Notation Software (and Dorico)

There has been a lot of coverage today about the announcement of Dorico.  Dorico is the notation app that the developers at Steinberg have been working on for over three years.  Pricing seems to be equivalent with Finale.  As I am not a Sibelius owner/user,  I am not familiar with Sibelius’ pricing, but I seem to remember that they moved to a subscription model (continuous income) versus a “version” model.

You can find lots of articles on Dorico, so I won’t go into any detail about it.  I haven’t seen the app in person, so my opinions on the program would be worthless.  If you want to learn move, visit the Sibelius Blog [a lot of detail here], Steinberg’s blog, or even Paul Shimmons’ Blog.  Heck, it was even mentioned on The Loop.

What I did want to write about is the environment in which Dorico enters.  Twenty years ago, there were two main players on the market, with a bunch of smaller notation apps.  Those two programs were (and are) Sibelius and Finale.  A lot of smaller notation apps have come and gone, but one interesting development occurred: MuseScore.  You can download a notation program that works well for most users for free.  If you ask college students most of them are using MuseScore (so would you, if you were in college).  With that in mind…what notation software are you using right now?  Chances are you are using the software that was used in your college.  What does that say about paid programs and the future?

There are a number of smaller apps on the market, such as Notion (which I love, particularly for its iOS app), and even Overture is back.  Don’t forget about other notation apps such as Symphony Pro (iOS), Noteflight, and  And of course, the unique situation with StaffPad which works best on a single device (Windows Surface).  What a crazy time to bring a new notation program into the world!  MakeMusic has already announced its next version which will be massively rewritten.  Sibelius has released continual updates, as promised.

Here is my question: when MuseScore exists, how many $600 “professional” music notation programs can the market support?  What is going to give?  I don’t think there will be a swarm of new users.

If you know the history of Dorico, the main team is made up of the Sibelius team that was let go by Avid.  As they have created this new program, they have done so with a very strong background in notation program (even developing a standard music font).  They have had to design a new program that doesn’t copy any part of Sibelius–so my main guess is that they have made Dorico the program they wish Sibelus could have been.

And with that in mind, I think their main target will be Sibelius users.  That said, $600 is a lot of money for most people, and even a limited time cross grade price of $300 is still a lot of money.  I fully realize this is the actual cost of development and support–but these are purchases that must be planned for (unlike a $15 iPad app).

The other question is if a major publishing company will abandon one of their current programs and adopt Dorico.  That alone would guarantee the success of the program (and the possible failure of the program that is abandoned).

There is still a lot of time before Dorico is released (Q4), and a lot of time for Steinberg to tell us more about the program.  For example: I am wondering what relationships they will have with scanning software.  I expect to see a number of introductory videos and social media updates that will help us to know more about the app when it is time to actually pull out a credit card for the online purchase.

We should be thankful that we have the choices that we have, and to be glad that another choice is coming.  What would Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and the rest of the gang been able to do with the tools that we have today?

**Incidentally, if we ever figure out time travel, I am going back with a MacBook, keyboard, notation software, and Mr. Fusion and showing Bach how to use it.


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