Chamberlain Music Blog

Hints, Tips, News & Reviews from the World of Making Music

Dorico: Where great things begin

Available now - click here to buy at Chamberlain Music...

One of the privileges of my job at Chamberlain Music is the access I’m afforded to products before they’re released. By far the most exciting of these to date landed on my desk last week – the ‘next generation’ notation software developed by the team that built Sibelius. I’ve been experimenting with Dorico ever since and went to last night’s launch at Bush Hall to watch Daniel Spreadbury demonstrate its capabilities.

I’ve been anticipating this release for some time and have now been let off the leash to share my thoughts in my capacity as an experienced typesetter and unapologetic die-hard fan of Sibelius.

But first, if you haven’t been keeping up with the development blog or want to see some specific features, you can’t do much better than to watch the recording from last night:

A bit of history

As a professional typesetter, I’ve been using Sibelius for several hours every day for more than a decade. I know that programme inside out and find that with the occasional workaround, it can handle anything I throw at it. Of course, I often need to use other software to complete jobs, and there are countless things that could be added or improved, but its progress has slowed to a standstill since Avid dropped the development team in 2012.

The speed with which Sibelius changed the music world from the mid-90s onwards caused inevitable problems with its build structure. Features were bolted on and workflow became unpredictable and unmusical. For people like me who learned to write music with a paper and pen, this didn’t cause much of a problem because we knew how we wanted the finished page to look, and had witnessed enough of the software’s progress to know how its workflows got to that outcome, and how to take advantage of its quirks.

But young musicians these days are more likely to be the other way round, thinking about composition as they’ve grown to expect Sibelius to process it, and limiting their creativity based on the limits of their computer savviness, or worse, using their knowledge of the software to avoid engaging with the actual musical content.

The Dorico development team. Image source.

One of the primary goals of the team when they first dreamed up Dorico was to make it as easy as possible to write what you want without feeling like the software is getting in your way. While Sibelius and others are more than adequate for typing up existing scores, it’s difficult to compose straight onto the screen. Dorico definitely looks like it’ll make this much easier with features such as edit-friendly tuplets, support for complex compound time signatures and custom key signatures, useful popovers and shortcuts, intelligent dotted rhythm processing, and ‘insert mode’.

First impressions

Straight away I was awestruck by the clean and compact controls. Dorico has been designed to be useable on a single screen with a minimal laptop keyboard, but if you have a more exotic setup it’ll expand nicely. All of the options windows can be kept open (on another monitor if you like) and adjusted as you work.

I decided to jump straight in with a blank score and chose a big complex page of Enescu’s first symphony as a test project which I hoped would push the software. I also purposely didn’t read the tooltips in order to test its intuitiveness.

After a few frustrating hours I was struggling to get anything to appear as I wanted it to and my enthusiasm was fading fast. I ended up talking at length to Daniel Spreadbury himself about my difficulties. He was extremely friendly and calm in the face of my barrage of complaints and talked me through various features with succinct explanations of the reasons and processes behind them.

The clean and intuitive interface.

Just 24 hours later I was inputting music quite fluently, and really starting to appreciate the rethought workflows. The problems I had at the start, I realised, were due to my preconceptions and muscle memory – of course, I'd read all the sound bytes about the ambitious reinvention of notation software, but I had underestimated the scale of the improvements. It’s not just a ‘better version’ of things that have come before, but a completely new approach.

It’s worth mentioning at this point just how refreshing the attitude of Daniel and his team is. They’re determined not to rush any feature and they welcome ideas and reports from users. You’ll be pleased to hear that the humour and clarity with which they wrote the Sibelius manual is also still there in abundance.

Illustrated option windows.

A few disclaimers

I ought to say that it’s not perfect out of the box. There are inevitably a few teething troubles and minor bugs, and it's very slow at the moment, but as the development team has repeatedly stressed, these things will be fixed in free updates over the coming months. I can confirm that Dorico is already stable and comprehensive enough to typeset the vast majority of your music.

It’s been well publicised that chord symbols are not yet implemented, and when asked about this yesterday (though he hesitated to guarantee it) Daniel said it is their intention to include them among the free updates. Another big feature expected to be among these updates is the proper integration of the PLAY mode. At the moment you can play back projects with the included HALion sample libraries, but the engine doesn’t pick up different playing techniques yet (e.g. pizzicato vs arco), and there’s no sound on note input or tempo and dynamic maps in the sequencer.

During the Q&A yesterday, Daniel let the cat out of the bag regarding an extremely exciting method of part reduction that is already well developed and he expects will be added soon. Though he couldn’t go into much detail, he implied that this would make for one click conductor scores or vocal scores. Other more niche features discussed included bulk lyric import, and a proper system for scripting extensions (using Lua), though he was careful to emphasise that the prioritisation of any additional features will be subject to the initial reactions of the majority of the public after release.

