Lilypond is easier than Dorico?

Well, no, Lilypond is not generally easier than Dorico – for most things. But in the chorus of ‘how wonderful Dorico is’, and there’s a lot of truth to that, I would still like to voice some dissent. Mostly because I think Dorico is on the right track.

I’ve been using Finale since Windows 3.1. Before that I wrote a program in C to do my own scoring, which worked passably well, but gave me a profound appreciation for how ridiculously hard it is to engrave music generally. I’m a Linux/Windows Systems Engineer C/C++ for many decades. I have built hardware MIDI devices from the chip level. As a musician, I have performed on the glass armonica with the Blue Man Group and at the Kennedy Center, and have a fair number of commissioned works to my credit.

I want to do polymeters. Those are preposterously hard to do in Finale.

I struggled with Sibelius. In my experience their paradigm for initial score entry was quite reasonable, but editing existing music was a nightmare. That is my experience with Dorico. What is GOOD about the Finale paradigm is that if I’m editing bar 7, I’m only editing bar 7. With Dorico when I edit bar 7, I am also affecting bars 8-666. You would think that when I’m done editing bar 7 and return it to its original length, bars 8-666 would return to normal, but that hasn’t been my experience — after editing bar 7 I am finding I am having to go through and fix bars 8-666. (I note in passing that the online tutorials seem to emphasize initial score entry, not editing existing music.)

I’ll stipulate my difficulties are because I “don’t grasp the interface”. Obviously!! And if you find it easy, I’m sincerely happy for you! But there you are – in spite of working through all of Dorico’s online video tutorials, and more on YouTube as well, and I have a better than average grasp of all this technology, and working with Dorico for over a month now, I still apparently don’t grasp the paradigm for how editing existing music is supposed to work. That hardly seems like ‘intuitive’ or ‘discoverable’ to me. I think the Dorico paradigm is mostly there, but I’m thinking there remain details that are just f-ing me up.

Also, at present Dorico does not support adding an ‘unknown’ instrument – if it’s not in their list of existing instruments, you’re in for a lot of work. For example, I play the ‘glass armonica’ – an instrument invented by Benjamin Franklin and for which Mozart and Beethoven composed. Not in the list.

Related, at the moment I want to score a piece for organ for which I need THREE staves for the manuals instead of the usual two (still need pedals.) Each staff with its own meter. (I’ll be playing it myself).

Dorico is open before me and – how the hell do I set this up? I’ve found a YouTube (not Steinberg) video how to set up a blank staff – maybe 8 steps per staff (?) and not at all apparent how to adapt this to my requirements.

So I’m doing this one in Lilypond. Their paradigm may be annoying but it’s transparent: every time I edit bar 7 and return it to it’s original length bars 8-666 are good. Lilypond has no problem with adding a staff for ‘garbage disposal in C’.

As I said at the outset, I think Dorico is really on the right track. Keep on keeping on! But for some things it still hasn’t reached the tipping point of getting the job done for me. And at present the editing paradigm remains something to dread. Initial score entry is great, but I dread anything more than trivial edits to existing music.

Respectfully,

William Zeitler

I don’t do much polymetric music, but I would suggest you examine carefully the implications of having Insert Mode on or off as far as editing and restoring measure divisions to their original state. Basically with Insert on subsequent notes move around; with Insert off rhythmic divisions stay put and backfill (if longer notes are replaced with shorter) with rests or overwrite subsequent notes (if shorter notes are replaced with longer).

William, depends on what you mean by “editing existing music.” You’re right about polymeter and such; it’s a bit difficult. But there are a dozen other things I can think of in the category of editing existing music that are worlds easier than Finale… revolutionary, in fact.

As you say, Dorico is in process. For most (though not all) of what I do, it meets my needs perfectly. Your objection to inserting and editing has been raised by others, and I’m sure it’s on the timeline.

I daresay the typical user (whatever that means) doesn’t find Lilypond easier at all. Certainly the learning curve is daunting. Programmers seem to do fine with it. For my part, I say: the more notation programs to choose from, the better.

