Three Things: Magnetic Layout

It is always great to learn new techniques that speed up your workflow in an application you’ve been using for a while isn’t it? In this series of blog posts, I’m going to stick to three things on a topic that I believe will help speed up your work flow.


A feature with great attraction!

Magnetic layout is a very powerful feature that is often misunderstood. It automatically positions notation items in your score to carefully calculated positions horizontally and vertically to avoid collisions. But some users find it a frustrating when objects are placed in unexpected or unwanted positions. Let’s see if I can give you a few tips that will let you use magnetic layout to your advantage.


One: You can just turn it off for the whole score

Occasionally a colleague will call me and say, “I just want to turn it off!” Well if that is what you really want to do, you certainly can.

Go to the Layout Tab > Magnetic Layout.

Just click on that yellow box with the magnet that says “Magnetic Layout,” it will turn white. Now the Magnetic Layout feature is completely disabled on your score. The position of all your score objects will be at the default positions and stay there, even if they collide with another object.


Two: You can turn off a specific type of object

Maybe you’ve turned it off completely and realized, it’s not so bad and there is just one type of object that is causing your problems. A good example may be bar numbers. As you can see in this example, the bar numbers are not sitting up close to the bottom of the staff, which is their default position.

Go to Layout Tab > Magnetic Layout. Click on the edit box in the bottom right corner and the window below appears. Click on the “Object Type” header and the column will automatically be sorted into alphabetical order. Select “Bar number” and uncheck the “Mag.” box.

Now Magnetic Layout is turned off on just bar numbers in your score.

Three: You can turn off just one specific object

The first two tips are really unnecessary in the majority of cases where I run into Magnetic Layout hiccups. There is a lot of programming going on behind the scenes, but one thing it does is to group similar objects horizontally. You will often see this happening to chord symbols, lyrics, and expressions. The problem that often crops up is when one of these objects is moved out of position by a note, forcing the other similar objects on the same staff system out of position. In this example, the lyrics in the first 2 bars are forced lower by the lyric “Me!” in the third bar.

The first instinct many users have is to start dragging the lyrics in the first two bars up. You will find this technique counter productive. The lyrics in the first two bars are not the problem. Turning off Magnetic Layout off for just “Me!” will do the trick. To do that, click on “Me!” Go to Layout Tab > Magnetic Layout and click on the pull down menu next to Object and select “off”.

A faster way to do the same thing is click on “Me!” and then opt click (right click) and you can turn off Magnetic Layout from the contextual menu. Now all the lyrics pop back up to the default position. “Me!” is now colliding with the note but you can easily drag it into the desired position.

This technique works well with lyrics, expressions, chord symbols, other text, and lines as well. The trick is to find the object that is forcing the others out of position. But it’s pretty easy to spot if you to scan horizontally along the staff until you see the object that is closest to a note. That is the one to turn off. Remember that you can also select two or more objects and turn them all off at the same time as needed. Once you learn to work with Magnetic Layout, you will find that it is an indispensable feature!

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Three Things: Where Did My Bar Numbers Go?

It’s always great to learn new techniques that speed up your work flow in an application you’ve been using for a while isn’t it? In this series of blog posts, I’m going to stick to three things on a topic that I believe will help speed up your workflow.

Where Did My Bar Numbers Go?

This is one of those questions that I am often asked by colleagues and clients with whom I consult—usually in the form of a panicked phone call or email. They have a score where the bar numbers are fine up to a point but then they stop. No matter what they try there are no bar numbers in a bar or two, or perhaps even to the end of the score. If you are in this panicked state, skip to tip number three because that is almost always the solution. If not, read on and learn a few of the finer points about bar numbers in Sibelius.


One: Are they turned on?

Bar numbers in the score and parts can be different fonts, different positions and at different frequencies. The case may be that you are missing all the bar numbers in a score or part, or perhaps you are just seeing them at the start of the staff system and you want them to appear on every bar.

To rectify this situation:

  1. Open the score or the part in question
  2. Go to Appearance Tab > House Style > Engraving Rules > Bar Numbers

Adjustments can be made in the Appearance section. Here you can turn off or set the frequency of the bar numbers, hide them at rehearsal marks, and more. What is important to note is that these settings can be different in the score than in the parts. They can also be different from part to part. Perhaps you want bar numbers every system below the staff in the brass parts, but every bar above the system in the piano/vocal score. You can make those adjustments here.


Two: Are they hidden?

This is a situation I’ve run into when I have received a score from someone else, in which, for some reason, a bar number is hidden on purpose. You may see this:

If you want to bring the bar number back and continue a consecutive numbering, go to Text Tab > Numbering > Bar Number Change and you will see this window:

Click on the radio button for ‘Follow previous bar numbers’ and click OK. Your cursor will turn blue and become loaded. Click on the bar in question. Now you will see the bar numbers return to a consecutive order.


Three: Unresolved navigation is the most likely culprit

Almost always, bar numbers are missing because of an unresolved navigation issue. There is a repeat bar line or system text, such as D.S. or D.C., that is not following the rules. Sibelius bases its playback of the score on these rules. If Sibelius is confused about how to playback your score, your musicians will be too! In my experience, it is always a variation of one of these two scenarios.


Unresolved repeat barlines

The examples I’m showing you here are in a very limited number of bars so you can see them all in one screen shot. You will usually find these repeats spread far apart in the score. You will see in this part that the bar numbers stop after bar 16. Sibelius does not know what do after the repeat at the end of bar 16.

