Future of notation software

Recommendations concerning notation and publishing software in a non-partisan environment.
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David Ward
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Re: Future of notation software

Post by David Ward » 31 Oct 2019, 15:42

Yes I agree with you both benwiggy & OCTO. Things (the future of sheet music etc etc) are insecure, but also unknown. Maybe something good will come of it all, though whether or not I'll live long enough to see (and appreciate) it is another question.
Finale 25.5 & F 26.1
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Fred G. Unn
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Re: Future of notation software

Post by Fred G. Unn » 01 Nov 2019, 01:46

oops, double post
Last edited by Fred G. Unn on 01 Nov 2019, 11:53, edited 2 times in total.

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Fred G. Unn
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Re: Future of notation software

Post by Fred G. Unn » 01 Nov 2019, 01:47

benwiggy wrote:
30 Oct 2019, 18:57
I suspect Dorico's primary market is commercial music, where time is money. Dorico is all about saving time; getting parts out quickly. So music theatre, film scoring, and conventional publishing is going to pay to get the job done fast.
IMO, Dorico has done a poor job supporting that market so I'm not sure that's where they are going to make $. Most jazz musicians have never even heard of it and V1.0 couldn't even do a lead sheet. Current chord support is still a bit mediocre compared to Finale (I just posted a chord bug report on the Dorico forum a day ago that Daniel hasn't been able to figure out yet). There's not really any native support for a single staff piano for a sketch or lead sheet (although this is hackable), and there are lots of issues with percussion staves, to the point they are basically unusable for jazz or commercial music. I like the concept of their percussion staves, but a professional jazz drum part will often have fully notated music, slashes, and rhythm cues all in the same part. This is very difficult to achieve in Dorico, so I usually end up with two staves, one for notation and one for playback (if needed).

Dorico's spacing algorithms are great though, and its vertical and horizontal spacing is the primary reason I've mostly switched to it. They seem to be catering to the traditional publishing and choral markets though from my viewpoint, not jazz and commercial where many features seem to be less than fully developed.

dspreadbury
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Re: Future of notation software

Post by dspreadbury » 01 Nov 2019, 09:51

Fred G. Unn wrote:
01 Nov 2019, 01:47
IMO, Dorico has done a poor job supporting that market so I'm not sure that's where they are going to make $. Most jazz musicians have never even heard of it and V1.0 couldn't even do a lead sheet.
...because it lacked support for chord symbols. But version 1.1, which was released in June 2017 as a free update, added chord symbols, so while it is accurate to say that Dorico 1.0 "couldn't even do a lead sheet", that was true only for a short period of time. If we had been able to add chord symbols, and dedicated drum kit notation, and slashes, and so on, all in the first release while still delivering everything else we delivered, we would have done so. Those who might like to imply that the reason Dorico 1.0 "couldn't even do a lead sheet" is because we in the Dorico team somehow don't value or prioritise the needs of musicians working in jazz and commercial music are completely off-base.

Like any creative endeavour, software development is hard work. It takes time, blood, sweat and tears to produce capable software to a high standard. Like any creative endeavour in which money is involved, there are deadlines, compromises, tough decisions at every turn.
Fred G. Unn wrote:
01 Nov 2019, 01:47
Current chord support is still a bit mediocre compared to Finale (I just posted a chord bug report on the Dorico forum a day ago that Daniel hasn't been able to figure out yet).
I don't think this is a reasonable assessment of the capabilities of the two programs when it comes to chord symbols. It is of course possible to produce chord symbols that look however you please in Finale, provided you're willing to edit the libraries to produce the appearance you want in every case, and Finale users of long standing have put those hours in many years ago. But there is no comparison between the semantic richness of Dorico's approach to chord symbols and that taken by Finale. Unless I am badly misinformed (which is of course possible), Finale doesn't provide native support for polychords, or automatically hide chord roots in order to show only changing bass notes, or have native support for jazz scale chord symbols.

