Suggestions for playback engine

Late last week Overture 5 (by Sonic Scores) was officially released. Although the engraving is not quite at the level of Dorico or Sibelius, the playback engine has interesting features that I would love to see in a future version of Dorico.

In a nutshell:

  • you can assign each stave to any VST you like, and set midi channels, assign CC controls
  • there’s a parallel piano roll where you can manually adjust the midi notes, and edit CC control envelopes
  • you can program all text / expressions / dynamics text in your score, either globally, or per staff / project

Below is a short youtube video by film composer Evan Evans which goes into the latter. The key here is that it’s pretty straight forward to program Overture such that it will work with whatever VST you are using (there are so many of them, and all are programmed differently, so trying to come up with an expression mapping for all of them is a mission impossible - just leave that up to the users; with maybe pre-mapping only for the Halion orchestra and sounds).


Considering that it appears to be mainly the work of one man, Overture 5 looks very good. I was a user of 4 in the days when it was the only software to support VST’s. When Sibelius finally got in on the act, I switched as it had more overall features and was more stable even though it was often (and still is) often rather unituitive. Trying out the demo for version 5, it was not long before it crashed and now I don’t seem to be able to open any existing score without a crash.

The features you listed, especially the piano roll where you can adjust CC messages, dynamics etc is desperately needed in Dorico. If it simply matches what you can do in Cubase Elements, then I will be happy. I hope this will come sooner rather than later. Dorico does have a head start in having at least partial support for expression maps though until the one for VSL is properly implemented and working, I guess I will have to stay with Sibelius. I agree that you can’t provide expression maps for every VST but the 3 or 4 top ones should at least be supported with a straightforward way of programming the rest as seems to be the case in Overture 5 (though advanced, library specific articulations are actually missing in some cases with no ability to add more as a recent post in the Overture forum has pointed out)

I’m pretty sure that Dorico is the future-- indeed for many who are less concerned about the playback side of things, it’s already the present. I fear that Overture will, once again, have too many bugs to be really usable without much frustration but I’ll probably keep an eye on it in case Dorico progresses slower than expected!


We are aiming pretty high for the standard of playback in Dorico, however that is a very long road, and finding the balance between the full auto behaviour that many users need, and the very fine-grained control required by pro users is a challenge. It’s a huge project and we’ll be taking it a step at a time, but in the shorter term we aim to support things like independent routing of voices, routing a single voice to different VSTs depending on the playing technique, improved piano roll editing and some degree of control over dynamics as an automation lane.

We have got our eye on what we need to do to get the best out of the big libraries such as VSL, as well as having full auto modes that work with HALion or other plugins such as NotePerformer. Our guiding principle though is the same as it is for the notation features: we want to take the time to do it properly, so we’ll avoid rushing functionality in.

All we need really is Midi Out and the ability to define our own playing techniques …

I’d rather, as Peter says, Steinberg takes its time and gets things right. With luck it shouldn’t be too long before a level is reached which enables me to make the switch! And from there I’m sure things will just get ever better.

Midi out is work in progress, and hopefully will be in place for the next update. Defining your own playing techniques has a lot of potential complexity to it, but it’s likely to be something we’ll look into as part of our more general work to improve playing techniques.

Paul, when you say Midi out will hopefully be in the next update, meaning this upcoming before the end of June update?

Yes, that is the hope.