Sketching in Sibelius: From Sketch to Score

By in Music Creation, Notation, Sketching in Sibelius

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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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