Humanize Playback

I noticed that the end position of the notes in the slur is also lost when the Accent is assigned to these notes. Legato notes are transmitted to VSTi incorrectly as non-Legato. In the VSTi does not work the scripts for Legato notes. :frowning:
At first I didn’t understand why my pedal lines were exported incorrectly to Cubase 10. That explains it. Add to that the broken Beat Stress…
As a result, Humanize is currently not working, and as a consequence it is incorrect playback. Very sadly. :cry:
Dear Daniel, Paul, I already pray you as gods, please solve this problem, at least in the third edition.
With respect to you, Alexander.

I’m going to add another voice to this thread. “Humanization” will of course never replace actual performance but, it can mean the difference between something feeling completely synthetic and totally inspiring. This has significant workflow implications, equally as relevant as the beauty and form of high-quality engraving. In fact, if we take a step back, everything Dorico does to support “notation” is really about “humanization,” which is to say the features are all designed to help a person craft very specific and intentional visual output for another person:

  • a beautiful piece of art
  • an educationally focused set of practices or examples
  • a score
  • a lead sheet
  • a reduction of popular songs for intermediate guitar players

The point here is that it’s all about being intentional, providing a specific message and experience for the reader, or in other words, expressing our humanity or dare I say “humanizing” the written output as much as possible. Why? Because it will be experienced by a human so those little details really make a difference, those details are the difference. Can we agree that output riddled with mechanical constraints and artifacts of a computer is far less palatable than the deliberate work of a person? If not, Dorico would have no user base, or certainly a much smaller set of features that aren’t directly tied to efficient writing.

How does this relate to playback? The answer is workflow. If Dorico is nothing more than a tool to notate music you already know or are given from another musician or midi file, it’s notation focus is spot on. If, however, Dorico intends to be a tool for writing music there is far more at stake. Notation is critical for communication… but maybe not the most critical element for writing. Consider the diversity of writing styles:

  • Some musicians will write John Williams style and need nothing more than staves and a piano, or maybe not even a piano…
  • Others require, or prefer, a high degree of experimentation, discovery or malleability while writing…
  • Some rely deeply on emotion, intuition and “feeling” the music in real-time at the highest possible fidelity…

What we see here is a range of feedback requirements. While John Williams needs only visual feedback, an understudy may need audible pitches from time to time, but not in every bar as most music is still heard internally. These folks don’t need so much aural feedback because they can already hear the live, and very human, orchestra playing in all its glory and imperfection. For them, perhaps Dorico is only a tool of efficiency.

But further down the line is someone that needs to hear a pitch in every bar, and someone that needs to hear harmony, someone that needs to hear rhythm, someone needing to hear the contrast of multiple instruments played together, until you finally get to the writers that need to experience near-human performance before they can liberate the music inside them… should these writers be forced to the piano roll? Nay! Much of this workflow is fairly well covered in Dorico already, consider the feature support: custom VSTs, expression maps, automation lanes, note offsets, but why? Why provide audible feedback and tooling if not to support those whose workflows require more than “notation?” The answer is that Dorico aspires to be more than an exceptional notation tool, it aspires to be an exceptional writing tool. Notation is just the anchor (see below).

Now, before you think I’ve swung the pendulum too far let’s acknowledge that every good product has a degree of focus and constraint. Let’s call this an “anchor”. We can generally say that Bitwig and Abelton Live have anchors in electronic and live production, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use them for orchestration. And Cubase is anchored in recording, but can still make effective midi mockups. So yes, Dorico’s anchor is notation, it won’t aspire to be the next leading notationless DAW and its workflows will always cater to notation-based goals. Nobody is arguing this. A plea to improve aural workflows takes nothing away from the kingdom where notation is king. These expanded borders actually enlarge the kingdom and further glorify notation itself. In the end, all workflows within Dorico, even those requiring high-fidelity audible feedback, come back to notation. Music writers that aren’t interested in notation will have never given Dorico a second glance.

