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Work with video in the new version of Dorico Pro 2

Dorico Pro 2 and Dorico Elements 2: Review


  • Price information (Dorico Pro 2):
    • Dorico Retail – (boxed) £497, (download) £480
    • Dorico Retail crossgrade from Sibelius or Finale – (boxed) £257, (download) £239
    • Dorico Education – (boxed) £300, (download) £282
    • Dorico Education crossgrade from Sibelius or Finale – (boxed) £153, (download) £136
  • Price information (Dorico Elements 2):
    • Dorico Retail – (boxed) £497, (download) £480
    • Dorico Retail crossgrade from Sibelius or Finale – (boxed) £257, (download) £239
    • Dorico Education – (boxed) £300, (download) £282
    • Dorico Education crossgrade from Sibelius or Finale – (boxed) £153, (download) £136

Key information

Dorico Pro 2 and Dorico Elements 2

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.

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.


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.

Header image: Work with video in the new version of Dorico Pro 2

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.


Posted In  Product reviews

Students using Cubase © Steinberg

Cubase 9.5: Review


UK Education prices including VAT
Cubase Pro 9.5 – (boxed) £308, (download) £291 
Cubase Artist 9.5 – (boxed) £171, (download) £153 
Cubase Elements 9.5 – (boxed) £58, (download) £57 
Special educational pricing is available for all Steinberg software products saving 40% off the suggested retail price. There is further discount on site license orders, updates and upgrades.
Please contact your local retailer for more information and price quotes.

Jazz musician and producer, Steve Rose, reviews Steinberg’s Cubase 9.5.

Key information

  • Title: Cubase 9.5
  • What it is: Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
  • Developer: Steinberg
  • Available from: local retailers and the Steinberg website


  • Extensive audio and MIDI manipulation
  • Integration with other Steinberg products
  • PC and Mac compatible
  • Ability to collaborate with other Cubase users over the internet


  • Steep learning curve, especially with Cubase Pro
  • Virtual Instrument sounds can be a little unrealistic

These days, choosing a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) has become a major investment – not only in money but also in the time needed to learn the considerable feature sets that today’s software offers. 

There is a wide range of rivals: besides Cubase, some of the more popular choices are Logic Pro X, Ableton Live, MOTU Digital Performer, Avid Pro Tools and Propellerhead Reason.

Each has a similar overall concept albeit with variations, providing the ability to record both audio and MIDI information, together with extensive editing and creative possibilities that grow ever more sophisticated with each software version.

So why is Cubase 9.5 a good choice of DAW?

Cubase 9.5

While Logic Pro X has become very popular due to its strong MIDI instrument set and editing possibilities, it still runs on an Apple-only platform – so if you have a PC, you’re out of luck.

Cubase runs on both platforms and because it has been around since 1989 (when it was then only able to record MIDI information), it is a mature and well-featured piece of 64-bit software. It is equally suited to recording a large acoustic ensemble, creating loop- and sampler-based modern music genres or making a film soundtrack.

Complete beginners might be daunted learning the workflows associated with such sophistication but Steinberg has various versions in its Cubase 9.5 range, starting with a very basic cut down DAW in the shape of Sequel (currently £68 from the Steinberg online store here), which provides a selection of loops and a basic ability to record audio & MIDI. Here, a beginner can get up and running in a relatively short space of time but they might feel the limitations of the software after only a few weeks of use.

For more sophistication under the Cubase banner comes Steinberg’s Cubase Elements (£85), followed by Cubase Artist (£265), with the flagship Cubase Pro (£480) offering a dazzling array of features. The system requirements obviously grow as the power features increase.

Cubase Pro

As its name suggests, Cubase Pro is aimed at audio professionals and consequently has the biggest learning curve.

As a recording musician for over 30 years, I began using various tape machines at my home studio back in the 1990s but gradually incorporated computers as their power grew. I used an early incarnation of Cubase in about 1998 together with the revolutionary Yamaha DSP Factory sound card – revolutionary because at last computers could record audio reliably, which was a major step forwards.

Now, 20 years later, I was curious to see how quickly I could become reacquainted with the software which has grown out of all recognition since those early days.

Initial setup

Initial setup took me hours when I expected it to be minutes – I can’t say Cubase Pro is very intuitive on this. The relevant ‘Audio Connections’ page required me to enter all the inputs and outputs of my Universal Audio Apollo sound card before I could hear anything at all.

