How an Unbiased App with Music Notation and DAW Capabilities Could/Should Work

Please read the thread I created called Universal Audio, MIDI and Notation File Format before reading this to understand what I mean by the word “unit” (in the thread I call it a part) - and to ensure that the suggestions I make here build on what I explain there.

I make the suggestions I am currently because I believe that decisions are already being made even now by many companies and developers of apps that relate to the suggestions I am making. For example one iOS music notation developer just introduced audio into their app - they chose to make a series of audio tracks either show or hide the audio waves in the middle of their notated score - instead for example of making it possible to link audio to staves - enabling the user to see EITHER editable audio - or notation - but not both. And Dorico and Cubase continue to march forward with what they are building - each app developing features present in the other.

So now to a possible combined music notation and DAW capable app. Whether or not the app is to be used solely to create notated scores - or also for audio - it should have some kind of arrange window in which music can be moved around in small or large pieces. And with the ability to group content. Since this functionality is potentially helpful to both creators of traditional music notation who are composing and arranging as they go - and to audio people.

The view should have a ruler across the top of that arrange window as DAWs have now. However the ruler should show nothing until one of the following happens (a user might go down one of the paths below - and never go down the other):

  • the user NOTATES a tempo marking and initial time signature - by adding these to the default empty stave within the notated component of any “unit” - or adds them to one of the other components such as the MIDI data or the audio (note that for reasons that will become clear below there might not be any global initial tempo setting in the file or global initial time signature). The ruler then changes to show bars and beats.

  • the user chooses a sample rate at which to record audio - the ruler then changes to show minutes and seconds - and when zoomed in - frames.

If both of the above exists the ruler shows both minutes, seconds and frames - AND bars and beats - in a way which is hopefully not visually cluttered.

To this point what I have described is a fairly typical arrange window (with the exception that because of “units” tracks are not divided into audio and MIDI - but finally imagine that the elements I just introduced were what we can for explanation purposes call a block - but that there were potentially any number of blocks down the screen - each block having its own ruler - and units. A block might have anything from a single unit which is a movie dialogue and sound effects track - its ruler showing minutes and seconds - to having many units used only for notation - with bars and beats on that block’s ruler - each block able to have its own independent tempo.

The job of the notation features of the program would be to combine whichever blocks of units the user indicated should be part of a single score. Thus making features like polymeter possible - and also the ability for different musicians to play at different tempos (presumably with the help of individual click tracks). As to how to present music like that on systems I will leave that to the experts!

Write it!

Cheers, Benji


Ha ha!

I don’t have the skill - I wish I did. But no-one can do a project like this on their own even if they have the skill.

This is one reason why I am being very forthright with suggestions - not because I have the ability to do what any one person in the Dorico team can do - but because there are very few teams who are in a position to implement suggestions.

One addition which is becoming clearer in my mind with time.

Thinking about it more the problem with music which the composer wishes to play at multiple tempos is how to design an app which caters for it in a way that makes it possible for music at different tempos to come back into alignment. (And by the way everything I say from this point presumes there can be no tempo changes in any section where music is playing at different tempos). There are of course simpler scenarios than others - if for example the tempos in two blocks of music were crotchet equals 60 and crotchet equals 90 the music will with the same time signatures come back into alignment quickly. But if the relationship is one where there are no obvious lowest common multiples things get harder. One is then looking down the barrel of having to enter crazy tempo values with many decimal places for things to align - but what if the values are close but not exact? When would it be enough for the app to realise we are saying “I want this bar in this block - and this bar in this block - to become the same point in time”. My suggestion for how to get around this (and now referring back to my suggestion above) - and by the way I have no idea if there are any conventions in how to deal with these kinds of issues - is that there be a way in any app that provided these capabilities to enter a tempo not as a number but as the tempo value of another block multiplied by a fraction (either the user gets to enter a numerator and a denominator or the program works it out when the user says where they want the musics to come back into alignment - or both). And then when the user goes to add a score tempo marking at a point where musics go out of line it automatically enters the nearest whole number needed (presuming that the performers won’t be guessing such tempo markings but using a click track which is more exact to play to).
So if it was the user - or if it was the developer - how does one work out what fraction to enter in order to make one or more blocks of music come back into alignment? The app could help - it could work out the length - lets say for explanation that the calculations are in number of audio samples whether or not audio was in use - in audio samples - from where music diverged to where it was to reunite - in each block - presuming each block had the same tempo and that the samples were worked out from multiplying the beats of the notation - and the app makes the tempo which isn’t a neat number be a neat number times the inverse of the fraction made from the number of samples in each block (the fraction simplified as much as possible). Hope this makes sense.

