Drum Set Notation in Sibelius: Installing Plugins and Keyboard Shortcuts

I have recommended several plugins in my previous posts on Drum Set Notation, and will add a few more in my upcoming post. So perhaps this is a good time to review how to install plugins and how to assign keyboard shortcuts. It’s easy!  You just need to know where to go and what to click. My number one tip to all Sibelius users interested in streamlining their workflow is to learn the default keyboard shortcuts and then add custom keyboard shortcuts for any tools or plugins you use a lot.

As a matter of fact I have blog post on just that here: Three Things: Plugins

But for some users, I thought it would be helpful to create a video—and here it is!

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Berklee’s Chi Kim on Delivering Greater Accessibility in Sibelius

In Fall of 2019, Avid began a joint initiative with Berklee College of Music to bring greater accessibility to Sibelius. In close collaboration with Berklee’s Assistive Music Technology Lab (AMT), the Sibelius team charted a roadmap of new features designed to transform the way blind and visually impaired users can notate music with software. Starting with version 2019.9, every Sibelius release has included improvements to accessibility. And our work is not done. With more development underway, the initiative has already set a high bar for accessibility in the industry.

On the heels of our latest releases, we met up with one of our chief collaborators at Berklee, Associate Professor Chi Kim. We reflected on the past, took stock of the present, and set our sights on the future.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

 I have the good fortune to teach at my alma mater. I was a contemporary writing and production major at Berklee, which means I spent half my time writing and the other half recording. My experience with accessibility in Sibelius began during my sophomore year, as part of my studies. Much has changed since then—in the world of accessibility and with Sibelius in general. Now, as a professor with the AMT lab, I teach visually impaired students to use computers to produce music in Pro Tools and Sibelius.

Associate Professor Chi Kim in Berklee's Assistive Music Technology Lab

What was life like in the early days of music software accessibility?

Even early on, Sibelius was the best notation software for accessibility. When I first learned it, going back to version three, there were third party tools you could use. For example, a script called Sibelius Speaking by Dancing Dots provided accessibility through the Windows screen reader “Jaws”. Through the years there were other solutions, as well, like Sibelius Access by Dan Rugman.

But these tools were never perfect. They were sometimes complicated and awkward to use. As a tech-oriented person I was able to teach myself, but for others, navigating the tools was a deterrent. Plus, as software advanced, compatibility with them was often broken. So, if you found a version that worked, you’d stick with it, even if it was outdated. And that’s what happened with Sibelius. At a certain point, users that needed accessibility were stuck on version 5—on Windows or on a Mac running a virtual machine.

The core of the problem was that Sibelius itself—or any other major notation software for that matter—didn’t have good native accessibility.

How did Berklee become involved in accessibility development?

The need for built-in accessibility features was actually the impetus for the partnership with Avid. At Berklee, we felt that accessibility simply needed to be better. Certain academic majors rely heavily on music notation and production tools—like composition—and we feel that no student should be limited in their ability to pursue a career path on the basis of poor tools. We were fortunate to be awarded a grant for the purpose of helping to facilitate accessibility development. And we chose to partner with Avid because of their accessibility work in Pro Tools and because fundamentally they shared our vision.

At the outset, what were the most important features to develop?

The overarching goal still is to swing for the fence and have a complete accessibility implementation in Sibelius. And since we got started together, the Sibelius team has delivered a few really exciting capabilities that stand out.

One of them is complete access to the Sibelius ribbon (the toolbar at the top of a score window). Before our initiative, some ribbon features weren’t actually accessible. But now, since Sibelius 2019.12, “Find In Ribbon”, dropdown menus, tabs, all the galleries—everything works really great.

Another one is adjustable verbosity. At first, you might not think of verbosity as a necessary tool, but for notation software like Sibelius, it’s essential. “Verbosity” is how much verbal description Sibelius will give to your music. At maximum verbosity, Sibelius describes every aspect of the score. For just one note it recites its pitch, duration, location, articulation, expression, etc. There are times you may want this level of detail, but it can also be very time consuming to listen to. You may not need to hear everything to understand the music on the screen. So, by setting the level of verbosity, you can get the detail you need.

One of the new features from the June 2020 release, custom UI colors, is also really useful. For low vision users, different color combinations and contrasts can be easier to see. So, Sibelius now allows you to define the color of just about everything in the user interface. For those with partial vision, this feature is another level of capability that allows them to customize the software to meet their particular needs.

What does our joint initiative represent for the future of accessibility, and what does it mean for users?

Greater accessibility goes beyond just being able to manipulate Sibelius. It opens up new possibilities. It means that students can choose the majors they want and have independence in their studies. For musicians, it means they can make the music they want, without thinking twice about the tools they need.

