Iconica Sketch Disappointment

Just downloaded Dorico 5.1 for iPad, I have an active subscription. I then downloaded the Iconica Sketch sounds. TL;DR - I am not impressed.

Background - I use Dorico for iPad only, I don’t have the Mac version. On the Mac I’m using MuseScore…. I am primarily interested in writing for big band, though I have been known to write for strings too.

Issue 1 - download time. I have a fast (gigabit) internet connection in my house, and large downloads usually complete in seconds, a few minutes at most. Took 1/2 hour for the Iconica sounds… Up your server game Steinberg/Yamaha!

Issue 2 - incomplete sample library. The trumpets and trombone sound nice. However, there are no saxophone sounds. And flugelhorn, a common instrument, is represented by a piano sound.

Issue 3 - volume levels. Because of issue 2, I have to use the built in sounds for saxophones, and they are significantly louder than the Iconica brass section sounds.

Issue 4 - (this may be me) - reverb levels. The brass sounds are swimming in reverb. Usually this is done to mask crappy samples, but it sounds like these are good quality. Is there a way to adjust these globally?

All of this leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. Why bother to do an update if you don’t do a good job? I have returned to using the built in sounds on my compositions because of the reverb and balance issues. And no flugelhorn sound at all in either library. Why bother to list it as an instrument?

I am willing to purchase and install a 3rd party library that has good quality sounds for a jazz big band, especially if things like muted brass and flugelhorns are included. Any advice?

Yes Steve, in your case the iPad is not the right tool. It is rather good at sketching your music and write small projects. Same with Iconica Sketch. If your requirements are more specific you will have to use a real computer - where you have almost endless possibilities.


The Apple store is hosted by Apple, did you tell them that they need new servers?

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You should definetly check out SWAM instruments by Audio Modeling, this could solve all the issues you mentioned !!

Now Iconic comes free of charge… so you may wanna hold your blows… just sayin’ !

There are very few sample libraries available for iPad. Traditionally, samples require lots of RAM, and iPads have had very small amounts – even the most recent M-series only have 8Gb.

I’d certainly recommend Dorico on the Mac: you’ll find a lot of the annoyances from the iPad version entirely gone; and the Pro edition of Dorico gives you much more flexibility.

You may want to read through this post:

Replying to 3 posts, since the forum chided me for making small replies…

Regarding the iPad, I like using the iPad environment. I do use a regular computer also, but I think differently using my fingers and maybe a pencil instead of a mouse. Plus it’s easier to lounge in my La-z-boy…

Regarding SWAM, I have tried them and disliked the sound. Frankly the built in sax in Dorico for iPad is better, at least to my ears. The Studio Horns virtual instrument in Logic is also better. By “better” I mean easier to get a decent result using a keyboard and minimal editing. I imagine I could get very realistic results by using lots of controller data, but this is for compositional purposes, not making a realistic performance. For that I’ll just record myself playing sax…

And I admit my server comment was snarky…. FWIW, the download from the app store was fine, it was the download of the Iconica Sketch library from within Dorico that was slow.

I feel I must make this point - not having a flugelhorn sound, or muted trumpets, is an oversight. I understand that many orchestral libraries don’t have these sounds (well, at least the mutes), but it’s still something that people making a tool aimed at serious composers should do. Even just re-recording the existing trumpet or trombone samples with a filter would do as a stand-in.

More problematic is the level matching thing between the built in GM sounds and the new library. The big-band template that comes with Dorico for iPad will use the brass and rhythm section samples from Iconica, and the GM saxophone samples. The output levels are radically different. This should have been caught by QC.

Bottom line. I like Dorico on iPad, and I will continue to use it. But I do feel that the limitations that exist are artificial, and likely the result of pressure to ship by a certain date. I will probably also continue to complain, in the hopes that pressure from users will push the devs to do better.