The fix depends on what navigation you want to convey. In this case, if you delete the repeat barline at the end of bar 13, the bar numbering will return to normal. You have clear first and second endings with an appropriate repeat.

But let’s say what you really wanted was a first, second, and third ending. If you create appropriate ending brackets, Sibelius knows how to play this back and the bar numbers will reappear.

Unresolved system text navigation

In this case, a client sent me a score with system text of D.C. al Fine that dictated the navigation of the score.

As I mentioned in the previous example, I have to shorten the number of bars between the repeat bar and the D.C. al Fine. But you can see the missing bar number on the first ending. After reviewing this, I came to the conclusion that this is ineffective navigation. It’s kind of an old school, pen and paper shorthand way to notate the form. My recommendation was to delete the D.C. al Fine and add bars later in the arrangement to compensate. But my client is a very old school pen and paper guy and he wanted it the way he wanted it. What can I tell you? If a client really wants something, you do your best to deliver! At this point it’s important to note that Sibelius is basing its playback on the definition of the system text ‘D.C. al Fine’ found at Play Tab > Interpetation > Dictionary > System Text.

If you go to this window and scroll down the list, you will see D[C. ]*al [Ff]ine—select it and click Delete. You will now see the bar numbers have returned to the normal sequence because D.C. al Fine is no longer affecting playback. So I can now give the client a great looking score and parts, just the way he wanted.

So next time this happens to you, don’t panic. Carefully follow your navigation and get those bar numbers back on track!

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Three Things: Fixing Broken Multirests

It is always great to learn new techniques that speed up your workflow in an application you’ve been using for a while isn’t it? In this series of blog posts, I’m going to stick to three things on a topic that I believe will help speed up your work flow.


What is breaking my multirests?

You have probably run into a situation like this. You are formatting parts and you see that multirests that should be continuous are broken into smaller sections, as they are in this trumpet part.

Let’s look at a few of the common culprits and how to root them out quickly.


One: System text

In the case of bars 6 through 12 the multirest is broken by an instance of tempo text which is a type of System Text. In this case highlighting the bars with a system selection (purple) will show you the culprit.

This can happen when you accidentally add a System Text box and don’t fully clear or delete the text box. If you follow the attachment line, you can see that text box can end up anywhere on the page. Delete the text box and then go to Layout Tab > Breaks and turn off Show Multirests and then turn it back on. You will see the multirest is now consolidated. To do this even faster, learn the keyboard shortcut for Show Multirests.


Two: Formatting

In the case of bars 20 through 28 the multirest is broken by a system break in the layout. In this case, the problem can clearly be seen by turning on layout marks at View Tab > Invisible and checking Layout Marks.

So how did this happen? In this case I used Copy part layout in the Parts Tab, to copy the layout of Trumpet 1 to Trumpet 2. As you can see in this excerpt from the Trumpet 1 part there is a solo in those bars. And Sibelius did as it was told and faithfully copied the layout over.

To consolidate the rests in Trumpet 2, select bars 20 through 28 with a passage selection (blue) and go to Layout Tab > Format > Make Into System. Now you will have a 9 bar multirest on one system.


Three: Special barlines

In the case of bars 29 through 35, there is not an easy way to see what is breaking the multirest. The barline between bars 32 and 33 is a normal barline which is actually a special barline. Any special barline will cause a multirest to break. This may be a bit confusing. Why would a normal barline be a special barline? If you look at the list of Special barlines you’ll see that Normal is an option.

Here is the mistake some users make to cause this situation. You put in a double bar (or other special barline). Then you decide you want a normal barline instead. You select the double barline and go to the Notations Tab > Common > Barlines and select the Normal barline. Now visually you have a normal barline but you really have a ‘Special’ normal barline and this will break the mulitrest. So how do you avoid this? Instead of replacing the double barline by inserting a normal barline, click on the double barline in your score to select it. Then tap the delete key on your keyboard. Sibelius will delete the double barline and the barline will revert to a default normal barline which will not break your multirest.


How to find the answers quickly

As is often the case in Sibelius, there is a plug-in to speed up this process and highlight other causes for broken multirests. It’s called the “Multirests and Empty Bars” plug-in. You can install it by going to the File Tab > Plug-ins >Install plug-ins > All plug-ins > Composing Tools. This plug-in works very simply. Select a passage or the whole part using system selection (purple). Run the plug-in and this window opens. You can read the instructions, but this setting usually works for me.

A report is generated and automatically opens, showing all the details of multirests and empty bars. As you can see, when I run it on this trumpet part, all three situations are clearly defined.

So don’t put up with those pesky broken multirest anymore. You now have the knowledge to fix them or avoid them all together.

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Three Things: Names

It is always great to learn new techniques that speed up your workflow in an application you’ve been using for a while, isn’t it? In this series of blog posts, I’m going to stick to three things on a topic that I believe will help speed up your work flow.


Instrument and part names: just the way you want them

When adding an instrument to a score in Sibelius, you have a lot of choices, but often the instrument may not be labeled exactly the way you would like to see it in a score or on the part. For example, you may want to see “Trumpet 1” instead of “Trumpet in Bb”, or “Bari Sax” instead of “Baritone Saxophone.” Or perhaps you have a part that involves doubles. The part with alto sax, piccolo, and clarinet should be labeled “Reed 1.” Maybe you want to get personal with the part that has alto flute, harmonica, baritone sax, and BGV’s, which needs to be labeled “Randy.” Here are three things that will help you do just that!


