MS4 compared to Dorico

Once I saw that MS4 was out, I downloaded to check it out. When it first was released a decade ago or so, it reminded me a lot of a Finale clone. Many similarities from note entry, etc. I never did any real work in it. Just playing around.

As time went on, I would download the newest versions when they were released to see what was happening/changing. But all that said, it was still a program I never used for any real work. Just playing around to see how well it handled certain tasks.

MS4 was released, and I saw a very well done marketing video. I thought “They have stepped this up big time!” Downloaded immediately. A lot of things are better. The app is easier to understand and clearer to use. They made a HUGE stride in the areas of user experience. But at the end of the day, to me it is still a piece of software I will never use for any real work. Maybe to just to play around to see how things looked, and how the software handles certain things. Honestly, I was more excited to see their music font at work (Leland), and as such some output of it.

I wrote a small passage, very repetitive, and copied it is 3 other staves. All worked ok. Added some accents, and realized I wanted them to default above the notes. I looked all over and could not find that anywhere. I did learn how to “flip” the accent manually, but I could not find any set of rules applying to accents and their placement. At the end of the day, is this a deal breaker? I really don’t know. For me, it kind of is. Perhaps I have been spoiled by Dorico. But looking to change something like accent placement left me looking in all kinds of menus. In some cases very well organized, in some cases not all organized. I could not find this aspect of the software. The new sounds are great for a FREE app, but I need more than just sounds to get me going.

I feel MS4 will probably get many “students” into music notation, composing etc. And in time, those students who need more, will move into a system like Dorico. I can also see MS4 adding more features in time, and arguably at a speed somewhat faster than Dorico. I only say that because I have a small feeling the development team at MS4 (contributors and full-time) is probably much larger than Dorico’s team. The list of developers in one of those videos looked like 30 or 40 strong.

But the thing that really drove the point home for me about the strength of Dorico, was not only struggling with accent placement in MS4, but after printing a small sample to see the output of the new font, I saw that I liked the way it drew slurs. I opened Dorico, and went into engraving options, and there were a TON of options for adjusting the look of slurs. Just super powerful and flexible. Which at the moment MS4 is not.



Muse Group has paid developers, but also open source volunteers. I seriously doubt the paid core team is 40 staff. It it were, they’d be at the level of Dorico 10 by now. and the bug list on the first day of release of 4.0.0. would not be dozens of pages long. Most open source developers do not work full time on their project.

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Pretty soon Steinberg is going to have to create a Discourse category for MuseScore. :slight_smile:

After the initial hype cycle diminishes, I think this will settle down into the situation with Reaper and Cubase. The existence of Reaper does not threaten Cubase, and while it is a nice piece of more or less free software, it comes nowhere near Cubase in overall terms, in my view, but it’s great for some producers.

In the same way I don’t think MuseScore 4 is going to shove Discourse aside in the forseeable future.

Amusingly @Robby_Poole I always download the newest versions of MuseScore and invariably delete them all after a day or so. So, a similar experience. My background is many years of Lilypond engraving and coding, and there is still nothing that can match the output quality and fine tuning capabilities of Lilypond. It leaves MuseScore version anything in the dust. But it’s a specialist program and not everybody can manage to write code to make scores. It’s still going strong and I am compelled to say that the development team is very active on the mailing lists and generally pay close attention and fix defects incredibly rapidly, considering how small the open source development team is. Most impressive.


You’re right that REAPER and Cubase are no threat to each other but that might be the first time that anyone has ever used the word ‘nice’ in connection with the former! REAPER is of course largely the work of one astonishingly productive man and it’s neither free nor open source (though highly extensible and customizable).

I don’t think though that it makes sense to say REAPER ‘comes nowhere near Cubase in overall terms’ since one could argue that the reverse is true. REAPER is not for everyone but for some, it’s going to be a much better fit.

MuseScore is not a tool for professionals and it’s not in the same league as REAPER or Dorico at the moment.

I’ve moved the sub-thread about open source applications with sustainable business models to a separate thread.