Fortunately, the internet is full of useful videos and advice from many users who have come up against the same problems plus the Manual is pretty clear. Dedicated learning Music Technology sites such as Groove3 also can be worth the subscription fee for the time it takes to thoroughly familiarise oneself with a new piece of software.

I always say learning the idiosyncrasies of a new DAW requires similar dedication and patience to learning to play an instrument. Both can be very frustrating!

Fig 1: The Audio Connections page is where Cubase 9.5 is configured to work with computer hardware

Fig 1: The Audio Connections page is where Cubase 9.5 is configured to work with computer hardware

What can it do?

Having at last got everything working, I began testing out the capabilities of Cubase Pro.

There are thousands of good-quality audio loops already loaded in a variety of styles, together with the ability to slow them down and speed up, fit to a given length, play backwards, drop into a sampler for playback on a keyboard plus anything else the user can imagine.

Recorded audio can be similarly treated, tuned and quantised and Pro offers over 90 high-quality plugins to tweak things still further.

The ability to take a piece of recorded audio and replace it with MIDI blurs the barrier between the two and allows such things as the replacement of drums at a later stage of production.

I like the idea of online collaboration using Pro’s VST Connect software – getting a musician anywhere in the world to play on one’s own track in virtually real time is now a possibility thanks to Steinberg’s groundbreaking features.


While not primarily score-writing software, Cubase Pro can produce decent-looking scores and parts (although they can’t be refined as much as dedicated engraving tools such as Sibelius or Steinberg’s new Dorico).

However, writing basic parts for live performance from, let’s say, a MIDI track can be handled easily even in Elements and Artist but Pro adds more functionality.

I hear there are plans to integrate Cubase Pro with Dorico, which would be an amazing achievement, but as yet it hasn’t happened.

Fig 2: Cubase Pro’s scoring facility

Fig 2: Cubase Pro’s scoring facility

MIDI sounds

MIDI instruments built into Cubase 9.5 are largely centred around their HALion software, a sample player that incorporates over 3,000 instruments in Pro.

I find some of the sounds a little uninspiring when compared to, for example, Logic’s excellent Alchemy but nevertheless, there are plenty of useable sounds, especially when complemented by Steinberg’s other Virtual Instruments.

Certainly, Cubase has a full set of textures on offer right out of the box but for really excellent pianos, strings and other acoustic emulations, 3rd party VST instruments would be better.

Other features

Cubase Pro has excellent Video writing facilities: finished soundtracks can be exported to video directly from Cubase, which uses the same engine as Steinberg’s Nuendo (a DAW dedicated mainly to video and game audio production).

I like iC Pro’s ability to use an iPad or iPhone as a remote control for Cubase, which ends running to and from a computer when recording on one’s own.

Also worthy of mention is the seamless linking to Wavelab, Steinberg’s mastering software, for example, allowing the use of forensic editing tools to get rid of that fire engine that went past during the perfect take at the click of a button.

Who’s it for?

I would say that Cubase 9.5 Elements or Artist has a good balance of features to usability/learning time, perhaps something school students aged 14-18 might put to good use.

For University level, Cubase Pro 9.5 has all the features that would ever be needed while Steinberg’s Sequel might be ideal for younger children to learn the basics of Music Technology.

You can compare the features of each package here.

There are too many facets to Cubase 9.5 to cover in this review but I’m very impressed with the overall feel and unique workflows that Cubase offers. I’m even starting to use Cubase over my familiar Logic Pro X for some recording projects, which must mean I’m a convert!

Header photo: Students using Cubase © Steinberg 

About the author

Steve Rose is a freelance double-bass player, pianist, composer and educator with over thirty years’ professional experience. 

Steve RoseHe has worked primarily as a jazz performer, both in the UK and at festivals across the world, playing with the Jonathan Gee Trio for over twelve years and as a bass sideman for Joe Lovano, Benny Golson and numerous other musicians.

As a keyboardist, he played regularly with Paul Weller, the Fine Young Cannibals and Samantha Fox while, as a session player, he is to be found on numerous film and TV soundtracks.

He has composed extensively for theatre and dance companies, adverts, films and TV and has been composer-in-residence for theatre companies such as Major Road, Strange Cargo and Emergency Exit Arts.