And then the notation part of the app when it comes to showing it on a score - looks for the points where alignment goes out and then returns (the existence of fractions making that job much easier) and handles those sections appropriately.

If there are no established standards for notating music with multiple tempos here are some suggestions.

Galley view could group staves according to which tempo they were aligned with. But how is music with multiple tempos scored in Page view? I presume that if a score divides pages according to time periods instead of bar lengths - with staves showing as various widths on each page - that this won’t work because it won’t be possible to align sounds vertically - and therefore the pages for each tempo would work better if shown left to right - side by side - with highlighting showing where each page is up to - and each page turning when it needs to. A double, triple or quadruple page spread - or whatever. The conductor could use either a desktop computer running a big screen or screens to oversee the work (the conductor is only there for reasons of musicality - not tempo). And perhaps he or she could switch between the click tracks for each required tempo if he or she wished. Or if he or she wishes to hear them all at once - the click tracks could have different pitches and sounds to help him or her tune in on one.

I hope that even if this kind of functionality doesn’t exist in an app any time soon that my ponderings in some way suggest ways that developers can design more pressing features now in a way that leaves the door open for less pressing additions.

I think you may be better off starting your own Blog on Wordpress to be honest…


I’ve been reluctant to comment on these posts not wanting to bump these threads but the poster has asked in other posts why people aren’t engaging.

The thing about brilliant, innovative creators/thinkers is that their style is as compelling as their substance. Consider Einstein or Hawking in physics, Steve Jobs in technology, all great composers–we love their substance and their style.

You name yourself substance over style but your style inspires hardly anyone to even consider your substance.


I’m not going anywhere. Unless someone from Steinberg would rather I didn’t contribute here.

I think I have shown that there is a need to be more open minded about where the music notation and DAW markets are at right now. And even if I’ve only managed to show that to a few people - that’s perfectly fine with me.

I don’t imagine that you read everyone’s posts here - just add mine to the no list.

substanceoverstyle, I skippped your messages except this last one - as that’s about the amount I can digest with one view.
The best strategy for a forum like this is probably to post a sentence or question or statement in one or two sentences - and wait, if people are interested. Then build on the feedback to expand your view.
This will get a conversation up and running.


And might I add, that right now the Dorico Team has just released the biggest update since V1.
There are several wrinkles to get rid of in an maintenance update, which obviously should be release as soon as they can, as well as a new iPad version in the pipeline.

So you might imagine, that now is not the best time to have much engagement in such visionary and lengthy topics.

You have made your points about your ideas of how to better combine a DAW and a Notation app both here and in several other threads - might I say in exceptional detail for this forum.
Usually, this kind of repetition is seen as „bumping“ topics or flooding the forum with noise by the community.

That being said, I am sure your thoughts are appreciated by the team, and they will surely think about what you wrote and compare it to their plans – as soon as they get around to it, which might take a while.


It seems to me that it is OK to have an idea how to make a better mouse trap, but to expect somebody else to stop everything and make it for you is a bit much! :smile:

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The Dorico team have contacted me to say that whilst it’s not their normal pattern to immediately implement suggestions just because someone on the forum makes one (it appears that they must have read your post David) they are willing in this particular case to make an exception. It’s a once only offer - you have to decide if you want an arrange window in Dorico immediately - or never in the life of the program. They said to take your time - there’s no rush - you’ve got until 2pm GMT. If instead you would prefer to give advice to those who want an arrange window how they can be better people that’s definitely an option. No-one is forcing you to do anything - I mean as if that would be possible.

To be honest, this has been my issue: You regularly make accusations/assumptions about the feelings of this forum and get very sensitive when people disagree with you on any topic. Frankly, I think you are flat wrong in a lot of the assumptions that your project onto the forum.

According to the usage statistics of this forum, I have visited it at least once a day every day for three years. I cannot think of a single person who has taken the position that the developers should not be including the features that are derivative of DAW work. And yet, you have asserted multiple times that we need to “be more open” etc.

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Well that’s a yes from @Romanos . Anyone else eager to beat the 2pm deadline?

Very happy to be proved over sensitive.

This sounds like some sort of an ultimatum. Is it possible to clarify (incl. the 2 pm deadline)? Thanks.

The only “deadline” I’m heeding is one straight from Daniel.

No - it’s only a test of whether people who focus on the nature of posts instead of their content actually have any views on the issues the posts relate to - or whether they are undecided.

So you’re faking communication from the team to “test” how people react to your posts, even though many have already made it clear?

That’s just not cool.


Ha ha! No @ebrooks - the team really has contacted me. They’re offering to make this feature available as first priority, You have ten minutes left…

The Dorico team reads every post. And, since they have the patience of saints, that includes all yours.

By contrast, if that is your conclusion, you clearly do not read/comprehend every post.