As our work with Avid continues, I’m looking forward to even deeper accessibility built-in to Sibelius. And in turn, I’m excited to be able to use these features with students in my classes, and for musicians around the world use them, as well. Our work highlights the important fact that accessibility should be built into the app itself, not through third party tools. This work also demonstrates Avid’s commitment to accessibility and serves as an important statement to the rest of the music industry.

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Create beautiful, captivating scores more quickly than ever before with the world’s best selling notation software.

Drum Set Notation in Sibelius: Part 3

In this blog post I’ll give you a few more tips on fully notated parts. We’ll cover a couple of plugins and a built-in feature that will really speed up your workflow the next time you are creating fully notated drum set parts.

Duplicate rests

You’ve probably run into something like this. Notice how you’ve got rests that you want to keep in each voice, but there are three rests that, if removed, will really tidy up this drum part.

A really helpful plugin for dealing with rests is Hide Duplicate Rests.  You will need to install the Hide Duplicate Rests plugin. If you go to the tab File>Plug-ins>Install plug-ins>Show all plug-ins>Notes and rests>Hide Duplicate Rests.

You could just select the rests in one of the voices and use Home>Edit>Hide or Show and hide them. For one instance of a rest, this is an easy enough way to do it. But when you have a lot of rests and want to hide them in one move, Hide Duplicate Rests will complete the task much faster.

For the example above, select the measures and run the Hide Duplicate Rests plugin. The window for the plugin will come up—I generally use this setting for the plugin:


Quick kick drum part

Generally many of the aspects of a good drum part are dictated by what the kind of groove is being played by the bass and comping instruments. In many rock and funk grooves, the kick drum is duplicating the rhythm played by the bass or at least outlining the accents of the line. A plugin that can make quick work of creating this type of kick drum part is a very versatile plugin called Make Pitches Constant. You’ll find it in Note Input>Plug-ins>Notes and rests>Make Pitches Constant.

Here’s a sample bass line:

Now copy that bass line into the drum set staff.

Select the bars and open the Make Pitches Constant plugin. Set the parameters of the plugin as I have below. You only have to set the parameters in the top half of the window. This is a very versatile plugin, and in an upcoming blog post I’ll show you where that bottom half comes in handy. Click “OK”.

So now you have this:

Only one more step. This kick drum part is in voice 1, and you’ll want to send it to voice 2. Easy fix! Select the measures and go to Note Input>Voices>Swap 1 and 2 or you could use the keystroke Shift V. Now your kick drum part is in voice 2. Now you are ready to go into voice 1 and create the appropriate high hat and snare parts.


Here’s an idea, use Ideas panel!

You’ve spent a lot of time inputting detailed drum set parts. The number of times I’ve written this drum pattern is probably in the thousands:

What if there was a way to quickly grab this pattern—fully notated—and paste it in, whenever you need it? There is, via the Ideas panel which you will find in View>Panels>Ideas or with the keystroke Option Command I.

With the Ideas panel open, select the bar or bars in your score with the drum pattern you wish to save. On the Ideas panel, click on the Capture Idea icon. You will now see your pattern in the Ideas panel. To paste it somewhere else in your score, select the idea and click on the Copy icon.

Then select the bar where you’d like it go and then either click on the idea Paste icon or use the standard keystroke for paste, Command V.

Next we want to make it easy to find the “idea” in any score you are working on. Select the drum pattern idea you’ve captured and click the icon for Edit Idea Info.

A new window will open. You can set the name and tags. I would suggest “drums, style (rock), high hat” and then your initials—make sure you leave a space between tags. “OK” out of this window. To be able to access this from all your scores, you will need to do the following: with the idea still selected, go to the bottom of the window and click on the Add to Library icon.

When you want to add this to a score, open the Ideas panel, click on the Library tab at the top. In the search box, type in your initials, and the list will now be filtered to just your ideas. If you type in your initials and drums, just your drum ideas will show in the list.

Here’s a video showing the process.



You will also want to select the Library tab and type “drums” into the search box, to see all the great default drum patterns that ship with Sibelius | Ultimate!

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Drum Set Notation in Sibelius: Part 2

When it comes to fully notated drum set parts, all the same attributes apply as for any other instrument in the orchestra. A detailed part includes: notes and rests, dynamics, articulations, and technique instructions. There are specialized procedures used to achieve some of these in drum set and percussion parts in Sibelius | Ultimate. I will assume you are familiar with inputting notes and rests in voice 1 (stems up) and voice 2 (stems down) as well as adding dynamics using expression text and standard articulations (staccato, tenuto, etc.) via the keypad.


