Note entry by pitch first, then length

I like to be sure that I’m playing the correct note before entering it into the score. Finale is what I’m familiar with, and this is possible by using this sequence:

  1. Play note(s) on the midi keyboard.
  2. Press number key representing the desired note length, while keeping the midi keys pressed.
  3. (optional) press keys that modify the note, such as adding a tie or a dot.

All of the instructions about note entry for Dorico that I’ve found use the opposite sequence: set the note length and options before pressing a pitch. This means that if entering a wrong note, one must immediately edit those notes.

Is it possible to support the Pitch-then-length note entry sequence? If not, is there an easy workflow for making on-the-fly pitch adjustments during note entry?

I’m just today starting to explore Dorico, and it seems to have a very nice combination of learnability and power. Looking forward to learning more about it during this 30 day trial. Thanks in advance for any tips you folks can point me to!

Try this thread for starters:

And then read up on Lock Duration (using shortcut L), which allows you to overtype the pitches of existing music.

@pianoleo, Thank you for the topic link and suggestion to use Lock Duration. That will definitely make editing easier.

And the topic link (Pitch before duration) was helpful too. It definitely lets me know that this has been discussed and decided. But it still left me wondering something. The gist of the answers were along the lines of “Trust us, the Dorico way is better. We’ve really thought it through and we promise you’ll prefer it over time.” So the question I’m left with is: are there some writings online regarding what the reasons for the enforced duration-before-pitch note entry method? I’m sure there are good reasons, but I would like to know what they are.

I’ve used Dorico exclusively now for the past five months, sometimes as much as six hours a day. Switching from Finale was one of the best decisions of my professional career. Dorico’s interface and workflow are a perpetual delight to use. The final product is elegant and bold. And I’m as big an advocate as anyone I know for learning the “Dorico” ways of entering score elements and tweaking them.

But I have to be honest, I haven’t been able to adjust to Dorico’s order for note entry. I’ve tried, repeatedly. But I miss pitch-before-duration. The reverse is baffling to me, and it makes writing piano accompaniments a daily difficulty. Yes, I’m aware there are many ways to turn note input on and off, but it simply isn’t the same. I’m constantly entering notes by accident when I think I’m just doodling. I can’t get into a workflow when I’m working on a piano score that requires constant experimentation. I continue to prefer Finale’s model of pitch+duration.

I hope there is consideration of offering this option in the future. Either way, I’m committed to Dorico. But I appreciate the opportunity to voice this request to the team.

I’ve the same problem: hearing the pitch first and then entering the duration feels more natural to me. The only exception is when I need to enter runs, for which I use Finale’s ‘MIDI Step Input’. Just press CapsLock followed by a note value, and play the runs as fast as possible! I’m still tempted to enter my notes in Finale and XML them into Dorico. This also goes for Finale’s metatools which are still the fastest way of entering dynamics and articulations (with the exception of the 8 articulations which can be entered on the fly in Dorico using a single keypress).

I appreciate the other comments here from people who have used Dorico quite a bit. It’s good to know that I’m not alone in this preference, and that note entry may never actually feel as natural as in other apps. In a future thread I may make an actual feature request and a good use case for this feature, but for now I’m content knowing the current state of things. There are plenty of other aspects that are important to me, and I think I should get more familiar with this software before starting to ask for more. Thanks for all the responses!

We haven’t ruled out alternative note entry methods for the future as we know that many people do like the pitch first method.

That’d make quite a difference to me and, apparently, a number of other users. I was also wondering if there are any plans yet to improve lyric input. It’d be really handy to be able to take a digital text (like a libretto or song text), syllabify it in one of the websites dedicated to this (or to do it in a text editor) and then ‘pour’ it under the notes in Dorico. Having to type everything in takes more time and increases the chance of typos.

Yes, this is planned for the future.

Happy to hear you say that but also content to wait until it (whether lyrics or pitch-before-duration or both) reaches the top of the roadmap.
Thank you, Daniel & Team.

Very nice to see pitch-first note entry is on the roadmap!

