What’s New in Sibelius 2019.4

By in Notation

We’re really excited to bring you our second feature release of 2019, delivering on our promise of regular feature releases to enhance, improve and develop the Sibelius product line even further.

Fresh off our January release, we to bring you a suite of enhancements to compliment those recently introduced to Sibelius. We’ve also thrown in a good handful of bug fixes too.

This upgrade is available to all those with an activate subscription or upgrade plan, and can be downloaded and installed through Avid Link. If you need to download the installer yourself, you can find it in your My Avid account.


Mark up your score in Review mode

In Sibelius 2019.1, we introduced the ability to lock the score, allowing you to navigate around the score with the freedom knowing you won’t make any unintended changes. In Sibelius 2019.4, we’re allowing you to Annotate, Comment and Highlight whilst in Review mode, making marking up your score easier and faster than ever before.

When entering Review mode, you’ll notice the Annotate, New Comment and Highlight buttons in the Review Tab remain active.

Simply click or tap on the feature’s icon, as normal, to start marking up your score. Even while in Review mode, you can move or delete them as normal.

To help prevent changes to the musical objects in your score, the regular Undo queue for all previous score edits, is locked. This then allows you to only undo changes you do while in Review mode. When exiting Review mode, the whole undo queue is available to you once more.

This feature is available all three tiers of Sibelius:


Sibelius | First


 Sibelius | Ultimate

Review mode




Review mode is aimed at all tiers of Sibelius, allowing someone to open any sized score in Sibelius | First and Sibelius, and review and mark up a score with comments, annotations and highlights etc. In fact, anyone can review a score, even if they’re not a Sibelius user – all they have to do is download Sibelius | First and they’ll be able to open the score, add comments and so on, then send it back. This feature works incredibly well on the Microsoft Surface devices and others with a stylus, where you can annotate with the pen and navigate the score with your finger, knowing everything in the score is safe from being accidentally moved.

We’re looking forward to seeing this used both in education, for teachers reviewing assignments, and for composers and orchestrators collaborating on a scoring project.



New icons in the Ribbon and Transport windows, which has been lengthened to accommodate the new button

To engage Loop mode, select the passage in the score you’d like to play back, and go to Play > Transport > Play > Loop. During playback, you’ll see the Playback line in the score and the Timeline will loop around as the music does too. As you would expect, it’ll continue to loop ad infinitum until you press stop.

The way it works is pretty simple and fits right into the same playback workflows we already have in Sibelius:

  • Make a selection and press P to play – Sibelius will play from the beginning of the selection and loop when it gets to the end of the selection
  • Press Spacebar, and Sibelius will start playback from where the playback line is in the score. If it’s before the selection, it’ll play back and pick up the loop on the way through. If it’s after the selection, playback will start as normal and not loop (since it never gets to the loop selection)
  • The selected staves are respected too, so you only hear the instruments that are selected.

Loops even pick up playing articulation changes that occur mid-selection, allowing your Trumpet, say, to start off with a mute and then switch to open a few bars later. When Sibelius loops back, the mute is restored.

We’ve added special logic for loops that contain repeats:

  • Selection contains no repeats: simply loop from beginning to end
  • Selection contains a complete repeat (including multiple endings): fully respect the repeat structure, and loop the whole selection, including repeats
  • Selection contains the end of a repeat, but not the beginning, and selection continues past the end repeat sign, then play the second iteration of the repeat (i.e. the one that transitions onward after the repeat)
  • Selection contains the end of a repeat, but not the beginning, and the selection does not continue past the end repeat, then play the first iteration of the repeat (as this most closely resembles the visual selection)

There are some edge cases that we’ve had to make decisions on as well. For example, if you have part of a 1st-time repeat structure and the 2nd-time bar selected, Sibelius will only play the notes in the selected 2nd-time bars.

This feature is only available in Sibelius and Sibelius | Ultimate:


Sibelius | First


Sibelius | Ultimate

Loop playback





Introducing Scrub, a new way to audition notes and chords in your score. This feature is available via the square brackets [ and ] keyboard shortcuts, and you’ll hear Sibelius briefly play back the notes under the playback line.

Using Y (as before) you can move the playback line to any place in the score, or using the Go to Bar and Go to Page operations (from 2019.1 move the playback line as well of course). You can then use [ and ] to hear the notes being played as the playback line moves past them.

When you Scrub, Sibelius will play the notes for the duration that they are written. It will continue to move to the next note as you press the square brackets, and will skip rests and whole empty passages. As with Loop, scrubbing takes the passage selection into account as well, so you can scrub over only some of the instruments as needed, useful for auditioning just those you’re working on.

