Within a day, Avid releases Sibelius for iPad

With a full article from Scoring Notes this morning, it is clear that Avid has been working on a version of Sibelius for iPad…and chose to release it a day after Dorico had the attention of the music technology industry. You can find the post here: https://www.scoringnotes.com/reviews/sibelius-arrives-on-ipad/

I’m downloading the app now, but as a person who doesn’t use Sibelius, I’m not sure what functionality will be in the app for me. According to Scoring Notes, your functionality is dependent on your current ownership or subscription to Sibelius on the Mac or Windows. That will make the app the equivalent of Sibelius First, but I’m not sure what that offers.

From the introductory video on Scoring Notes, it is clear that Sibelius takes much more advantage of iPad gestures and functionality than Dorico, and it will be fun to interact with the app and to see what it can do. That said, Sibelius doesn’t offer any on-screen keyboards (like Dorico or Notion) and seems to have made a mistake on a touch based platform without including that way to input pitch. At this time, I do not know if Sibelius responds to an external MIDI keyboard. **Note: version 1 does not.

I keep coming back to the question: “Why now?” Certainly, with M1 iPads, the devices are now desktop class, and there are ways to share an app on several platforms with minor tweaks for those platforms. Still, the iPad has been around for more than a decade and has pretty much “lost” in the education space. That all said, the iPad is still my primary tool for creation of all kinds (including this post). I’m absolutely these programs are now available on the iPad, but it does feel like someone arriving late to the party—and then I also have to ask, “Where are MuseScore and Finale for the iPad?”

Finally, there’s a direct line from Avid to Dorico, as much of the core Dorico team was the former UK office of Sibelius. Doesn’t it seem strange that Dorico would release a surprise iPad app and then the former employer of many of that team would release an iPad app twenty four hours later? Maybe it’s a coincidence, but if so, it is still head-spinning. **Note: I have been told from secondary sources that this was a coincidence.

I’m off to work with Sibelius for a while and to see what it can do. A follow up post will reflect on my experiences on Dorico for iPad, Sibelius for iPad, with Notion for iPad (my long-time primary app) as a benchmark.

Dorico releases new iPad Version

On all the music technology blogs today, you should see articles about the release of Dorico, on iPad.

I have been working with the beta version over the last week, and have a number of thoughts that are not fully-baked yet (pretty much all positive), so this is NOT a full review, as you will likely see from some of the other blogs today.

What I will say is that Steinberg has brought Dorico, to the iPad, in a fully functional way…that treats the iPad more like a MacBook than it does an iPad. There has been a small amount of optimization for the iPad interface (e.g. on screen instruments), and it really doesn’t take advantage of the Apple Pencil at all. That said, for the first time, there’s a fully functional desktop class music notation app for the iPad that is also affordable.

I will also add that there is a learning curve to Dorico, and when you subscribe to it (which you will…the app is free, but some functions require an subscription, which is completely acceptable to me for what you’re getting), if you haven’t been a Dorico user, you will want to take a deep breath and watch a lot of Dorico videos. I assume we’ll be seeing some iPad specific Dorico videos in the very near future.

If you don’t know Dorico, I think it is the best and most modern music notation program. It was developed from the ground up by much of the former Sibelius team (when Avid outsourced their jobs), who moved to Steinberg and asked the question, “What would a modern, powerful music notation program look like today?” While the original program lacked a number of features that I needed for my ukulele work, it has continued to add features (including ALL of those ukulele features). I had not made a switch to using Dorico, but I knew that time was coming. And surprise…here it is today for iPad!

If you are a user of other music notation apps or programs, yes, you can use different apps to do different things. But for the most part, I have found myself using one primary app or program because that particular app or program does what I need it to do most efficiently. While this post is about Dorico, Notion has been my “daily driver” on iPad and MacBook, while Finale (on Mac, of course) has been my backup when more power is needed. I haven’t used Dorico, nor MuseScore or Sibelius on my Mac, and I haven’t used the other apps on the iPad very much, though I have access to most of them (for example, StaffPad doesn’t really work for my ukulele work). It’s going to be interesting to see how and if my use of app changes with this new version of Dorico.

Just as with the Mac, there are plenty of options these days for notation on the iPad…enough that you really could not write an article that compared all of them. Compared to Dorico, there are apps that are easier to use for music notation. But none of them have this level of power. This is a very significant day for musicians who own an iPad.

As the app is new and going global today, do expect some unexpected app crashes, but know that Dorico is working to address those issues.

I’ll write more about the app later. Until then, check out what will be written by my colleagues (I expect articles from Scoring Notes, Robby Burns, and Paul Shimmons within a day). I will also paste Dorico’s press release below. Please note the device compatibility at the end of the press release.