After some feedback I’ve received from Part 1 of this series, I want to clarify a few things. Drum set notation is similar to chord symbols, in that defining what is “right” or  “standard” varies by genre, publisher, where you studied music, regionally, and many other variations. I studied from the Clinton Roemer book early in my career. I currently refer to the book “Guide To Standardized Drumset Notation” by Norman Weinberg for most conventions. And even at that, I don’t strictly adhere to Mr. Weinberg’s book.  For example, I use Style A (sited in my first post), whereas he recommends Style B. In the end, Sibelius | Ultimate will allow you to get your drum set parts looking exactly as needed, adhering to your guidelines. May I suggest that in the end, find what works for you, your clients, and the musicians you serve, and then stay consistent.

Technique instructions

Technique indications can expressed with either symbols, text, or lines. Some of the symbols can be found on the keypad. Symbols for open and closed high hats are on Keypad Layout 4. There you’ll find the cross for closed and the circle for open. For rolls, go to Keypad Layout 3. You can apply these symbols in the same manner as any articulation.

Percussion symbols

Technique symbols that are not on the keypad can be found in the ribbon under Notations>Symbols. Click on the More button, or just type “Z” on your keyboard and you’ll see a menu with all of the symbols. Clicking on All in the upper left corner will show a dropdown menu letting you quickly find percussion symbols.

To apply a symbol, either click a note first and then click on a symbol in the menu, or click on the symbol and then click into the stave where you would like to apply it.

If there is a symbol you use often and you’d like to access it more quickly, you can add up to three user-defined articulations to Keypad Layout 4. For example, the symbol I prefer for half open high hat is a circle with a vertical slash. I use that symbol a lot, so let’s add it to the * key on the 4th Keypad Layout, so I can get to it quickly.

Symbols in Sibelius are either based on a font character or you can import a graphic. First, I’ll need to find or create a symbol. Opening the Symbols menu (Z) and going to round noteheads, the symbol Round half notehead vertical line, looks like a good candidate.

Go the ribbon Notations>Symbols>Edit box. This opens the Symbol Edit window. Scrolling down to Round noteheads, I click on the symbol I’m looking for. Next, let’s do a bit of detective work to find the origins of that symbol. Music font, Special symbols extra, number 101.  Knowing this, I can assign this symbol to one of the custom articulation spots. Click OK to get out.

Back in the main edit window, scroll up to the Articulation row. The unused Articulations boxes that correspond to the 4th Keypad are the first open box (= key), the box after the down-bow above (/ key) and the box after the short pause above symbol. We will click on this last box to add the half open symbol to the * key. Click on this box and then click on the Edit button. Select the music font Special symbols extra and select slot 101 (which we found in our detective work), then click OK.

Back in the score, click on a high hat note and go to the keypad and click on the upper right square ( * key on your physical keypad).  Now we have all the standard high hat symbols: half open, open, closed, and foot (below staff).


The next way to indicate technique is text. Technique text is the style to use. It is a staff text and will appear above the staff.


The third way is with lines. An often used line is the L.V. symbol (laissez vibrer) to indicate letting a cymbal or drum ring or continue to vibrate freely, for example on a crash symbol. This symbol is similar to a tie that hangs freely after the notehead, but we want it constrained so that it doesn’t extend too far beyond the note. And this is easy to do in Sibelius | Ultimate.

Click on the note, then press the tie key on the first Keypad. Next open the Inspector panel, in the notes panel, check L.V. You’re done! I’ve added a keyboard shortcut to the L.V. feature, so I can quickly do this without opening the Inspector panel. See my blogpost “Three Things Plugins” for instructions on how to add a keyboard shortcut. You will find the feature for Toggle L.V. tie under the Tab or category “Other.”

The other type of line often used is one to indicate duration of a fill. See my blogpost “Three Things Lines” for information on creating your own custom lines.

What is where

To wrap up, let’s circle back to the subject of noteheads and what line they appear on mentioned in the first section of this blog post. Let’s say you have added a Drum set instrument staff to your score, but you want your high hat to be on the on the top line of the staff and your ride to to be on the space above the top line. Additionally, you want the notehead for a cross stick to be an X notehead rather than the default. This is all easy to do. Once you have it just the way you like it, I would suggest exporting a house style and/or saving the score as a custom manuscript paper, so you’ll be ready to go for the next project.

First click on the drum set staff and select a bar. Then go to the ribbon Home>Instruments>Edit box or use the keyboard shortcut, control option command and type “i”. This will take you right to the instrument on the selected stave, in this case the drum set. Click on Edit Instrument on the bottom right corner. In this window, you may want to change the name of this instrument in the dialogs, let’s say Drum Set (Proper!).

