What’s New in Sibelius — January 2020

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It’s with great pleasure and excitement to be introducing to you the January 2020 release of Sibelius First, Sibelius and Sibelius Ultimate. This release is jam-packed with new features and improvements that all users will benefit from. Whether you’re a budding composer or veteran engraver, there’s something here for you.

If you can’t wait, you can download the update via Avid Link or from your account at my.avid.com/products. If you need to renew or crossgrade up to the latest version, you can find our new simplified options, here: avid.com/sibelius/upgrades-and-renewals

If you’re new to Sibelius and would like to try out the new version, you can get started with our free 30-day trial.

We’re demoing this new version at the NAMM Show in Anaheim on booth 15502, so if you’re in town, be sure to swing by and see it for yourself.

 

Auto-Optimize staff spacing

Optimize Staff Spacing has been in Sibelius for a number of years now and was widely accepted as a great feature for getting a good looking score over a decade ago, but you always had to trigger it manually. Now, Sibelius will automatically optimize the space between the staves in your score to fit the music you’re writing. Combined with Magnetic Layout, Sibelius will avoid collisions when you enter or edit anything in your score.

Here’s a quick comparison

Before

After

This works with lyrics, dynamics, hairpins, pedal lines, symbols and articulations etc., saving you huge amounts of time cleaning up the score.

Auto-Optimize is turned on by default in new scores you create, and will need switching on when you open an old score. This is done by clicking the new Auto button from the Layout tab of the Ribbon:

The old “Optimize” button has been changed to “Optimize > Selection” so you can still perform a one-shot optimize if you still need to. Sibelius also gives you complete control over the optimization of your score, so if you don’t need it on (for whatever reason), simply tap the “Auto” button.

You can also override the optimization, by dragging a stave, if you’re looking to tighten up a particular passage, say. Then, Sibelius will respect your change and won’t optimize that system again until you use “Reset Space Above” or “Reset Space Below” from the Layout tab. We’ve included a helpful indication when you have Rulers turned on to indicate which staff spacing has been manually set. Consistent with automatic and manually placed System and Page breaks, the staves that are automatically spaced have a dashed ruler, and those that have been manually set have a solid line:

Those familiar with the old Optimize feature will no doubt appreciate a number of bugs being fixed in this area too. Writing slurs across staves, using Film Score style Time Signatures (see below to know more about these), adding comments are all ignored by the Optimize logic.

Along with the refresh of the House Styles (see below) the default space that is optimized between staves has been reduced from 1 space to 0.5. This allows you to have really nice and neatly laid out music that looks perfect.

 

New Dashed and Dotted and Tie-into Ties

It’s been a long time coming, and we’re pleased to finally release improvements to ties with three new styles of ties:

Dashed and Dotted are commonly used in choral work to indicate a difference in verses within a repeated structure, or to suggest an editorial tie.

Tie-into ties are useful across a repeat structure where the last note before 1st-time repeat is also tied into the first beat of the 2nd repeat. As with the linked ties we introduced in April 2018, these new ties are linked (and play back, of course):

To enter a Tie-into, head to the 4th keypad layout:

You have complete control over these ties i.e. style of tie, shape, distance between the dots and dashes in the Inspector:

We’ve also exposed these new tie styles within ManuScript (Sibelius’s own programming language for creating plugins). You can obtain the style of any tie using the keyword “TieStyle” or “TieIntoStyle” (respectively) and you can set the style of a tie using the same keywords with one of the following Style Strings: ‘solid’, ‘dashed’ or ‘dotted’ (e.g. tiednote.TieStyle = ‘dotted’;).

 

File version

To support the new ties, we’ve increased the internal file version. If you need to send someone a score that contains the new ties, you’ll need to go to File > Export and choose the version you need.

Dashed and dotted ties are converted back to solid ties (since they didn’t exist back then) and Tie-into ties are converted into small slurs to retain a similar appearance. If you’re working with someone who is going to rely on these new types of ties, it’s best to advise them to upgrade!

 

House Styles and Manuscript Papers

We have created three brand new House Styles in Sibelius to give your scores an elegant, contemporary or casual handwritten appearance. Introducing:

Podium

Main text font: Palatino (included in Windows and Mac) / Main music font: Helsinki

Moderna

Main text font: Quicksand (now included with Sibelius) / Main music font: Opus

Handwritten

Main text font: Palatino (included in Windows and Mac) / Main music font: Reprise

Each of these new House Styles have been designed from the ground up and include several recommendations and best practices seen in the publishing and performance industries. There are too many to go through, but one noticeable change is the thickness of the staff and stem lines. These are very slightly thicker, allowing the music ‘pop’ off the page that significantly increases readability.

Our built-in Manuscript papers have all been revised to take advantage of the new styles, and we’ve included a number of changes to help you get started. There’s a new Common category that includes a Leadsheet and a Piano, as well as several new manuscript papers for Solo Instruments.