What to look out for

If like me you’re used to another piece of software and have been looking forward to trying out Dorico, the best advice I can give you is to forget everything you know and approach it with a completely open mind. Watch the videos, read the tooltips and prepare yourself for the learning curve. A lot of the revolutionary ideas might not dawn on you immediately, but give it a few days and stick at it!

Grace notes before barlines with one click.

The most impressive thing I’ve discovered so far is the graphical quality of the output. Every tiny detail of layout can be adjusted using the plethora of options dialogues (all simple and illustrated!), but the default options and automations already look flawless. It’s nothing short of miraculous. And the Bravura font is stunning!

Thanks to the flows (a term chosen specifically for its ambiguity) it’s extremely easy to customise your page layouts and part extraction meaning that you will never again have to ‘tidy up’ your score or use any other software for extra additions and post-processing. Indeed, the instrumental parts for last night’s premiere of Thomas Hewitt-Jones’ DoricOVERTURE, a piece he was commissioned to write using BETA versions of the software, were completely untouched before printing.

There are a couple of input features that have not been especially trumpeted to date which ought to get a special mention here too. Just off the top of my head, cross staff slurs, optional automatic combining of coincident rests in different voices, and the option to move grace notes before a barline made me jump for joy!

The verdict

I’ve read in several places that Dorico shouldn’t be compared to Sibelius, as the time and resources spent on the latter are naturally going to have resulted in a more complete programme. But actually, I think it’s a healthy comparison to make and one that will be discussed whether Steinberg like it or not.

In my opinion (and I can barely believe i'm writing this), even at this early stage, Sibelius is dwarfed by the sheer ambition of Dorico. It’s already almost as feature rich where note input is concerned, and the engraving system and project setup options put it in a different class altogether. It’s difficult to express the brilliance and revolutionary potential of this new release without regurgitating the phrases you’ll already have read in the marketing material, but Dorico is everything that was promised and more.

It’s easy to start working on your current Sibelius and Finale projects with Dorico straight away as it imports musicXML files. You’d be mad not to give it a try, especially considering the cheap cross grade price. It’s worth getting used to it now because within a year or two it’ll be the industry standard.

As with all Steinberg software, each licence works for one computer at a time and can be moved between machines with a dongle. There was talk of getting rid of the dongle altogether at last night’s launch, but this is obviously not a decision that the Dorico developers can make themselves.

There are also discounts for bulk orders of the academic edition (new or crossgrade licences) available from our education site. This software is identical to the full version but you must be eligible (see details in the product descriptions) for the lower price:


Upgrade your piano and save with Yamaha’s Get Connected offer


The Yamaha C1XSH is our most
popular silent baby grand.

Receive a huge discount on all Yamaha Silent and TransAcoustic pianos when you swap your old instrument.

During the great industry boom of the late 19th and early 20th century, every home in the UK contained at least one piano. If you walk into any house, school, church, pub, or village hall, you’re likely to find one lurking against a wall or under a cover.

Even shopping centres, train stations, and airports often have one standing proudly for anyone to play.

Millions of these beautiful instruments get played and tuned regularly and help the ever growing number of young aspiring musicians to learn, while others, too old and expensive to be worth restoring, sit gathering dust.

Our piano sales manager Dominic Barnett
plays a Yamaha P116MSH silent upright
piano in our Haslemere showroom.

Whether yours is a worn out 100-year-old survivor, a more recent purchase made in the cost effective factories of the far east, or even a completely digital set of keys, Yamaha are offering an incentive for you to upgrade - whatever your piano’s story, you can trade it in to get money off one of their revolutionary Silent or TransAcoustic pianos.

If you’ve not come across these instruments before, prepare to be amazed!

Firstly, these are fully functional acoustic instruments, with strings and a hammer action just like any other piano, but thanks to some very clever sensor technology, they are also extremely versatile digital keyboards replete with synthesised and sampled sounds, volume and tone control, recording and playback facilities, and the ability to communicate with other digital devices.

Click here to browse our range of
Yamaha TransAcoustic pianos.

All the advantages of a digital piano without losing any of the qualities of an acoustic one.

When the digital part of the piano is put into action, a simple mechanical stopper is engaged to prevent the hammers from hitting the strings, meaning you can don your headphones and practice all night without disturbing the neighbours or changing the way you play.

