Dorico Pro 2 and Dorico Elements 2: Review

Dorico Pro screenshot
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Introduction

Dr Steven Berryman checks out the latest releases of Steinberg’s score-writing software, Dorico Pro 2 and Dorico Elements 2, a new ‘lite’ version.


Key information


My review of Dorico 1 for MUSIC:ED highlighted the benefits of this relatively new software for schools; something that can embrace a more natural, creative approach to writing that might intrigue teachers looking for an alternative.

This Summer (2018), Steinberg released Dorico Pro 2 and Dorico Elements 2 – a new version – offering even more choice for schools but also an entry-level product in Elements.

The comparison of the two new versions reveals that the entry-level Elements is in no way reduced to prevent some creative work (you can read more here).

The significant difference for me is the flexibility in editing you get in the Pro version. Many students in Secondary schools might not ever use these features so it seems good that other useful things have not been compromised.

The limit of 12 instruments in Elements 2 shouldn’t hinder students’ creativity but I’d recommend teachers try both versions (as I did) to ensure they can make a sensible decision about which would be suitable for their department.

So what’s new?

No review can ever do justice to the wealth of features in Dorico Pro 2 and Dorico Elements 2 but I was thrilled to see a new handwritten font (Petaluma). There can be a real tyranny of sameness when writing using notation software so seeing some variety (and fonts that are comfortable to read) is good and students will enjoy using this alternative font.

Other subtle but equally striking improvements include dynamics erasing the background when they cross bar-lines (all those times when you’re struggling to make scores look tidy will be no more!). Even more fascinating is that Dorico Pro 2 will play back microtonal accidentals.

Large time signatures are now supported with ease

Large time signatures are now supported with ease

Students will be pleased there is video support and this is an excellent feature considering how prevalent composing for film is in the GCSE and A Level briefs. It would be a great feature to use in Key Stage 3 too – when students are often introduced to film music.

Editing

I liked the new ‘System Track’. This reminded me of online notation editor, Noteflight, and how bars can be added and removed, and this would make Dorico a good follow-on for students who have been using Noteflight.

There is a great deal of finesse in the editing potential Dorico Pro 2 offers and, much as this might not be immediately applicable to students in schools, it will be an important set of features for advanced students and those considering further study.

What I love about Dorico Pro 2 and Dorico Elements 2 is that you can start to write immaculate-looking scores and the time spent fussing over nuances will be saved by the software’s ability to create clean-looking scores with ease.

New tools for Dorico Pro 2

Dorico Pro 2 brings a set of new and very useful arranging/composing and editing tools that includes explode, reduce and multi-paste.

Explode is going to be so useful for students experimenting with how to expand (or explode) material across instruments. When I tried this, I thought the distribution of notes was quite effective but this quick process means you have more time to experiment with the voicing by saving time in clicking in lots of notes. This is going to be a powerful feature for those working on coursework as is the new reduce feature (which does the opposite of explode).

For teachers who are arranging music, these features will be particularly useful as will the new smart staff management features which allow you to create extra staves for solo instruments and ossias and divisi for section players.

Lots of exciting additions to Dorico Pro 2 and Dorico Elements 2, including support for ossias and other extra staves such as those required for divisi strings

Lots of exciting additions to Dorico Pro 2 and Dorico Elements 2, including support for ossias and other extra staves such as those required for divisi strings

Many music teachers create bespoke arrangements for their classes and Dorico is going to be a time-saver, and a joy to use, when creating what often can be complex arrangements that attempt to embrace the skills of the individual students.

The way divisi is handled, and how it accommodates at times complex needs, will be of most use to the budding string orchestra arranger.

Elements 2 – a good place to start

This entry level version might be a good place to start if you’re interested in exploring the potential of Dorico. I needed to spend time learning the workflow after decades with Sibelius but I found copying out scores (rather than trying to ‘compose’) helped me to gain some experience of the interface.

Elements 2 has the features of the Pro but has some limitations that should not reduce the creativity of students (such as only 12 players maximum). The new features of extra staves, divisi and reduce/explode are also missing from this version. I’d find these too useful to not have and would rather have the students use the Pro version to benefit from them. If you have ambitious students who are working on microtonal works, they’d also miss this in Elements.

Elements seems to concentrate on the writing process (as Engrave mode is not in this version) which was the feature I found most alluring about a potential move from Sibelius to Dorico. Now I’m finding this intuitive approach to writing very compelling and something I think students would enjoy.

A 30-day trial

I highly recommend music teachers in particular get a 30-day trial of Dorico Pro 2 and Dorico Elements 2 and have a go: try and do an arrangement for a class or ensemble. You’ll see that some of the editing processes that would have taken some time might now reduce and you can see your scores being even more legible.

I’m enjoying seeing the development of Dorico and teachers should be part of it so that more voices can contribute to ensure it supports what we aspire to do in the classroom and enhances what budding composers want to and could achieve with their composing.


About the author

Dr Steven Berryman is Director of Music at City of London School for Girls and a Visiting Research Fellow in the School of Education, Communication & Society at King’s College London (2017-2019).

He previously taught at the North London Collegiate School and the Junior Academy of the Royal Academy of Music.

Steven has examined and moderated for GCSE and A Level Music and contributed composition chapters to two study guides for Rhinegold Education and a chapter for an edited volume from Routledge (2016). He has been a Teach Through Music Fellow and a Teacher Advocate for Music Excellence London in addition to education projects with the Learning Departments of the Royal Opera House, London Philharmonic Orchestra and NMC Recordings.

Steven studied composition at Royal Holloway, University of London, and Cardiff University, gaining a PhD in 2010. Cypher (2010) was selected by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales for performance in their Welsh Composers Showcase and was performed by the orchestra in 2011, conducted by Jan Van Steen at BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff Bay.

In 2011, North London Collegiate staged Steven’s musical theatre work for a cast of over fifty girls, Juniper Dreams. Opera Holland Park commissioned Steven to transcribe arias by Donizetti for a dance performance, Dance Holland Park, in June 2012 and, the same year, he worked on music for two plays: Jamie Zubairi’s one-man show, Unbroken Line (Ovalhouse, December 2012), and Corpo: Lixa da Alma (Cena Internacional Brasil, Rio de Janerio, June 2012).

Versa est in Luctum was performed in Washington DC in January 2013 as part of the New Voices @ CUA Festival and, in September 2016, LSO Community Choir and students from City of London School for Girls performed Steven’s O Come Let Us Sing as part of Old Street New Beginnings, celebrating fifty years since the joining of the St Luke’s and St Giles’ parishes.

Steven is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Art and a Freeman of both The Musicians’ Company and the Worshipful Company of Educators.

Website: www.steven-berryman.com
Email: info@steven-berryman.com

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