Behind the Scenes of Sibelius 7.5

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Many Sibelius customers have been in touch wanting to know more about what went in to creating Sibelius 7.5, what we’ve been up to in the last year or so, and what we’re planning on next. I’m going to share with you some of the behind the scenes work we did to bring you two updates to our Scorch solutions as well as an upgrade to our flagship notation product, Sibelius.

At the start of 2013, we assembled a new team of Sibelius programmers and testers, and brought in folk from other teams around Avid. The whole team working on Sibelius (including Support, Sales, Marketing, Manufacturing, IT, Engineering and Product Management) now totals over 30 people. For the engineering and product teams, we have six in Kiev in the Ukraine, three in our San Francisco, Calif., office, one in our head office in Burlington, Mass., and two in the UK, which includes me, working from home and our office in Pinewood Studios with Joe Pearson, product designer. We are all musicians with formal music education and most of us play regularly in bands (or just to our families!).

This team got straight to work assessing and getting familiar with the Sibelius and Scorch codebase and build systems. First on the list was to move these systems to the same environments used by the Pro Tools and Media Composer teams. This had the advantage of having a dedicated team to maintain the build systems rather than pulling a developer away from writing features in Sibelius, and it gave us the ability to share code more easily, for example, the scoring engine in Pro Tools can now inherit changes and fixes made in the Sibelius notation engines. It allowed us to utilize the same installer team, too, freeing up more core developer time, so they set to work converting the Sibelius and License Server installers to msi format to match our other products. (The msi format allows schools to deploy Sibelius to all their computers automatically. For those interested, we have this article that goes through the procedure).

At the end of the nineties, I created the German localization of the first versions of Sibelius. It is great to see the amazing progress Sibelius has made in the last 20 years – it really is my every-day tool which enables me to meet my terribly tight composition/orchestration deadlines.

– Frank Heckel

2013 continued to be an extremely busy year for us. We released two successful updates to our  Scorch web plug-in, as well as an update to our Avid Scorch iPad app. The update to the Scorch web plugin made it compatible with more browsers than ever before, as well as supporting 64-bit browsers on Mac. This allowed the publishing community to continue to sell their digital sheet music, and to a wider audience. The update to Avid Scorch brought much needed stability to the overall app, especially to browsing scores in the built-in marketplace, where you can browse hundreds of thousands of titles from Frozen to John Lennon to Back to the Future.

Once the updates to Scorch were complete, it was time to implement the changes we’d committed to  in the next version of Sibelius, which we would call 7.5. What we had thought was going to be a Sibelius ‘8’. Changing this to version 7.5 was quite a challenge as the version number is buried in a lot of places, and which affects licensing too. We were able to bring in help from the Media Composer licensing team to assist with this work as we’ve been using the same licensing scheme since Sibelius 7.1.

Joe Pearson and I were familiar with the new features from our previous work in the support team, and since the new features in the ‘Sibelius 8’ were either not implemented at all, partly implemented or nearly complete, we had to make difficult decisions about which to complete, fix up and even re-write vs. removing and archiving that code for the future.

Avid’s reborn commitment for Sibelius is great! Keep it coming!

– Peter Duemmler

For example, the Timeline looked and behaved quite differently compared to how it functions today and was mainly re-written from scratch for version 7.5 to make Sibelius think of the structure of the score running horizontally as opposed to vertically. We brought in the user interface team that works on Pro Tools to help refine the overall experience of the Timeline in Sibelius and how the new Timeline Presets are handled.

Next, we had to make changes to the new interpretation of how Sibelius plays back ornaments, the new Swing styles and Espressivo 2.0 as well as the new social sharing features. Now, Sibelius can interpret turns and mordents (pictured above), A Tempo instructions and even allow you to specify the style of playback for each individual instrument in your score.

During that time, the new testers validated every feature in Sibelius 7.1.3, the Sibelius 7 Sounds library and License Server for qualification on Windows 8 and Mac OS 10.9 Mavericks. This gave them the deep understanding of each feature in Sibelius and how it works, laying the foundation for regressing the fixes and features we were to add into Sibelius 7.5.

Meanwhile, my colleagues and I had to review all the box art, contents, DVD design and out-of-box experience, download and upgrade logic with the various teams around Avid to move Sibelius 7.5 towards the point where we were able to announce and get the upgrade into your hands.

Once this was all complete, it wasn’t the end of the Sibelius 7.5 journey of course … the marketing launch at the Winter NAMM show in Anaheim, Calif., in January 2014 was a huge success and the reception we got couldn’t have been better. When it came to the official release of Sibelius 7.5 in February, the number of people upgrading to 7.5 was astounding. We knew, however, that a number of fixes existed that we wanted to get into a free update so we started on 7.5.1 right away.

We have put Sibelius 7.5 through its paces without any interruption to workflow. The 7.5 upgrade is very stable and Sibelius continues to be the primary notation software used for all of my projects.

– David Pritchard-Blunt,

7.5.1 took us through to July and includes more than 160 improvements and fixes that builds on 7.5.0. It went above and beyond that by fixing crashes that dated back to 2009 in the Sibelius 6 days, as well as problems that had existed in version 7, too. The new development team was truly impressive in tracking these down and getting resolutions to them quickly.

This then allows us to start work on our next version of Sibelius, version 8. Although we’re in the early days, initial signs are looking very promising. However, this isn’t the only solution we’re working on. Historically, a smaller project has been slipped in between each major version of Sibelius, be it G7, Student, Instrumental Teacher Edition, Sibelius First or Avid Scorch and now is the time for just one of those.

In working with 7.5.1, I found it to be appreciably more stable and responsive than 7.5.0.

– Philip Rothman, Sibelius Blog


We’ve laid the foundation with a solid update to Sibelius, it’s time we, once again, revolutionized an industry. For the next project we’ve taken on is…

… well, you’ll just have to wait for my next post to find out.

I’d like to thank our friends and families for the tireless support over the last few years and I want to thank, too, our invaluable beta testers and passionate userbase for all their feedback and support. This is spurring us on to continue to drive development and deliver on the best possible solutions to help you continue to write great music.

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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.