We’ve made sure new playing articulations are picked up as well. In previous versions, Sibelius would only reassign sounds when you triggered playback. This was evident in the Mixer showing unallocated on every instrument fader. Now though, you can scrub over a note, add a playing articulation that may trigger a change in patch (e.g. mute, staccato etc.) and Sibelius will pick it up when you scrub.

When scrubbing, the playback velocities are ignored, allowing you to hear a clear interpretation of the notes being played. All playing articulations and techniques are taken into account as well, of course.

When moving from one note or chord to another, Sibelius will cancel the sounding notes as you scrub to the next or previous note. It does this so you don’t end up with a mush of sound, however Sibelius takes ties into account too, so you get a true impression of what’s in the score.

Since we’re re-purposing the Fast-forward and Rewind shortcuts, you’ll need to manually reassign these if you use a custom set of keyboard shortcuts in Sibelius. The new Scrub Forwards and Scrub Backwards commands are found in the Play tab section of the Keyboard Shortcuts preferences. To Fast Forward and Rewind as before, the shortcuts are now Alt+] and Alt+[.

This feature is only available in Sibelius | Ultimate:


Sibelius | First


Sibelius | Ultimate

Scrub playback




Join barlines at end of systems

Sibelius 2019.4 now comes with a new option in Engraving Rules to join barlines at the end of each system. This is particularly useful for dense orchestral music with more than one system per page. The new feature is found in Engraving Rules > Barlines, and tick Join barlines at end of systems.

As this feature is in Engraving Rules, this is only available in Sibelius Ultimate.

Further improvements to Sibelius

All the following improvements are available across all three tiers of Sibelius, where the feature exists already.

Slash noteheads

Copying passages of music that contain slash notes has always been tricky in Sibelius, in particular when it involves a clef change. From this release, you can now copy these between staves that use different clefs, and move them up and down with the mouse (since it’s important to be able to position them above the stave where needed). As before, these noteheads will not move though when you transpose the score or change the key.

In addition to this, all non-sounding noteheads (such as slashes, ‘silent’ and so on), now don’t display dark-red or red when they are out of range for the instrument.


Flexi-time with NotePerformer

It’s now possible to use Flexi-time (realtime recording with your MIDI keyboard) with NotePerformer. Previously, Flexi-time suffered from a 1-second delay, which prohibited it from being any use at all to record from your MIDI keyboard. Now though, the 1-second delay has been eliminated so you can record directly into Sibelius and hear the great NotePerformer sounds as you play notes in.

In the background, we set a kVstMidiEventIsRealTime flag during flexi-time input. NotePerformer then doesn’t switch on the 1-second delay so the notes are played back straight away. This is actually set regardless of the playback device, however it’s unlikely there will be any noticeable difference for any other virtual instrument.

To find out more about NotePerformer, visit www.avid.com/plugins/noteperformer-for-sibelius.


Playback support for a2, a4, an converts into n players

Up until now, adding “a” numbers to a score, to denote the number of players needed for a passage of music, wouldn’t do anything in any sound library since Sibelius didn’t have a way to convert these to numbers of players. NotePerformer, as you may know, comes with a plugin to interpret these instructions on the fly, but the plugin would have to be re-run if the user changed their mind. The Sibelius 7 Sounds sound set also includes 4 players for the Violins, 3 players for the Violas, Celli and Basses.

In 2019.4, Sibelius can interpret the number of players needed by reading “a2”, “a4, “a8” etc. into “+n players” soundID changes that any sound library, including NotePerformer and Sibelius Sounds, can interpret into changes in sound. For example, writing “a1” or “a 1” (with a space) or “à 1” into a score, will change the sound playing back to a solo instrument. In the same way, writing “a 8” will change the sound so you hear 8 players, and so on. Of course, the limitations will be in the sound library, so don’t expect this to work with everything. Also, at the time of writing, Arne Wallander hasn’t implemented this in NotePerformer, but do be on the look out for an update in due course.

For those interested, you can see how this works in the Playback Dictionary. Scroll down to the bottom and you’ll see this:

^[aAàÀ][ ]?([0-9]+)

Those familiar with regular expressions will know exactly what this means, but those who aren’t, it essentially allows Sibelius to interpret any piece of staff text that starts with a, A, à or À that could have a space after it and then any number after that. It then triggers a sound ID change of +$1 players, where it takes the number entered in the staff text and forms the sound ID change to trigger the right number of players. Another change we’ve made is to reorder the sound IDs so the numbers of players have the same priority as .ensemble.

All in all, this has allowed us to support the following, which shows the sound ID changes that Sibelius goes through when playing this example. As always, these changes in sound will only be audible if your sound library supports them. If not, it’ll fall back on the best next sound.