So, as a writer who finds notation far more efficient and creative than the piano roll, and would also love to cut out DAWs for high-fidelity aural feedback, I’m asking you to please build the most exceptional flexibility and realism your business can afford to. Why stop at being the best notation software? A great next step for me would be high-quality humanization parameters (something at least as good as Divisimate or an integration with Divisimate). I could stay in Dorico and write more efficiently, accurately and beautifully! :smiley:

Let me just add a few thoughts to what you have put out there. A few years ago – recently – a well respected college professor in the area told me emphatically that when scoring any arrangement, every instrument should be set to piano “so you could hear all the notes.” He was speaking from a long history with Finale, but that attitude might have come from a person working on any platform. Indeed, in 2000, I probably worked that way for the same reasons.

I wasn’t interested in a debate, but the fact is we have come a long way from that point. I have produced a few things on the DAW that fooled some people into thinking it was a human performance, but few people will be fooled by a rendering coming directly from Dorico, or any other notation program, even using NotePerformer. I suppose most people would say that should not be the ultimate objective for any notation program. But I suggest it actually should be one of the measurements of success long-term for all the reasons you mentioned.

Auditioning music (or better yet, evolving music iteratively) is most effective when it sounds realistic. And honestly, we aren’t that far off already. Going back to that professor’s advice, if one does simple things like panning the instruments across the stereo field and maybe using a touch of compression to bring out the inner voices, one really can hear the music pretty well. And with NP in particular, the interpretation of slurs and simple articulations is good enough that it often motivates me to add markings to the score. That is to say, the same markings that make NP sound more human-like also will help the human play the music as intended. Dynamics are a bit spooky, but there have been many times that the interpretation of dynamics has been realistic enough to cause me to change the score in a constructive way.

And while most of the virtual instruments don’t really sound like the “real thing”, they do have most of the lower overtones such that you can actually hear how successful different voicings are likely to be when played by humans.

What’ I’m trying to say is that I agree with what you wrote, but just wanted to point out how far the technology has come already.

Could you please expand on that particular point a little? I’m not an audio expert by a long stretch, and while I can see the value in panning, I’ve never understood what compression actually does for the sound. (To be honest, I have only the vaguest notion what compression is, anyway.)

First, with regard to panning, if you have good stereo speakers located in a good orientation (each speaker equidistant to your ears in the position you normally take while auditioning material), even a small amount of stereo separation can help individual parts jump out. That is especially true if using the same sound samples for multiple parts. It is easy to do with the Dorico mixer (or if using NP, you must use NP’s mixer.)

Compression has to do with dynamics and it a little more complicated than panning. The basic concept is to reduce volume of the loudest sounds. That lowers the overall sound energy. Generally this action is combined with a boost of the entire sound to bring it back up to the original loudness – this is usually called “make-up gain.” In applying the make-up gain, the softer sounds are amplified, making them easier to discern. Some compressors automatically apply the make-up gain and others require the user to do that manually. Even small amounts of compression can make the inner parts substantially easier to hear. If you go crazy with compression, then everything will have the same level of energy – no dynamics at all. Less is usually better.

That’s the basic principle. However, sound engineers often use compressors for a completely different objective. Most compressors include control over attack time and release time. In this case, “attack” is the opposite of what you would normally think. It is the attack time for the compressor. In other words, how quickly does the compressor decide to attenuate the loudest sounds. And the release determines how long the compressor remains clamped down after that transient has passed. By manipulating these timers, you can achieve a harder-sounding attack, or more pulsation in hard-driving music. For example if you have an attack time of 20 ms, then the first 20 ms of a loud sound king a kick drum will pass at full volume, then be clamped down to let other music be heard after that initial thump. Used in this manner, compression is usually applied to individual instruments. That is something that is more germane to the DAW mixing environment. For Dorico, I would add a compressor to the main output bus only and give it a quick attack time.

For a visual model, you can think of a compressor like somebody manually moving the mixer’s fader up and down to try to soften the loudest notes but let the rest of the material come through at full volume.