Adding a blank staff is not so difficult. You can add any instrument and simply not display the staff labels, or rename them as desired. Adding custom instruments is also an area that has been much requested.

Just curious: besides polymeters not altering later bars, what other edits to existing music do you find problematic? I can’t think of much else.

Adding an extra staff should be a case of selecting an existing organ staff (already on the page), right-clicking something on that staff and going Staff > Add Staff Above/Below.

I don’t know how you got to eight steps on that one!

Learning applications takes time. A month is not much at all. But even so, editing existing music should be easy. I’m importing lots of old Finale scores and cleaning them up, and Dorico is lightning fast.

For the glass harmonica: just choose another instrument, rename it and change the sample. Yes, it’s a few steps, but you’ll easily make up the time elsewhere. And I’m sure that v3 will address many of the shortcomings. Keep at it!

There have been a number of suggestions here, so I will try and target your issue — please correct me if this is not the right way.
You need to change things on bar 7 and do not want any change in the further music : do not use insert mode. Or use it on a voice that has not been used so far (create one using shift-v). You’ll be free to change this new voice to a previously existing voice once your edits are done (and insert mode off). To secure the Meter dimension, please re-enter an explicit time signature at bar 8 (or as near as bar 7 as possible, since polymeter can be quite complicated) to make sure the changes you’ll make before this new time signature will remain before.
Hope it helps !

To further clarify what Marc’s said: if you add a (global) time signature, Dorico will rebar all following bars until it reaches the next time signature. When you enter a local time signature, Dorico will rebar on that stave until it reaches the next time signature on that stave.

William, I’m hoping I can help you with a couple of your specific points: about needing a 3-staff organ, and having independent time signatures.

  • 3-staff organ: when you add a new player, the instrument picker opens - if you type “organ” into the search field, you get two organ options: 2 staves, or 3 staves. If you choose 3 staves (which for me, is the one selected automatically when I type in “organ”) you get an organ instrument with 3 staves: a braced pair and an additional bass clef staff below.
  • Independent time signatures: holding down Alt when you add a time signature (either by entering it into the popover, in which case press Alt-Enter to close the popover and input the time signature, or by Alt-clicking a time signature in the panel on the right) inputs it only onto the selected staff. I just checked, and each staff of a 3-staff organ can have its own time signature.

Previous responders have given some very useful advice about editing, and the consequences of having Insert mode on. What I would add to that is Dorico is very forgiving of changes, partly because notes/items have rhythmic positions rather than positions in bars. So you can, for instance, change the time signature as many times as you want, Dorico just moves the barlines accordingly and renotates notes if necessary, e.g. showing them as tied notes across barlines if required. Unlike some other softwares, changing time signatures in Dorico does not cause excess rests to be added at the end of every bar.

If you want to change the time signature of just one bar and don’t want to change everything after it, I’d recommend re-inputting the current time signature at the start of the next bar first - that basically puts a “block” at the start of that section, keeping it unaffected by any meter changes before it. This applies to other things, like key signatures.

If you want to have an instrument with a particular setup, like the 3-staff organ, check the options in the instrument picker - there can be a few variants available, e.g. Horn has all the different keys as options, including “F Treble clef part” and “F No key sig”. This is often the fastest and simplest way of getting your staves and parts set up the way you want.

Lillie, the OP wants a FOUR stave organ - three manuals plus one pedal stave. Should be as simple as adding a three stave organ and then adding an additional stave.

Ah gotcha, my eyes must have jumped (partly because I actually accidentally added a 3-staff organ to a project the other day!). hopefully the links etc are nonetheless helpful, plus your advice for adding extra staves.

I would say that I agree with wwzeitler when he writes:

“I’ll stipulate my difficulties are because I “don’t grasp the interface”. Obviously!! And if you find it easy, I’m sincerely happy for you! But there you are – in spite of working through all of Dorico’s online video tutorials, and more on YouTube as well, and I have a better than average grasp of all this technology, and working with Dorico for over a month now, I still apparently don’t grasp the paradigm for how editing existing music is supposed to work. That hardly seems like ‘intuitive’ or ‘discoverable’ to me. I think the Dorico paradigm is mostly there, but I’m thinking there remain details that are just f-ing me up.”

