Jump to main content
Welcome to this First Steps guide, which we have created to help you get started with Dorico by taking you through all the steps necessary to create and prepare a short piano piece, followed by an extract of a blues song.
Tour of the user interface
In Dorico, the user interface is everything within the project window. Its basic structure is the same in all modes.
Functions of the modes
In Dorico, there are different modes: Setup, Write, Engrave, Play, and Print. Each mode represents a different phase in the workflow of preparing scores and parts, so they contain different toolboxes, panels, and functionality from each other.
Dorico projects
A project is an individual file that contains all required musical information, including multiple instruments, their music, and playback settings.
Key commands
Key commands are sets of keys that perform defined tasks when pressed together. They are also known as keyboard shortcuts or hotkeys. Many key commands are the same on different operating systems but some are not, and this guide distinguishes them.
To walk you through setting up the project for this solo piano piece, the following tasks cover starting a new project, adding a piano to it, and deleting the spare part layout.
Starting a new project
The first step in producing a piece in Dorico is to start a new project. These steps describe starting an empty project so you can learn how to add individual instruments and players yourself.
Adding a piano player
The piece you are replicating is for solo piano, so you need to add a single player and assign a piano instrument to them.
Deleting the spare layout
As this piece only involves one player, you can delete the part layout created by default and just keep the full score. In projects that contain one player, you might find that having only one layout makes it easier to keep track of your work.
Now that you have set up your project, you can start writing the music. The following tasks take you through inputting the notes and notation items required for this piano piece, with a separate task for each item for clarity, although Dorico is designed so that you can also input most items at the same time as inputting notes and other notations: you don’t have to stop note input to add a dynamic, for example.
During the following tasks, you will be using popovers to input notations such as key signatures and dynamics. Popovers are temporary value fields that appear above the staff and allow you to input different items and perform tasks using text entries.
Adding a key signature
All new projects in Dorico start with no key signature, which is treated as atonal; that is, without an implied tonality. This piece is in A♭ major, so you need to input a key signature.
Adding a time signature
All new Dorico projects start with no time signature by default. As this piece is in 3/4, it requires a time signature.
Adding bars
Dorico automatically creates bars when you reach the end of the last bar as you input notes. However, it can be helpful to have all the bars you will need in advance.
During the following tasks, you will be using the caret to input notes. In Dorico, the caret is a vertical line that shows the rhythmic position at which notes, chords, or notation items are input.
Inputting the melody on the top staff
In this piece, the melody is on the top, treble staff. For the first few bars of the melody, you need to input individual notes in sequence.
Inputting the chords on the bottom staff
Inputting notes on top of each other to create chords is very similar to inputting notes in sequence (in that the caret must be active), but the input behavior is slightly different.
Adding accidentals
So far, all the notes you have input have followed the accidentals in the key signature of A♭ major. However, the chords in bar 6 include B♮ and D♮, so you need to add accidentals.
Adding another voice to the top staff
In bar 9, a second voice appears on the top staff, so you need to add an additional voice to the staff. We will also explain how you can identify the voice into which you are inputting notes.
Adding slurs
Most phrases in this piece have slurs. This task starts by adding slurs to the phrases you have already input, then describes inputting a slur alongside new notes.
Inputting a tie
There is a tie that joins two notes on the bottom staff across the barline between bars 14 and 15. In these steps you will input that tie.
Adding dynamics
This piece includes a number of different dynamics, including ones such as , which are known as immediate dynamics in Dorico, and crescendo/diminuendo hairpins, which we collectively name gradual dynamics. Like slurs, you can add dynamics to existing music as well as inputting them during note input.
Adding articulations
This piece includes a number of different articulations, including marcato, tenuto, and staccato marks. You can add articulations to existing notes as well as inputting them alongside notes.
Adding arpeggio signs to chords
Most of the chords in this piece are played straight, but a number are rolled, which is indicated with an arpeggio sign. You can add arpeggio signs to existing chords as well as inputting them alongside inputting notes.
Adding tempo marks
Because this piece was composed in the Romantic era, it includes a fair amount of rubato. This is indicated in the music with relatively short fluctuations in tempo, including a ritardando followed by an a tempo, which you will input in this task.
Adding clef changes
In this piece, the register on the staff changes drastically enough in some places to justify a change in clef. The first clef changes are at the end of the first section of the piece.
Deleting rests
Dorico automatically shows rests between the notes you input, as appropriate for the prevailing time signature and their position in the bar. When using voices to notate passing notes, as in bar 29, rests in those voices are not always wanted. In such cases, you can delete rests.
Inputting tuplets
In bars 30-40, there are several different tuplets that you must input. Dorico allows you to input tuplets with any ratio, including over barlines.