One: Changing instrument names in a score

The most direct way to change an instrument name is to double click on the instrument name in the left margin of the score where it appears on page one. For one instrument this is not a big deal, but if you’ve got a lot of names to change this can take a while. Wouldn’t it be easier if there was a way to see all the instrument names in the score in a spreadsheet style? Well, there is! All you have to do is install the Edit Instrument Name Plug-in, which you can easily do by going to File Tab > Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins > Show:All Plug-ins > Text (for more tips on installing plug-ins, see my post Three Things: Plug-ins).

When you run the Edit Instrument Name Plug-in you will see all the instrument names, both full and short names, in an easy-to-navigate spreadsheet style.

Two: Changing the name of a part

If you often write parts with instrument doubling, your preference may be to label the part with the player designation. For example, in this pit score the first reed player doubles on alto saxophone, piccolo, and clarinet. In the score the instrument name will show up in the full or short instrument name as whatever the current instrument is, but we need the part to be labeled “Reed 1.”

To change a part name only in the part (not in the score) is a simple process. If you look at the list of parts, you’ll see that the Reed 1 part currently is labeled “Alto Sax, Piccolo, Clarinet.”

Open the part you would like to rename, then go to File Tab > Info. Here you can change the name of the part to “Reed 1” in the part name box.

You’ll now see that the part name is “Reed 1” on the part and in the part list.

Three: Changing instrument names in a house style

To save time on future projects you can setup a score with instrument names just how you want them and then export that score as a manuscript paper. To export a score as manuscript paper, go to File Tab > Export > Manuscript Paper and follow the prompts. Another way is to create new instruments that have the names the way you like and then add them to any score. Here’s how you do that using “Edit Instrument.”


Open any new or existing score. Let’s assume you want to create Alto Sax 1&2, Tenor Sax 1&2, Bari Sax, Trumpets 1-4 and Trombones 1-4. Go to Home Tab > Instruments and click on the edit box in the lower left corner.

Navigate to All instruments > Woodwind > Alto Saxophone and click on “New Instrument.” The prompt will ask if you are sure you want to do this—click “Yes.”

In the name section, change the name to exactly what you would like to see it appear as in your score. Click “OK” when finished.

You will now see in the Woodwind family that you have an “Alto Sax 1” instrument. Click on that instrument and click on “New Instrument” again and repeat the process above naming the instrument “Alto Sax 2.” You can do the same with the other instruments by starting with the default instrument definition of each of those instruments: Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone, Trumpet in Bb, and Trombone.

Save the score and then go to Appearance Tab > House Style and click on “Export.” Name the new house style something to help you identify it—for this example I’ve called it “Big Band Instrument Names.” When you have a new score that you want to add these instruments to, you can now import these instrument definitions. In the new score, just go to Appearance Tab > House Styles and click on “Import.” Find the house style you’ve created, and under Import Options, click on “Instrument Definitions.”

Now when you go to Home Tab > Instruments > Add Instruments you will see you have instruments all set up for Alto sax 1, Alto sax 2, and the rest. You can select the entire horn section by using command click to select all the instruments you need and add them all to a score at once.

There is no reason not to have your instruments labeled just the way you like it, and now you know how!

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Three Things: Tweaking Playback

It is always great to learn new techniques that speed up your workflow in an application you’ve been using for a while, isn’t it? In this series of blog posts, I’m going to stick to three things on a topic that I believe will help speed up your work flow.


Tweaking playback in the Inspector Panel

Playback of your score in Sibelius is an essential tool for proofing, demoing for the client, or sending out reference MP3’s for use in rehearsals. The defaults in Sibelius are often just right, but perhaps you want to tweak some element of the playback. There are several places you can do this, and one of these is the Inspector Panel (in previous versions of Sibelius this was called the Properties Panel).

The Inspector Panel found in the ribbon Home Tab > Edit > Inspector (or use the keyboard shortcut command shift I).


One: Turn it off!

Often there are elements that appear in your score that for some reason you don’t want to hear on playback, or perhaps only playback the first or second time of a repeated section. An example of this would be notes played only on the repeat.

In this example, I’ve marked this figure “2nd time only.”

Select the two bars and open the Inspector Panel. In the playback section you will see “Play on pass”—uncheck the checkbox for 1.

Now during playback this figure will be silent the first time and play on the repeat of the section. But this does not just apply to notes. It will also affect lines and text linked to playback. In this example, I want the decrescendo to playback second time only.

Click on the hairpin to select it (it turns blue) and open the Inspector Panel. Just as in the previous example, uncheck the checkbox for 1 in the “Play on pass” section. Now during playback this figure will play normally the first time and play the decrescendo on the repeat of this section.

Note: If you are in a passage with no repeats and there is something you just want to turn off for playback, uncheck “Play on pass” 1 and it will not play.


Two: Slow it down!

In Sibelius momentary changes in tempo such as ritards and accelerandos are created with lines. By default Sibelius bases these changes on a percentage and a linear change in tempo, but you can direct Sibelius to change from one specific tempo to another specific tempo.

In this example your starting tempo is 120 bpm, you have a one bar ritard, and you’d like the end tempo to be 106 bpm. Click on the ritard line (it turns blue) and open the Inspector Panel. You will see the default is a linear ritard of 75%. But you can set it to be a ritard based on a bpm of 106.

With this setting the ritard will now slow down exactly to quarter note equals 106. You can also experiment with the curve of the ritard—instead of linear it can be early or late to further dial in the playback.


Three: Play it softly

Often you may find the default playback of an instrument to be a bit too loud or too soft for certain sections. A good example is the piano part below. The notes in the right hand, voice 2 (green) are an accompaniment figure that needs to be played much softer than the melody. By default Sibelius will play all of these notes at the same volume.

