Is Dorico’s playback good enough that it could be used as a score? If I wanted, for example, to write an orchestral score for a video game, would Dorico be the right option? Or is it more for notation than playback?
Welcome to the forum. There have been a lot of discussions about this lately. Here’s one: Help with realistic mock-ups
In short: for a final product, no. A DAW is still a better choice. But NotePerformer and other sample libraries with good expression maps can produce nice results depending on the scenario. Dorico continues to develop the necessary tools to work towards realistic mock-ups.
I use NotePerformer and Dorico to produce mock-ups to give to my amateur players to practice and learn. They’re quite pleasing, though no one would ever think they were the real thing.
Echoing Dan, Dorico playback with third party Noteperformer (a great value at the fairly low price) is sufficient for initial composition. In many cases the results are surprisingly good. And some have, with a lot of effort using the increasingly strong tools provided by Dorico, produced fairly good results with quality third party virtual instrument libraries.
But if you want the kind of results expected from a good DAW, you will still need to skillfully use a good DAW. My workflow has morphed into composing with Dorico/Noteperformer, then exporting the MIDI to Cubase. In some cases it’s even better to reference the notation and play each part directly into Cubase.
I think it is worth noting that, whatever your platform and workflow, it takes some substantial learned skills to truly produce the kind of playback one often hears in library demos.
How much Dorico, indeed even DAWs will be able to close the gap between what the average user wishes he could produce and what he actually can with current state of the art is an open question. I will say this, though. Dorico has grown significantly in this area, especially in the last couple of versions, and it expects to continue that development.
In a sense, if you get on the Dorico train you have the best chance in the railway of notation software of reaching your desired destination.
The realism of the playback depends primarily on the quality of the sample library used and an understanding of how to programme it, in particular the Expression Maps (or at least to understand how they work if not programming your own). If you are merely asking whether Dorico can produce output which would be good enough for a video game merely using the supplied Halion library, I would say that it depends on your standards but it certainly isn’t good enough for a realistic mockup of “serious” music. The popular and easy to use NotePerformer, which uses a small sample set to create modelled playback, is undoubtedly better but has serious limitations which come more to the fore when writing for solo instruments. I take issue with those who maintain that the read-ahead in this software automatically make for more musical phrasing. The more recent products from top vendors like VSL, CSS or Spitfire do increasingly have “musical intelligence” built in but only you can decide what best meets your needs
The thread Dan points to is quite extensive and you will see various opinions there. I myself am still waiting for proof that the additional playback features available in a DAW make a night and day difference and currently do virtually all my work in Dorico alone
It has the potential to sound quite good, using what comes with Dorico; however, it can depend on the sort of arrangement(s) you’ll be doing, and it can take a bit of work to get there.
Out of the box, Dorico 3.5 will require exploring the included libraries and tweaking things to get a nicely polished and well mixed mock-up.
Different scores will require different tweaks, in part to the sounds themselves as hosted in the VST rack, and in part to Dorico’s interpretive settings and expression maps, and in part from custom user data entry.
Progress is being made with ‘ready to use’ third party libraries for Dorico, but don’t expect the full power-user complement of sound shaping and design tools you can get with a Tracking style DAW. Not quite yet that is…each version of Dorico is getting better with interpretive features and instrument management. Each version has seen considerable improvements and additions to the ‘play tab’ which offers a number of tracking daw-like features for custom shaping of sounds and score interpretation.
When it comes to building scores and parts…Dorico is a dream come true.
Having said all that…the best way to find out is get your hands on a demo and try it out. The best judge is yourself.
You can find info on getting a demo key and download here:
If you want in depth tools for doing Game music and sound tracks…Nuendo is king, as it has tools to get in there and sync up audio with your game developing engine, work out perfect cue points to trigger your sounds, package up modules ready to be compiled into the game, etc.
Nuendo might be overkill if all you want to do is build musical themes for someone else to figure out how to implement into the game. Still, if you think you might be interested in the full gamut of tools to get music and other sounds worked into a gaming engine…take a close look at Nuendo. In that level of software, you’re not limited to the musical score…you can tackle the entire sound-scape of a game!
As a side-note, one could also start with Cubase Pro (or even Elements or Artist), and not worry about post production until you think you’re ready…they have quite fair prices on cross-grades from Cubase to Nuendo. So, there is a path to start small and lean, and step up to bigger suites if and when you need them.