Many thanks. Another case study of Dorico's powers

A dot-zero upgrade was just released last month, so it’s normal and necessary that we be constructively critical. But, as I often like to do, I’m setting this aside to issue praise.

I’m in the midst of many projects, but one in particular is showing Dorico’s powers to a high degree. An outfit dedicated to children’s music is updating its sound files from “MIDI/Live-Voices” to “Live-Instruments/Live-Voices”. The project will take a good three years to complete. The books are separated according to school grades and the grade I’m presently working on to kick things off is comprised of 97 songs, all in public domain save for a few written by the client and/or her staff, and two for which the client got permission. Some are extremely short (about half a minute) and some are more elaborate (over 3 minutes). Most are a little over a minute. I was provided with piano-vocal scores in Finale. 97 individual files. Therefore, I didn’t have to write out lyrics. I tend to largely ignore the piano scores though: orchestra is orchestra.

I’m scoring for 1*.1.1.1*,,, 1 harp, 1 perc; or subsets thereof. We will record two books at a time.

The crux of the matter is that I’m almost done with that grade. It is about 110 minutes worth of continuous music. The total tally of hours working for it will be 120 hours. Now, when I say 120, I really mean it’s for EVERYTHING. It includes a session with the client – likely three hours – where edits will be discussed; a couple of hours to execute these edits; me flipping around flows from larger orchestra to smaller orchestra so some recording sessions are cheaper than others; and then formatting for page turns which will be easy since the flows are all on the short side. Books will be published in two-sided A4 size; orchestra and voices will be recorded separately, in two different countries, and then mixed in studio.

I don’t know if that’s considered fast, but it’s plenty fast for me. Basically, it’s allowing me to write this post!

Now, people will ask about Dorico’s performance when dealing with so many flows. I have an 8 core AMD-based computer with 16gigs of RAM. I have a four octave MIDI controller for step-time entry. Performance has not been an issue, but the usual tricks apply.

  1. In terms of note entry: the flows are short and the orchestra is medium-size (in terms of staves), so there was no perceptible degradation as I went through the book. I am using a focus layout as described below, but this performance comment applies to a layout with all flows present. Of course, that’s as long as I don’t start opening tabs, changing views, changing layouts etc … But really, I only have to do this when sending work to the client, which I do about a third of the project at a time.

  2. While working on a layout containing all flows, removing and adding musicians got slower after about 24 flows; and since I have to change the required personnel on a flow-by-flow basis, I did create a focus layout where I work on about 12 flows at a time. Those operations then move right along. When the time comes to re-order flows, I’ll reopen the document with only the harp part opened. It will then be done quickly.

  3. Saving, even with NP, is definitely slower as you go along. No workaround for that AFAIK.

I realize some people have issues with such large number of flows in a single file, but in my case, as long as certain rules are followed, I can’t say I have been hampered in any way. The whole modal concept does mean that working in mode order is the most efficient way of dealing with such projects. There is no need to go to Engrave Mode of Page view until I’m done a large section of the work, really. Over the last three years, whenever I have had a performance issue, I have sent the score to the dev team (after warning them of course) and the issues were solved quickly, and were generally due to a single bug (such as drawing large time signatures for example).

Now what are the issues I encountered?

  1. Print mode is slow when selecting the full score and setting a page range. The file is quite large so the computer works hard.

  2. The book is scored for a single percussion. By now, that instrumentalist is assigned 17 instruments, including five pitched instruments and three kits (a drum set, a woodblock kit and a little “noise-makers” kit). Having galley view showing this vast array of staves in the middle of the score became so annoying that I temporarily moved percussion to the bottom of the score. I move it back before printing sample scores. I personally can’t think of a truly practical solution to this in terms of software implementation, so I believe I’ll live with this for a long time.

  3. It would be great if one percussion player could handle more than one kit, but each with different presentation. Right now, the only way to do this is to remove one or the other kits from the player and add it to the layout.

And what have been the most enjoyable tools.

  1. All of the arranging tools. I have shortcuts for all of them: copy to staff, move to staff, swap staves (my favourite!) etc … Invaluable when doing this kind of work.

  2. My new favourite over-all new tool is multi-staff note entry. It’s the paint roller approach to writing for sections. Even when voices are independent for a beat or two, it’s worth repeating chords and tying notes afterwards in longer passages considering the times it saves. I LOOOOOVE this tool!

  3. The way percussion is handled. (minus the little caveat above)

  4. All note manipulation tools, present since version one.

Some may have read my posts about the Choir Kids program in Red Deer, and this is a glorified version of it. More tunes, bigger orchestra etc … So I realize I am, in a way, repeating myself. But to me, working this way is the closest thing to a miracle. It’s fast and will ultimately SAVE THE CLIENT A GREAT DEAL OF MONEY. On top of it, the output is spectacular and is often (surprisingly I must say) noticed by musicians.

So thank again Dorico. I will still keep your feet to the fire, but I’ll never forget that I owe you people a LOT!

Thanks for taking the time to share your positive experience, Claude. I and everybody on the team appreciate it, and find it very gratifying to know that Dorico is allowing you to get exactly the result you and your clients want and still manage to save you a lot of time.