On edit, I would also add that if one has been using bargain basement $24 computer speakers, one will be surprised at how much much more clarity the Dorico playback has if one were to upgrade even to a $100 set of speakers targeted at the video gamer. Some of those come with a sub-woofer that is at least decent at a satisfactory sound level.

If one is using an external audio interface, one probably already has a speaker setup targeted for the home studio. There are some very nice choices that are very affordable, such as JBL 306 at about $300/pair. If one goes with a separate woofer, then one can use smaller satellite speakers such as Mackie CRS-X at $200 for the pair. A woofer for such a studio might be the JBL LSR310S at $300 (that’s 200W with internal crossover). Nearly as good would be Mackie CR8S-XBT (a new model), but curiously that one doesn’t have XLR connectors. It uses balanced TRS cables, so it would be fine, but one would need to make sure one has balanced cables. These aren’t necessarily recommendations, and a person can easily spend thousands of dollars for high end studio monitors. But a setup such as listed here will be a real awakening if one is accustomed to using really cheap PC speakers.

Agreed, and how nice to get further confirmation from the team that regular strides are to be made:

Dorico has come out of the gates running and done such a great job advancing music writing and publishing. I have already moved most of my workflow into Dorico and look forward to continued improvements in the playback space. Thank you Daniel and team!

I’m one of these people who hears it all internally, but I still agree with you completely. Sure, you can ramble off letters like a speed train and I can recognize every letter I hear instantly, but I can recall less barlines than Mozart. Even Mozart had to go back and listen again at times. Aural recognition is one aspect of charting how our minds work with music. Composition informs aural and vice versa.

I recently switched to a StaffPad (writing) + Studio One (recording) + Dorico (engraving) workflow due to SP’s in-app pre-mapped library integration, something I suggested to most developers years back as the ultimate composer UX end goal and was told it was lightyears away from anything the industry has. Library integration and human playback is essential to keeping people out of frequent piano-roll edits. As a human being, I’m prone to seeing 30 things to do, doing 10 of them, my daughter asks for help, then I come back and wait… oh yeah, I had 8 other things to do (notice that 12 edits on my agenda just got lost to the void). Less performance tweaking makes 10,000x the difference in one’s writing. I’ve written music without computers, and without instruments. Any aural feedback will have influence over writing. But the closer it is to the real thing, the less distracting it is.

I don’t want it out of a need to hear, but out of a need to fight to manage my attention.

Others might disagree, but I don’t believe such people exist.

There may be people who think they need that to “liberate the music inside them,” but the real test is whether anyone else thinks their music was worth liberating.

Let me phrase this another way. Consider much of the vocal music that comes from tribal regions and is created and passed down through oral tradition. If these groups were not allowed to sing as part of the composition process, and instead had to compose parts using a piano, another pitched instrument or just their mind, I am suggesting we would not enjoy much of the rich soul, melodies and harmonies of African and Polynesian chants and spirituals. There is process that occurs when the real thing is brought together and you are exposed to texture, tone, depth, presence and a number of other things beyond pitch, tempo and dynamics. Pitch, tempo and dynamics are not the exclusive informers of worthy music. That is why two groups performing the same number yeild completely different audience reactions.

You may disagree on this point as well, but there is a body of soundscape infused/inspired music that has its place and successfully moves people emotionally, makes them laugh, cry, feel relief, etc. and some of it can only be discovered through actual performance. How do these artists discover and write their expressions without the real thing? The same is true for music with electronic elements… the growl of a snyth, frequency of a sub bass and punchiness of a lead are all critical to the expression, and these elements are often difficult to discover and settle upon without experiencing the real thing and then recognizing: “yes, that is the expression I want to liberate”.

And finally, consider the more traditional improvisation we are already cozy with in notation software. Just put a few slashes and let someone do their thing. This gets directly at the heart of liberating the music within only by experiencing it. Lots of written music and hit tunes have come out of improvisation sessions. I am suggesting these improvisation sessions are liberating in part because they are as close to the real thing as you can get, they are the real thing. If we restricted improvisation sessions for all music to just a piano, I am suggesting you would liberate less and some people would be unable to liberate anything at all despite having an expression within that others would deem completely worthy and desirable.