I, unlike William as a Systems Engineer for Linux/Windows, am a music conservatory graduate (Manhattan School of Music, New York); therefore, I am proficient in orchestration and music composition in general. Give me a pencil and paper along with a good-sounding piano and I can do wonders. Since 1985, I have been trying Music notation Programs and, with a decent manual, have become rather proficient in Finale, and Sibelius. I stopped supporting Finale with v.11. After that the house fell apart and I didn’t stay around to watch it fall. I can say, though, that 9 of my compositions have been played by symphony orchestras using the Finale manuscript. Conductor and player parts were very well received by orchestral members.

I guess what I’m saying is that the architecture of Dorico escapes me. I started learning Dorico with the original version and when I couldn’t make a simple trill play back, I started asking myself questions about how the program could proceed without what I considered a simple task. after awhile, I realized that the Dorico plan was to produce an engraving program primarily and to support playback of user’s compositions secondarily. After the initial trial period, I felt that I would wait until Dorico was far enough along before fully committing myself to attacking it academically. To date, Dorico has become a marvelous notation program and user’s suggestions have greatly enhanced the future of this notation endeavor, but, not fully committing myself as the program has progressed has once again diminished my motivation to use it fully. My bad. I do feel, though, that Dorico is a steep hill to climb because it isn’t that intuitive like some other notational programs. As I have observed the growth and effectiveness of Dorico and its market appeal, I am also still bewildered about its architecture. I applaud the developers of Dorico and also the really great tutorials Steinberg has produced to make the learning curve less daunting. But after watching so many video tutorials, I still felt I was learning the program by rote. In my way of thinking, I’m going to have to have a better idea of the entire architecture of the program to fully coordinate and implement all of its separate parts into an “understandable” whole. Not your fault Dorico, just that this student can’t yet see the whole picture.

Maybe this diatribe doesn’t belong to this thread, but William’s remarks made me think of how my views of Dorico are, in some ways, similar.

Jack

Thank you all for your thoughtful replies. I had had a long hard day, “I’ll unwind by writing some music” ARG! thwarted at every turn by Dorico “why is this so hard?!?”, so maybe I was a little on the ‘ranty’ side. But even still, the next day, I still stand by my comments.

dpjackca: “I applaud the developers of Dorico and also the really great tutorials Steinberg has produced to make the learning curve less daunting. But after watching so many video tutorials, I still felt I was learning the program by rote. In my way of thinking, I’m going to have to have a better idea of the entire architecture of the program to fully coordinate and implement all of its separate parts into an “understandable” whole. Not your fault Dorico, just that this student can’t yet see the whole picture.”

That’s it precisely. I just can’t grok Dorico’s paradigm. Maybe it doesn’t have one (it wouldn’t be the first program that didn’t). All things considered it’s still far better than the alternatives, but… ARG!

Also, I guess if Dorico were presented as “hard to figure out, but it does far more than everyone else so it’s worth it” I’d be totally OK with that. Photoshop is like that: “we’re hard, but we’re worth it!”, and it dominates its market. But all the hype about “Dorico is so easy and intuitive!” – and I have found it anything but, and I’m on the fart smeller – I mean smart feller end of the spectrum – that get’s to me.

William, Jack, have you read the Concepts section of the manual? It might be a good starting point: https://steinberg.help/dorico/v1/en/dorico/topics/program_concepts/program_concepts_dorico_concepts_c.html

I know from experience that Finale was not intuitive when it first came out. Only years of working with it helped it become second nature, and relying on Finale experience and work-flow will not be helpful learning Dorico. Dorico has a much different logic, likely less intuitive to those trying to compare it to Finale or Sibelius than for those starting it from scratch.

