Making the switch from Finale

Me and some fellow composers are contemplating switching from Finale to Dorico 3 when it’s available.

We’ve all been working together using the same score template and simulation engine I developed (Kontakt, custom-libraries and scripts). The transition means I have thousands of midi-responsive Finale expressions to import to Dorico and we require total flexibility with the Midi data and score layout.

Finale Midi system was incredibly powerful but the interface is prehistoric. However since Finale 2014 their Midi-Tool window has more bugs than the whole Amazon rainforest, and they simply won’t fix them. Their tech support towards this matter is non-existent.

So I am aware that Dorico 2 does not have velocity control, this is why we’ve been waiting for Dorico 3 to switch.

I was a Sibelius user from version 1 to 6. I’ve extremely comfortable making sound sets and setting percussion maps, etc. I think that aspect of the transition is going to go fine.

I do have some questions and I would be so grateful if I could have answers for them:

  1. Can Dorico support multiple version of the same symbols or expressions? Example: Is it possible to have a Forte that has a velocity value of 80, another one which does not affect playback and a third version that sends a controller value?

  2. Can we have hidden symbols sending midi messages in the score, for example a Forte that won’t print but that will affect playback?

  3. Is it possible to have staves used only for the playback (hidden on the score)?

  4. For the sequencer window, are there some functions available for the note duration (Percent alter, randomize, add, set to, etc.) ?

    Many thanks again!

Welcome to the forum, Stravinkiss.

Yes, in theory you can do this by defining your own custom playing techniques. However, a playing technique that looks like a forte marking won’t actually be a forte marking in terms of how Dorico thinks of it semantically, but in practice that’s probably no problem, since you could always use a hidden playing technique and mute the real dynamic if need be.

You can’t currently send MIDI messages directly, but you can define a playing technique that will trigger a playing technique change, and this can send a combination of MIDI controllers and MIDI keyswitches. This playing technique can be hidden.

Yes, though it’s a bit of a bodge: you would have to add additional players that are not included in the printed full score layout, but which are routed to the same channels on the same VST instruments or MIDI devices as the printed staves. In future we intend to add a means of having one or more additional tracks that would appear only in Play mode and which would allow you to add notes etc. there; these notes would then not appear in the full score layout.

No, there aren’t any features like this for editing the MIDI data of notes in Play mode, but there are some simple randomisation options provided in the Playback Options dialog.

Thank you Daniel for the quick reply! I have 2 more questions concerning the last point.

#1. Seems like a reasonable workaround!

#2. OK! As long as I can create an item with the name I want, assign the midi value needed and hide it it’s perfect for me. That seems possible with a playing technique change unless I misunderstood.

#3. What you have planned for the future would be quite helpful for strings simulations. I tend to use 2 string libraries simultaneously or have a staff for the print and one for the playback. For that it would be necessary to have these staves on different midi channels.

#4. Maybe in the future. It would be really helpful to be able to select a group of notes and change the duration in absolute or percentage value (specially for legato overlaps).

Is it still possible to change a note duration, can you change multiple note durations at once?

Do you think it will be possible at some point to program custom plugins for Dorico ?

I’ve been a Finale user for over(!) 30 years, and a Dorico user since day 1. And I still love both programs. Many people hate me for saying that. Dorico, without question, is in a totally different league, of course. Finale support has been dead for over 10 years, at least. Dorico support is fantastic and real proof that the world is actually improving. I respond to your post simply because you say “I have thousands of midi-responsive Finale expressions to import.…” … Dorico and Finale are two completely different beasts … and because you said what you said, I strongly advice that you download and test Dorico v.2 NOW - because, although I’m convinced Dorico v3 will probably overwhelm us all, I don’t anticipate that the basic architecture will change, so, having the v.2 experience under your belt will enable you to make better decisions. Best of luck!

There is already rudimentary scripting (mostly along the lines of sequencing actions), though it’s undocumented and likely to be re-written. The Dorico team have stated that more advanced scripting is planned.

You’ll find a lot of ex-Finale converts around here. Welcome!

It’s about twenty-five years for me with Finale (v. 2.5 or thereabouts), and I still marvel at smart-slurs. For all my clients save one, I’ve transitioned to Dorico. For the particular client, I use a text font that does not work well on Dorico. Additionally, what I am doing with this client is so wedded to the Maestro music font and the way in which Finale handles things visually changing to Dorico at this point would be a massive undertaking. Besides, keeping Finale for this one client keeps my Finale chops up.

I had never used Sibelius or any other notation-software, and when I finally started Dorico in summer '17, I found the learning curve to be more like a learning-cliff. But as I’ve said on this forum before, going through that learning-cliff is worth it in every respect, and when you buy Dorico, you are speaking to Steinberg in the language it understands best: Steinberg, we’re giving you money, thereby endorsing your products and endorsing the way you do business and handle customer-service, which is second-to-none imho.

