Playback controllers: Pencil vs. line

Why is there a pencil tool and a line tool? It looks as though they both simply plot points on a graph, so why aren’t the pencil and the eraser enough? Is there some extra functionality that comes of plotting points with one tool or the other?

Also, is there some way to fine tune plotted values besides dragging them? If I can’t actually type in values (an editable text field somewhere would be ideal), then intuitively, I should at least be able to nudge them with the cursor/arrow keys on my keyboard.

Dear Milo,
Paul Walmsley has written in another thread that there were going to be improvements in this field too, with curves… I guess when they are done with what they want to achieve, it might fill your needs.

Also the line tool is useful for overwriting a number of previous values all in one go. The draw tool is good for freehand curves.

How often am I going to need to wipe out a bunch of points like that, though? I can simply switch to the erase tool, then marquee (rectangular) select the points that I want removed.

I don’t even use the line tool, which is (apart from wiping out intervening values) the same as just using the pencil to click down two points – just less intuitive.

Sorry for the nitpick. It’s just that, as a (fellow) software engineer, I wonder about the design decisions that go into applications like Dorico, which are complex enough without adding apparently extraneous features.

No big deal, though. Sorry if I’ve come off as unappreciative, Dorico is AMAZING and I’m enjoying using it more and more!

Just as an example, here’s a problem that I recently had:

Image #1 is my original tempo (“time”) line.

Instead of a linear ritenuto, I’d decided that I wanted more of a curve, to improve the dramatic effect. Intuitively, I would expect to be able to simply introduce one or more additional vertices on the line (image #2), which would give me the control points that I need to define better the shape of the line. (I could drag them around as required, to fine tune the playback.)

Instead, when I clicked between the leftmost and lowest vertices, I got image #3. Bizarre.

Apparently, Dorico had assumed that I’d wanted an instant drop-off in time at that point, largely replacing whatever changes in tempo I had already defined, instead of allowing me to tweak what I’d laid down.

The new vertex evidently has a property indicating that it defines a stepped change (i.e. an implicit vertex before it, allowing for an instant change in tempo as opposed to a gradual one) – an unnecessarily complex and unintuitive design of the UI that could be overcome simply by limited all changes in the tempo line to explicitly and deliberately laid-down vertices (as opposed to Dorico assuming what the user wants based on whether he is drawing with the pencil or the line, and other factors).

Just my two cents.

Please bear in mind that the whole automation feature is still at a very early stage and some of the UI will inevitably undergo refinement over time. Tempo changes are difficult to handle because unlike in a DAW you are not just adding raw control points, you also may be editing existing tempo changes in the score which may be absolute (‘Adagio’, ‘q=120’, etc), relative (‘piu lento’) or gradual (‘accel’). Each one of these has different behaviours and constraints: some have one control point, some two, some have an editable start value, some don’t, some have a step change and some gradual. I agree that perhaps it’s not clear exactly how many degrees of freedom each control point will have or whether it begets a stepwise or linear change. We’ll hope to refine this in the future to make it clearer. However it’s not a simple problem because we don’t want to overload the display by having lots of different node shapes, colours or highlights in order to communicate different properties.

I’m still not clear how a succession of vertices at every change in time (as opposed to implied vertices, e.g. stepped changes) doesn’t address all of the scenarios that you mention. After all, whether a change is absolute, relative, or gradual, it still translates to an absolute result, which is the only thing that the tempo graph depicts – absolute values along a timeline. But whatever, you’re the expert, not I.

In any case, Mr. Walmsley, thank you for being patient with me; I know first-hand that the design and development of professional-quality software is very difficult work, and again, you’ve all done an incredible job with Dorico. I absolutely love it, especially with the release of version 2, which managed the dual feat of providing me with loads of useful features and elevating my confidence that as yet unresolved issues will get attention from the devs within the next couple of releases.

To me (coming from DAW’s like Logic) it also ( for what it’s worth) feels strange to have the resolution for midi controller lane lines so coarse (since it’s currently tied into the grid resolution set in the lower left for inputting note values in Write Mode, so typically 8ths, etc). I would love it if instead the default grid resolution for drawing MIDI controller lines in Play Mode could be (at least optionally) set separately (so it could be much finer and more “piano roll editing-like”). My quick two cents -

It may translate to an absolute result but it isn’t defined by it. Relative changes by definition are deltas on the prevailing tempo at that position. The tempo graph is populated automatically from the contents of the score but individual entries are editable (and also points may be added). However it still has to resolve changes that haven’t been overridden, or score items that have been added after manual edits to the graph. Hence the graph may appear to show the absolute tempo profile over time, but it’s actually showing the calculated result, after taking relative and gradual changes into account. When you make edits we have to ensure that the calculated results matches what is expected from dragging the value, so the displayed profile goes through the edited point.

It’s quite likely that we’ll have an independent grid resolution in Play Mode in the future, since it functions quite separately from the grid in Write Mode.


  • D.D.

I wonder if it might be feasible to display a greyed-out/translucent line as the default tempo for the entire score (as interpreted by Dorico). Initially, the black line indicating the user’s tweaks would conform to it, completely obscuring it.

In making manual changes to the tempo, the user would reveal the default line of muted color in those areas of the score. The black “user” line would obviously conform to the grey “default” line in all other areas of the music.

This could apply to other attributes, e.g. dynamics. It would probably even be useful to see what Dorico considers f or pp, etc., based on on the user’s settings.

Just thinking aloud.