Next click on Edit Staff Type. In the Staff Type window, use the scroll bar to find the notes you want to change. Click on the notehead, then using the up and down buttons change the position on the staff. For the side stick, click on the notehead and then click on the Notehead: menu and select the “x” notehead. This window is where you can also change input pitch and playback sounds.

Once you’ve made all your changes, OK and close all the way back out. Since I’ve changed the instrument name in the dialogs, if I import a house style with this drum setup in it and want add it do a score, I can differentiate between my “Proper!” drum set and all the dodgy ones. This name only appears in the dialogs and not in score or part names.

Check back for the next part of this series and we’ll explore more of Sibelius | Ultimate’s power built-in features to quickly and efficiently create clear concise drum set parts.

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Create beautiful, captivating scores more quickly than ever before with the world’s best selling notation software.

What’s New in Sibelius


Drum Set Notation in Sibelius: Part 1

Most of the projects I arrange for require drum set parts. A drum set part can be as simple as measures filled with slashes that layout the form or very detailed notation showing every drum or cymbal struck by every limb. My experience is the best drum set parts fall somewhere in between, with just enough notation to clearly get the idea across but not overly notated and cluttered. Although some find drums set parts to be the most time consuming and “tweaky” parts to create, my experience is that this is not the case if you using Sibelius | Ultimate!

In this series of blog posts, I will show you how to use Sibelius | Ultimate’s powerful built-in features to quickly and efficiently create clear concise drum set parts for any type of arrangement.

But before I do, let’s define the different types of notation commonly seen in drum set parts. Then I’ll show you some techniques I use to create each one.

Drum set notation types

  1. 1. Fully notated
  2. 2. Repeat bars
  3. 3. Slashes
  4. 4. Rhythmic notation
  5. 5. Combination notated and slashes
  6. 6. Cues for kicks
  7. 7. Cues for navigation

Drum set notation styles

There are three basic styles of notation used for drum set parts shown below, and all are perfectly valid. As with all music notation, the bottom line is that you want to strive to be clear and consistent. The style you use is up to you and may be dictated by the client or a specific situation.

‘A’ is the style that I’ve always used. The way I think of drum set parts is for drums and cymbals to be played with the hands are stems up, and parts played with the feet stems down. The rhythms to be played are clear but there are more rests to keep up with. ‘B’ eliminates most rests and is also a very common notation style for drums. ‘C’ is a short hand that I have usually seen used by drummers who are writing charts for themselves, a quick shorthand style of writing.

The techniques I’ll cover in this series of blog posts can be applied to any of these notation styles.

Note input on drum set staves

Note input for drum staves is the same as for any other staff in Sibelius, and I’ll assume you know the basics of that. If not, check out some of the great videos on the Get Started Fast page on the Avid Blogs.

By default, drum set staves have predefined noteheads (normal, crossed or shaped) assigned to MIDI notes. For example, if you press G5 on your MIDI controller, a note will be input above the top line with a cross (x) notehead for high hat. To see what MIDI notes correspond to the notes on the staff, click once on your drum set staff and then go to the Home>Instruments and click on the Edit box. When the next window appears, click on Edit Instrument, then Edit Staff Type, which will bring you to the window below. Clicking on a note on the staff will show the corresponding MIDI note.

If you want to input notes on a drum staff without a MIDI controller, you have a couple of options. Select the note duration from the keypad and use the cursor to click into the staff, or click the staff and type N to start note input, and type note name on your computer keyboard. One issue you will run into with this is that you can only input normal noteheads with this type of input. You will then need to change the notehead(s) by selecting the note and selecting the notehead type in Notations>Noteheads>Type. But here’s another way that doesn’t require a MIDI controller.

The keyboard panel

If you will go to View>Panels and check ‘Keyboard’, a piano style keyboard will appear. This will allow you to input notes by clicking on its keys on the screen as if you are using a MIDI keyboard. In the video below I’ll input example ‘A’ from earlier in this post. The steps are as follows:

Click on the bar and type n, then from your keypad choose the eighth note, now click on G5 on the Keyboard panel and a cross notehead G5 appears, repeat as needed. Using the left arrow key move back to the eighth note on beat 2. Now click on the Chord Mode button on the Keyboard panel and it will turn blue.

Next click on C5 on the Keyboard panel and a normal notehead appears for the snare drum. Using the right arrow key move to beat 4 and repeat for the next snare drum note. When you are done click on the escape key on your computer keyboard twice to get out of input mode.

This next step is important. Click on the Chord Mode button again to toggle out of chord mode (it is no longer blue). Stems down notes are required for the kick, so you’ll need to be in voice 2. Click into the staff, type n and switch to voice two (opt/alt 2 keystroke works well). From your keypad select the quarter note. And click on F4 on the Keyboard panel, click 0 on your keypad for the rest on beat 2 and repeat for beats 3 and 4 and you’re done!