Update: Here are some of the posts that I knew would be coming. You can also catch Daniel Spreadbury, from Dorico/Steinberg on Robby’s Podcast, Music Ed Tech Talk.


HAMBURG, Germany — Steinberg today announces the immediate availability of the latest product in its family of music notation, composition and publishing software, Dorico for iPad, which can be downloaded now from the App Store, for free.

Dorico has made waves since its introduction for macOS and Windows in October 2016. Acknowledged as the innovator in the field of desktop music notation software, with dozens of unique features added in each new iteration, Dorico is already the tool of choice for many thousands of composers and arrangers all over the world, used in the creation of music for the concert hall, the movie theater, and the living room. It is used widely in education, from secondary schools to several of the most prestigious music conservatories and universities. It is also used by several of the world’s top music publishers, with everything from piano miniatures to operas and concertos taking advantage of Dorico’s unparalleled automatic engraving quality, which puts expert knowledge of the centuries-old craft of music engraving into the hands of every musician.

Now, Dorico has been reimagined for the iPad, with thoughtful adaptations that retain the same streamlined, beautiful interface of the desktop version while making the application comfortable for use on a touch-first device. An on-screen multi-touch piano keyboard makes inputting and editing music feel effortless — and when connected to a USB or Bluetooth MIDI keyboard, users can input music both in step time and in real time. Every marking needed to add to the music is right at one’s fingertips, with clear, well-organized panels for quickly adding clefs, key signatures, time signatures, dynamics, tempos, and more directly into the music. Together with a Magic Keyboard or other Bluetooth-enabled keyboard, all of the powerful key commands that make Dorico on macOS and Windows the fastest, most keyboard-friendly music notation software are available too.

Although Dorico for iPad produces the same exemplary, publication-quality printed sheet music as the desktop version, it is much more than simply an application for producing beautiful pages of music notation. Dorico is the only professional music notation software to include a sequencer-style MIDI editor with piano roll, velocity, and continuous controller editors — and Dorico for iPad takes another leap forward with the introduction of a completely new Key Editor, built from the ground up for the iPad, with fluid, high- performance editing. In addition to transforming the experience of working in Play mode, the new Key Editor can also be shown in the lower panel in Write mode, making it possible to work seamlessly both on conventional music notation and detailed MIDI editing tools in perfect sync.

Also included is the same high-fidelity audio engine that powers Cubasis, Steinberg’s multi- award-winning digital audio workstation app, and a built-in library of instrumental sounds and essential effects is provided to ensure that the music sounds as good as it looks. Expand the sonic capabilities further still by adding any compatible Audio Unit instrument or effect, and instantly export audio to share or post online.

Dorico for iPad is fully compatible with the desktop versions that run on macOS and Windows. Projects created on macOS or Windows can be opened in the iPad version, and vice versa.

“It has always been our ambition to bring Dorico to the iPad, and we can’t wait for a whole new range of musicians to — literally — get their hands on these tools,” commented Daniel Spreadbury, product marketing manager for Dorico. “Reimagining Dorico for the iPad has been a huge, and hugely rewarding, project. We have refined almost every inch of the application to make it feel comfortable on a touch-first device. It looks and feels like the same beautiful, powerful application already loved by musicians all over the world, but it is full of optimizations that make it feel right at home on the iPad.”

Most excitingly of all, Dorico for iPad can be downloaded from the App Store for free, and allows users to create projects for up to two players that take advantage of almost all of its powerful features without time or other limitations. To write for larger ensembles of up to four players, users will have to sign in with their free Steinberg ID. For more power and flexibility, an optional subscription can be obtained via in-app purchase that not only expands the player limit to 12, but also adds Engrave mode, providing the ability to tweak the graphical appearance of every marking in the score.

Availability and pricing

Dorico for iPad is available to download now for free from the App Store. The free version allows users to create new projects for up to two players, and open projects created in any other version of Dorico — for iPad, macOS or Windows — with any number of players. Users will have to sign in with a free Steinberg ID to create new projects for up to four players.

Additional functionality can be unlocked by purchasing an in-app subscription for $3.99 or €3.99 per month or $39.99 or €39.99 per year (or equivalent in your local currency). Subscribers can enjoy additional features, including detailed graphical editing of every marking and musical symbol in Engrave mode, and the ability to write for ensembles of up to 12 players.

Dorico for iPad requires iPadOS 13.0 or later, and an iPad Pro, iPad Air (3rd generation or later), or iPad (7th generation or later) is recommended. 570 MB free storage space is required.

