Questions about "Flows" and other nonstandard terms

Having used Dorico regularly for a couple years already, I still can’t seem to get my head around the idea of “Flows.” Could the folks at Steinberg perhaps offer an explanation as to how they came up with their nonstandard terminology so that some of us can better work with the program?

Because of the confusion that nonstandard terms can create, even after using Dorico for quite some time, it’s still a question how best to organize, say, a volume of sonatas, each of which contains multiple movements. Is each sonata a “flow,” or each movement? Or can “flows” contain “sub-flows”?

Maybe the developers can create a “best practices” series of workflows, or templates, such as for “multi-movement sonata,” “songbook,” “collection of pieces,” and the like?

Or maybe Steinberg could come up with a simple cheat sheet for their unique vocabulary, including nonstandard terms such as “Flows” and “Master Pages,” Master Page Sets," etc., to translate them to general musical terms that every musician understands? Such a diagram could also include the scope of these terms—such as the counterintuitive revelation that “Master Pages” and even “Master Page Sets” reside within a score.

The concepts are well-explained at the start of the Help pages, under “Design Philosophy and higher-level concepts”.

Most of the terms come from Desktop Publishing: a text ‘flow’ is a continuous block of text that can be ‘poured’ into one or more text frames (boxes), so the contents flow from one frame to the next, as size requires. Master Pages are template pages on which the pages of the document are based. (In audio, a ‘master’ is a recording from which copies are made.)

In Dorico, a Flow is a continuous section of music, discrete from other such flows. The music flows from one music frame to the next. There is no concept of hierarchical flows, i.e. sub-flows. So, for your anthology of sonatas examples, you would create each movement as a separate flow, and then create new Master pages or Flow Headings for the starts of each piece, and apply them to the relevant pages.

Master Pages reside within the project document, and they can be applied to a Layout, which may be a Score or a Part, or something else. Scores and Parts have separate Masters.

For me, Dorico’s use of Flows and the separation of the music from its appearance are two of the main features that attracted me. You can create zero or 100 different layouts from the same music, using any of the Players and any of the Flows in each Layout. This makes producing scores and parts for complete opera scores, hymn books, anthologies and other works almost effortless.

I think that aef110 doesn’t criticise the concept itself. The logic of Dorico is one main reason for all of us to work with it, I guess.

What irritates is the titeling. »Movement«, »piece«, etc. would be better terms than »flow« – in a musical sense. Here I agree with aef110 – as well as with the idea of sub-flows.

One example from the german translation: In Dorico »flow« is translated with »Partie«. »Partie« in musical terms means part or role. »She sings the part of Pamina.« translated: »Sie singt die PARTIE der Pamina.« So, in german »Partie« is a quite irritating choice, too.

I agree with benwiggy when it comes to master pages or frames. These are standard concepts of desktop publishing programs. And Dorico clearly has a foot in the door of DP.

I disagree that Flows should be named ‘movements’. All movements might be flows, but not all flow might be movements.

What are text flows called in German DTP manuals?

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“Flows” is intentionally unspecific.
A flow can be a song, a movement, a piece, a dance break, an educational example, a single note for a footnote etc.

Pepinello’s use case may be flow = piece or flow = movement. Last week I was coaching someone who works exclusively with lead sheets, and the discussion of flows came up. He would have been miffed if Dorico referred to each of his charts as “pieces” or “movements”.

I understand your argument, benwiggy. But I also understand the argument of aef110. As long as it doesn’t come to engrave mode Dorico has nothing to do with a desktop publishing program. Personally I can handle the english DP terms in context with Dorico.
I know, that movement etc are bad terms, too. But I don’t know any better ones.

I just know, that in german »Partie« is definitely misleading. Beside this all the tokens are still in english. It took a while to find out, that e.g. »Partieüberschrift« and »flow title« are the same. So if you want to insert a title for your »Partie«, the token is {@flowtitle@}

text flow = Textfluss
body text = Fließtext

Well, I’d have to disagree that the concepts are well-explained in the Help pages because they’re missing the single most important point of all—but your explanation was exactly what I’ve needed this whole time.