The TransAcoustic models contain some additional transducers that turn your digital signals back into analogue sound by using the instrument’s own soundboard as a speaker. This incredible leap forward in piano design has to be seen to be believed, so here’s a demo video from Yamaha:

To find out how much money you could save:

    • Send us a picture of your piano, along with details of its age, manufacturer, and serial number if you know them. Digital pianos are included in the offer as long as they have 88 keys.
    • Pick the specific model of Yamaha Silent or TransAcoustic piano you’d like to replace it with as each model qualifies for a different amount of discount (see below). We have a few of them in our shop in Haslemere if you’d like to come and try one out.
    • We’ll deliver your new piano and take away your old one for nothing.

It doesn’t matter if your current instrument hasn’t been looked after very well. Even badly damaged pianos automatically qualify for the upgrade. That said, we might offer you an extra discount on top of Yamaha’s offer if your instrument is in good condition.

So what are you waiting for – trade in your tired upright and Get Connected today!

Upgrade bonus value
  B P U/YUS/SU/SE GB/GC CX1-3 CX5-Premium
Silent £250.00 £400.00 £500.00 £575.00 £825.00 £1,250.00
TransAcoustic - - £575.00 £650.00 £1,000.00 -

Manhasset - The number one choice for schools and orchestras worldwide since 1935

Bestselling Symphony
(MAN4801) & Symphony
(MAN48TA) stands

Try the world’s favourite music stand today

Manhasset music stands are named after a hamlet on the north shore of Long Island, New York, where their musician inventor Otto Lagervall lived in 1935. His intention was to develop the very best music stand possible using the highest quality materials and workmanship. Since then, the company have repeatedly improved the manufacturing process and added many extra models for specific purposes, but the basic design and demand for excellence has not changed. More than 5 million stands and countless accessories have been sold from their factory in Yakima Washington.

Manhasset are so confident in the quality of their products that they offer a lifetime guarantee with every stand!

Extra-wide Fourscore
stand (MAN5101)

One of the primary selling points of the Manhasset range is the easy knob-free adjustment system. An ingenious ‘magic finger’ clutch system and ‘friction tilt’ neck joints allow for an infinite number of secure positions to be achieved by simply pushing and pulling the stand into place. As all the silent machinery is hidden inside the shaft, they’re virtually unbreakable and look really elegant.

Dual lip Orchestral
stand (MAN5001)

Heavy steel bases ensure maximum stability and all components are finished with scratch-proof glare-free powder coating. The desks are large and solid, and all have a deep 2.25” lip to eliminate any chance of music falling off. They can all support at least 4kg of music and come in a variety of materials including aluminium and transparent polycarbonate. Some models, like the Orchestral stand, feature a second lip that creates a shelf for pencils, rosin, bows, reeds, valve oil, or any other instrumental accessories.

Double layer Director model creates
easily accessible storage space (MAN4901)

These stands’ renowned reliability requires that they stay fully constructed for their whole life which makes them particularly suited to heavy-use locations such as schools and concert halls. While this means they take up more space than a normal foldaway stand, they are surprisingly light, and Manhasset have come up with some clever designs including tessellating bases, fold-up legs, 360° rotating desks, and trolleys for up to 25 stands that make storage and transportation easy without compromising sturdiness or ease of use.

If your school still hasn’t joined the party, take advantage of one of our deals to get big discounts and FREE gifts:

Storage trolley for up to 15
Harmony stands (MAN1980)

Free stands when you order a trolley

  • Buy a MAN1910 trolley with 25 compatible stands and we’ll throw in another 2 Symphony stands FREE!
  • Buy a MAN1980 trolley with 15 Harmony stands and we’ll give you another 2 stands FREE!


Harmony stand designed
for easy storage (MAN8501)

Bulk discounts

As with many of our products we offer huge bulk buy discounts on top of our already unbeatable prices. Buy a box of 6 to start saving extra on Manhasset stands and kit out your entire music department for as little as £33.36 per stand.

Other Manhasset models stocked by Chamberlain Music include...


The classic Symphony model is now available in blue, green, purple, red, white or yellow (MAN48). Match school colours or just add a splash of fun to the classroom.

Designed to protect the hearing of those stationed in front of a loud player, the Manhasset Acoustic shield (MAN2000) can also double as a music stand and French horn deflector.

Voyager (MAN5201) stands feature a detachable desk and fold-up legs for easy transportation.

Now you can use all the great features of the famous music stand design to hold up your microphone with the Chorale mic stand(MAN3016).

An invaluable classroom tool that doubles as an extremely useful home bookstand, the Table Top desk (MAN5301) is identical to a full size Symphony desk with a small rubber back support instead of a stand.

Enjoying our blog?

Get more great articles, delivered to your inbox.

Sign-up for our newsletter and we'll let you know when we've posted some more articles. We will never sell your details to anyone else. You can unsubscribe at any time.