Select the bars in the treble staff and filter voice 2 by going to the Home Tab > Select > Filters > Voices > Voice 2. You can also learn the keyboard shortcut and do it much more quickly! Voice 2 is now green and the blue box has disappeared and it will look like the example above. Open the Inspector panel and in the Playback section click the checkbox for Live Velocity and you will see the default is 80. Let’s change that to 45.

When you play this section back you will hear the inner line played much more softly.

Note: For these playback changes to be in effect, you must make sure that Live Playback is turned on under Play Tab > Live Playback. If this is not on, you will not see the options to adjust playback parameters in the Inspector panel.

Now that you have these three tips, use them to tweak your playback as needed.

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Three Things: Drum Set Notation

It is always great to learn new techniques that speed up your workflow in an application you’ve been using for a while isn’t it? In this series of blog posts, I’m going to stick to three things on a topic that I believe will help speed up your work flow.


And the beat goes on

Drum set notation can be a time consuming endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. With the help of some handy plug-ins and keyboard short cuts, you can make short work of drum set parts. You will find the following three tips work well with other rhythm section parts as well.

To follow along you will need to install the three plug-ins I mention, which are all found in

File Tab > Plug-ins > Install > Show:All > Notes and Rests


One: Slash notation

After the initial drum pattern is notated a common practice is to fill the following bars with slashes (or beats without stems in Sibelius terms).

You probably know that the direct way to do this is to put quarter notes on the middle line of the staff and then change the noteheads to “beat without stems”. Wouldn’t it be great to fill up the following bars, no matter how many, with slashes in one move? With the Fill Selection With Slash Notes plug-in, you can do just that! This plug-in works on other rhythm section parts as well and will put the slashes on midline no matter what the clef or key.

Select the bars you want to fill and run the Fill Selection With Slash Notes plug-in. This window will come up:

For this situation the defaults are just fine, you can explore the other options of this plug-in as needed. A tip to speed things up, check the box labeled “Do not show dialog again (this Sibelius session)” and now when you run the plug-in the bars will just fill with slash notes without this window opening up.


Two: Rhythmic notation

Similar to slash notation bars, with rhythmic notation the arranger is giving the drummer freedom to use his discretion as to what to play. The difference is, the arranger defines the rhythmic pattern on which the drummer bases his decision. Like slash notation in Sibelius, this notation is created by notating the rhythm on the midline of the staff and changing the noteheads, but this time to “Beat” which includes a stem on the notes. But as you may have guessed by now, there is a plug-in that will do this for you, it’s the Move Pitches To Transposed Midline plug-in.

With this plug-in you can create as many bars of rhythmic notation in as many bars as you need very quickly. The plug-in works on other rhythm section parts as well, and will put the slashes with stems on the midline no matter what the clef or key.

For this example, the right hand of this piano part has the rhythmic figure I want to represent in the drum part.

Select the bars in the treble staff and copy into the drum part and you’ll have this.

Select the bar you need to change. Now run the Move Pitches To Transposed Midline plug-in.

This window will come up. The defaults work for most cases, but experiment with the parameters as needed.

Notice the plug-in deleted the extra notes in the chord and has moved everything to the midline. It works just as well on single note phrases as it does with chords.


Three: Cues

If you do any big band or pit band arranging you are probably familiar with the technique of cueing horn section figures in the drum set part for “kicks”. The drummer reads the rhythms and creates a drum pattern to accent and support what is being played by the horns. The horn section rhythms appear above the top line of the staff as cue sized notes and rests along with slashes (beat no stem) on the mid line of the staff. It’s not difficult to create, but it does take quite a few steps. With Make Pitches Constant-Drums plug-in you can achieve all of this in 2 steps.

Here’s an example of a trumpet staff and a drum set staff. The trumpet staff has the notes and rests that represent the phrase you want to show in the drum set part. Copy the trumpet phrase into the drum set part, using copy and paste or opt/click method to copy.

Now run the Drum Cues plug-in. This great plug-in allows you to choose, notehead style, slash notehead style, cues above on the top staff line or bottom staff line and more. These are settings I use for a brass cue.

And the plug-in creates this in the drum set part:

Now that you have these three tips, assign them to keyboard shortcuts and you can really simplify the process of creating drum set parts.

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Three Things: Plug-ins

It is always great to learn new techniques that speed up your workflow in an application you’ve been using for a while, isn’t it? The problem with reading or watching long in depth tutorials is, you may find a lot of great tips, but when you are done, you are overwhelmed with information. Finding three things you can apply right away is a great way to learn new techniques and have them stick. So in this series of blog posts, I’m going to stick to three things on a topic that I believe will help speed up your workflow.

More often than not, when I have a great tip about Sibelius it involves a plug-in. There are many plug-ins that ship with Sibelius and there are many more that are available for you to install free from right inside Sibelius. This allows the user to further customize Sibelius to his or her specific needs.

One: Installing

To install plugins in Sibelius go to File Tab > Plug-ins > Install > Show:All

You will see the plug-ins sorted by type. Notice on the bottom of the window that you can install the plug-ins in the default location or create your own custom folder. Click the install button and you are done!

Two: Finding

The next step is to find the plug-in when you need it. Each tab of the ribbon has plug-ins associated with that tab.

But the quickest way to find the plug-in (or anything in Sibelius) is to use the Find box in the upper right corner of the ribbon. For example to find the “Add Pickup Bar” plug-in, type in “Add pick”, and there it is!