As an educator, Steve has taught at Middlesex University and toured schools and colleges with Rambert, London Contemporary Dance Theatre and Northern Ballet.


Posted In  Product reviews

Nursery Rhythm Kit

Key information

Music Education UK reviews the EYFS percussion resource

There was big excitement at Music Education UK with the delivery of Drums for Schools’ and Sound Children’s Nursery Rhythm Kit. The large, square bamboo basket was a pleasure to unpack; so much so that we were tapping, banging, scraping and shaking our way through the contents within seconds of lifting the lid!

Fifteen wooden and/or metal instruments cover the basics of world percussion – from the guiro (played all over the world but used particularly in South American music) to the kokiriko (originally from Japan and Korea) – with two copies of most instruments included as follows:

  • 2 animal clackers
  • 2 horio shakers
  • 2 frog scrapers
  • 2 tiktoks
  • 2 agogos
  • 2 one-bar chimes
  • 1 cow bell
  • 1 (small) djembe
  • 1 shaman drum

There is also a book of 30 music cards with ideas for leading Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) music sessions as well as guides to ‘What’s in the basket’ and ‘Where it comes from’. The book, written by Anna Ryder of Sound Children, is not specifically related to the kit – a slight disappointment as it would have been nice to see ideas for using the actual instruments provided – but this is a small niggle given that it is bursting with creatively presented musical activities for children at EYFS.

We decided to trial the Nursery Rhythm Kit during Black History Month (which takes place during October in the UK). We took the kit to four different nursery settings and used it with groups of 12 to 15 two- to three- and three- to four-year-olds in music sessions of up to 30 minutes in length. The teacher (a peripatetic EYFS music specialist) introduced the instruments in sets of three over a number of sessions, allowing the groups to familiarise themselves with the look and sound of each instrument as individual children were invited to handle and play them in turn. This was combined with simple repeating word rhythms (using examples of fruit and vegetables from Africa and the Caribbean) which all of the children were able to join in with – first by clapping and then on claves (provided separately).

Once all the instruments had been introduced, an entire session was devoted to the Nursery Rhythm Kit which was placed in the middle of a circle of children, all of whom were invited to choose an instrument. The teacher used the shaman drum to lead the group while the children familiarised themselves with their instruments by chanting and playing the fruit and vegetable word rhythms they had learned during the previous sessions. The teacher then introduced a simple song from Nigeria which highlighted different children by name as everyone played along to a steady pulse. By the end of the session, children were enjoying holding and playing their instruments, chanting and singing in time, experimenting with pulse and rhythm, working as a group and following a leader. In some groups, the teacher was able to take this one step further by inviting a child who was able to keep a steady pulse to the front to lead the rest of the group using the shaman drum.  Children were excited to be singled out in this way and took pride in wielding the big beater and banging the biggest instrument of the lot in front of their friends!

Feedback from both children and staff was overwhelmingly positive and the Nursery Rhythm Kit was a resounding success. The teacher had a few concerns when she first saw the kit: that the younger children might find it hard to manipulate the larger instruments; that the nature of the materials used and slightly ‘homespun’ feel might result in the odd splinter (not an issue); that some of the instruments (eg the frog scraper) were not as well made as other examples on the market; and – most concerning of all – that the basket used to store the instruments might not be suitable for peripatetic use. This last was the only issue of ongoing concern: the teacher found it difficult to carry the kit with the rest of her equipment (guitar, stand, CD player, props etc) and ended up making two journeys to and from her car to each nursery and from room to room within each nursery. While this would not pose a problem in settings which purchased the kit for use in situ, it was a significant problem for a peripatetic music specialist – one which could be solved with the simple addition of a clasp, hinges and handles to the bamboo basket, preferably made of leather to ensure sturdiness, longevity and ease of carrying.

Overall, the kit is good value at £127.00 for educational use (£181.43 otherwise with a discount for online purchase) and would make an excellent addition to a set of musical resources for children at EYFS, whether that be in a nursery or children’s centre, a child’s home or – with appropriate improvements to the bamboo basket – for use by a peripatetic music teacher or EYFS music provider. Due to the nature of some of the instruments (the tiktoks and agogos have their beaters attached to them with cord), children using the kit should be supervised at all times.

Posted In  Product reviews