When will Chords be available?

When are you likely to have chord symbols and chord detection available in Dorico? This is an essential pre-requisite for me as this makes up a large part of my work with notation software. Also, does the new software handle lyrics, and will it import from Photoscore? Without these features, it is not really worth me crossgrading from Sibelius - which I am dying to do!

Hi Basso, and welcome to the forum.

Barring a miracle (and although I do believe in miracles, in my experience they tend to be pretty rare), I’m afraid chord symbols will not be included in the very first version of Dorico. It’s impossible to predict at this stage exactly when they will be included, but we know that they are very important to people working in a wide variety of idioms and genres and we certainly plan to include them as quickly as possible after the initial release. Our plan is to release a number of free updates over the first several months after Dorico is released to fill in some of the gaps, and my hope is that chord symbols will be included during this period, though I hope you will understand that I cannot, at this early stage, promise it with certainty.

You will be able to import music from PhotoScore, as from Sibelius and Finale, by way of MusicXML files.

I hope this helps!


Thanks for the speedy reply Daniel. I just hope the chord feature becomes available during the crossgrade period! Lyrics are handled in Dorico I presume - most of my work is vocal music.

Yes, almost all of my own music is vocal. Lyrics will definitely be included – they are already close to being fully implemented.

Will using lyrics in Dorico be easier than in Finale? Moving baselines and adding verses in Finale is one of my biggest frustrations… it’s just not intuitive to me and I end up spending too much time on stuff that only matters visually. Over half of what I write is vocal music.

I’m not super-experienced with using lyrics in Finale, but we are certainly doing our best to make working with lyrics in Dorico as smooth as possible. I know this is an area that interests a lot of users (just as it interests me personally) so I will try to include details about this in a future development diary update in the summer.

Lack of chord symbols is a showstopper for me, I’m afraid. I might buy in, to take advantage of the crossggrade deal, but I won’t be able to use Dorico until at least basic, transposable chord symbols are working. Big disappointment.

This is extremely disappointing. I think it shows a “classical” outlook on notation that leaves out most commercial applications. For almost all of my work, working chord symbols are essential, and any score-writing program without them is, for me at least, not worth paying hundreds of euros or dollars for.

I was hoping for an advanced music notation program, but maybe I was mistaken. Maybe Dorico is intended more as an engraving tool than a composition and arranging notation tool. I, and almost all the arrangers, composers, and ensembles I work with, would be much more interested in a fully functional notation program. Beautiful kerning before essential modern notation seems a strangely misplaced priority, and surprisingly out of touch with customers of other Steinberg products.

I’d prefer a car with a working steering mechanism to one with lots of chrome trim and a hood ornament that only goes in a straight line. I can see why the product is called Dorico rather than Mancini.

Re. the above, I for one am thrilled that a developer has finally seen fit to produce an application that makes beautiful-looking sheet music a top priority. I don’t give two spits for the yearly upgrades to Finale and Sibelius that throw in more useless “features” like compositional tools (that more often than not produce unusable, incompetent harmonic progressions) or two thousand more instrument samples, whilst ignoring basic lyric spacing features and forcing me to manually respace every single measure. I think the priorities are just right. If chord symbols aren’t in the initial release, they’ll be six months down the road, and we can all chill out because we finally will have an application that understands music at the most basic level instead of a glorified word processor that works primarily with music fonts.

Why not just add the ability to attach “text” or non playing chord symbols to notes? How hard could that be?

My initial enthusiasm for this product is considerably diminished.

What a waste of time and energy.

Yes, this is a stopper for me too, and very surprising. I know you have to get the thing out the door, but to leave out folks doing charts seems quite the omission. I have been following the blog and progress eagerly, but until chords are implemented, this program will be of no use to me. :cry:

Doubtless it will be possible to place text objects freely. Maybe there will be a Text class that transposes, and that can cope with chord extensions. That will do.

Does the absence of announced chord symbols in Dorico affects also Figured Bass, Roman Rumerals and Function Symbols?

If not, can you anticipate something about the way to write the score that: panels, pop-up lists, text code …?

I am particularly interested in the ability for generate music theory examples: lines, boxes, colors,…

What about Schenkerian analysis documents in Dorico?


I do not expect to have full support for figured bass, Roman numerals, or function symbols in the first version of Dorico either, I’m afraid.

Could somebody design font for chord symbols that could be used in Dorico until true support of chords would be possible? So that you could just type all necessary extensions of the chord. Extension symbols (numbers, sharps etc) would appear that their correct places. I think there are quite many ways to arrange extension elements and some composers write them sometimes in an unsual way, the way that is not always found in the chord libraries.

I think this might solve problem with lead sheets for a start and would calm down many people in this forum. My own experience is that I never use playback of chords in my projects, because usually the voicings are completely wrong, and chords sound in completely wrong octaves. To me chords are 100% a visual element. Only major thing is to have the symbols correctly transposed for transposing instruments.

In terms of playback, if you place a chord symbol, let’s say, above a banjo (notated in slashes), then the playback should be in correct voicing of the chord (that is using correct strings). Same would be for a guitar. And if you add chords to the bass, then chords should be silent. This is just my opinion, but this is how I see how playback should work. I don’t want chord symbols to sound in my trumpet solos or other parts, where they are instuctions to player to use certain harmonies for playing an improvised solo.