Adding a grace note
In bar 32, there is a grace note before a chord on the top staff. In this task, you will input the chords on the top staff in bar 32 including the grace note.
Adding an octave line
To avoid having lots of ledger lines, the chord you input in bar 32 that jumps up an octave can be notated with an 8va octave line; that is, an octave line that indicates notes are played an octave higher than written.
Inputting the music in bars 33-35
Bars 33-35 include cross-staff beams (beams that start on the bottom staff but end on the top staff) and chords with alternative note spellings. In this task, you will input all the notes and chords required in these bars; in the next two tasks, you will cross notes from the bottom staff to the top staff and respell notes to show the Bs.
Crossing notes to the other staff
In Dorico, you can achieve cross-staff beams for phrases that span multiple staves by inputting all the notes on one staff and then crossing some to the other. In the previous task, you input the notes so now you can cross them.
Respelling notes
In bars 33-34, you input A♮s that were notated as Bs in the original edition, and a D♭ in bar 35 that was originally notated as a C♯. You may also have input a D♮ in bar 15 that was originally notated as an E. In this task, you can respell these notes.
Adding indications for left/right hands
To clarify which hand should play notes when they are notated on the same staff, the original edition has l.H. and r.H. indications, for left hand and right hand respectively, above and below the staff.
Adding the repeat ending
Repeat ending structures in Dorico automatically incorporate the lines above the staff and the repeat barline. In the original edition, the second ending has a closed hook end, so you can also replicate that.
Finish writing the music
You should now have input a decent portion of the whole piece, and by following the previous tasks, learned how to do everything required to complete Dora Pejačević’s Walzer-Capricen No. 2.
Once you have input all the notes and notations required, you can lay out and format pages to produce practical sheet music.
Adding the title and composer
You need to add title and composer information for the project. On page 1, there are two different titles: the project title (Untitled Project 1, most likely) and the flow title (Flow 1).
Page templates and tokens
Although you can only edit and use page templates and tokens fully in Dorico Pro, it is worth understanding the basic principles of how Dorico uses them to display information on pages, regardless of your product version.
Hiding the flow heading
Because there is only a single flow in this project, you can hide the flow heading as it duplicates the project title. If your project contained all nine pieces in Pejačević’s Opus 28 Walzer-Capricen, you would most likely want to show flow headings above each piece.
Hiding staff labels
As this piece only contains a single piano, hiding staff labels increases the available horizontal space for the music without losing useful information. Because it is an engraving tradition to indent the first system in parts slightly, you will add a small first system indent too.
Changing the page size and margins
The next thing you can do to increase the available space on each page for music is to change the page margins. You can also change the page size to A4 so it’s the same as in our example.
Deleting the copyright text frame (Dorico Pro only)
By default, Dorico includes a text frame for the copyright notice at the bottom of the First page template (used for the first page of music). This piece does not require a copyright notice, so Dorico Pro users can delete it to increase the vertical space available for music and keep the bottom staves aligned across all pages.
Changing the staff size
Staff size is determined using either the height of each space or the height of the staff overall, for which there are traditional rastral sizes. Finding the most appropriate staff size is often the quickest way to improve the look of scores, such as when the size is too large and systems start to overlap.
Changing vertical spacing settings
Next, you can reduce the default vertical spacing settings to reduce the minimum amount of space Dorico allows for staves and systems.
Changing note and cross-staff beam spacing
In order to fit the remaining music on page 3 onto pages 1-2, you can reduce the minimum note spacing to fit more bars in each system. At the same time, you can make the gaps between stems equal for the cross-staff beams.
Starting on a left-hand page
As this layout now fits on two pages, it makes sense to set it up as a two-page spread, with the first page on the left and the second page on the right.
Changing stem directions
In order to help clarify which notes are played by the right and left hands, the stems of some notes point in a different direction to the default according to their pitch. To match this, you can change the stem direction of individual notes.
Changing beam grouping
Dorico automatically beams notes according to the prevailing meter (time signature). The original edition of this piece has some beam groups that don’t follow the meter, so you must change the beam grouping manually.
Aligning dynamics
If you added dynamics separately, you might notice they aren’t aligned vertically. You can group dynamics together so they align in a row.
Adjusting the shapes of slurs (Dorico Pro and Dorico Elements)
A number of slurs follow their default curvature direction and shape according to the voices they were added to, whereas in the original edition they cover whole phrases, including starting from rests. Because slurs can’t start or end on rests in Dorico, you must adjust their shapes manually to achieve this effect.
Moving items graphically (Dorico Pro and Dorico Elements)
As a final step, you can tweak the exact graphic positions of items in Engrave mode in Dorico Pro and Dorico Elements. In this task, you will improve the positions of left and right hand indications, change the angles of some hairpins, and move another hairpin to allow the top and bottom staves to be closer together.
