Understanding best workflow for Dorico -> Cubase export (and the reverse) with VST, expression maps

Hello – sorry if this is a repeat question but I was looking for an up-to-date best-practices answer.

Two questions:

  1. If I have a score in Dorico, what’s the best way to export the MIDI for use in Cubase, assuming I’ll be using some sample library VST other than those built in with Dorico? E.g. I’m using Cinematic Studio Strings/solo strings/woodwinds, etc. I saw a post on expression maps for using these in Dorico (but haven’t tried this yet). But if I want to export to Cubase and get things to work properly there, what do I need to do? In this library I can use either key switches or a particular CC value for each articulation etc.

Previously I tried exporting to Cubase but I was using HALion in Dorico and Cinematic Studion in Cubase, so I ended up with all sorts of CC messages that weren’t right.

  1. Vice versa, if I record MIDI in Cubase and then want to import to Dorico, what’s the best workflow for that process?

I’m just starting out, looking forward to any basic advice to avoid reinventing the wheel.

Dorico should export the keyswitches when you export the MIDI, so if you get your expression maps set up so the articulations sound correct in Dorico and you export and import into Cubase it should sound the same. You may find you may need to make some of your own expression maps, as the quality of user expression maps can vary significantly.

Also, some libraries are more Dorico-friendly than others, so I usually tend to try to stick with the more Dorico-friendly libraries where possible. What I mean by this is not necessarily what expression maps it comes with, but how much finessing you have to do to get a reasonable product, and also things like a2, a4 and a6 recordings can’t be triggered by Dorico (without workarounds like hidden additional techniques) as it expects to just get several soloists, like you get with the four individual horns and three individual trumpets in Berlin Brass.

What I do is have my Vienna Ensemble Pro 7 project that hosts all my instruments that I use in both programs, with the same template. That way I can keep all my mix settings, with inserts, sends, etc. for both Dorico and Cubase. With this strategy, the music should sound completely identical after exporting to MIDI and making a new Cubase project that loads the same VE Pro project with the same MIDI.

What doesn’t work is when you import MIDI into Cubase, it won’t match up those keyswitches with Cubase expression maps, and instead you just end up with those as loose notes on the track. This makes making changes in Cubase a bit more awkward because you don’t have the expression maps to help you, so I would recommend getting the Dorico product 95% or more of the way there before moving it to Cubase for any fine tuning.

For the other way around, Dorico has some MIDI import features you can try. I haven’t really done much testing with this myself, so I can’t tell you how well they work. What I did in the past is I’ve used the Score Editor in Cubase and exported to MusicXML to transfer to notation, but found that process frustrating and so I’m not sure it’s really any faster than doing a MIDI transfer at the end of the day.

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As you’re a user of Cinematic Studio, had you considered just using Dorico alone together with the NotePerformer playback engine? It’s my no. 1 choice for many orchestral works and several people who know what they’re talking about have been pleasantly surprised by the results I’ve obtained. Unless you want to just play everything live, I can’t think of an easier method
Even if you do your own Expression Maps, I find working with them easier in Dorico than Cubase. However if you definitely want to use both together then, as @mducharme says, a MIDI export to or from Cubase mostly works (though you may need to watch out for instruments like piccolo or double bass which may not be at the correct octave if exporting from Dorico.

The big issue with using NPPE is you have very limited ability to customize the performance, and end up mostly at the mercy of what the software does. The only thing you can really control is override the dynamic, and maybe do some mixing and EQ if you split the output into different audio channels. It really all depends on whether this is for demo-quality work or whether the digital version has to be polished as a finished product. If it is just for demo-quality then NotePerformer is a great way to go. It is not suitable for a finished product, unfortunately.


I haven’t tried Note Performer but sure, that’s a nice idea. I think ideally I’d have both options ready to go – a Dorico-standalone workflow but also a not-too-painful way to get everything into Cubase.

Its worth it to invest in NotePerformer even if you plan to put the work into the fine tuning in most cases. Sometimes you don’t really need the super-polished playback and just want to get a good sense of it, and that is where NotePerformer excels.

The only thing that you might find a little frustrating after using NotePerformer is using the expression maps directly can feel underwhelming at first until you put in the extra work to add more shaping and detail.

The best workflow is not to do it.

Dorico is not a DAW.

Cubase is not notation.

Trying to slam one paradigm into the other doesn’t really work.


I suppose as a part of this, you feel that all of the great smart MIDI import tools added into Dorico to make importing MIDI from DAW’s to score easily to you are a waste of time, and that orchestrators should just re-enter all notes by hand in Dorico by visually looking at the piano roll in the DAW?

Way to completely misconstrue what I said.

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The OP said that he wanted to know how to transfer music from Cubase to Dorico or vice-versa. You said the best workflow is not to do it. I’m not sure how I misconstrued that.

Perhaps you were only commenting on the general tactic of writing in Dorico and moving it to Cubase for fine tuning, but that wasn’t entirely clear. Even then, I’m not sure what issues you would have with that.

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Just do all the MIDI work in Dorico, it’s the best way to write music for audio output IMO. Just make sure you use the same library as you’d use in DAW. For example if you use BBCSO, I’d suggest starting with that when writing/mocking up with Noteperformer. Then when that’s good, switch out to straight BBCSO VST’s in Dorico. Fiddle the CC and expressions until you get output. Then export MIDI, import into a project that is 1-1 BBCSO and done.

If you do use BBCSO then I’d suggest looking at the Cubase/Nuendo BBCSO project they provide. But whatever your setup it’s not a problem, just make sure the VST’s match 1-1 in Dorico and DAW.