Three: Keyboard Short Cuts, the key to speed

The reason you are using a plug-in is to speed up a process in your workflow. The way to maximize this is to add keyboard shortcuts to your most often used plug-ins. When adding keyboard shortcuts, take a minute to come up with a system. There are a lot of keystroke combinations you can use for keyboard shortcuts and some you can’t, or really shouldn’t, use. Sibelius will allow you to reprogram almost any default keyboard shortcut, but there are some you really shouldn’t. For example, command S is save in every Apple program. You could use it for something else, but why cause the confusion? Sibelius already uses a lot of the single letter keys for keyboard shortcuts, K for key signature, Q for clef, etc. Also many predefined shortcuts are the command key and a letter, command L for lyrics, command K for chords etc. So what are you left with for user-defined keystrokes?

  • You can use all the function keys F1-F19, although some of these keys get intercepted by the the operating system.
  • You can use single letter keys in combination with any or all of these modifier keys: control, option and command.
  • You can also combine those modifier keys with a single letter and the shift key, so control + option and a single letter or control + shift and a single letter. Actually you can use them all together if need be for example, shift + control + option + command + a single letter.
  • You can also use the function keys in conjunction with any or all of the modifier keys, for example control + F1. Starting to see the possibilities?

So many options and it’s tempting to just start setting up shortcuts but back to the plan.


Functions, Schema, Geography and Mnemonics

I’ve found it much easier to remember what shortcuts I’ve programmed if I do one of, or a combination of, the following:

  1. Group similar functions to similar shortcuts
  2. Build off existing Sibelius shortcuts
  3. Use the same area of the keyboard for the same type of function (editing, layout, etc) geography.
  4. Use a mnemonic device to associate the shortcut with its purpose.

Here’s an example of how I employ three of the techniques.

I use explode, reduce and exchange staff contents plug-ins a lot. And usually at the same point in the arranging process. So I’ve grouped them together in the same geographical location, with letters that remind me of the function and with the same modifier keys.

  • Explode plug-in is control + option + E
  • Reduce plug-in is control + option + R
  • Exchange Staff Contents plug-in is control + option + S

For the “Exchange Staff Contents” plug-in, I was already using “E” in that shortcut grouping. I’ve always thought of that plug-in as “swapping’ staff contents”, so I used “S”.

For more tips on setting up keyboard shortcuts, read the blogpost Sibelius: Keyboard Shortcuts Part 1: The Key To Productivity! on my blog Notes on Notes.

So the next time you think to yourself, “There has to be an easier way to do this…”, look for a plug-in because someone else has probably had the same thought and there may already be a plug-in created to solve that problem!

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Sketching in Sibelius: The Finishing Touches

Sketching in Sibelius 7.5: The Finishing Touches

This is the fourth and final Sketching in Sibelius tutorial by John Hinchey, producer, arranger, composer and trombonist.

If you’ve been following this series, so far you’ve learned: why I sketch, how to setup your score for sketching, how to input the details of the sketch and how to adjust the length and timing of the arrangement. Next, I covered some techniques on how to quickly fill in the rhythm section parts of the score using the sketch. Now we will get to the horn parts and a few final details.


Here Come the Horns!

The score is looking pretty good and I think we can easily make this deadline but the horn parts need to be orchestrated. Are you thinking “Tabula Rasa” (the blank slate) again, as you look at the empty horn staves? Not a concern with a good solid sketch. The horn parts need to stay out of the way of the vocals and add some punch and flavor to the scene. Almost every horn line I need is either cued in or outlined in the chord structure or the sketch. Let’s start at the top.


Exploding and Arranging

The first thing I want to do is use ‘Focus on Staves’ to show just the sketch staves and horn staves. You remember how to do this from part one of this tutorial! And I also switch to Panorama as I find this the most efficient way to view the score when orchestrating.

In bars 1 and 2, the horn voicing is spelled out pretty clearly. Here is a quick way to blast that chord out into our 6 horn staves, using ‘Arrange Style’:

1.  Select the treble staff of the sketch in bars 1 and 2 (blue passage selection) and press Ctrl+C or Command C for copy. The contents of this staff are now on your clipboard.
2.  Now select bars 1 and 2 of the Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Trumpets 1 and 2 and the Trombone. I am skipping the Baritone Sax as it will take the root of the chord (blue passage selection).

3.  Go to the tab Note Input > Arrange > Arrange > Choose An Arrange Style. This window will come up and I’ll scroll to the top and choose Explode.

4.  Click OK and I’ve got the voicing I want in the top five horns.

5.  For the Bari Sax, I need the root of the chord. I could input these notes using the normal step input, but there is a more efficient way that will copy the notes with all the articulation, the fall and the dynamic as well. So that’s what I’ll do.
6.  Select the Tenor Sax in bars 1 and 2 (blue passage selection).
7.  Next Alt+Click or Option+Click on the Bari Sax staff bar one and the part copies over and, of course, is an octave and a seventh too high, easily corrected as long as the bars are still a blue passage selection.
8.  Hold down the Ctrl or Command key and press the down arrow on the keyboard twice, release the Ctrl or Command key and press the up arrow once. Now Bari Sax has the right notes with the correct articulation and dynamic.

A note about why I used the Arrange > Arrange > Choose An Arrange Style > Explode (Arrange Style window) and not Arrange > Explode. The latter Explode will only explode to 4 staves or less with a top down voicing. So if I had only 4 staves, and the score order was for example Trumpets 1 and 2, Tenor Sax and Trombone, this would work well. But I’m using a more traditional score order and 5 staves. So in this case Arrange Styles is the way to go.


