If you want to compose music with the iPad, one of the best apps currently available to you is Dorico, developed by German company Steinberg, the same company famous for developing the audio editing software Cubase, especially since it’s free. It allows you to create musical notations for one or two instruments very easily, taking advantage of the on-screen keyboard, drum pads or a MIDI-connected keyboard.
To most people this name probably doesn’t sound new: Dorico has been a music notation software used by tens of thousands of musicians worldwide on macOS and Windows for years: it’s simply now available for iPad. Its strength lies in the fact that it’s easy enough to learn enough to be used by students in schools, as well as deep enough to meet the needs of the most demanding professionals in the world of concert music, music for film and TV and music publishing.
Dorico for iPad is fully compatible with Dorico for macOS and Windows, so you can work on projects on the go on the iPad and then pick them up from the studio on your desktop or laptop computer, or perhaps even share projects with musicians using Dorico on any platform.
The app’s interface is divided into four modes. In “Setup” mode, you can add and change instruments, create and rearrange sections of music (called “streams”), and choose how to format the music; in “Write” mode, you can enter and edit music and other notation using simple, well-organized tools and panels; in “Engrave” mode, you can make graphic changes to each element of your project; and finally, in “Play” mode, you have access to sequencer-style MIDI editing tools, including piano rolls and velocity editors.
Dorico includes built-in virtual instruments and effects to allow you to play your compositions, and you can also use any compatible Audio Unit plug-in (with optional in-app purchase) and edit playback using the on-screen Mixer. Music can also be written using an on-screen piano keyboard or by connecting a MIDI keyboard to the iPad directly via USB or using a compatible USB-to-Lightning adapter. If you have a Magic Keyboard or other external keyboard, you can use numerous keyboard shortcuts to work quickly and efficiently.
In its free version, Dorico allows you to write for ensembles of one or two musicians (such as lead guitar, voice and piano, etc.). By registering with your own Steinberg ID, also free, you can increase the limit of instruments to four, thus writing for ensembles such as string or wind quartets or coro SATB. If you then want to take the arrangement to the next level, you can purchase an optional subscription (at the price of 3.99 euros per month or 39.99 euros per year) to unlock more features and power: specifically, the scores can include up to 12 instruments and you get access to the Engraving mode mentioned above.
Once the piece is finished you can export the score in PDF format or in MusicXML to use it with another music editing software; alternatively you can print it directly through a printer connected via AirPrint, or you can share the audio part in MP3.
The app is localized in English and as we said is available on the App Store in the iPad version and is free. To be installed it requires at least iPadOS version 13 and 830 MB of disk space. The only data it collects are those about the use and contact information of the user.