Check back for the next part in this series for more tips on quickly filling out drum parts.

Express yourself with Sibelius

Create beautiful, captivating scores more quickly than ever before with the world’s best selling notation software.

What’s New in Sibelius — January 2020

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



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:


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


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


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.

Express yourself with Sibelius

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What’s New in Sibelius — December 2019

We’re really pleased to announce the release and immediate availability of our December ‘19 release of Sibelius. This new version is available to all those with current subscriptions and active Update and Support plans. If you can’t wait, you can get the update via Avid Link or download the latest installer from your account.

If you’re running an older version and looking to upgrade, you can grab the upgrade with a discount up to 50% regular price, available until the end of 2019. Options, including a 60% off crossgrade to a subscription, can be found on the Avid.com website.

If you’re new to Sibelius, you can download the 30-day trial to try out all these amazing new improvements.

This upgrade spans several areas of the program, so let’s jump in:


Avid and Berklee College of Music are proud to be working together to bring improvements across the Sibelius product line for visually impaired users. The bulk of the work so far has been to bring parity between the various common screen readers NVDA, Narrator, VoiceOver and JAWS. Our releases in November ’18, and in September ’19 covered much of the staff objects in the score, and this December release focuses on a good collection of improvements to make much of the UI (user interface) accessible to these popular screen readers. This is no mean feat since Sibelius is such a large application with several different interfaces, so kudos to the development team for tackling such a large undertaking.

I had the pleasure of attending the Accessibility Panel at the Audio Development Conference in November where we discussed many of the challenges and new solutions to developing applications across a wide range of devices. If you have time, I thoroughly recommend you watch the recording:

The premise of these improvements has not just been to read what’s on the screen, but to add contextual detail too. It’s these details that make the difference to any implementation of accessibility – much like a sighted person helping a blind person down a flight of stairs; it’s not much help telling them that there are some stairs there… Where do the stairs begin? How many stairs are there? Which direction do they go? Is there a hand rail? Context is just as important to help navigation. The next time you’re at a road crossing (in the UK, at least) look down and you’ll notice tactile paving on the pavement. These have been specifically designed to tell visually impaired pedestrians that there’s a crossing there and where the road is. Oh, and don’t forget about “The Secret button” at pedestrian crossings too!

Augmentations have been made to household items and public services all over the world to help those with learning difficulties, physical disabilities and blindness and there’s so much more to be done. We’re doing our small bit in Sibelius to help blind musicians become more independent and composer and produce music without the need for sighted assistance.

When Sibelius starts up, you’ll now hear your screen reader announce the version of Sibelius (which our beta testers have found incredibly useful). The Quick Start is the first window to appear, with a list of Manuscript Papers to choose from. Using the Tab and Shift+Tab keys, you can navigate around the dialog to choose which template to start with. If you’re itching to write music, press Return and you’re ready to go. If, however, you need to choose the paper size, add or remove instruments, set the initial Time Signature and Key, press Space and this will open up a separate pane to start customising the score. Tabbing through this dialog will announce the items as you choose them, for example:

“Document Setup” → “A4, Combo box, Down” and as you press down, it’ll say the new page size, as well as how many other options there are in the list. Continuing to tab through this dialog will help you set the score up just how you need it, with the Title, Composer and so on. Tab a few more times and you’ll get to the Create button. Press Return and you’re in the score.

Selecting Staff objects and inputting notes has not changed in this release, however navigating around the Ribbon toolbar and features has.

In summary:


  • Renewed support for Narrator, NVDA, VoiceOver and JAWS – those hanging onto Sibelius 5 can now upgrade!
  • The Lines, Symbols and Notehead galleries are spoken once more. The main improvements to the galleries are on Windows, however you should find the Ribbon is easier to navigate on macOS now too as the names of each Ribbon tab should now be announced.
  • Sibelius now announces any notehead type to screen readers (keyboard accessible via: ALT + SHIFT + [0-22] )
    • Note: for shortcut numbers greater than 9, quickly enter the digits in order. For example, for small noteheads (ALT + SHIFT + 10), simply hold ALT and SHIFT and quickly type ‘1’ followed by ‘0’.
  • The Quick Access and Status Bar buttons are now accessible
  • The Quick Start and creating a new score is much improved. The Time Signatures and Key Signatures lists are accessible.
  • It’s now possible to navigate the Preferences window with VoiceOver
  • VoiceOver now announces the Ribbon buttons for drop-down menus
  • Manuscript Paper names are now read when navigating the Quick Start with arrow keys


As mentioned, we aren’t done with the accessibility improvements in Sibelius and have another 6 months of work with Berklee to bring you improvements that span the whole range of sight loss. If you’re at the NAMM Show in Anaheim in January, we’ll be running our annual Accessibility Panel and have plenty more to show you on the Avid booth too. If you’re around, please stop by and say Hi!