Me too. I don’t care about chord playback and never have used it. I absolutely need to have chord symbols for 95+% of my paid work though, and I think it is a huge mistake for Dorico to not have them in their initial release. Let’s face it, the music notation software market is not terribly large and there are already two very well established leaders, as well as decent free options. Even if Dorico is a phenomenal piece of software that beats the other options in every regard (including chord symbols), they still will have an uphill climb to crack into this market. Deliberately excluding themselves from the sub-markets for Film and TV work, Jazz, Broadway, Nashville, Pop, Pop Orchestra, much of Education, some Church/Religious, all Lead Sheets and any non-classical Guitar upon the initial release just seems insane to me.

Even at crossgrade pricing, Dorico is not a negligible expense for most musicians. They need to be giving musicians and engravers as many positive reasons to convert as possible. I’m sure plenty of blogs and magazines will be eager to review Dorico 1.0 (and I’m sure the marketing team wants as much publicity as possible) but once all the reviews state this is a $580 piece of software that can’t do lead sheets, Dorico’s reputation will be severely damaged, perhaps permanently.

I don’t want to sound too negative. I’m really optimistic about Dorico and really want it to succeed, but in order for this to happen I really think that chord symbols, at least as a visual element, absolutely have to be a part of the initial release, even if the initial release is delayed a couple of months or an additional programmer has to be hired to make Steinberg’s deadline. Just my $0.02.

While lack of chord symbols is a disappointment not being in an initial release it will not stop me from demoing and possibly purchasing it to get a handle on the flow and abilities of the program provided.

If it’s a matter of just introducing Dorico in the last month of the year to have it included please do so.

Just taking advantage of this situation… :wink: May I suggest some possibilities for the chord symbols function…? They are not so easy to do with Sibelius without using some tricks… furthermore, after you achieve them, you have to deal with weird behaviour by different layouts or by transposing them…

Seeing as chord symbols is not included in the first release, I’m betting they’ll take their time to build something along the lines of an integrated formula editor, i.e., something as flexible as Finale’s Chord Tool with regard to horizontal and vertical positioning, but without the clunky interface. Sibelius’s chord capabilities is much too limited, seeing as it relies exclusively on fonts to provide correct positioning.

I’m also very curious to see how chord suffixes will be stored. I’m hoping for some sort of library solution to ensure consistency as well as flexibility, but we’ll have to wait and see.

I think I’ll take the opportunity to do the same. First of all, there really is no set standard for chord symbol nomenclature. Any notation program should be able to handle a wide range of potential display options as there are many different “house styles” in use that will need to be considered. Finale’s chord suffix editor is very good at this and allows for virtually any sort of layout. Unfortunately it is very clunky to use and the initial setup of a suffix library is a bit of a PITA. Once set up, Finale’s suffixes work well. The chord display options in Sibelius are much more limiting.

I’d like to mention the house style that Jazz at Lincoln Center uses for their Essentially Ellington publications. J@LC of course is one of the world’s premiere jazz performance and educational institutions so I think it would be in the best interest of Dorico if it could at least have the possibility of reproducing this style. While I was just the copyist when the chord symbol house style for publications was implemented (I don’t know if it still is, but this was used in their publications for a long time), I was involved in the meetings in the late-90s where it was decided so I remember the logic behind its initial implementation. These were never written down exactly, but here are what I remember of some of the J@LC chord symbol nomenclature guidelines for publication.

  1. Chord symbols generally need to have a level baseline. The “real book” style with the suffix superscripted from a graphic design standpoint lifts the eye up and away from the music rather than horizontally with the flow of the music.

  2. For major chords use “maj”. When used on a level baseline, the descender of the “j” makes this instantly recognizable to the eye. Do not capitalize the “m”. Some other house styles use “M” for major and “m” for minor but this is less instantly recognizable, and in some poorly designed text fonts including some very popular “handwritten” fonts, they are quite difficult to differentiate.

  3. This one certainly won’t be popular with everyone, but use + and - for alterations rather than # and b. The use of + and - removes any potential confusion of a symbol such as C#9. The use of parenthesis around the alteration of course accomplishes the same goal, but that would take up unnecessary horizontal space. Obviously in this method “-” cannot be used to mean minor as it does in some nomenclature systems.

  4. Multiple alterations should be stacked with the highest number on top. The exception is 6/9 as placing the 9 on top would mean a 9th chord which presumes a lowered 7th.

  5. The ordinal indicator or circle can be used to notate a diminished chord. One problem with this is that in systems that use a small triangle for major, the ordinal and major triangle can be difficult to instantly differentiate. Since we’ve eliminated the triangle for major, this potential conflict no longer exists.

Here’s a sample of this system in use:

I’m not trying to convince anyone this system is best, as I’m sure there will be plenty of detractors, only that it is a system used by a major jazz institution that was not developed haphazardly but rather with a lot of thought and discussion. It would be great if Dorico could support a chord nomenclature system like this one, in addition to the many other other systems out there, including the “real book” style.