Sometimes Unison is the Way to Go

In bar 10 of the sketch, I have cued in a horn line. This line is going to be played in unison and octaves in the horns, so let’s grab that and quickly put it into all the horns.

There are several ways to do this but let’s use this method:

1.  I’ll go to bar 10 and select the top stave and copy that bar, so it is now on my clipboard.
2.  Go to bar 10 in the Trumpet 1 staff and select the bar (blue passage selection).
3.  Next I go to Home > Clipboard > Paste > Paste into Voice. Set it for ‘Copy from voice 1’, ‘Paste into voice 1’ and click OK. Now you have the line in Trumpet 1, with one little extra bit of text that needs to go.


4.  Click on the piece of text that says “horns” and delete it. Now you have a clean copy of the line with all the pitches and articulations. At this point there are several ways to get this line in all the horns but let’s use this one.
5.  Select bar 10 in the Trumpet 1 staff and copy it (Ctrl+C or Command+C).
6.  Select all 6 horn staves in bar 10 (blue selection passage).
7.  Go to Arrange > Arrange > Choose An Arrange Style > Explode but you’ll notice something interesting here. Since I’ve already used the Arrange > Arrange > Choose An Arrange Style > Explode it is now a choice under Arrange Style, so choose it! No need to go to the next window and click OK. Sibelius fills in the unison line in 2 octaves.

8.  For this arrangement though, I’d like the Alto sax and Baritone sax notes to be an octave lower than this. Easy fix, select the Alto sax and Baritone sax in bar 10 (blue passage selection), hold down the Ctrl or Command key and press the down arrow on the keyboard once. Now I’ve got this bar just the way I want it.
9.  Using these two techniques in combination Alt+Click or Option+Click to copy and paste, I can quickly go thorough and finish up the horns.


Let’s Make Some Room

Turning back to page view of the score it looks a bit crowded. And one way to alleviate that situation is to remove some staves. At this point in the process the sketch staves are redundant in the conductor’s score. So if removed they really would not be missed. But I did use the sketch staves in the Piano Vocal part, I can’t just delete these staves. So what I’ll do is hide them in the score. Thanks to Bob Zawalich, there is a plugin that does this quite simply.

First install the “Show Staves In Parts Only” plug-in. You will find it by going to File > Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins. At the top of the dialog, choose All plug-ins from the Show drop-down. From the Plug-ins list, choose Layout > Show Staves In Parts Only.

Once this handy plugin is installed, you are two clicks away from making some room!

 1.  In page view of the score select both of the Sketch staves, only one bar is needed.

2.  Run the “Show Staves in Parts Only” plug-in. It is very simple; it opens and you click OK—nothing more to do! Those staves are removed (hidden) from page view in the conductor’s score.

3.  If you look in Panorama view the sketch staves appear blank. But if you go to Appearance > Invisibles and check “Hidden Objects” you will see the content of those staves have only been hidden. And if you open the Piano Vocal part, you’ll see the staves and content appearing normally.


That wraps it up for this tutorial. See the Sibelius file for the final version of this score.


WAIT S.O.S from the Client!

The score is done, parts are formatted, everything is exported to pdfs and I am just about to attach to an email and send, when this email arrives in my inbox:

“John, we have a last minute situation. The baritone who was singing the solo has broken a bone in his foot! We can strategically place him on a stool for most of the show but for this one the singer has to be mobile! So we are back to the original tenor soloist (don’t ask me what we did about the costume … it’s not pretty…). The music director feels it would be best for the tenor in the key of ‘G.’ Dress run later tonight, I need the chart in ‘G’ ASAP! But you are the miracle worker right? Best, K.C.”

Sibelius makes this a pretty easy rescue and makes me look good in the process!

As I showed you in Part 3 of this tutorial, transposing the whole score into a new key is a simple process and I’ll do that again here. The real time saver is Sibelius will also transpose all the formatted parts, as well. But I’ll use one of my favorite features in Sibelius and that is Versions. With this feature, I can save different versions of my score as I work all in the same file. I always try to remember to save the final version of my score when I’m done. So in the future, if the client does want to edit or transpose an arrangement, I still have a copy of the original in case he changes his mind and wants to go back to the first version.

So before transposing the score up to the key of G, I’ll go to:

•   Review > Versions > New Version.
•   A window pops up and I’ll name this “Key of Eb_V1.”
•   In the comments box, I may write something like “Baritone solo version pre broken foot” and click OK.
•   Now in the future I can go back to Review > Versions > Edit Versions and if needed, I can go back to this version, make it current and print or edit as needed.

After saving the Eb version, I will transpose the entire score. Before I hit print or export the pdfs, I always give the score and parts the once over to make sure nothing has to be tweaked. I want to make sure the transposition hasn’t caused any orchestration problems.

In about 20 minutes, with proofing included, I’m ready to send the revised score and parts to KC so he can get on with the show!


Top Image Caption: The cast of “Sapori d’Italia”, one of three new shows (music produced by Hinchey Music Services) featured on board the Costa Diadema. The Diadema is Costa Cruise lines newest and largest ship. It’s maiden voyage is scheduled for November 1, 2014.

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Sketching in Sibelius: From Sketch to Score

Sketching in Sibelius 7.5

This is the third of four Sketching in Sibelius tutorials by John Hinchey, producer, arranger, composer and trombonist.

If you’ve been following this series, so far you’ve learned—why I sketch, how to setup your score for sketching, how to input the details of the sketch, and how to adjust the length and timing of the arrangement. Now I’ll cover how to turn a sketch into a score.


