Report on a large multiflow project. (Long)

Here is a lengthy report about a multi-flow project out in the “real world” using Dorico. It was a pleasure to do it this way. But before I discuss both benefits and issues, I feel I should give some background information first.

Every year since 1999, The Red Deer Symphony invites school children (grades 3 to 5) to sing with a small subset of the orchestra. The program is non-competitive and non invasive and the teachers, who come with various levels of training from virtually none to Master’s degrees, are encouraged to choose their own material. That material is generally music written by composers who specialize in repertoire for children; the quality is variable: anything from the latest pop tune to much more challenging short opuses by Bob Chilcott. We don’t really care either way; they can sing well, or badly; sing good music or bad music: we just want them to participate and the program is very popular.

For this, I get to orchestrate these ditties for the forces we make available to the children, namely: 1111 0100 and a small group of 7 strings. It is a separate contract, as this is not “Music Director’s work” and we want to make sure the project remains after I’m gone, since we would be likely to farm out the orchestration at that point. Doing this on Sibelius was just fine, but certain things were a bit more frustrating, especially when it came time to edit and print up to 41 of these mini-charts (38 this year, which is the average).

On the face of it, Dorico is ideal for this project as I was able to create two single files containing 22 pieces for May 1 and 17 pieces for May 8. As I have finished the May 1 book. I thought I’d share some of the advantages of this approach, which is unique to Dorico, as well as some of the remaining “opportunities” which should be addressed in the future.


  1. For the first time, the musicians will play from a binder with everything in order. Previously, I didn’t have time to put all parts in order and create Tacet sheets. The musicians put their own music in order as per instruction at the rehearsal. The book will be most welcome.

  2. Putting that binder in order was easy. We have a school order and I asked the teachers to give me the order of the two pieces they will perform. Flipping tabs around to reorder flows as that information became available while I orchestrated was a remarkable luxury.

  3. Having the whole project available at once, instead of searching and opening from a choice of 22 files, I had everything in front of me. Sometimes, as one orchestrates, we can suddenly be prompted to remember something we wish we had done in a previous chart, so having it readily available instead of maybe forgetting to do it later by opening another file was far more convenient than I would have ever thought.

  4. Engraving consistency is much easier to accomplish.

  5. The ability to edit and print the parts for all pieces at once is an enormous time-saver. The books are published double-sided and all I really had to do was remake a few frames and insert blank pages to facilitate page-turns. Editing parts for that book took me less than 30 minutes, and that was with the tacet situation and the formatting bug mentioned below. The cello will have one three page fold-out and the bass will have two of those. Those are the only bits of fancy taping I’ll have to do!


  1. Adding flows and flipping flows takes a long time.

  2. This is a known issue, but I had to make my own tacet sheets since that feature is not presently working when removing a player from a flow. I made a Master Tacet sheet and inserted it where needed once the order was confirmed. Looks like this:

  3. I have flagged a bug, which is now being looked at, about the formatting of frames (even by inserting blank pages) damaging the formatting elsewhere in the layout. 95% of the time, switching layouts back and forth would fix the issue, but sometimes a problem would “stick” and I would have to fix the odd collision manually. Looking at everything carefully in print mode is key here.

  4. In searching for my files in Sibelius, a normal Windows search works well since the title of the piece is also the filename. Moreover, Windows will “see” composers, lyrics and other text embedded in the files. I tested this with Dorico, and the text content of Dorico’s files is encrypted in such a way as to not be visible to a Windows search. This is unfortunate because I have been doing this project for 18 years and have well over 500 of these mini-charts as a result. Every time a piece is given to me by a teacher, I search to see if I have orchestrated it before, since there are always four of five of those “repeats” every season. I’m not too sure what solution I can apply here, but I’ll think of something …

  5. Navigating between such a large number flows without a “Go to” command can be a bit of a pain.

  6. In Engrave Mode, since the default first pages do not have page numbers on them, inserting a blank page can be a bit frustrating when there is a large number of single page flows side by side. That is because there is really no way of knowing which page you are on unless you start counting page numbers from the first available page that has a page number on it.

  7. Exporting a single flow to audio doesn’t seem to work, even when the play line is at the beginning of a flow. It insists in exporting the whooooole thing. Creating a focus flow for exporting audio solved that, but I feel I’m missing something …

  8. This is nothing to do with the program, but I went a bit overboard with backups since having all of that work within a single file makes one a bit more paranoid about losing all of the work at once.

  9. Similarly, but this time something Dorico should fix, there is no warning when deleting a player from a flow, even when that player might actually have some music. Deleting by mistake would delete that music. Automatic backup is great, but when dealing with such large projects the realization that something of the sort might have occurred may come too late for the auto-backups to be useful.

That is it. But on the whole, this is absolutely the way to go. There is no way I will revert to my previous software to do this project. Kudos to the team for implementing such intelligent features.

Thanks for your feedback on this project, Claude. I’m delighted that you find Dorico useful for this kind of work, and it’s a vindication of the vision that we conceived when we first set out to build Dorico nearly four and a half years ago.

In the next update, reordering and deleting flows will be much faster than it is in 1.0.30. Adding flows will still be slower than we would like, but we do plan to fix this in due course. The bug you found with inserting frame breaks causing the staff spacing in future flows to be incorrect some of the time has also been fixed already, and will not bother you further from the next update.

We plan to add dialogs to help with export operations like exporting MusicXML and audio in due course; some of this might make its way into the next update, but if not, then hopefully into the one after that.

The fact that Windows can “see” inside Sibelius files is because Sibelius has a shell extension that includes some introspection of the data within the score file format (Sibelius has a Spotlight importer that does a similar job on Mac as well). We don’t yet have anything like that for Dorico, but there’s certainly a chance that we can build something like this in future. Navigational features to skip to particular bars within a particular flow are also on our wish list for the future, of course.

For #4, is there any possibility that Dorico could (at some future date) expose the Project/Flow info data as metadata, either by default or by means of checkboxes beside the various fields (Project Title, Flow Title, Composer, etc.)?

What kind of metadata do you mean, Derrek?

Claude was talking about searching from outside Dorico for info like Composer or Title but said it was encrypted within the program. If the Dorico data file could expose such info (I suggested info entered on the Program/Flow Info screens) as metadata that the computer OS could search for, that would help solve Claude’s challenge.

(Perhaps I am using the term metadata incorrectly.)

Flow titles would be the most important. Another two years of using Dprico for this project will result in over 100 of these small charts and I won’t be able to search their titles to see if I’ve done them before.

That’s exactly what I meant when I said this:

This was a most interesting and enlightening review. Thank you!

One of the reasons that I was so intrigued by Dorico from the beginning was all of the pagination features and the ability to feature multiple movements into the same document. (As an organist I loved the idea of being able to truly create a collection or “book” of scores as one cohesive unit and control my page turns, etc.) I’m glad you were able to tackle this project this way. Give me hope for my future projects.