Further improvements in Sibelius

This release isn’t all about accessibility, so we’re pleased to be able to knuckle down on some other improvements and bug fixes. We performed a further update to the underlying infrastructure (Qt) too, which brings several improvements across the whole application.


In general

  • Pauses (fermatas) are no longer lost when changing a note to a rest
  • We’ve done a fresh round of profiling, so Sibelius should be slightly quicker when the Inspector is open
  • Sibelius no longer quits but leaves the Quick Start open after applying Close All command (Win only)
  • The check-boxes in the Multiple Part Appearance dialog are more reliable now
  • The Subscript/Superscript buttons in the Inspector are now more reliable too
  • In the Timecode and Duration dialog, “Start video at” now works once more
  • The Missing Fonts window no longer loses focus after opening the score from Recent Documents (Win only)


UI and UX

  • Keyboard shortcuts within the Word Menus are no longer truncated
  • The border around the File path in the MIDI Import page is no longer transparent
  • Text is no longer cut off in some dialogs (Mac only)
  • Fixed a problem with decimal places in dialogs when running Sibelius in any other language than English
  • The “Save changes” dialog no longer pops up behind the Sibelius window when closing multiple scores at once (Win)
  • Double tapping with the Surface Pro Pen now works once more in the Quick Start window
  • Video no longer plays back only in ‘full size’, no matter what size the video window was (Mac only)
  • The unnecessary padding around our floating tool windows (Keypad, Transport etc.) has been removed. This only affected computers with multiple monitors using different DPI settings.
  • The full list of Playback Configurations are now displayed in the dropdown when going to Play > Setup > Configuration
  • The score preview in the Quick Start dialog are now nice and sharp when using 150+% scaling on Windows or Retina on Mac


Printing and PDF Export

  • Printing now works well with all Windows Forms other than “built-in”.
  • It’s possible once more to set page layout in Document Setup and have the Print Preview correctly reflect this.
  • Changing the paper orientation in File > Print now also immediately updates the Print Preview and subsequently allows Sibelius to print correctly.
  • On macOS, it’s now possible to open the “OS dialog” in File > Print when there is no printer driver installed. Useful for saving a PDF to Preview, say.
  • Sibelius now better supports simplex (one-sided) and duplex (double-sided) printing. We had reports of some Cannon and Epsom printers always choosing duplex.
  • PDF Export is more accurate when using the Tahoma font on Mac
  • The Portrait/Landscape printing synchronization is no longer broken after you click OK in the Page Setup dialogue.
  • The problems with “Executive” paper size are fixed
  • Landscape / Portrait issues now work too for B4 and B5 paper sizes
  • 2 more scaling ratios have been added to Fit to paper: 141% and 71% (for A4 to A3 scaling, and vice-versa)


We’ve also made changes to the PDF Export functionality in the OS print dialog on Mac. The restriction we’ve had to work around is that it can only process one score or part, and Sibelius would get inundated with errors popping up (in 2018.11 and later). In this release, we have suppressed the error popups, and limited the dialog to only print or save the first score or part. This is a limitation in the way this dialog has been implemented by Qt, and not Sibelius. We’ll continue to work on improving this in the future. To export a PDF of the score and parts, the File > Export > PDF options are there, of course.



As with every release, we collect all the crash logs that are sent to us and do our best to fix them all. This release is no different:

  • Sibelius no longer crashes when automatically respacing music that’s in multiple voices.
  • Sibelius no longer crashes when creating a new composite Symbol
  • Export Audio/Video now ends if Loop mode is on and there is selection in the score
  • Sibelius no longer crashes when quitting from within the new MIDI Import page if the score was not saved
  • The QtWebEngine process no longer consumes a lot of CPU
  • We have enabled whole-program optimizations on Windows so you should find Sibelius is a little snappier than before


MIDI Import

Many thanks for all the great feedback on our recent Import MIDI features. If you missed them, you can read all about the MIDI Import feature here.