A Note from the Producer

Well, I heard back from KC:

“Hey John! Perfect; this will work great! Flosse is happy and has already blocked and choreographed to your demo. There is only one problem, turns out the tenor male soloist is too tall for the costume, which we already have and we can’t afford to have a new one made to fit him. The good news is the costume fits the other male singer perfectly, but he is a baritone and there is no way he can hit that F at the end. But he’s strong up to an Eb. Can you transpose it? THANKS BRO! K.C.”

Sometimes artistic decisions come down to who fits the suit! With Sibelius, this is of course, no problem. So before I expand this sketch out to a full score, I’ll transpose it to the correct key.

1.  Open the score and type Ctrl+A, or Command A on Mac, to select all (system selection purple)
2.  Go to the Note Input > Note Input > Transpose
3.  Set it to Transpose by Key > Down > Eb > Options > check Change Key at Start > OK

Perfect except for one detail, the drum pattern in bars 2 through 4 is also a step down.

That’s a quick and easy fix.

  • Select the drum pattern (blue passage selection)
  • On your computer keyboard, press the up arrow key once

This moves the drum pattern up one step diatonically and puts it back in the correct position. Now I’ll send a new PDF of this off to the music director so he can continue rehearsals.


Orchestrating from Sketch

If you look at the blank staves beneath the sketch in the score, you may think you are back to “tabula rasa.” But this is not the case. Sure you have to fill in six horn parts and a 4-piece rhythm section, but this is a pretty good sketch. A lot of your orchestration decisions are already clear. Your keyboard and bass parts are fairly well defined by the sketch. So I almost always start with getting the rhythm section filled in first. Go with what you know and the rest usually falls into place! Did I mention the clock is ticking? Let’s get to it!

Here is a Sibelius file of the score up to this point so you can follow along.

The keyboard part will be almost an exact copy of the sketch staff. So I’ll copy that over. First, triple click the sketch staves and this creates a blue passage selection the entire length of the score. Then, hold down the Alt key, or Option key on Mac, and click the top Keyboard stave.

For some situations, it would be fine to have the cues in the keyboard part. However, let’s assume we want just the information in the keyboard part that the player needs to play the part and no extra cues.

  • Select the drum cues in bars 2 through 4, including the percussion clef and the bass clef and type Ctrl+X or Command+X for Cut

This works great except for some extra rests in voice 2.

There are several ways to delete these, but I’ll use this technique:

  • Select all of bar 2 (blue passage selection)
  • Go to Home > Select > Filters > Voices > Voice 2
  • The rests in voice 2 are now selected (green), tap your delete key and you are done

Bar 10 in the Keyboard part is another matter and there is a quick and easy way to delete this cue—by using the very versatile Paste into Voice feature.

  • Select the treble staff of the piano in bar 10 (blue passage selection)
  • Command X for cut and the bar is now empty, but the contents are on the clipboard
  • Go to the Home > Clipboard > Paste > Paste into Voice
  • Set it for Copy from voice 2, paste into voice 1 and uncheck Paste text, lines and symbols from all voices
  • Now click OK

The notes from voice 2 are pasted into voice 1 and the contents of voice 1 are discarded all in one easy move.

Copy the bass clef of the sketch into the Electric bass staff using all the same methods.

For the Electric Guitar, I’d like to create rhythmic slashes copying what the keyboard is playing in the right hand and there is a quick way to do this. First, you need to install a plug-in called “Move Pitches To Transposed Midline” which you will find under File > Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins > All Plug-ins > Notes and Rests.

For a tutorial on how to install plug-ins in Sibelius, see my blog post, Sibelius Tutorial: Installing Plugins in Sibelius 7.

1.  Copy the treble staff of the keyboard part into the Electric guitar staff
2.  Next select the Electric Guitar staff for the entire score (blue passage selection)
3.  Run the “Move Pitches To Transposed Midline” plug-in and set it like this:

4.  Then click OK now you should have rhythm slashes for the entire staff.

Next we need to add the chord symbols.

1.  Select the bass clef staff of the Keyboard part for the entire score (blue passage selection)
2.  Go to Home > Filters > Text > Chords Symbols this will select just the chord symbols (they turn blue)
3.  Next Alt+Click or Option+Click the quarter note on beat 2 of bar one in the Electric Guitar part and chords symbols all copy over.

There are quick and easy techniques for creating the drum part, too. For tips on drum set notation, see my 5-part tutorial beginning with the blog post, Sibelius Tutorial: Drum set notation-part 1.

Here’s a Sibelius file so you can keep track of what I’ve done so far.


In Part 4, we will fill in the rest of the details of the score.

Top image caption: Martina McBride and the Martina McBride Horns: Vinnie Ciesielski, Tyler Summers, Randy Leago and me. All the horn charts for Martina’s Everlasting tour were written in Sibelius by me and Jim Hoke.

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Sketching in Sibelius: Filling in the Details

Sketching in Sibelius 7.5: Filling in the Details

This is the second of four Sketching in Sibelius tutorials by John Hinchey, producer, arranger, composer and trombonist.

In part one of Sketching in Sibelius, I shared the reasons why I sketch and showed you how to use several of the powerful built-in features of Sibelius to setup your score for sketching. Now, in part two, I’ll show you how to fill in the details to create a clear and concise sketch.