Another trick is to use VEP for both Dorico and Cubase/Nuendo, that way you are using exactly the same setup and it’s easier to swap out instruments. This is actually what I do, I start with NP BBCSO for convenience, then I switch with VEP, and finally export to Nuendo for final ATMOS mix, which uses that same VEP instance, but using the same MIDI from Dorico.

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Another trick is to use VEP for both Dorico and Cubase/Nuendo, that way you are using exactly the same setup and it’s easier to swap out instruments.

Yes, this is exactly what I do as well, and I think this is a great strategy. I’m my case I’m not using BBCSO, but otherwise it is the same. Hosting everything in VE Pro means that you can basically transplant the entire Vienna Ensemble Pro mixer from Dorico to Cubase, and if you transfer the MIDI as well, you immediately get absolutely identical playback in Cubase to what you had in Dorico and can go from there. The trick here is to use the VE Pro mixer for all of your balance settings, inserts, reverbs, and whatnot, rather than using the one in Dorico or Cubase.

Vienna Ensemble Pro is currently on sale at the moment too I believe, a good time to grab it if you don’t already have it.


I know in your case you already have a bunch of libraries but a few other thoughts here:

Some libraries are easier to integrate in Dorico than others. The ones that are easier to integrate tend to feature:

  • The ability to play very rapid passagework and different attacks on sustains without having to double between sustain and staccato - this usually means having some kind of attack control and agile legato
  • Great consistency in dynamic when switching articulations (ex. when going from sustain at mp to staccato at mp you shouldn’t have a sudden large jump or drop in loudness)
  • For string libraries, polyphonic legato as an option. Not needed for winds and brass as one instrument can’t play two notes simultaneously.
  • For wind and brass libraries, they should have individual wind and brass players, as a2, a4, and a6 patches are not easy to work with in Dorico, and if you only have the one soloist and it is the same sample in unison with similar timing, you could get phasing problems.

Other libraries can work, but you may experience frustrations here and there if those four things are not met. NotePerformer often has tricks to let you use libraries that normally wouldn’t work well in Dorico.

Some libraries that I have found to work well for this, and personally use are:

  • VSL Duality Strings - very flexible for rapid passagework, very consistent between articulation dynamics
  • Sample Modeling brass - extremely flexible and has individual soloists, but needs a good reverb like Berlin Studio to put it in the space as it is super dry. After fiddling with my expression map a bit, I find I am getting quite good results in Dorico
  • Berlin brass - has the individual soloists that are so useful in Dorico - I don’t have this but I have the cheaper Berklee which has the same soloists
  • VSL Synchron-ized winds - likewise very flexible for rapid passagework/fireworks, and has individual soloists (2), has a decent synchron hall reverb in it but you can experiment with turning that off and running it through something like Berlin Studio instead as the samples are dry.
  • Berlin winds - has the individual soloists, even more than Synchron-ized winds. May not be as flexible for the rapid stuff as I believe it lacks the fast legato options in the VSL. Again I don’t own this, but have the lighter Berklee version which also has the individual soloists.

For percussion there is more flexibility, I use ProjectSAM True Strike as it has both close mic’ed dry recordings and far recordings that immediately sound like they are in the back of an orchestra in a concert hall without needing reverb.

You do of course have to spend some time balancing the different sections by feeding Dorico some well-balanced material to begin with and using those to fine tune the balance. Film scores are not necessarily a good source for this because they can do all sorts of mixing magic in the booth to make certain instruments artificially louder.

With my particular combination, I’ve been getting well balanced results that sound as good as or slightly better than the NotePerformer output without using NotePerformer.

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I’m loving this discussion, thanks for all the ideas here.

I have neither VE Pro nor NotePerformer, but I’ve been trying the NotePerformer demo. I’m not sure which way I’ll go yet. I like using NotePerformer and the Playback Engine on top of it, but I’m a little annoyed at the separate cost per playback engine to integrate libraries, and also feels a little awkward to have to spin up the playback engine separately etc.

I might go with VE Pro since it’s on sale and I can grab the included sample libraries as a bonus, and I like the idea of using VE Pro to standardize all the VST settings etc. I also generally think I like more control rather than less so I’m a little suspicious of letting NotePerformer do everything, but it’s also an appealing idea for sketching.

In any case, thanks for all the ideas, gave me a lot of options!

One trick for phasing is to apply a slightly different pan to each player. Even just a few points and the phasing goes away because there’s now enough “chaos” between the reverb, etc, that you don’t get that sound.

This probably works better with something like NP than a typical sample library recorded via a Decca tree or similar room mic setup, where the panning/reverb is built into the sample.

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Yeah I do pan the players differently, but the phasing still happens a bit in loud passages unless you add more than a certain amount of reverb. In most cases, that is more reverb than I would like to have.

Another route for creating a second soloist is to take a fully chromatically sampled instrument and transpose the entire thing up or down a half step and then adjust the range so it is what it should be, if the sample player allows for this sort of change. This works best if it is only a semitone difference, and so cheaper libraries that are sampled every whole tone would not work great. I still prefer to have libraries that have separate soloist recordings, because only two is not usually enough for things like horns. That trick also doesn’t work great for all instruments, like for instance the break in the clarinet would move using this method and that would cause a big timbre change a semitone off the correct spot. Because of all this I find otherwise well-recorded libraries like Hollywood Orchestra Winds and Hollywood Orchestra Brass to be not very useful in Dorico with their single soloists.

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