Your second point is for me the key that allows me to understand the whole concept:

Most of the terms come from desktop publishing.

Nowhere do the Help pages mention that these are terms used in desktop publishing.

If Steinberg is reading, please do add this seemingly small detail to the introduction. It may seem trivial, but it’s actually (at least for people like me) the single most important point that lets us understand Dorico’s design philosophy.

I’m guessing most of Dorico’s user base consists of musicians and music teachers who aren’t well-versed in desktop publishing. As a musician, if I were asked to group pieces of music, songs, movements, and the like under a single term, in a million years “flows” would never occur to me because it’s not a musical term. This is why the concept seemed so abstract and strange to me, and as a result it’s been hard to determine what should be a “flow.”

But now that Ben kindly pointed out that this term comes from desktop publishing, I can suddenly grasp the concept easily. Rather than thinking in purely musical terms (“I need to typeset a four-movement sonata”), I need to think of Dorico more as desktop publishing software that happens to output sheet music.

If the Steinberg team is listening, please do add mention of this seemingly trivial fact to the Help pages since it’s really the key to understanding the whole concept and learning to work with Dorico. This is the light bulb :bulb: without which we mere musicians are in the dark.

A agree. But I wanted to mention, that in german Dorico »Partie« (=flow) is a wrongly used musical (!) term. Partie is no DTP term.
But I understand aef110. If you don’t have any experience with DTP, the terms are crazy.

My vote is on Flows. At first I was put off by the new term, but after a few months of use it makes perfect sense. I like classical, my son likes newer music, and we jam together, and I also write music for our game company. So I write switching forms constantly, and the term fits perfectly. Yesterday for example I worked on the following flows

  • A lead sheat for my son
  • An asset for the game (a layered piece for location L01-S02-C03-A22-FightOrFlight, that’s Level, Scene, etc)
  • A longer structured work for the opening (common period based, ABA kind of thing)
  • An analysis of the Death Star music

What fits all of that? Flow.

Subflows and the like is fine I guess, but I think it’s over complicating it. Any structure imposed on the work other than “A project is composed of Flows” is up to me. And given the fluid nature of some of the things I work on, if Dorico gave me more options I’d be tempted to use them but it probably wouldn’t’ be a good idea. For example a game loops. Each Flow is a loop, easy, and they string together in Flow order. Music is a linear progression in time which Flows imply. What does sub Flow mean? This isn’t a TOC, it’s chapters in a book.

If you want it documented better you could ping Lillie.

I’ll make a note to look at this, as yes I think there could be a bit more information about music flowing through frames on this topic that would then help link up the idea of flows to master pages and frames. That said, we deliberately included quite a few examples of what a flow could be in specifically musical terms to help demonstrate real use-cases, including “a movement in a sonata or symphony”.

As for recommended “best practices”, flows is probably where I’d personally be most hands-off! They’re intended to be flexible, versatile, and free - a flow can contain a single semiquaver note or 600 bars. You can have one flow that contains a single piece, then 20 flows that demonstrate specific bits of notation for the introductory pages, but only show the main piece in the master page frame chain. If you want to have a single flow for a whole sonata and use system text or whatever to mark the separate movements, and that feels more comfortable than having 4 flows per sonata in a project containing multiple sonatas, then go right ahead :slight_smile:

Thanks to everyone for their helpful responses, and especially to Lillie from Steinberg. Now I’m really starting to understand the concept of “Flows” in Dorico.

Just to be clear, now that I just learned that “flow” is a term used in desktop publishing which the Dorico designers borrowed, I’m not suggesting that it should be replaced by anything else.

The missing puzzle piece is this fact: “Flow” is a term used in desktop publishing. As stupidly simple as it may sound, this the necessary bit of information that allows us musicians to grasp this whole foundational concept on which Dorico is built. Only once we know this can we think of Dorico in terms of desktop publishing rather than just music, and hence use Dorico most effectively.

Please do add this to the manual! :slight_smile:

Yeah as Lillie said, “Flow” especially starts making sense when you get into engraving mode frames/frame chains, master pages and such (Pro). From the musical standpoint Flows are strings of musical sub documents. But in Frames, musical content flows from one to another in the frame chain. And a page is a flow of frames in another sense, as you add graphics and text. Do text frames also follow the same rules that musical frames do, where they are part of chains? Wouldn’t be surprised.

This video by Anthony shows how music flows through the frames

Text can’t automatically be flowed through text frame chains, but a quick search of the key commands dialog indicates that this may one day be on the cards.

“Flow” is unfortunate, since it is unknown term for to most users. However, the alternatives: “sections” or “parts” are already taken as standard musical terms. It’s good when standard musical terms are not redefined, as, for example, the use of “voice” to sometimes mean a whole chord, when there’s already a desktop publishing term for the concept: “layer”.

But as said elsewhere, if they used a standard term it would have implications on the structure which may not be applicable. “Section” and “Part” doesn’t fit for some of the work I do. “Blob” would have worked as well and I think captures the idea - these are just “Blobs” of music which are strung together :smiley: Tongue in cheek, but if you were writing a book on music and use illustrative examples, “blob” does work because you primarily have text with music blobs scattered about, but is silly, so Flow is a good choice really.

I’m not sure I follow. Ted Ross used the term “voices” to describe two chords on the same stave with opposing stem directions in 1970, long before desktop publishing came along. I’m pretty sure that a piano teacher with no experience of music notation software told me to “bring out that voice” in the early mid 90s. Are you suggesting that “layer” is a more appropriate term?

It sounds as if your quibble is with the translator.
What is the German term for “segment”?

I don’t think I was ever taught the word ‘rastral’ in music lessons. It’s something I came across as I studied music engraving.

I think it is unwise to assume or recommend that every term in notation software stems from the sphere of music itself. There will inevitably be words from printing, engraving, design, and even borrowed metaphors.

Users have had to learn terms like font, typeface, point – the fact that they are traditional words from typesetting is largely a curiosity.

Doesn’t Gould call them voices too? If borrowing from DTP software, layers are already a familiar concept to anyone who uses Adobe products, but Finale calls them layers so perhaps the developers purposefully wanted to go with something different. Finale also has a mechanism where you can switch between voice 1 and 2 in each layer that is less commonly used as layers are easier to work with, but voices do exist in Finale too. I’m fine with Dorico calling them voices.

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All the same, at the very least we need to be told where to look. The point is that many of us—and I’m hardly the only one, judging from the comments—were trying in vain to conceive of standard musical concepts as some vague, abstract “Flow.” It seems practically anything and everything can be a “Flow.” “Flow” is even capitalized… is “Flow” zen? Do we have to get into the “Flow”?

If you Google “flow,” the results page shows a program called Microsoft Flow for creating workflows. The software was even renamed to Microsoft Power Automate, presumably because “Flow” was too vague for Microsoft. There are then many results for the term in psychology, as well as a café and a shop near me named “Flow,” etc.

The Dorico manual fails to mention that its use of “Flow” is borrowed from desktop publishing. Instead, we assume it must be some made-up term for music. If I practice a Mozart sonata, am I learning a “Flow”? Or is a movement of a sonata itself a “Flow”? Am I performing three “Flows”? How do I teach “Flows” to my music students?

Only once we know that “flow” is a desktop publishing term can we even go in search of the missing information. Google “desktop publishing flow” and we can immediately fill in the blanks. But without knowing that we’re even supposed to look for it in the context of desktop publishing, we’re totally lost, and Dorico becomes “too hard.”

Hopefully Steinberg can take this into account so users can benefit.