Here is a link to a realization of a score I did in this tool, the version before 5.1. I exported it as MIDI, and recreated the rhythm section parts in Logic Pro on iPad. The horns use the Studio Horns virtual instrument that ships with Logic. Bolivia

I’m working on another score now, that uses doubles in the woodwinds and I wanted flugelhorn and mutes in the trumpets. Oh well…

Doubtless, especially in this case, since the shift in the online store provided plenty of cushion in what were planned release dates.

And speculating on motivations can go wildly astray.

(None of which takes away from your other observations about the software, which I expect the Development Team will take a look at.)

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I replied to the other responses, still getting used to this forum software.

Yeah, I figured this is the situation. As I said, I’m not looking for a super-realistic playback, I know guys with bands…. Reasonable representation is all I want.

I’m not sure I want to go the full computer route. Part of it’s stubbornness on my part, part of it is philosophical (I like the iPad) and Dorico Pro is too expensive for me at the moment. If I were making money writing I might feel differently.

To be honest, there are other issues that come into play here for me. The entire paradigm of “select a tool to place a note or other item on the screen” is kind of broken IMO. With a computer keyboard and mouse, you can mitigate that somewhat with key commands, but I’m not using the iPad external keyboard. I really want an app where I can draw on the screen like I would with a pencil, but that’s not here … yet.

I’ll keep using the iPad version for now, and try to find workarounds for the issues I have.

Dorico on the desktop is very reliant on the keyboard, and is much faster than clicking stuff on the screen.

Don’t StaffPad and NotateItForMe do this? I’ve always thought that drawing a filled circle, with a line, (plus beaming) has got to be the slowest method of inputting notes. Pressing 4 C is 10 times faster.

So you are deliberately restricting yourself to the most inefficient way of putting in #data into #software

Steve, the Iconica Sketch sounds are hosted on AWS instances, which are about as well-connected and high-bandwidth as any servers you will find. I’m sorry you had poor download speed when downloading Iconica Sketch to your device, but I’m not sure what I can suggest to improve matters.

As for the lack of specific instruments in the Iconica Sketch library, we are limited by what was originally recorded in the Iconica recording sessions some years ago. Saxophones and flugelhorns were not part of those sessions, along with even more commonly used instruments like solo strings. We may be able to expand the repertoire of sounds in Dorico for iPad in future by porting more of the sounds available on desktop to the iPad – that is at least possible now that we have a HALion-powered engine available for mobile devices. However, we don’t have any first-party sounds that are especially suitable for jazz, so that would be of limited benefit to you, I’m sorry to say.


Well the biggest inefficiency for me in composing is choosing what note goes next. As I said, I find the form factor of the iPad gives a different vibe. If I were copying music, for money, I’d probably use a desktop app.

Haven’t tried these, I will investigate.

Thanks Daniel, I have marked this as the solution. As I said I will continue experimenting and I’ll update if I find good workarounds.

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I think drawing notes can be pretty slow. I hope in future releases, there could be innovations in note entry that are specific for Apple Pencil/iPad use. Some kind of combination of multi-touch gesture recognition with a music shorthand. I find using the key editor is the most natural combination at the moment with touch/pencil but I’d like the UI layout to change here.


Actually I agree. Selecting a rhythmic value like on the on-screen keyboard view, then touching the staff with the pencil to insert a note would be great, and intuitive. All other controls (chords, dots, ties etc.) would function as they do now. I use the pencil a lot in this app, I think that attention paid to this aspect of the UI would be very useful.

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To the OP… Great sounding samples on the ipad are few and far between, and expensive, prices for app collections (like “Swam” for example), swiftly start to rival or even exceed desktop instrument prices. And if you have a particular need it may be possible to buy an individual flugelhorn that you can tweak with effects to get sounding just right. But expect the quality of the samples to be hit or miss. Have you tried making your own instruments with Audiolayer? Have you tried soundfont players like bismark-16 or isfizz? The Halion “Builtin” set in Dorico-Ipad is the best sounding collection of general midi instruments I have heard yet on an ipad pro 16gb ram 1tb m1 chip, a cheap $29 amazon DAC and a pair of Bowers & Wilkins P5’s. I’m pretty sure this will still be true using various FIIO Dacs and P9’s too.
Good Luck.