Hello dear colleagues,

In another thread related to the Muse Sounds I’ve already mentioned that with the release of v4 of MuseScore, we should start thinking about this program as completely different product than the previous releases.
This is the first full release under the lead of Martin Kaery, and fully dedicated core team of around 10 people most of musicians, too. Most of the features in MuseScore 4 were re-designed from scratch. As it looks like, from now on MuseScore will follow the developing model of Dorico, Sibelius, Finale… Fully dedicated team of developers and internal testers, but in addition with part-time free contributors. Actually this is the model of developing the BSD and Linux based OS’.
Yes, at the moment MuseScore can’t compete with Dorico, Sibelius and Finale about professional work and proper engraving, but probably in the next 2, or 3 years it’ll be enough powerful for professional work. No doubt the team behind MuseScore would not stop here and leave it only for beginners and hobbyists.

Actually there is something that really like in MuseScore, and I hope to see in Dorico, too. The highly customizable interface and palettes. For example I would like to be able to create (as much as I need) a separate Playing Technique sub-category (palettes) for the Keyboard instruments. To separate the various organs, harpsichords and synths (in their own categories - palettes) from the pianos. In these two aspects MuseScore is superior compared to Dorico. To some people they may sound minor strengths, but to me… they are serious strengths that shouldn’t be underestimated. :slight_smile:
By the way, Cubase also has a very customizable GUI which I really like. :slight_smile:

Best wishes,
Thurisaz :slight_smile:

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I’m not one for predictions. Que será, será .

I am fully willing to trust the highly experienced and professional Dorico development team to keep apprised of the competition and adjust their roadmap if necessary. If MuseScore surprises them at some point, we will see how they respond. I am not overly concerned.


Most of the features in MuseScore 4 were re-designed from scratch.

No, they really weren’t. I’m not in any way belittling the enormous amount of work that has been done, because rebuilding the majority of the user interface of an application the scale of MuseScore is no mean feat, but if you want to abide by the maxim that “design is how it works, not how it looks”, then it’s not at all the case that “most of the features… were re-designed from scratch.” I don’t doubt that the team over there will continue to redesign the software as development continues, but MuseScore 4 isn’t that release.


Hi Daniel,

Yes, MuseScore 4.0 isn’t at the level of the other major applications like Dorico, Sibelius and Finale, and it was released a little bit prematurely. But still we can see that the fundamentals for something serious - professional class are there. Surely many other important features will be implemented later. Version 4 is just the first real step for MuseScore towards the world of the professional scoring.
No matter that the program isn’t currently at the level of Dorico in functionality, I would keep an eye over the Martin’s work. :slight_smile:

Best regards,
Thurisaz :slight_smile:

Hate to be “that guy” but Musescore runs on Linux (no idea how well) which means further down the line presumably on android machines as well. Last I checked none of the big 3 do this, at least natively. That and the price opens it up to so many more users and to developing countries. It’s also much lower spec so what MS4 does better than Dorico is basically run on a lot of machines. As it’s no longer horrible at the job of typesetting (although admittedly not as advanced) it is now a lot more viable for a lot of applications and users…

That said - I take Dan’s point about it being Sibelius in earlier development (I would say version 3 ish) but with the remarkable difference of the sound engine and taking advantage of SMuFL. That being said early Sibelius had a huge amount of functionality - more than enough for teenage me.

I’m unlikely to use Musescore except perhaps in a pinch or as a teaching aide however I applaud their efforts to make an open source software more professional and useable, and preventing poor undergraduates from resorting to copyright crime or worse, lilypond

As a former software coder, I was O-so-happy for the Dorico team to be able to take their cumulative experience and write Dorico anew, from the ground up. That feels like “how would you like to re-live your life, but knowing what you know now?” God bless Steinberg and Yamaha. And indirectly, God bless Avid for their short-sightedness.

Dealing with legacy-code bloat is a crippling yoke. Think of MS Windows. I remember when Cubase launched a new version that was literally new code from the ground up. It took a few iterations to get all of our favorite functions back, but it was well worth it. I was happy to jump on the Dorico bandwagon early on to support the Dorico team and their vision. The progress has been nothing short of astonishing. I hope the dev team gets some time to take a breath and relax with loved ones this season.


I don’t see how “we” can see that without being intimately familiar with the MuseScore backend code. Are you?

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Sorry, I didn’t mean to take the discussion into a totally different direction. The point I forgot to add was that is sounds like MS4 has made vast improvements, but has not actually had the luxury of a total rewrite.