  • Sibelius now imports all tracks of a MIDI file more reliably. We now check the first chunk of the MIDI file, to know whether or not to consider it as meta data or musical data. Many thanks to Christoph Suesser for making us aware of the problem.
  • The behaviour of the Browse button within the MIDI Import Tab is now consistent with the File > Open workflow.
  • There’s a new shortcut to go straight to File > Import so that users can directly access the Import tab. You’ll find it in Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts > File tab, called “Import”.
  • Track names are now displayed more reliable in the new Import MIDI tab (compared with old Import MIDI process)
  • The score preview with Import > MIDI are no longer linked to the preview in File > Print
  • When allocating instruments to incoming MIDI tracks, the dropdown menu will no longer close after each mapping. This makes one-to-many mappings quicker and easier to do.
  • The Auto assign button now catches more obvious instrument matches
  • Switching between Import MIDI and other File tabs, no longer shows a warning message



A number of our shipping plug-ins were not up to date with changes made to those available to download on Sibelius.com. We’ve been through and updated the following (in all localizations):

  • Nashville Chord Numbers
  • Split Bar
  • Export Folder As PDF Subfolder
  • Divide Durations
  • Combine Tied Notes And Rests
  • Add Capo Chord Symbols
  • Merge Bars


Important information: System Requirements

The good news is the latest versions of Sibelius run very well on the latest operating systems from both Windows and Apple.

macOS Catalina: Sibelius 2019.9 and 2019.12 are both fully supported. Sidecar also works well too, so feel free to give it a go if you have a compatible iPad. Sibelius 2018.11 – 2019.7 may work on Catalina, although haven’t been qualified. Anything earlier than that very likely won’t work due to the technology requirements Apple changed in Catalina. We encourage you to upgrade if you’re planning on using Sibelius on Catalina.

Windows 10: Sibelius, from v 8.0, runs well on Windows 10, so you’ll find Sibelius 2019.9 will also run really well.

However, there are some changes coming for older operating systems:

Sibelius 2019.9 was the last version of Sibelius to support Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite and Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan. If you are on these older versions, we recommend you upgrade to at least macOS 10.12 Sierra to continue to stay current with Sibelius.

On the Windows side, Microsoft will be dropping support for Windows 7 soon. Microsoft ended mainstream support for Windows 7 in January 2015, and extended support will end on January 14, 2020. This means we won’t be able to support any version of Sibelius on Windows 7 from then. To find out more about migrating to Windows 10, visit this page.

If you are using an older version of Sibelius and are looking to upgrade to macOS Catalina or Windows 10, we recommend to upgrade and stay current with the latest version Sibelius as well.


And that’s it! With over 80 changes in this release, we hope it’ll streamline your music creating workflows and we look forward to showing what else we’ve been working in the New Year.

Express yourself with Sibelius

Create beautiful, captivating scores more quickly than ever before with the world’s best selling notation software.

Learn to Use Sibelius 2019 Like a Pro!

Groove3.com has been educating people about Avid products since 2003, and with the release of Sibelius 2019, they have created one of the most in-depth video tutorial collections available.

In this Groove3 video tutorial collection, Doug delivers videos applicable to all versions of Sibelius including First, Standard and Ultimate, allowing you to Learn Sibelius 2019 inside and out, as well as how create your first score and arrangement.

Doug starts the series by welcoming you and then sets the stage for what you’ll learn throughout the video tutorials, starting with the important Sibelius basics needed to get up and running, and creating your first Sibelius project.

Next, you’ll explore all of Sibelius’ preferences and how to set them correctly, and then all of the Ribbon Tabs, where you can control, view and customize your scores and arrangements. Note Input Methods are then revealed, and you’ll see how to use both the keypad and mouse for note entry, as well as adjust pitches, record MIDI, and create articulations and dynamics.

Throughout the rest of this Sibelius tutorial video series, Doug shows you the finer points of using the Sibelius Transport controls, the Mixer section to fine tune the volume of your different instruments, writing for Percussion, making your Lead Sheet, printing it out for your musicians, and many more Sibelius tips and tricks.

If you’re new to Sibelius, or just want to get the most from it, this series of Groove3 tutorial videos will help you understand how to use Sibelius and get the most from this extensive notation software tool… Get going with Sibelius 2019 Explained today!



Express yourself with Sibelius

Create beautiful, captivating scores more quickly than ever before with the world’s best selling notation software.

What’s New in Sibelius — May 2019

We’re pleased to announce the immediate availability of our May 2019 release of Sibelius, building on the recent releases in January and April This release improves stability, playback and audio engine performance, printing and PDF export accuracy, and more; all done in direct response to user feedback.

Although the development team is fully underway with the next feature releases for our Sibelius desktop and cloud products, we’ve been able to promote up several changes to give you a worthwhile release with a good number of improvements to the current feature set.

In case you missed it, here’s a summary of our recent releases:

January 2018

Automatically add lines across multiple staves and voices, add and change different barlines at once, enhanced Find in Ribbon


April 2018

Add and edit multiple text, Complete overhaul of note spacing, Sibelius is now FAST esp. when handling large scores!