Highlights

  • Best automatic engraving of any software
  • Easy note input using on-screen keyboard, MIDI keyboard, or external keyboard
  • Intelligently adjusts notation as you write
  • Any number of movements or pieces in a single project
  • Automatic layout of instrumental parts
  • Expressive playback using included sounds and effects
  • Supports Audio Unit virtual instruments and effects processors
  • Revamped Key Editor, with piano roll, velocity and continuous controller editors
  • Sophisticated chord symbols, unpitched percussion and drum set notation
  • Unbarred music, tuplets across barlines, etc. all handled correctly — no workarounds
  • Fully compatible with Dorico for macOS and Windows
  • Transfer to and from other apps via MusicXML, MIDI, PDF, etc.
  • Built-in reader mode for performing directly from the project, using a single tap of the screen or Bluetooth foot pedal to turn pages

Working with StaffPad

A few weeks ago, Robby Burns contacted Paul Shimmons and I about StaffPad. StaffPad for iOS came out of the blue. What is funny is that I was up in Michigan in January for the Michigan Music Conference, and in one of my sessions, I asked if anyone was using StaffPad…and no one was…not even the presenter who later presented on using the Microsoft Surface.

I’m not picking on StaffPad, because in truth I was a bit jealous that Surface had something iPad did not (the list is really quite small), particularly in the area of music–and that there were no plans to bring it to iOS. If you saw any of the videos that StaffPad released over the years, often in tight collaboration with Microsoft, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

So as the years went on, I found Notion to be my main tool, although there are now a number of different notation programs with different input methods on the iPad. But now, we have StaffPad as an option.

One of the main questions Robby, Paul, and I had about StaffPad was if we were going to buy it. In terms of iPad apps, it is pretty expensive (close to $90) with the potential of hundreds of dollars for the optional instrument sounds that you can buy for it. Somewhere in our discussion, I realized that we are bloggers in this field (and there seem to be very few of us left) and that we should ask for promo codes to examine the app, especially if we talk about the app on a podcast (which we will eventually do). So I contacted StaffPad and asked, and David William Hearn (Founder/Designer) was kind enough to let us in on the beta program so we could test the program.

Paul has already written a review and keeps adding thoughts as he experiments more, and Robby is certainly formulating a very detailed review.

I’ve been pretty busy with ukulele materials and school stuff, so I haven’t had much time to dig into the app, but I have worked in it a bit, and have drawn a few conclusions. I think for the sake of organization, I’ll work in a list for the rest of this post.

  • It is hard to get over the sticker shock of the app. I realize this is what it costs to run a business. It’s still hard to get over it.
  • I am intimidated by the cost of the instrument sounds. If there was a way to use them elsewhere in iOS, it would be easier to justify. But as they are locked to StaffPad, and can’t really be used elsewhere, you really have to make good use of the app to justify the expense.
  • My work flow consists of three things these days, as my role as an educator has changed. First, I make ukulele resources, which StaffPad is not good with. This isn’t uncommon, because Dorico recently added these features in Dorico 3. But for what I do, StaffPad cannot be my first option. A second work flow is creating choral scores (now 2 part), which StaffPad can do. A final work flow is creating a single part song for elementary classes…which StaffPad can also do.
  • As Paul noted in his review, StaffPad rethinks how you interact with the app, which is both wonderful and problematic. It’s wonderful because there is hope that other apps will adopt the gestures (or that Apple will) and add more functionality…and problematic because things like pressing hard to erase happens accidentally with my own normal pen pressure from time to time.
  • If I’m honest, the handwriting interface isn’t as speedy for me as working in Finale or Notion without a (piano) keyboard–nor is it anywhere as fast as how I work in Notion for iOS. I don’t know if it ever could be, even with extended practice. What I’m left with is that I wish the other programs had StaffPad’s handwriting features as an option, and that StaffPad had the input methods of everything else.
  • The strength of StaffPad appears to be in what you can do with things after you have entered the music. I think the award for engraving is going to go to Dorico these days, and Notion did hold the award for the best stock playback sounds and features of all the apps. StaffPad raises the bar in terms of playback, with the ability to graphically shape dynamics and tempo. So I could easily see myself doing work in Notion, Finale, Dorico, or MuseScore and exporting that data to StaffPad for final performance editing.

I’m not fully done with StaffPad, as there is still a lot for me to learn about the app (just as Paul continues to find new features, such as chordal analysis). But again, it’s hard for me to force myself to use it, as 80% of my case use is outside of the program’s current abilities (and I by no means expect StaffPad to add ukulele features just for me).