Loading sounds in Sibelius Player

We’ve streamlined the sound-loading process that the Sibelius Player uses to improve performance. Under the hood, Sibelius now uses far fewer file handles, which allows Sibelius to load many more sounds. When writing huge scores in the past, you may have noticed a playing articulation doesn’t sound, or even in some cases a whole instrument.

An up-side to this improvement is that loading sounds is a lot faster – up to 50% faster in some cases!


Hot-swapping Audio Devices on Mac

Sibelius will now pick up new audio devices when going to Audio Engine Options on Mac. You can now run Sibelius, plug in a USB Audio interface or pair bluetooth headphones, say, and then choose them in Audio Engine Options. This now saves you the step of having to restart Sibelius before being able to use the new device.

Those with spangly new Macs will find this particularly useful since they treat built-in headphones and speaker outputs as separate devices. The new improvement now prevents the need to restart Sibelius in order to use headphones on these machines, although you will still need to manually switch to the headphone output from Play > Playback devices > Audio Engine Options after having plugged your headphones in.



In an effort to reduce the download size of the Sibelius installers across all languages of all three tiers of Sibelius, all non-English documentation PDFs have beed posted online in the Avid.com Knowledge Base. When running Sibelius in any other language than English, you’ll be given an option to be redirected to the Knowledge Base. If you are offline, the English version will continue to be available locally.

As well as reducing the download size by about 300MB, this also allows us to update the documentation outside of the regular releases of

Sibelius, and also start work on modernising and improving the accessibility of the documentation. More on this in the future.


Licensing and copy protection

Further changes have been made to refine the licensing experience. By improving the way Sibelius is activated, it now detects the activation or deactivation on the fly. For example, if Sibelius is running and you manually deactivate your license, Sibelius will enter Review mode, allowing you to add a comment, say, and still save your score. Sibelius will then switch out of Review mode when you reactivate the license. This will dramatically improve the experience for those customers whose subscription lapses when they are running Sibelius and will help them get back up and running without having to restart Sibelius and potentially lose work.


Bug fixes

As always, we like to throw in a number of bug fixes. In summary, they are:

  • Percussion trills are now played back correctly, and now don’t alternate between two different pitches
  • We’ve fixed a long-standing problem where Sibelius would crash if you quit while editing text on Mac
  • The X icon to close score tab is back on Mac! No more guessing where the hidden button is.
  • On Windows, we used to set thread priority to lowest before playback. We now no longer do this.
  • Sibelius no longer requires high-performance GPU (like previous Qt4 builds) on Mac. This should save on battery consumption.
  • The right-click Create menu now correctly re-enables after playing back and toggling Review mode
  • If you start playing an MP3 from inside Avid Link and then close the window then it now correctly stops playing the MP3
  • After adding a text object to your score and hitting escape, that text no longer becomes deselected. This now allows you to edit the properties of the text from the Inspector or the Text tab of the Ribbon.
  • All function keys, up to F19 on Mac now work once more
  • Ribbon buttons that have drop-down lists no longer remain highlighted after deselecting them on Mac
  • Sibelius no longer crashes when quitting if you had 2 scores opened in full screen mode on Mac
  • Word menus on Windows now display the correct font for keyboard shortcuts

We’ve tidied up a number of legacy issues surrounding the handling of videos in Sibelius. They are:

  • In some cases it was hard to exit the video when in full screen. This is much more reliable now.
  • Spacebar now starts and stops playback when video is in full screen
  • QuickTime videos can now be played back on the second monitor in full screen mode (codec dependent)
  • Video window no longer disappears after exiting from full screen

… and just one more thing:


Searching for instruments and plugins

Ever wanted to add a cello to your score but couldn’t find it immediately, remembering you had to search for Violoncello? Ever wanted to find a new plugin but didn’t have the time to wade through the hundreds of available plugins?

The wait is over! You can now you can search for instruments in the Add or Remove Instruments, and Instrument Change dialogs with ease. Simply type part of the instrument’s name, and all those matching will appear underneath it. Good examples to try are Guitar, Tuba, Trombone and so on.

The Install Plug-ins window now has its very own search bar too. It searches for exact matches only though, so “Copy notes” works, but “Notes copy” does not, however simply searching for “notes” will cycle through all plugins with the word “notes” in the title.

We hope you enjoy these long awaited additions!

And that’s it for now – hope you enjoy these new features and improvements. Please keep telling us how we’re doing. You can tweet us at @avidsibelius or me directly at @avid_sam – we always like to hear how you’re getting on with Sibelius.

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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.