The next step in the process is listening to the music and making changes if required. There are many different ways you can adjust how your music sounds in playback; the following tasks cover a few simple adjustments.
Changing the audio output device
Before you start playing back music, it’s worth checking that your audio output device is correctly set up so you can hear your music.
Applying a playback template
Dorico uses playback templates to load all the required sounds for the instruments in your project. If you have installed the sounds provided with your Dorico version, you can apply the corresponding playback template.
Playing back the piece
With piano sounds loaded, you can now listen to the whole piece played back. You can do this in any mode.
Changing dynamic levels in playback
You can change the levels of dynamics in playback without affecting their appearance in the music. To demonstrate this, these steps focus on bars 21-30, adjusting the volume of the consecutive crescendo hairpins and adding a subtle unmarked diminuendo leading into bar 30 to shape the phrase.
Changing the poco rit. final tempo
The poco rit. in bars 42-43 sounds like it needs a little more time. To achieve that, you can reduce its final tempo.
Changing the played duration of notes
After reducing the final tempo of the poco rit. in the previous task, it sounds like the played (sounding) duration of the last chord in bar 42 should be adjusted for a smoother transition back into the starting material. You can change the played duration of notes in Dorico without affecting their notated duration.
Once you are happy with how the piece looks on the page and sounds in playback, you can print and export it in a variety of formats, including graphics and audio files. The following tasks cover a few common printing and exporting operations.
Printing hard copies
If you have a printer connected to your computer, you can print hard copies of layouts directly from Dorico. If you don’t have a printer or don’t want to print a hard copy, you can skip this task.
Exporting to PDF
You can export any layout as PDF, PNG, SVG, and TIFF graphics files. Because the most common and useful format for musical scores is arguably PDF, this task covers exporting to PDF with a watermark to indicate it’s a proof.
Exporting the audio
You can export the audio of projects as MP3 or WAV audio files; for example, to share how a piece sounds with someone who does not have Dorico.
Congratulations! You have completed the Dora Pejačević Walzer-Capricen No. 2 piano piece project. We hope you enjoyed the process and learned useful Dorico operations along the way.
Adding lyrics
Perhaps unsurprisingly at this stage, Dorico has a dedicated popover for inputting lyrics that stays open after each lyric/syllable. You can press different keys to advance the popover to the next note automatically, depending on whether the lyric/syllable needs a hyphen after it or not.
Adding fermatas
There is a pause in the recording of this song in the beats before the first chorus. One way of notating this is to use a fermata, also known as a pause mark.
Adding a mute playing technique
To indicate that the cornet player should use a mute, and to use a muted cornet sound in playback, you can input a con sordino playing technique.
Adding chord symbols
The input method for chord symbols is similar to lyrics in that you can advance the chord symbols popover after inputting each chord symbol without closing it, allowing you to input sequences of chord symbols in one go.
Adding rhythm slashes
As this blues song involves lots of improvisation, you can use slash regions to fill bars with rhythm slashes to indicate those players should improvise.
Adding bar repeats
In addition to rhythm slashes to indicate improvisation, you can use bar repeats as a short-hand to tell players to repeat what they did in the previous bar.
Showing chord symbols above different staves
Chord symbols automatically appear above rhythm section instrument staves. However, in this song it is useful to show chord symbols for other instruments too, to help their improvisation.
Adding a drum set
This song did not originally include any percussion, but in order to demonstrate how Dorico handles percussion kits including drum sets, in this task you will add a hypothetical drum set to the project.
Inputting notes on a drum set
Note input on percussion kits, which is what a drum set is in Dorico, works slightly differently than for other instruments. In this task, you will input a simple drum set part in keeping with the song’s style that demonstrates some useful percussion kit input techniques.
Adding tremolos
In bars 8 and 12 in the verse, the vocal part stops early in the bar. To fill in the space a little, you can add tremolos to the drum set part.
Enabling swing playback for the drum set
The drum set part has lots of eighth notes (quavers) that could be played swung, as is idiomatic in blues songs, but the other parts in this song are played straight. In Dorico, you can enable swing playback only for the drum set, without affecting the other parts.
Removing the drum set from the full score
One of Dorico’s strengths is the flexible relationship between players, layouts, and flows. To demonstrate this, you can remove the drum set from the full score, because it was not in the original song, but keep the player and their music in the project for reference.
Looking at the parts
You are now almost at the end of this guide, and are hopefully feeling ready to work on your own projects! So let’s take this opportunity to do a quick tour of part layouts, what they share with the full score, and what is unique to each part.
Final tips
We hope that you have enjoyed this guide and have learned some useful ways of working in Dorico. To finish, we would like to leave you with some final tips for maximizing your time and output, and to let you know where you can go from here.