Song Book similar to Ralph Towner Solo Works

I currently have about 100 original pieces that I created in Sibelius 7.1. I would like to migrate the pieces into Dorico and then format them so that they become a song book. I would like to replicate the format used in Ralph Towner, Solo Guitar Works, Volume 1, published by Guitar Solo Publications ( (ISBN 0-9717278-0-5). The basic format is title page, introduction pages, table of contents, then each piece has a separate title and short summary or description, the piece follows. Towner’s book is for solo guitar but I would also want to include pieces written for guitar, piano and complete arrangements, too, depending on the piece. How difficult would this be construct in Dorico. I have limited experience with Dorico. Any guidance or suggestions would be very much appreciated.

In theory it’s a piece of cake. Export your Sibelius files as MusicXML files (there’s a Convert Folder of Sibelius Scores to MusicXML plugin that can speed this up). My advice is that you also export them all as PDFs so you can easily cross-reference the original printed material against the MusicXML you import into Dorico.

Then import the MusicXML files into Dorico, all into the same project. There’ll likely be some tidying up to do. Each MusicXML file will come in as a separate Flow.

Once you’ve tidied up the semantics of the music (ensuring dynamics are in the right place, that stem directions and voices are correct, that any missing text has been added and any errors have been corrected), you can worry about formatting the thing.

I’d imagine that some of your pieces will take up more than one page, while others may be shorter than a page. You have a decision to make as to whether you’d like flows (aka pieces in your case) to always begin on a new page or continue straight after the previous one. There’s a setting for this in Layout Options.

For the titling at the top of each song you’d typically use a Flow Heading. These, again, are controlled from within Layout Options, and can be customised in Engrave mode (assuming you’re using Dorico Pro).

The great thing about Flows is that if you decide you want to change the order of your pieces, or add or remove pieces, you can do this in Setup mode (or even from the Project Info dialog, Cmd/Ctrl-I) and Dorico will basically fix the formatting around the changed order. It won’t be absolutely perfect - you might find that page turns need fixing, for instance - but it’s a real step up from Sibelius 7.1 in this regard.

Thank you very much. When I’ve imported MusicXML files, I found they always require cleanup. Chord names in particular. Otherwise, the music seems to come through pretty clean. Thanks again.

How many flows can Dorico support? That is, how large and complex can a single Dorico file be before it becomes unstable? How much editing can be done to this file before it becomes unstable? Is this an issue with Dorico?

It’s a bit of a “how long’s a piece of string” situation, unfortunately. Some of it depends on what you’re throwing at Dorico by way of manual overrides, but some of it depends on how capable a computer you’re using.

I’ve definitely worked on projects with north of 100 very short flows (educational exercises and examples) without any perceptible slowing, but if you come up against issues then the following things seem to help:

  1. Get the semantic (Write mode) fixing done first. If need be, you can work on each piece in a separate layout, then bring them into a single layout later.
  2. Only keep one layout open at a time. If you open and close multiple tabs, Dorico will keep updating each of them behind the scenes until you close and reopen the project itself.
  3. Do whatever formatting work you can with each flow (piece) starting on a new page. This reduces the amount of thinking Dorico needs to do when you fiddle with the casting off (system breaks etc.) in individual flows.

Thank you. Very helpful.

Is it possible to create a Table of Contents, which connects the page numbers to the different pieces in a song in Dorico? How about an index, a bibliography? Are these items on the drawing board if not currently possible?

You can achieve all sorts with a combination of tokens and layout frames, if you so wish - here’s an example:

For tokens that refer to the first page on which a particular flow starts, see the tokens list here (in particular scroll down to table 5).

Thank you. Very helpful.