Using one of these new House Styles in your score is easy (and handling House Styles is generally easier too). Simply single click on a Manuscript paper from the Quick Start and you’ll be guided through the score setup process.

The three new House Styles appear at the top, above the old House Styles, which we’ve included in case you are particularly attached to them. Now though, when choosing the House Styles, Sibelius will omit the staff size and other layout differences, allowing you to cycle through the House Styles and quickly choose which one is right for you:

Similar changes have been made when importing a House Style into an existing score. Go to Appearance > House Style > Import and veteran Sibelius users will see that we’ve now split out Engraving Rules and Document Setup. As importing the Document Setup always enforced the incoming Staff Size, you now have a very safe and reliable method of importing a House Style into your score.

 

Wildcards in right-click menus

 

Those familiar with Wildcards will know that you can quickly enter text in Sibelius and have it pre-populate information from the File > Score Info dialog. Really useful for keeping the score information in the score updated, consistent and correct. However, if you don’t use them all very often, you’d find it hard to remember them all, and even which way the slashes go and what side the $ went. So, from this release, we’ve introduced a new Word Menu that will display all the Wildcards in the right-click menu when entering most types of System text into the score (just not Tempo, Metronome Marks and Metric Modulation).

To find out more, see “5.16 Wildcards” in the Sibelius Reference.

Large film score time signatures

As part of our overhaul of improvements to the House Styles, we have included a new style of Time Signature, which is common in film and TV scores. To turn these on in your score, simply go to Appearance > House Style > Engraving Rules. Go to Time Signatures and you’ll find the new option:

Accessibility – for everyone

At the NAMM show this week, I’ll be taking part in several panels on Accessibility. If you’re at the show, be sure to check out the sessions:

  • Saturday: Avid Booth 15500: 5:00pm
  • Sunday: Avid Booth 15500: 3:30pm
  • Sunday: Hall A7, Hilton Anaheim, 4th Floor: 12pm until 2pm as part of the Tec-Tracks presentations

During these sessions, I’ll be joined by Chi Kim, Associate Professor at Berklee College of Music, who will be demonstrating how he teaches and writes music in Sibelius, aided by the work we’ve put into improving Sibelius over the last 12 months or so.

This release has a good collection of Accessibility improvements, that not only provides more rich feedback from the score and Sibelius’s UI, but provides controls for choosing the verbosity of what’s sent to the screen reader. To find these, go to File > Preferences. The first page of preferences is now the Accessibility page, making it easy to find. Tabbing through this dialog allows you to choose from several options to set a ‘High’ or ‘Low’ verbosity, or to choose a ‘Custom’ set of options to control the pitch and duration information, as well as to choose whether you want to hear the bar number, instrument range warnings and notehead styles.

Accessibility improvements don’t have to simply benefit those who are blind using screen readers. As part of our partnership with Berklee College of Music, we are aiming to help a wide range of sight-loss, including helping to prevent eye strain for fully sighted users.

With this in mind, we have changed the default colours for the Paper and Desk ‘Textures’ from the old bitmaps of paper, to colors to reduce glare and strain on the eyes (esp. for those night owls who work late into the small hours).

Score : Part : Idea : Version

Navigating System Objects with the Keyboard

In Sibelius, you’ve always been able to select staff objects using the Tab key (i.e. the music, text, symbols and lines attached to a single instrumental stave), however it’s never been possible, until now, to select system objects (Title, Composer, Clefs, Key Signatures, Barlines etc.) with the keyboard.

To select system objects with the keyboard, firstly press Tab, which will select the first thing on the page, then you can start navigating the system objects using these two new keyboard Shortcuts:

  • Select next system object: Cmd+Shift+= // Ctrl+Shift+=
  • Select previous system object: Cmd+Shift+- // Ctrl+Shift+-

These are customisable too, so if you’d like to change these shortcuts to better suit your workflow, head to File > Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts

 

General bug fixes and improvements

A Sibelius release wouldn’t be complete without a number of smaller improvements, and this one is no different. In summary:

  • Jazz articulations and grace notes are no longer lost when changing the voice of a note
  • Another fresh round of profiling revealed that Sibelius updates the Navigator window even when not in view. It turned out to be quite expensive so Sibelius should be nippier now when the Navigator window is closed.
  • Sibelius now respects the same DPI scaling rules on Windows as it did in 2019.9
  • The Sibelius Cloud Sharing Dashboard no longer opens up in each new Sibelius session after sharing a score
  • Visually impaired users using screen readers now hear the state and location of the selection in Find in Ribbon
  • Many of the Ukulele chord diagrams have been incorrect for many many years. We’ve painstakingly been through them all so they are now correct.

 

And that’s it!

We’re incredibly proud of this release. Since our last feature releases don’t seem that long ago, the development team have really pulled this one out of the bag. If you’ve made it down this far, thank you, and we hope you enjoy the new features.

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As senior product manager at Avid, I work with all the departments in Avid from Design, Development, Sales, Marketing, Legal and Global Services to produce the future of the Sibelius family of products and solutions.