Sketching in Sibelius: The Finishing Touches

By in Music Creation, Notation, Sketching in Sibelius

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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I am a producer, arranger, composer and trombonist based in Nashville Tennessee, with over 30 years of experience in the entertainment industry. For more information, please visit my website,, and for more Sibelius tips, visit “Notes On Notes” blog at
  • AndrevanHaren

    Great tutorial, John, thanks! One question: are you reassigning the Focus Sets every time when you start a new score or do you have another trick that makes them work for every score that has the same score setup? I noticed that they are only working for the score in which they were created.

    • John Hinchey

      Thank you for the kind words! Yes you can copy Focus sets between scores that have the same score setup. There is a plug-in called Clone Focus sets that installs when you install the Focus set plug-ins. A PDF downloads as well with instructions on how to use the Clone Focus Sets plug-in.

  • Brett Rosenberg

    really great tute and super helpful in clarifying some stuff I’ve been wondering about.

  • Ben Carriel

    This is an excellent Tutorial. Sibelius presents an enormous amount of capabilities. It was very helpful to get detailed insight into some subterranean powers included in this magnificent program. Thank you Mr. Hinchey!