You can also achieve chord symbols that look however you like in Dorico, to the point of editing the size and relative position of individual characters within the chord symbols, and save them for future use, rather like the library in FInale. We have taken an approach that attempts to provide sufficient flexibility that you can do this and still subsequently change your mind about which text font you would like to use, by implementing a system of stretchable attachments between different points on the glyphs in use. This is far more sophisticated than anything available in any other software, to my knowledge. There may be bugs, of course, but it's not as if Finale is 100% bug-free either, and what does the lead designer of Finale say when you ask him or her about a specific problem on their public forum...?

Perhaps you are no fan of the fact that chord symbols are system-attached in Dorico so that they are shared by all instruments and are automatically shown for rhythm section instruments and not for others. Certainly users expressed reservations about the difficulty in showing chord symbols only for solo passages (you would have to explicitly hide them elsewhere for that instrument), but the most recent Dorico 3.0 release provided two quick and easy solutions for this (an option to show chord symbols automatically in regions of slashes, or an explicit chord symbol region that can be quickly dragged out over a range of music to show chord symbols only in that region).

The remaining common issue that people ask about is how to show simplified or different chord symbols for different instruments in the ensemble, and that is still not practical in the current version, but we have been working on a simple solution since Dorico 3.0's release for this, and it will make its way into the software in the next (free) feature-focused update.
Fred G. Unn wrote:
01 Nov 2019, 01:47
There's not really any native support for a single staff piano for a sketch or lead sheet (although this is hackable)...
Yes, there is. You can either choose to hide one of the piano staves dynamically using the 'Allow single staves of multi-staff instruments to be hidden' option on the Vertical Spacing page of Layout Options, or you can manually hide and show staves using Edit > Staff > Remove Staff and Extra Staff Above/Below.
Fred G. Unn wrote:
01 Nov 2019, 01:47
... and there are lots of issues with percussion staves, to the point they are basically unusable for jazz or commercial music. I like the concept of their percussion staves, but a professional jazz drum part will often have fully notated music, slashes, and rhythm cues all in the same part. This is very difficult to achieve in Dorico, so I usually end up with two staves, one for notation and one for playback (if needed).
Here you are correct. In particular the fact that you cannot work with rests on percussion staves in the same way that you can on pitched notation staves is a serious impediment, and we do not yet have a solution ready for this specific problem. But we have demonstrated repeatedly over the past three years that we take these issues seriously.
Fred G. Unn wrote:
01 Nov 2019, 01:47
Dorico's spacing algorithms are great though, and its vertical and horizontal spacing is the primary reason I've mostly switched to it. They seem to be catering to the traditional publishing and choral markets though from my viewpoint, not jazz and commercial where many features seem to be less than fully developed.
Certainly we are trying to cater to the traditional publishing and choral markets, but we are also trying to cater to the jazz and commercial markets, and to film music, and early music, and learning/teaching, and, and, and... Professional music notation software cannot afford to target only one niche, no matter how much the people who work in each niche wish that it could, and decry any work on features that do not appeal to their specific set of use cases as evidence of the software not being "for them".

Fred, I'm glad you like Dorico and find it useful. I am also happy to hear constructive criticism of the things that need to be improved to make the software more useful for you. You are also of course welcome to your assessment that Dorico has done a poor job supporting the jazz and commercial music market. It may even be true (I disagree, and in general the feedback I receive concurs). But we do not lack commitment in trying to serve these markets, and we will continue to do so, just as we will the needs of contemporary art music composers, traditional publishers, musical theatre composers, teachers, students, choral arrangers, and so on, and so on, and so on.

benwiggy
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Re: Future of notation software

Post by benwiggy » 01 Nov 2019, 11:10

There have been constant complains on Finale's forums about the 'wrong' way that percussion staves work since F2010, when a new percussion method was introduced. (Traditionally, any new feature in Finale is unwelcomed by the userbase.)

hautbois baryton
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Re: Future of notation software