What I told those who dipped their toe into Dorico when it first came out and decided to defer (many for the reasons you cited) was that I was going to keep plowing ahead so that, when the features I needed were available in Dorico, I would have sufficient knowledge to use the program productively. For making sound files, I still use Finale; but I also follow this forum religiously and use Dorico for notation whenever possible so I’ll have put in my “10,000 hours to mastery” sooner rather than later. I find Dorico impressive and fun to use–and occasionally challenging too.

Very interesting thread guys, thanks :slight_smile:

I might be wrong, but I have the feeling that what makes Dorico so difficult to use to both William and Jack is that you already master Finale and Sibelius. Brain reprogramming is a tough task. However, you’ll find help here if you need, to get the best workflow for a task in Dorico.

I’m sorry, William, but, after two rather long posts, you still haven’t been able to articulate what is it that is stumping you. Nobody has any idea what you mean by “editing bar 7 screws up bars 8-666”. That you were having trouble with the concepts is clear enough from the first post, but you have given us nothing to go on and help you. I’ll have to disagree with your assessment, especially since Dorico might actually be one of the only pieces of software for this task that actually state up front their overlying concepts – they’ve done this gradually and over the years before even launching, they’ve done it in the manual (as Leo pointed out), they do it in bite-sized bits in the tutorial videos. If you appreciate – perhaps better than most – the complexities of the task, if you are proficient in the musical processes themselves and not just in the abstract workflow that one tool imposes, why don’t you at the very least try to articulate your problem? Let us help you!

Bingo. As Luis said, it’s understandable to express sentiments like “I just don’t get Dorico,” but it’s impossible for us to help you unless we know some specifics.

All of us had to learn the program, and I imagine most of us were pretty proficient in another notation program previously. We’ve been there.

Indeed an interesting thread. As an experienced user of Finale and, to a lesser extent, Sibelius, I also had trouble with Dorico in the beginning. After doing several projects, I’m pretty proficient at it, though only for the functions I’ve used so far. As soon as I need to do something I haven’t done before, I’m back at the novice stage, searching endlessly and often fruitlessly through menus and settings. The speed at which this process gets easier and intuition takes over seems slower with Dorico than with any other piece of software I’ve ever used. Part of my problem was caused by trying to look for information in the Dorico manuals or using the search function in this forum. This has always worked for me in the past so I assumed that it should work for Dorico, as well. Unfortunately, typing a common term, even one used by the program, into the search field often yields no results. Since then I’ve resorted to Google searches, which generally give good results.

Having said all this, my motivation to keep investing in this process is based on how well Dorico is thought out and implemented. One really important point: perhaps I’ve been lucky, but in the entire time I’ve been using Dorico, it hasn’t crashed a single time. Not once! This is a first for me. Many’s the time I’ve been working in Finale and, for absolutely no apparent reason, it quits and I lose a certain amount of work, sometimes a lot. Or that it reacts in a totally unexpected way and messes up a file, often with lyrics, but I discover this only after having performed a lot of edits since, and having saved the file. Dorico not only feels solid but also intelligent, and the results are both excellent and predictable. This, coupled with the willingness of the Steinberg crew to listen to requests and comments by users, as well as the helpfulness of fellow forum users, makes using Dorico a most satisfying experience.

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I guess part of the issue is what background people have in learning “new” things. When I started on a career in computing, things were a lot less standardized than they are today. I’ve lost track of the number of programming languages and operating systems I learned (as a necessity for doing my job, not as something to get angry and frustrated about if they didn’t make sense on day one!) but it’s somewhere between 20 and 30, not 2 or 3. Of course I’ve forgotten all the details about most of them.

Compared with that historical state of affairs, in 2019 Linux, Windows and MacOS are so similar that they hardly count as “different” at all IMO. (And I find it weird that many people get so emotionally pro one and anti another.)

I entirely agree with the comments that Dorico isn’t (just) “Sibelius or FInale with a few more bells and whistles” - it’s different at a fundamental level. If someone is coming from a background where they have never come face to face with the idea there are several completely different ways to skin a cat, and they already know one way (whether it be Finale, Sibelius, Lilypond, or whatever) that in itself could be a big obstacle to learning Dorico.