If I read that correctly, what Daniel was saying is on the roadmap is improvements to lyric entry, including a batch lyric entry tool. I don’t think he was commenting specifically on pitch-first note entry.

That said, a few comments up, Paul said

We haven’t ruled out alternative note entry methods for the future as we know that many people do like the pitch first method.

I think there’s a good chance we’ll see this feature at some point, and many users will be thrilled to have it (myself included, Finale convert that I am), but I don’t think it’s as certain as being on the roadmap…

Unless I read everything completely wrong.

You’re probably right, snakeeyes021. I have downgraded my expectation from “on the roadmap” to “under consideration”.

It’s been discussed elsewhere with more certainty, though I can’t recall where.

I think it’s almost certain we’ll add it: I’m just not sure when. My reason for equivocation is that back in the old days at the other place, we went to some lengths to add support for pitch-before-duration input in the last major version of Product A before we were kicked to the curb, in the hopes that it would result in a greater number of Product B users switching to our product, but it didn’t really move the needle. Perhaps by that stage Product B users had all made up their mind about Product A by that point and it was too late. But it’s not an insignificant amount of work to implement it, which means the opportunity cost is also not insignificant, which in turn means that some other things won’t get done and will be kicked down the road if we choose to work on this.

I’ll add my voice to the request for a pitch first option. Particularly as a pianist writing piano parts it’s a huge advantage being able to noodle before entering pitches. Also for a pianist trying to work out guitar voicing too. It’s not quite as big of an issue when entering notes in single line instruments, although sometimes I do want to play the line I’m about to enter first for sure, but certainly for piano parts it would be most welcome. For now, I just have to remember that Escape and Return will work as a way in and out of note entry. But it’s nice to hear that it’s on the agenda… at some point.

FWIW - Finale is my “native tongue”, so to speak, and having later learned Sibelius and now Dorico I can say with confidence that making the switch from Finale to Dorico is quite a bit easier for some reason than it was from Finale to Sibelius. I could never really wrap my head around Sibelius completely. It just seems that Finale and Sibelius are farther apart than Finale is to Dorico, (or maybe that’s not true, maybe it’s just that Dorico is generally easier to learn than Sibelius?), for that reason I’m curious if the prospect of people transitioning will be better for Dorico than it was for Sibelius. Also Sibelius had been out for quite a long time before they tried pitch first entry as a way of luring Finale users over, it was a decent attempt, but I think that ship had sailed so to speak for Sibelius; the program had been out for long enough; it’s likely that the people who were gonna make the switch had already done so and the people that had decided to stick with Finale had already decided… pitch first note entry or not.

Anyway, pitch first entry for me isn’t really about… “oh, I’m just used to it”… it’s truly about the writing process for me (and probably a lot of other people too), I’m just a noodling kind of guy. It’s how I write music with pencil and paper too, play something at the piano, figure it out, then write it. Some guys are great at just picking up a pencil and going to town on a blank manuscript paper… not me! lol

As a Finale user who tried a demo of Sibelius (somewhere around version 6, I think), the lack of pitch-before-duration was a non-starter for me. Although I hope to see this added to Dorico down the road, your progress so far adds compensating advantages SIbelius 6 did not.

It’s not just pitch first versus rhythm first. There are psychological limits to pieces of information stored in short-term memory. Duration, extension dot, accidental, tie, triplets etc are all input before the pitch finally displays a result. Pitch first (at least in F…) allows you to hold or select pitch, hit duration, see result… then add extension dot etc.

I take the point about wanting to noodle around before you commit yourself to entering a note, but for a string of equal note lengths, “pitch before duration” needs about twice as many key presses as “duration before pitch”, because duration (and many of the other things steveparker mentioned) can usefully be “sticky” for several notes, but pitch can not.

Since note entry is an unavoidable task, once you optimise the workflow in a program to the point where note entry is the only task you have to do (because everything else is automatically correct) that matters for productivity. Of course it doesn’t matter much in Finale, because you have to do a huge amount of other work on the score after note entry anyway!

For a long string of equal-duration notes, Finale provided Caps lock. Press it and go.