Hi @Derrek,

Well, if you don’t see how “we” can see… I can’t help you here.
Of course I’m not familiar with the MuseScore backend code. And I don’t need to be. It’s enough for me that I’m a bit familiar with the way of dev thinking of Martin, with whom I had many private conversations before he wasn’t hired by Muse Group. Now I’m able to what his team has achieved in version 4, which was a bit prematurely released, but still they did a great jump from version 3.6.2.
The video by Martin a.k.a Tantacrul gives enough information, plus there are some video tutorials on the MuseScore YT channel. More than enough information for one to know what to expect in the future from this piece software. That’s why I’ve said “…the fundamentals… are there.”. :slight_smile:

Best wishes,
Thurisaz :slight_smile:

Lilypond is incredible. I’ve been using it for years to do quick copy jobs. I can’t use it for orchestration or composition though, my mind can’t “hear” an orchestra score spread out over 22 different files. But it is by far the quickest way yo get notes onto a page (and MIDI into a DAW).

After what felt like 100 years working with Finale, I am very happy to be a Dorico user now and for the past 18 months or so. I have no plans to change especially because I trust the development team to continue to improve the engraving features. What I had been wondering about with MS4 are the engraving features and whether they would suffice for my students’ work.

I know that MS3 could cover the bulk of basic engraving needs, but it seemed to fall short when it came to things like fanned beams, blending elements of traditional and jazz notation, cues, etc. (To be fair, though, I should note that most of my knowledge of the features is through the lens of my students’ access to these features, and not my own first-hand knowledge.)

A few years back, when most of my students had to use Finale or Sibelius for engraving because MS was not available, they could (with some assistance) get their music to appear fairly close to professionally-prepared. My feeling is that this is an essential part of preparing a composition portfolio at the undergraduate stage. Now, most of my students use MS3 and it is simply not possible for them to get any where near good quality engraving. I often cringe at the idea that they might be sending those scores out to graduate programs or performing ensembles. So, yes, MS3 could cover the basics, but that is simply not enough for preparing students in the academic environment. I have been wondering how much MS4 has improved upon this, and my sense from reading this forum (and a bit on the MS forum) is that it has not improved enough.

I have encouraged my students to purchase Dorico, and one has. Others really want it. But most cannot afford it yet (or are not willing to shell out the cash). I will keep pushing them toward it because I think it is an important investment and worth the money, but I am not ready to require it. I suppose in a way I am disappointed that MS4 is not yet up to the task of decent engraving (from what I understand), but I guess I’m also a bit happy that we can confirm that there is a reason why Dorico exists and we all pay for it. :slightly_smiling_face:


Honestly, I think it should just be an essential musician skill for anyone who is an arranger or who directs or coordinates ensembles too. I CRINGE when I am asked to be a part of pickup groups for special events and the directors hand me terrible scores. Photocopies of photocopies of (originally bad) scores… I’m also amazed at how many notation programs have terrible defaults, and so even when directors do try and put the music into a notation program to provide a clean score, the default output is still so terrible, that it essentially was not worth the effort. One of the worst offenders always seems to be spacing. Then there are the countless arrangements that you can find on places like CPDL, where people are using these programs, but don’t know how to do so properly… And so there are bar lines intersecting lyrics and the like…

It has become very clear to me that basic scoring (and by that, I mean, basic study of what actually makes a score in terms of components, not music) needs to become a formal course of study in music schools. It is pretty obvious that most musicians take scores completely for granted, and don’t actually know a whole lot about them. Not unlike most people and cars or computers, I suppose.


Hello dear fellow Doricians,

To mention another positive of MuseScore that I would like to see in Dorico, and it’s something that I already requested long ago - Option to upload projects on Cloud. In the future releases there will be a possibility for sharing with collaborators. Would be great if we are having the same in Dorico Elements and Pro. There could be free Cloud service with limited number of projects and audio files, depending on the Dorico version we are having (less for Dorico Elements, more for Dorico Pro), and paid for larger numbers of projects and audio. Cubase and Nuendo already have this service + VST Connect/Performer.
Would be even greater if we can have VST Connect SE/Pro and Performer integrated in Dorico (in Dorico SE only VST Performer). This will allow real-time online collaboration.
I hope the team that these two features will be available in Dorico in the near future! Sometimes I really need them, especially the VST Connect in Dorico. :slight_smile:

Best wishes,
Thurisaz :slight_smile: