Reaching out to our Finale- (and Sibelius-) using friends.

This is a non-technical stream of consciousness. I view V3 as a key point in the music technology industry. Many of us have been aware that Dorico uses revolutionary approaches to notation. This leads to quantum increases in productivity and quality of output. I don’t think I’m saying anything that Dorico users have not known. Some jumped on board at V1 because they saw the vision and wanted to ride it from the ground floor. Some of us joined at V2. For me, V2 was not “complete” per se, but it did enough things so much better than the other programs, that it was worth my time to work around the things that were missing or less than ideal.

V3 is a big deal, as I see it. We all still have a few favorite features that are not in the product. But I really can’t see how anybody could objectively look at the big three commercial products (Dorico, Finale & Sibelius) and not conclude that Dorico is now miles ahead. (I’m setting MuseScore and the niche products aside because I just don’t see them appealing to the people who are still on Finale and Sibelius.)

The reason I am writing this is because we all actually have an interest in seeing the industry consolidate to some degree. I don’t predict a world where Dorico will be the only product. and would not welcome such a limited choice. But when we talk about submitting to publishing houses and collaborating with other artists, it is easier if one or two products are recognized as the de facto standards at the “high end” of the market, so to speak. Whether you feel like being a Dorico evangelist or not, chances are that you have friends that are still clinging to Finale or Sibelius, despite the fact that both products have been practically dead for the past 4 years or more.

So I guess this is a question of etiquette. There is certainly no point in attacking or criticizing anybody who still chooses to live in those other enclaves. But there could be circumstances where we honestly could be doing our colleagues a favor by helping them make the mental transition to Dorico. I have had a few discussions with some fairly sophisticated Finale users. I was surprised at how little they knew abut Dorico. I think most of them assume that if they have invested 15 or 20 years in learning a product, there is no way a different product could be worth exploring.

(I said it was a stream of consciousness, didn’t I?)

I wonder if others have found themselves in discussions recently with long-time Finale or Sibelius users. How did it go? Any advice?

And I wonder if there should be some special programs to help these long-term users get over the hump. Maybe that would be a special forum just for those who fear the magnitude of the change, or a buddy system where experienced Dorico users are paired with prospective users. Maybe an extended trial period for confirmed cross-grade candidates? Maybe something as “simple” as a cookbook that would help a Finale or Sibelius user quickly get oriented to the Dorico concept. (i.e. "If you have been doing xxx, here’s how you go about accomplishing the same thing in Dorico.)

This all makes me wonder if MusicXML has reached its use-by date, or needs a major overhaul in order to allow more complete portability of musical notation data between programs.

Also, there have been significant developments in Sibelius at least over the last few years, I’ve had about 5 releases so far this year alone. But anyway, yes Dorico has introduced some features that really stand out in the field. I just hope the structure of the program can cope with what is being asked of it and that addition of rule options for things affecting layout don’t bog down the program too much.

The people I know who use notation are all keenly aware of Dorico and either use it already or are just waiting on a couple of things to move to it. With this I think will come the publishing houses.

There is a well known saying in the scientific research community: “Progress is made one funeral at a time.”

The people who don’t want to move on from what they know aren’t important - they won’t keep buying the old products for ever. Put your effort in to converting the next generation, not the previous one IMO.

Adrien, there is an ongoing project to define a successor to MusicXML, and Daniel is one of the key members of the team.

The problem with any standard (like MusicXML) is that to get any traction it has to cater for the least common denominator of all the interested parties. So it tends to end up fossilizing what is already more of less obsolete. (I know first hand - I’ve been on such projects, not in the music field).

MusicXML is too closely tied to the way music looks, on the printed page not to what the notation means. But if you break that connection to violently in a new standard, the Sibelius / Finale / Musescore generation of notation software wouldn’t be able to do anything with the standard anyway. (If you are a Sibelius user, think what Sibelius could do, importing music described in terms of flows, layouts, and players, for example - not much I think, without a complete rewrite. Not to mention laying out the page of a score with frames.

Lack of any specific mention (other than it exists) makes me wonder if MusicXML support is much improved in 3 over 2. If not, I have little incentive to upgrade.

Oh, I’ll run the 30 day evaluation and possibly pay the $99 (I hate 30 day evals) but any notation app needs to do what I want—and Finale does already. Actually, I use Notion 6 on a lot of projects as .xml from Sibelius imports a bit better for my purposes (I blame Sibelius).

I admit that I have special needs (which you don’t know so please don’t speculate) that make note entry in Dorico pretty useless to me. That’s ok. I don’t need one app to do everything but they do need to talk to each other. Those who pooh-poo MusicXML because of Dorico 2’s poor implementation have no idea how powerful it is, especially 3.1, the current version.

By not touting 3’s improved handling of xml, I suspect it’s just as bad as 2. Hope I’m wrong.

I’ve thought about this and here is the big problem I have noticed. You mention the ‘mental transition’ and I think this is precisely where the problem is. The people who “give up” immediately say it is because Dorico is unintuitive and too much work to do simple things they could do in their old software. I feel this is often due to not understanding how much their own mental programming is impacting their views. It seems like the brain creates a ‘mental map’ of certain software - it is almost like it rewires itself and programs itself to work with the software.

Case in point: a common issue with IT people who work with a DOS and UNIX command line often: typing dir (the DOS command to get a file list) at a UNIX prompt or typing ls (the UNIX command to get a file list) on a DOS prompt. The brain has a tendency to conflate anything that looks like a command line with the same ‘mental map’. It is possible, if you work with both on a regular basis, to separate them into different maps, but this only happens if you go back and forth a lot. Usually with notation software, we pick one program and stick with it.

So, when we switch notation software programs, what happens? Our brain tries to take the ‘mental map’ it made of the old notation software program and apply it to the new notation program. The result is that the new program feels unintuitive and frustrating simply because it isn’t what you are used to.

For users who are switching, they have to be warned in advance to expect the following:

  • The program will seem unintuitive at first only due to their brain trying to understand it with the same ‘map’ it applies to their current software
  • It will take at least 80 hours of work in the new program to adjust their old mental programming to the new program - learning all the shortcuts etc.
  • Prior to the 80 hours, it will take more time (and early on, substantially more time) to get things done in the new program vs. the old one, and so it will be very tempting to give up
  • After their ‘mental map’ is reprogrammed, the old software they used will quickly start to feel unintuitive (I find it hard to do things in Sibelius anymore because I keep pressing Dorico hotkeys etc.)

If you are migrating programs, you have to be prepared in advance for the productivity hit you will take in learning how to do things the new way. It will take longer to do simple things, you will spend time having to Google how to do things you could just do with a button press before. I don’t think it is a good idea for someone to pick a new piece with a deadline as an opportunity to switch. It is better to wait until you don’t have anything pressing due and spend some time just engraving things and figuring out how to use functions you normally use. Patience is also important - if something seems initially like it will take longer in Dorico, it might be that there is some feature you haven’t discovered yet and and therefore you may incorrectly assume the program is not able to do something well.

All in all, I think reasonable expectations would help. People who give up on Dorico often expect that they will just need a few hours of experience and they will be off and running, but that just isn’t realistic.

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That is a brilliant (and accurate, I think) analysis of what what causes many new Dorico users to get confused prematurely. I myself was so ‘wired into’ the Sibelius model that when I first bought Dorico at the beginning, I too found it unintuitive. But only for about three days! Once I read and absorbed Daniel’s design philosophy, and watched him do a live demo of the application, all that confusion just melted away. All new people have to do is give it a chance. When they are too impatient to do so it’s their loss.

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Except that “Dorico is unintuitive and too much work to do simple things”, especially note entry.

Ok, once you get past that, 3 is now supposed to be the high art for layout and publication. Maybe, we’ll see. Despite all the early praise from fanboys, the jury is still out on that. Maybe it is—that will be nice.

Problem is that most uses of notation software is not for layout and publication. Users like I need to exchange files with everyone from hobbyists using MuseScore to show arrangers using Finale (Finale’s strengths in that situation should not be underestimated).

Lastly, until Dorico makes a big push into the education market, it will be no more than a niche product for those in the know. Pros use the apps they used in college if they do everything needed. My kid grey up with Finale and won’t look at anything else—doesn’t have the need and doesn’t care what anyone thinks. Publishers are fine with it.

Bottom line as of now. No one I exchange files with uses Dorico. None of the schools I deal with use it. Dorico doesn’t have to be as good or better than Finale and Sibelius (and 2 certainly wasn’t), it has to play nice with the other children.

So am I going to need to wait for Dorico 4 or what?

I don’t disagree that XML is important. I use it nearly every day.

But every single one of my collaborators and clients uses Dorico, including a major publisher who just came on board two months ago. It’s also making inroads in the film scoring and VGM market.

I know several educational institutions who are coming on board, outfitting all their tech labs with Dorico. More and more professors are allowing students to submit assignments in Dorico.

The Composer’s Toolbox published a pretty interesting survey last month of several hundred music notation users within the CT community. I think something like 50% of F and S users were strongly considering switching programs within the next six months. The overwhelming program of choice? Yup, you guessed it.

You’re right that people will tend to stick with what they use in college. The people that pick up Dorico most quickly, in my experience, are college freshmen who haven’t used any notation program before. It’s coming.

MusicXML has its uses, but it isn’t particularly useful to me personally. I work with lots of modern scores with aleatoric notation etc. MusicXML has no good way of interpreting anything like that - if is something very traditional (classical era etc) or film music or something more commercial then it can be very helpful of course. But if I receive a score that is chock full of extended techniques, and very little traditional notation, MusicXML is really of limited value in interpreting it.

I find Dorico note entry just fine, and before Dorico I worked in Musicator, then Finale, then Sibelius.

Certainly I think it is important for Steinberg to make a big push in education. Like you and dankreider I agree about people tending to stick with the apps they used in college.

Finale I think is secure for the foreseeable future in terms of its core base - too many publishing companies use it as the standard, too many established composers are so used to it that they wouldn’t even consider using anything else. However, given the way things have been, I am expecting Sibelius to be discontinued in ~5 years time. Avid doesn’t really seem to care about the product, and the Sibelius base isn’t as solid as Finale’s. If Avid continues to show that they don’t care by forcing yearly subscriptions in exchange for a few token surface features, users are not likely to stick with it in the long term and will jump ship (mainly to Dorico, I should think).

For me, the justification to composers who use Sibelius is really this: Sibelius is probably not going to exist a decade from now (my own opinion, but I think it has basis in reality). If you write a piece in 5 years that is your magnum opus, and someone 5 years later really wants to perform it but wants an instrument swapped or some other minor changes, what do you do? If you stuck it out with Sibelius too long, and the product is discontinued and can no longer run on a modern computer, you re-engrave it from scratch. What should be an hour of work becomes days of note entry and proofreading. Who wants to be stuck with that?

I just did a quick MusicXML export / import from Sib to Dorico 3.

I think it looks overall a lot better than when I’ve done this in the past, however it lost the tempo and all pizz / arco (stripped).

I’ve been told that stripping unknown stuff was fixed in 2.2, but clearly not.

Extra painful too, when you have to click on the pizz button for each note (can’t just select 5 staves and click on pizz). I have to say I really like and heavily use Sibelius multi-stave editing features.

Playback in Dorico is odd too, it insists on shortening the last note under a slur. Sigh. No matter what playback timing options I choose. So I can’t make it sound right, which makes it a non-starter for mock-ups for me. Oh well at least Dorico is moving rapidly and it will get there eventually!

You can do this now. Press enter to activate the caret. Shift-down arrow to select the staves below. Shift-P and type pizz. and press enter. You get pizz. on all those staves at once.

adrien, a couple things regarding XML import.

  • playing techniques don’t import, that’s correct. Not really Dorico’s fault; they’re just a completely different thing in Sibelius.
  • tempos should not be lost. I wonder about your import settings in Preferences.

Really??? A 3.0 feature?

Edit: ah, of course. The new multi-staff input. Brilliant.

ok thanks!

Also I tried again but with exporting using dolet. This time it transferred over the tempo. But still stripped pizz / arco. Dorico REALLY needs to not do this, it adds all sorts of problems to make sure we get them all back in the right place etc etc. I feel like I’m banging my head against a wall this is about the 5th time I’ve complained about that problem.

Playing techniques will never be accurately conveyed using XML, and this isn’t Dorico’s fault.

I understand that playing techniques in Sibelius are just text.

But Dorico needs to stop making this our problem when it’s perfectly capable of fixing it. Even importing it as text would be 10000% better because at least then I would know WHERE I need to put them back in. Stripping is insane. Eventually they will discover I’m right about this and fix it.

Have you explored the import options? There is the option to import text objects. Might work.

Now my previous comment about “that’ll never happen” may end up sounding a bit silly. Who knows.

I’ll take a look thanks for the pointer

I turned on importing text items. Made no difference. Turns out it’s not exported as text but directions.


SURELY Dorico can make use of this. It’s not like pizz is some arcane never-seen directive.