What I think Rob is referring to–and which I agree–is that one can imagine a musical result without hearing it first. Many composers do not even need a keyboard to imagine and create their music, and music came into being for thousands of years with just the voice or a keyboard to use.

It is nice to have modern electronic means to simulate and create or confirm new sounds, but I would say that most people imagine what they want and then (if necessary) search for a means to reproduce it. They do not need the electronic (or even acoustic) crutch as a prerequisite to imagining it.

Absolutely agree… :slight_smile:

I just want to say that it’s great to see such well-articulated sentiment, coming from several people, regarding the importance of playback, and the need for Dorico to continue to develop in this area as a primary consideration.

It seems we’ve come a long way from the earlier days of Sibelius, when expressing concern over playback would be met almost immediately with numerous Luddite admonitions that Sibelius was notation software, dammit.

That division was not limited to the Sibelius world. One saw the same arguments in the Finale world. There are people whose musical universe requires them to set music to notation and apparently little else. That’s OK, but as time passes, one finds the competitive environment moving quickly. Many of us find ourselves in a position of needing to pitch our ideas to clients, and the standard of playback is rising every year. A level of playback that might have been successful in 2010 may now come across as amateurish and reflect negatively on the whole enterprise.

Fortunately good notation and good playback are not mutually exclusive, so there is actually little to debate other than priorities.

Apart for the need of some composers to touch the sound matter, prelistening a piece composed on score is absolutely needed for students, competitions, film works. I’ve never attended to a composition course or competition, or met a film director, not asking for a “MIDI mockup”. The better it is, the more chances one has to be selected, to win, to be hired.


Absolutely. I write without piano or playback - just a blank page. But more and more, what is discussed in meetings is the playback and not the print out.

I don’t have much to add here, except to agree strongly that easy and realistic playback continues to be increasingly important. I know fewer and fewer musicians who are able to audiate strongly, especially as it regards orchestration. Everyone wants an audio mock-up.

We can bemoan the decline of music literacy (and I do), but it’s reality. The technology is there… Let’s use it.

I really don’t see this as any indication of the direction of music literacy. Music existed before the notation. Notation is only an approximation of the actual music. I venture that most of the greatest musical works were not perfect on the first edition. Maybe people like Mozart, Sousa, and Beethoven who were basically mechanics following familiar formulas, opus after opus, could be happy with every note they wrote. But most great composers have always wanted to hear the music and have the opportunity to revise.

If Ravel or Stravinsky wanted to revise their work after hearing it performed, that would surely not indicate any decline on their skills. Indeed, it might indicate they were pushing the envelope with each new work, moving farther and farther from the paint-by-numbers reality of lesser composers.

I don’t think there is anything new or distressing about musicians wanting to hear their compositions auditioned. To the extent that a computer can save the cost of employing a full orchestra, surely that is a good thing.

Fair point.

Well, I suppose if you compare Rondo alla Turca, Fur Elise, and one of the handful of Sousa marches that are still played (if only by the US military) you can put all three composers in the same category if you like.

Except that you are comparing the best of one (99% of Sousa’s compositions are totally forgotten, and for good reason if you spend five minutes looking at the scores - they are endless pages of formulaic trash) with a couple of bits of trivia by the other two.

Actually, I would say that Fur Elise is less paint-by-numbers then his symphonies, but to each his own. None of that would make it on my list of music I’d select if banished to a deserted island.

I wonder if Bach would have done things differently if he had Dorico. Most of his stuff was written quickly under the weekly pressure of his church commission. Even without Dorico and all that time pressure, just about everything he did (that survives) is elegant, and hard to find any angle for improvement. I guess he threw away 100 times as much music as most of us will ever write. Perhaps with the benefit of Dorico and good playback, some of the discards would have become survivors.