It’s about 25 years for me with Finale, as well. As a partially ex-Finale user, I agree with fratveno. Start investing the necessary time in Dorico as soon as possible. At the beginning of this year, I did a major project that I’ve been doing for years in Finale for the first time in Dorico as a kind of baptism by fire. I’ll admit to its having taken a lot of time and causing frustration but the difference is that those were by-products of my having to learn to use a very differently-structured program and not because of the inability of the program to perform as it should, a problem I’ve often experienced with Finale.

I still use Finale for certain things, especially projects which were already finished and only need minor revisions. Older projects which need major revisions require serious consideration. Do I do the extra work in Finale or do I port them over to Dorico via XML and do different extra work? I do new projects exclusively in Dorico.

When making the switch from Finale, it’s important to avoid trying to get Dorico to do what you did in Finale. I say this because you mentioned plugins. I’m not sure what you might want to program but, in my experience, Finale’s plugins generally provided functions which the core program should have been able to perform.

Whereas Finale’s updates and improvements occur at a painfully and shamefully slow rate, Dorico is developing quickly, each update with new features which have been well designed and beautifully implemented. In addition, the support in the forums, both directly from Steinberg and from other users is, in my experience, unsurpassed.

I have to say I always find it funny when hardcore Finale wizards, people who’ve mastered a infamously finnicky piece of software, state that Dorico is hard to get into. You’ve done it before, and you’ve done it in style! This is bound to be easier!

That being said, I can only echo what fratveno (one of said Finale wizards) has said. You won’t be able to import or even port most of your routine right away, most likely. But do try and get a feel of what the software can do, and take Daniel’s statements regarding future developments into account.

(By the way, Vaughan: there are a myriad other uses for scripting beyond adding functionality that the software is actually lacking, and it sounds like the OP’s case is one of them! We’re quite a few of us, the ones waiting for scripting!)

Yes, you can make a multiple selection of notes in the piano roll view in Play mode and change their durations at the same time.

Wow thanks for all the replies guys, all my posts asking for bug fixes on the Finale forum that have been unanswered for months! It’s nice to see that there’s a fully thriving community here.

I’m mostly asking about playback because I take it for granted that the notation and layout are full featured; knowing where the development team comes from.

Thanks, I used Sibelius for about 8 years and Finale for about 10 years.
They are both amazing and terrible at the same time. I’m sure it’s really difficult to find the funds to develop a music notation software after a certain point. I think Dorico has the potential to go beyond both these software, not only because the architecture seems so much more modern, but because it’s not presenting itself as a “Notation only” solution; it has everyone in mind, as much copyist as composers who enjoy having good playback.

Thanks for the tip. I did get the Dorico 2 demo, but unfortunately I was quite busy and my trial expired before I could really start messing around with playback and soundsets. As I said I absolutely to be able to change or draw velocity curves for playback before I make the switch. As soon as it’s available in Dorico I’ll make the purchase and try to “import” or convert my Finale midi-expressions to the Dorico soundset/playing tech system.

I would be interested to try. I also have a music software programmer friend that could help.

Thanks Daniel, Another question on a completely different topic:
Are you planning to eventually add Stylus support to Dorico?

I use an application titled Duet Display to use my iPad Pro with photoshop, it would be incredible to use it to write music. I’ve always dreamed of being able to write music with a Stylus and then go in a sequencer window to fine-tune the playback.


It’s not in our near-term plans, but I would not absolutely rule it out for the future.

Oh! I’d absolutely love that too! The stylus can be such an intuitive tool.

EDIT: Come to think of it, I doubt that serious note input with a stylus would make sense. It can’t possibly be as fast as with a keyboard, can it? And the team would need to develop an engine that recognizes your scribbling first. I’d rather have them put their effort in other things. – Just my two cents.

Reading across from my experience with computer aided design software, a stylus can be such an intuitive tool …

Provided you have a big enough surface to use it on. A3 is just about OK, A2 is better. A4, or tablet computer sized - no thanks, I’ll stay with the keyboard.

The Surface Studio are plenty big and Apple has probably something coming up eventually with a similar size factor. Staff Pad works on screens of all sizes but it is nowhere near as sophisticated as Dorico. I think it’s more about having the possibility to do so. I would like the flexibility of being able to sketch with a stylus on staves with a small tablet on my piano and then orchestrate using a standard mouse/keyboard or larger screen.

I am a long time Finale user (30 years on my Mac Plus?) but certainly not an ex-anything. Dorico has come a long way but cannot do many of tasks I do routinely in Finale—even with the extensive workarounds that are often posted.

That’s ok. I focus on getting the job done, not insisting that tool F, D, N, O or E be the one that must do everything. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. For basic note entry and MIDI import, for example, I still find nothing as good as Encore. Thank goodness (or thank Michael Good) for MusicXML so I can export my work into anything else and take it to the next steps.

I expect Dorico to get better but, frankly, it’s not there yet. I bought because I hate 30 day evaluations. No doubt, I’ll upgrade to v.3 when released in the hope that Dorico’s MusicXML handling is greatly improved (as good as Notion would be sweet). We’ll see.