Post by hautbois baryton » 02 Nov 2019, 14:37

benwiggy wrote:
01 Nov 2019, 11:10
(Traditionally, any new feature in Finale is unwelcomed by the userbase.)
Mostly due to the possibility of previously completed work being completely disrupted/destroyed if opened or updated in newer versions.
Composer and engraver

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Fred G. Unn
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Re: Future of notation software

Post by Fred G. Unn » 11 Nov 2019, 00:45

Whoa, I hadn't checked in here in a while. Thanks for your response Daniel! Just a few comments in response.
dspreadbury wrote:
01 Nov 2019, 09:51
...because it lacked support for chord symbols. But version 1.1, which was released in June 2017 as a free update, added chord symbols, so while it is accurate to say that Dorico 1.0 "couldn't even do a lead sheet", that was true only for a short period of time.
There's a group of about 20 of us copyists in the NYC area, that all go in together to have 9.5x12.5 paper custom cut, as we can get a better price in bulk. Pretty much all of us were religiously following your Making Notes blog during the development of Dorico and were excited about what Dorico might be. When it came out and couldn't do chord symbols or a few other things, everyone in this group sort of just wrote it off and stuck with Finale, Sibelius, and SCORE. Once 2.0 came out, another NYC musician/copyist friend of mine, whom I believe you know in real life too (initials B.D., UK born trumpet player, in NYC maybe 10+ years, was a Sib user on Acorn, Dorico 1.0 user) kept harping on me to give it another shot. I did, bought 2.2, and for the past 5 months anyway have been trying to use it as my primary software. AFAIK, none of the other copyists in my paper order group have bought it. I obviously have no idea how many would have actually switched, and 20 sales certainly isn't going to make or break Steinberg, but that was a fairly large and relatively influential (many of us have college teaching gigs, quite a few of us have Grammys or other awards, one was an senior editor at Boosey NYC for years) group that mostly wrote off Dorico based on those initial impressions. It will be harder to recruit any of them to switch now, as they are starting from an opinion predisposed to assume it is not capable of what they need to do.
dspreadbury wrote:
01 Nov 2019, 09:51
Unless I am badly misinformed (which is of course possible), Finale doesn't provide native support for polychords, or automatically hide chord roots in order to show only changing bass notes, or have native support for jazz scale chord symbols.
I'm not sure about current support for native jazz scale symbols, as I created them in my chord library probably 20 years ago, but unless I'm mistaken true polychords such as Dmaj7/Cmaj7 require some tricks in both programs. Showing changing bass notes in Finale is simple as I can either type Cm7/Bb or simply /Bb. I can just type what I want and can even mix and match styles in the same file if needed for clarity just by typing them in without any workarounds at all.

EDIT: I'm wrong about polychords in Dorico. I didn't realize using | as a separator will allow them. Cool!

Additionally, it's easy to create non-traditional chord names in Finale too. In a piece that actually won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz Composition a few years back, (B.D. is a regular in his band, and I've worked with the bandleader off and on for 20 years), the composer wanted some humorous chord names like F Dominican 7, and Bb Mexilodian. This was easy in Finale. Finale's chord suffix editor interface is pretty crappy and hasn't been updated in decades, but it does allow the user to create anything they or their clients could possibly want. Dorico's doesn't seem to quite allow the same level of flexibility.
dspreadbury wrote:
01 Nov 2019, 09:51
You can also achieve chord symbols that look however you like in Dorico, to the point of editing the size and relative position of individual characters within the chord symbols, and save them for future use, rather like the library in FInale. We have taken an approach that attempts to provide sufficient flexibility that you can do this and still subsequently change your mind about which text font you would like to use, by implementing a system of stretchable attachments between different points on the glyphs in use.
The main problem I have with Dorico's Edit Chord Symbol Component window is that it is not WYSIWYG, at least not for me on Win10. Here's a sample:
Image

I have to use trial and error in the Edit Chord Symbol Component window to figure out what it will actually look like. This is achievable for a chord suffix with simply one alteration, but falls apart when editing a suffix with two alterations. Here's a gif of a double stacked alteration where I am increasing the Y value, yet the symbol continues moving down relative to the other elements.
Image