A Note from the Producer

Welcome to my world. It would not be unusual to get an email from the producer that reads something like this:

“Hey John! The show is really shaping up! But between scenes 4 and 5, we need a 35 second bumper to cover a costume change for the dancers and a set change. We want short up tempo rock versions of the 1900’s song ‘Hello My Baby’ featuring the male soloist (tenor) and a vocal quartet SATB as backup. Flosse (the choreographer), wants 4 instrumental hits on the first bar, 3 bars of just drum set playing time, then once through the melody sung by soloist with punchy BGVs. Then we need 7 seconds of SFX to cover the curtain opening to reveal where the UFO has crashed into the 1920’s garden party and the dancers are now costumed as alien robots. On the last beat there needs to be a unison scream by the singers. And we need a rough of this asap for choreography rehearsals are tomorrow. YOU ROCK. Best, KC.”

Okay sure, no problem. So what are my known elements? The length in seconds, the melody, harmony, meter and rhythmic feel are all defined. I can also pretty quickly determine a key knowing I have a tenor male soloist. And, I can estimate a tempo based on “up tempo rock.” So go with what you know and dig in, the clock is ticking!

Using the sketch manuscript I set up in part one of this tutorial, I have filled in what I know. Let’s go down the list:

•   In bar 1, change “Style” to “Rock” quarter equals 152, that feels like a good rock tempo in 4/4
•   Bar one is 4 hits, then 3 bars of drums so 4 bar intro, then start the melody in bar 5
•   Looking at the melody, this should sing well in the key of F for a tenor so I added the key of F
•   And I input the melody and lyrics in the key of F on the Solo staff

Here is a Sibelius file of the roughed in sketch to give you an idea of the form:

So I have a rough idea of where I stand in relation to the requirements for the scene. I’m going to the Play > Video > Timecode and Duration > Timecode and will set it to “Above every bar” and Units “0.1 seconds” and for good measure “Duration at end of score.”

Sketching in Sibelius 7.5: Filling in the Details

As you can see by looking at the end of the score, I am 1.3 seconds too long. For some projects, this would be close enough, but l can get it closer. First, I’ll bump up the initial tempo to quarter equals 160, which gets me closer but still not quite there. Since the last 7 seconds are needed to cover the curtain opening, this is a good place to put in a ritard to dial in the timing exactly.

1.  Select bars 20 through 23 (blue passage selection) on the solo vocal staff
2.  Go to the Notations > Lines > Rit. and Accel. > Rit.
3.  Now you have a rit. with a dashed line, click on that line (it turns purple)
4.  Go to Home > Edit > Inspector, this opens the Inspector panel

You can now fine tune the ritard. I found that setting that ritard to bpm at 114 brings me right where I want to be. The scream falls at 35.5 seconds and I have 7 seconds between bars 20 and 24 for the SFX. Within a half second of 35 seconds, that will work!

For a more complete tutorial on using the properties panel to adjust rits and accels, see my blog post, Sibelius 7 Playback Tips: Tweaking ritard and accelerando lines.

Before we go any further, let’s fill in some other details we know. They are: the title, project name, artist (or client) and the date. This manuscript is setup with wild cards in those text boxes that refer back to the score information window. I can now quickly fill in this information by going to the File > Info.

For a great tutorial on wildcards see Philip Rothman’s blog post, Go Wild with Text Wildcards.

I have one last detail on the title page to share. I included a text box in the upper right corner using a text style I created called “Library Numbers.” I use this for either indexing a client’s library or scene numbering in projects. In this case, I’ll double click in the box and type “4A” as this bumper is in between scenes 4 and 5.

Adding Details

A sketch generally contains as many details as needed to get the point across. Here is a basic sketch for this scene that does that. The vocal parts are clearly written out and the sketch contains a bass line, comping pattern and cues. A competent piano player could sight read through this or I can export this as an audio file for the client.

Here is the Sibelius file with the completed sketch. Go to the parts window and open up the “Piano Vocal” part to see the part I will be sending to the client.

In bars 2 through 4, there is “drums only” playing time. To represent this:

1.  Go to Notations > Clef > Percussion > Percussion Clef. The cursor becomes loaded (turns blue), now click after beat one in the Sketch bass clef staff
2.  Input the drum pattern as you would in a drum part
3.  Next select the drum pattern in bars 2 through 4 (blue passage selection)
4.  On the Keypad, select the 2nd layout and press the enter key which turns the drum pattern to cue size notes and text

In bar 10, there is a mix of cue notes for the brass cue with normal sized notes for the chord pattern. There are several ways to do this but here is how I did it:

1.  Input the chord pattern normally in voice 1.
2.  Select the whole bar (blue passage selection) and type shift V, this swaps voice 1 and voice 2. The chord passage is now in voice 2.
3.  Click in the bar on beat 1, type N and type Alt+1 to input in voice 1. On the second Keypad layout, click on the Enter key for the cue notes.
4.  Now on Keypad layout 1, click on the 8th note and input the horn line using normal step-time entry method.

In bars 20 through 23, a representation of a synth riser SFX that will be used for the 7 second reveal of the new set.

•  Starting in bar 20, input whole notes of G3, D4, G4 and D5
•  Using the wavy line to connect the notes as shown
•  Select all 4 bars (blue passage selection) and go to the Notations > Noteheads > Type > Beat without stem; this will turn the note heads into diamonds.

For a quick, accurate method to attach lines between note heads, read my blog post, Sibelius: Yeah, there’s a plugin for that: Line Between Notes.

Well, I guess I’ll send this sketch and the audio file off to K.C., the producer, and Flosse and see what they think. Check back for Part 3 where I’ll show you how to use the resources within Sibelius  to quickly orchestrate this sketch into a full score.


Top image caption: This is the house band horn section for the 2014 Musician’s Hall Of Fame 2014 induction ceremony at rehearsals. Just playing trombone (no charts) for this but it was a blast!

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