June 2018

New Gracenote spacing and further refinement of note spacing



November 2018

Upgrade, modernization and re-engineering under-the-hood. Full Retina and High-DPI UI. Renewed support for Accessibility


January 2019

Review Mode, Half-speed playback, quick score navigation and Timeline features


April 2019

New Loop Mode, musical Scrub, Mark up your score in Review mode, FlexiTime with NotePerformer


For those who can’t wait to get up and running with the latest version, you can automatically download and install the update via Avid Link. If you need the full installers to download, you can do so from your Avid account at my.avid.com/products. The update is available to all those with a current upgrade plan or subscription and applies to all three flavours of Sibelius | First, Sibelius and Sibelius | Ultimate.

We would like to express our gratitude to all those who have been in touch recently to help provide the valuable feedback we needed to make so many improvements in the last month or so.

Playback & Loop

Following on from the introduction of the new Loop mode in April, there are several small improvements in the way music is Looped:

  • Looping extremely large sections is nice and snappy
  • For playback devices that have large latency, Sibelius now uses the built-in latency compensation to correctly position the playback line during loops. This is really noticeable when using NotePerformer.
  • Sibelius is now no longer really slow to display the Playback Devices dialog when using a Playback Configuration that contains very large sound sets (such as NotePerformer).
  • Sibelius used to only play a single MIDI note when two notes are on the same pitch in different voices. Sibelius now plays the correct complement of notes in this case.
  • A selection that contains an incomplete nth time repeat now always plays the loop as though it’s the last-time repeat. Previously, it would loop more than what was selected.
  • In some cases, the first note of a loop could sound louder or sound like a grace note after starting playback within a looped section.

PDF Export and Printing

Exporting to PDF (via File > Export > PDF, File > Export > Graphics > PDF and through the OS print dialog) and Printing are now much more consistent with each other, and better precisely represent what’s in the score. All fonts, especially those which don’t have dedicated styles for Italic and Bold so are synthesised, now print and export to PDF correctly. In addition to this, we’ve fixed a problem where the metadata inside the PDFs now correctly reports the operating system.

The Norfolk and Pori fonts benefit from these improvements too. If you haven’t tried these out, we thoroughly recommend them by heading over to the NYC Music Services website where you can download these fonts for free (donations welcomed). They come with a full set of instructions and use Styles for Sibelius, making it really easy to fit to your existing scores and be part of your new scores too. We are grateful to Bernie Cossentino and Jeff Kellem for putting these fonts together.

Angled Slash Chords

Angle Slash Chords from the Pori Chords, Norfolk Chords, and Norfolk Chords Sans fonts now print correctly. Image courtesy of Scoring Notes.

Stability and more

On the whole, you should find Sibelius much less likely to crash. As you may have seen, a crash reporting window pops up in the unfortunate event crash with a section to write comments to describe what was happening just before the crash. With the information that’s provided here, it has allowed us to fix many of the top problems in each update we release, and today’s release is no different. In summary, the fixes are:

Sibelius no longer crashes:

  • on exit in rare cases when the replay marker is shown in the timeline
  • when playing the score back after exporting audio
  • when the metronome click is enabled in Loop mode

Since April’s release, we’ve been seeing an increase in audio related problems. These could range from not being able to select your preferred output for devices with several outputs, to ‘Audio Engine Error’ errors on startup, to crashes on exit. The good news is that we’ve tightened this all up these problems are now very unlikely to happen. Related to this, Sibelius is no longer really slow when opening the Audio Engine Options dialog when using the MBox ASIO drivers on Windows.

Windows only: If not already on your computer, Sibelius now installs the latest Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributable for Visual Studio 2017. If you don’t have this installed, Windows will restart your computer to complete the installation.


Other Improvements in this Update

As well as the changes mentioned above, we’ve thrown in another handful of nice fixes too:

  • Non-transposable notes do now correctly truncate when using the ‘R’ key (depending on the Preference set in File > Preferences > Note Input). Related to this, if you have the preference to “Truncate notes at end of bars when using repeat”, you’ll now be pleased to know this happens when you repeat multiple notes at once.
  • For a long while now, having 2 consecutive repeat signs used to cause problems with playback, bar numbers wouldn’t display and the Timeline would display the infinite loop that would happen when you played the score back. Now, all these problems have been fixed.
  • When working in parts, the colouring notes operation is now correctly added to the undo queue.
  • When opening a MIDI file, the ‘Show metronome marks’ option now works as it should when clicking OK from the MIDI File tab.

And that’s it for now. We hope you enjoy these new improvements and we look forward to letting you know about the next major feature release of Sibelius in due course.

Express yourself with Sibelius

Create beautiful, captivating scores more quickly than ever before with the world’s best selling notation software.