It is very difficult to make any modifications to a double stacked alteration and get it to appear correctly. Some of these edits could possibly be rendered unnecessary with an alteration baseline adjustment setting. Visually a sharp and a number should not share a hard baseline, but the "descenders" of the sharp should descend below the physical baseline to allow for a balanced appearance. Here's how Finale accounts for this (values are in EVPUs):
Image
dspreadbury wrote:
01 Nov 2019, 09:51

but the most recent Dorico 3.0 release provided two quick and easy solutions for this (an option to show chord symbols automatically in regions of slashes, or an explicit chord symbol region that can be quickly dragged out over a range of music to show chord symbols only in that region).
The new chord region feature does resolve most of the issues I had with this in 2.2. I do wish it could be assignable to multiple staves at once though if I have multiple staves selected when applying.
dspreadbury wrote:
01 Nov 2019, 09:51
Fred G. Unn wrote:
01 Nov 2019, 01:47
There's not really any native support for a single staff piano for a sketch or lead sheet (although this is hackable)...
Yes, there is. You can either choose to hide one of the piano staves dynamically using the 'Allow single staves of multi-staff instruments to be hidden' option on the Vertical Spacing page of Layout Options, or you can manually hide and show staves using Edit > Staff > Remove Staff and Extra Staff Above/Below.
That is easier, thanks! I still think ability to support a single staff piano as a selectable instrument (mostly for exercises or lead sheets), or better yet the ability to create and edit any instrument, would be a useful addition.

EDIT: This doesn't work if you have chord symbols set to appear between staves of a double staff instrument. They just won't show at all if the bottom staff is removed. A true single staff piano would still be a desirable thing IMO. (FWIW, I have hacked my Hurdy-Gurdy to be a single staff piano instrument called "Default." I don't imagine I'll be writing for a Hurdy-Gurdy any time soon.)
dspreadbury wrote:
01 Nov 2019, 09:51
Fred, I'm glad you like Dorico and find it useful. I am also happy to hear constructive criticism of the things that need to be improved to make the software more useful for you. You are also of course welcome to your assessment that Dorico has done a poor job supporting the jazz and commercial music market. It may even be true (I disagree, and in general the feedback I receive concurs). But we do not lack commitment in trying to serve these markets, and we will continue to do so, just as we will the needs of contemporary art music composers, traditional publishers, musical theatre composers, teachers, students, choral arrangers, and so on, and so on, and so on.
I do really like Dorico! Obviously the program I'm using the most will also be the one I gripe about the most, as I'm running into issues everyday. The original point of this thread wasn't to pile on Dorico, it was just an observation that undergrad music majors at my university have almost completely stopped using paid software, and none had even heard of Dorico. Obviously I have an interest in seeing the further development of paid software as I've invested and lot of time and $ in them, but the shift away from paid software seemed pretty sudden, at least among people I know, and Dorico's presence in the jazz world seems very minimal. I assume this is more due to the marketing department than development obviously, but the jazz world at large doesn't seem to know it even exists. There are several large jazz ensembles that I frequently write for, and several times in the past 6 months I've gotten compliments on the physical appearance and layout of the music when I've brought a new commission in to rehearse. Most of the time when I tell them it was done in Dorico they haven't heard of it. That's not a criticism, it's just a fact. Aside from B.D. who was an early convert and completely switched, there are only two other NYC or Philly-based musicians I know IRL that are using it (and one is still mostly Finale).

I don't know what the solution is, and obviously am not privy to any revenue #s, but if university students that are serious about a career in music are mostly adopting MuseScore, it can't fare well for the future development of any of the paid notation programs.

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Fred G. Unn
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Re: Future of notation software

Post by Fred G. Unn » 12 Nov 2019, 02:41

Interestingly enough, Finale just dropped their price to $99 for college and university students:
https://www.finalemusic.com/products/fi ... l-pricing/

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