wrestle with new way of doing things that are different to the way they are used to.

So, it’s always a learning curve, and it’s up to the user to have the prescience to see how the new system will work out better for them in the end.

“Time” vs “Absolute Control”

I can throw most types of scores into Dorico and get something acceptable really quickly without needing many ‘adjustments’ in Engrave mode. Short of poking in the notes, symbols, and text, it’s pretty automatic for 95% of project. Throw the stuff in there, sort out where it makes sense to turn pages, adjust the system spacing a bit for aesthetics, and it’s usually good to go if all you need is something that is quite legible for an actual ‘playing musician’!

Sibelius comes in second place for me when it comes to quickly poking in a score and ending up with something legible in a hurry.

Finale is good at getting TOTAL control over every little element of a score (you can do almost anything you can imagine to a score), but it ain’t always ‘easy’ to do, and it can take months for a new user to figure out how to tune it up so it more or less follows whatever conventions/rules the user wants (and get ready to run it through different scripts…multiple passes if you don’t wanna sit there all day and tweak every element by hand). It’s not bad IF you know it well, and understand where to go and what to do. For a new user, it’s kinda deer in the head-lights, and one can spot a Finale score that just uses the out of the box defaults from a mile away (and while it’s not aesthetically terrible just to ‘look’ at the score on a computer screen, it’s not as optimized for printers, nor the psychology of an actual musician trying to sight read the stuff for the first time ever.

Dorico is really good in how it presents ‘Score and Layout Options’ so a user that might not know much about ‘music engraving rules, picas, gutters, blah blah’ can understand how a tweak will effect everything. Dorcio tries to go by the engraver guides from the beginning, so you hopefully don’t even have to bother with spacing, element positions, etc. It’s more in tune with setting up printing for optimal output with modern printers and image setters (finale can do it all, but you’ll need to understand more about your printer, and what works/looks best with it).

To me, at this point, the main things Sibelius and Finale offer that Dorico 3 and earlier don’t is a well-documented scripting engine that third parties and end users can dive into and automate more stuff. I know it’s coming…LUA support is planned to be there, we users just don’t have docs on what it can do and how to use it yet. There are awesome script sets for Sibelius and Finale that are rather popular/essential for ‘pro publishing houses’ that can cost more than the base app itself (they really do reduce MUCH manual/repetitive labor)!

For Finale and Sibelius, if you’re working with really long projects, scripts really make the difference between taking a couple of hours to set up a great looking score, or it taking a day or more to get it all sorted. Then again, Dorico does a better job at getting things right the first time so the scripts aren’t as necessary.

What I like the best about Dorico is how ‘flexible’ it is for the ‘composer/song-writer’. The modular-like Player/Section down approach is BRILLIANT. You don’t have to plan 80% of your score in advance, or wade through confusing/complicated set-up menus to add/remove staves at will. One click to the set-up tab. One click to add a player/section. One more to connect it to an instrument. Love it!

Working with lyrics and text…doing traditional Hymns with verses, or simple 32bar song style lead-sheets. Dorico is absolutely the fastest/easiest of them all for me.

Lately, I only prefer Finale or Sibelius if I need to do something with a LOT of percussion (marching battery style stuff, with intricate snare drum-line work, multiple bass drums and crash symbol-pairs, loads of weird pit instruments, etc.). Mainly because I have years worth of templates and play-back drum maps already set up. I haven’t even begun to teach Dorico how to do complex battery percussion style scores, and I think it still lacks some in this area compared to the others.


Perhaps reluctant? Surely not recalcitrant!


I, for one, always found finale to be recalcitrant. :wink: Why do it in one step when you could do it in 6, buried within a sub menu inside a sub menu?

Clearly I’m on the wrong side of the two nations divided by a common language.


:arrow_up: That doesn’t sound like finale to you? Lol (I jest… mostly)


I’ve been a software engineer for 30 years, much of that spent at national labs/A&D with legacy systems. No, I wouldn’t :grin:

Exactly. I never bought into Sib/Finale because of the “View is the Model” architecture, instead using LilyPond which was TeX-like in that you concentrate purely on the notes and let the system worry about the rest. Jumped to Dorico because it has this MVC (Model View Controller) architecture with WYSIWYG.

The fact that it’s pure genius beyond that is icing on the cake.