In closing, I’m glad StaffPad is on iOS, and I wish that had been the case long ago. I love that it does some things differently, and I fully realize I need more time with the app to really determine what I like and what I don’t like about it. I’m having a really hard time getting over the price of the app and the price of the instrument sounds. I realize that the cost of the app is inexpensive compared to other desktop notation apps. Ultimately, I’m not a fan of handwriting-first or handwriting-only input (e.g. on Notion, I can use a ukulele fretboard to enter notes sometimes). If you want to make lifelike performances from MusicXML on your iPad, I don’t think you’ll find a better option (e.g. Notion does not allow you to create N-Tempo tracks on the iPad). Ultimately, you’re going to need to consider the features that StaffPad brings to the table and decide if it is right for you.

Dorico 3 SE

While I am over in Grand Rapids, Michigan for the Michigan Music Conference (Hello, any visitors from Michigan!), NAMM is under way–always of double interest to me for music technology and ukulele news. There are some new Fender ukuleles coming out that look like little Telecasters…and I quite like the look of them…but that’s neither here or there for the “Tech In Music Ed Blog.”

On my way to Michigan, Dorico dropped the news that it was now making a new version of Dorico…a light version entitled “SE” available for download. So, I’m back at my hotel and I’m downloading it.

I have been procrastinating with Dorico, because it hasn’t been able to do what I needed it to do until this summer…when guitar (and ukulele) chord fonts and tabs became available.

I have used Finale for a long time, and I’m pretty used to creating music in measures that are empty, such as with Finale and Notion; and I struggle with programs that have existing rests that turn into beats (Sibelius, MusicScore, Noteflight, and flat.io). To be honest, my Sibelius and MuseScore time is pretty limited (MuseScore more than Sibelius) because I’ve never owned Sibelius, and Notion and Finale handle all of my needs for notation.

Dorico promises to be a whole new experience–I’m not sure what it’s going to be like. Dorico offers some wonderful educator discounts, but even the educator pricing still represents serious money (such as more than one of the aforementioned Fender Telecaster ukuleles) so I want to be able to see what it’s all about before I go further. Dorico does offer a 30 day trial; but I don’t like working under those conditions as I’m never sure how much time I’ll get to play with a software package in 30 days.

So, this news of the SE version is of great interest to me. I have no idea if it will have the guitar/ukulele features that were added this summer, but I’ll very much enjoy finding out. I am a little amazed at the size of the files. When you download the program, you actually download the Steinberg Download Assistant (111MB), which, after installation, allows you to download Dorico 3 SE (423 MB plus nearly 3GB of sounds). That’s a pretty sizable download–and I’ll be waiting a while here at the hotel before it’s ready to go and for me to start entering some notes. Make sure to check your available storage before downloading!

Are you a Windows user? Here are a couple of apps for you to consider!

There was a time when I was quite literally anti-Apple in my life. That part of my past actually helps me when I meet people that are currently Anti-Apple. There was a also a phase in my life when I was trying to keep devices that ran all operating systems in my house, so I could help other teachers regardless of what technology they used. I don’t do that any more, and my time is spent on my iPhone, iPad, and 2018 MacBook Pro. I realize that I could install a virtual Windows machine on my MacBook Pro–but I have no need to do that.

Quite a while ago, I received information about a couple of Windows based music notation applications that are not available for iOS or MacOS. I thought I would let you know about them.

The three programs are Forte, ScanScore, and Bandora. The ultimate version of Forte includes all three applications. I have linked their YouTube introductions below (yes, there is English overdubbing, as the videos are originally in German). You can also buy each program individually. ScanScore will export to MusicXML, which makes it useful for just about any existing notation program, not just Forte.

You might ask, “Why, in the world of so many music notation programs would I want to buy another program?” The simple answer is: for ease of use and choice. The developers of Forte are trying to make Forte a very easy to use program, and choice is a great thing in the marketplace. And I will add that it is becoming a rare thing to embed a scanner in a music notation program.

The company has also developed iOS and Android apps that work with the Forte platform, including a scanning component for ScanScore, a Forte music reader, and a PlayAlong Orchestra that works with Forte files. Note: all of these iOS and Android apps are not stand-alone apps…you need Forte (and/or ScanScore) on your Windows computer to use them.

I can’t comment on how easy Forte is to use, or how ScanScore operates compared to other options on Mac or iOS, as I no longer have a Windows device…but if you are a Windows user, there are trial versions of the software which would allow you to see how Forte, ScanScore, and Bandora work for yourself. Forte Premium, at the time of writing, is $229, which is a great bargain if you find that you can work easily in Forte, and if the scanning features work well for you. The closest paid notation app I can think of is Notion, which does not include scanning software (I have not heard anything about StaffPad for a LONG time). If you try Forte, send me a note and tell me how the product works for you.

Forte Notation: https://www.fortenotation.com/en/

ScanScore: https://scan-score.com/en/