Arranging for the Pageantry Arts: An Introduction

Welcome to a Sibelius blog for composers and arrangers in the world of the pageantry arts, like marching band, drum corps, and indoor winds/percussion. While I am a wind arranger, and most of my topics and information will be geared for the non-percussionists out there, I feel some of the tips can be borrowed by anyone.

My name is John Meehan, and I am the brass arranger for The Blue Devils Drum & Bugle Corps, as well as many other marching bands, drum corps, and other groups around the U.S.A. and world. My hope with this blog will be share info and tips I have learned using Sibelius within my composing and arranging projects for the past 16 years. Before Sibelius, I used the programs Professional Composer and Mosaic (both no longer available), and before that, paper and pencil!

There is NO BETTER resource for blog topics than YOU! If you have a question, or possible topic idea, please contact me.


Master Templates

With it being the beginning of drum corps and indoor winds writing season, I wanted to focus my first Sibelius blog entry on setting up a template, and assigning sounds within it. For me, while it’s a bit daunting initially, creating a master template, then making minor adjustments during each project, saves me tons of time throughout the year. In the past, I would create a new template for each project, but found I was duplicating the same workflow each time. Now, working off of a master template, then simply deleting the instruments I don’t need and changing the title and such, gets me to writing much faster.

So what do I consider to be a “master template”? Basically, a score with EVERY instrument I might come across needing to write for that season. Maybe go back and see what woodwind instruments you wrote for last year, and how many parts per. What brass instruments, and so on. Include specialty instruments (Oboe, French Horn), as well as staves for your percussion cues. Now, when you start a project, you just need to delete the instruments not needed for that group, and viola, ready to go!


Customizing your templates

The default 4/4 for Sibelius beams four 8th notes together. I prefer my 8th notes beamed in groups of 2, so I always make sure to go into the time signature dialog box, select other, customize to 4/4 (even though the default is already there), then click “Beam and Rest Groups…”. There, change the “group 8th as” to 2,2,2,2. This comes in handy as well when you’re writing in 7/8 and other meters where you want to customize the beaming.

Get to know all of the options within TEXT in the ribbon. You can add headers (first page only, or after the first page), and lots of other useful styles.

To move between your score and parts, simply type “option-command-~” to move forward, or “command-w” to move backward.

Wildcards and Keyboard Shortcuts

Customizing your scores and parts, as well as overall Sibelius experience, can go to the next level with wildcards and keyboard shortcuts. Do you like to have a current date on your score without YOU having to update it? Well, using a wildcard, you can! The text entry for that would be \$DateShort – OR – $DateLong (with a backslash at the beginning and end of the wildcard). You can use other wildcards to customize your headers and other text options with things like $PageNum – OR – $Arranger – OR – $Copyright – and many others. Update the specific in formation in File-Info, and voilà, there it is!

Are there certain functions you use a lot, and wish there was a keyboard shortcut for them? Well, there may not be (or it’s a bit awkward), but you can make them yourself! By going to… Sibelius-Preferences-Keyboard Shortcuts, you can find pretty much every function, then assign a keyboard function to it (or learn the one Sibelius already had assigned to it).

Assigning voices

Depending on if you’re using the included Sibelius Sounds, or if you’ve purchased different sound libraries (such as Fanfare which uses Kontakt or Garritan’s “Concert & Marching Band 2” which uses Aria), this will vary.

Select PLAY in the ribbon, then playback devices. Here, make sure your “active devices” are correct. If you only use Sibelius Sounds, then Sibelius Player should be active. If you have sound libraries that use a different player (such as Kontakt, Aria, or Play), those should be selected. If you use a Mac, I suggest AU over VST.

Once the players are in your active devices, make sure the sound set option is correct. If you have a sound set, it should be selected. If you don’t, it should say “none”. To change this, click on “manual sound sets”, then select the device, change the sound set to none (or the sound set you want to use). If none, then make sure to select the box next to “use manual sound set”, and increase the number of channels to 16. Click apply, and repeat for all of your players.

Let’s say you need more voices. Simply select a 2nd instance of that player from the available devices. If you selected Kontakt (AU), under active devices, you should now see a second instance of that player. You now have 32 channels available to you.

Once all of your playback devices are selected, open up your mixer and assign voices to each instrument. First assign the playback device you want to each instrument. If you have a sound set running for that playback device, you would select the instrument right there in the mixer. If you are using a manual sound set for that playback device, you would click on the “plug-in interface”, which will open up your player (e.g., Kontakt), and there you would assign the instrument you want. Make sure the midi channels align mixer to player.

You can obviously pan and move the faders around for each instrument within the mixer, but you also have control for the master fader, as well as individual playback device pan and faders to the far right of the mixer.


Sound libraries

So what do I use within my writing? I have several sound libraries I have purchased over the years, but the main ones I use are…

  • Virtual Ensemble Trilogy – I use these sounds for my sectional brass (Trumpets, Mellophones, Low Brass, Tubas). V.E.T. comes with a Sibelius sound set.
  • Fanfare – I use this for most of my solo brass instruments. Works within Kontakt.
  • Garritan’s “Concert & Marching Band 2”  – I use this for all of my sectional woodwinds. This is a solid library as it includes Bass Clarinets, and the entire saxophone family. Works within their own player called Aria.
  • Symphony Series Collection – I use this library for a lot of my specialty wind instruments (Oboe, Bassoon, French Horn) as well as percussion and other solo voices. Works within Kontakt.
  • Impact – I use this for a lot of my front ensemble instruments. Works within Kontakt.

I have many other libraries I will use, but those are the basics. You can find libraries for as inexpensive as $49, or as high as $5,000, it just depends on what you’re looking for, and of course your budget. EastWest Sounds even has an option called ComposerCloud which allows you to pay monthly for thousands of dollars worth of virtual instruments. These sounds work within their Play engine (not Kontakt), and are very high quality.

I’m sure you still have questions, but I hope this gives you some tips, ideas, and a bit of informational motivation as you begin your next pageantry writing project.

Now get back to work!

Express yourself with Sibelius

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

Tristan Noon Scoring Templates for Sibelius

By Tristan Noon


I am a composer, orchestrator and music copyist from the South of England, just outside of London, and have worked on an array of high profile jobs including orchestration for Endeavour (ITV 1), string arrangements for the acclaimed Indietronica band ‘Hot Chip’ (Nike: Unlimited You event), and have written music which was used in the ‘Save The Day’ Campaign, directed by Joss Whedon (Toy Story, The Avengers).

Working in multiple positions across the music department has given me an invaluable edge which enables me to see what is efficient and what is not. I often tidy the parts when I am orchestrating music, which allows me to fully check through the parts and make sure that no dynamics or other markings have been missed.

Having been to many scoring sessions as a composer, orchestrator and copyist, I thought that it would be interesting to put together a series of templates that other musicians could benefit from. The idea being that instead of having to worry about setting up a template themselves requiring lots of different steps to make immediately usable, that I could provide them at a reasonable cost and in flexible formats, such as multiple different versions and with different instrumentation—but all stylistically the same.

I’ve worked on plenty of scores in the past where a template hasn’t been set up properly. It can waste hours of time if the procedure of making a template for the project isn’t carefully taken care of at the start of the job. Using wild cards mean that information such as the composer name, orchestrator name, cue name and number, ensure that when you first input the information in the file menu at the start of every cue, it updates on the first page, and subsequent pages at the top which makes it look professional. The best part about the templates are the way they look straight out of the box. You can change the amount of bars per page depending on the amount of notation on the page, but it is set as default as eight per page on the conductors score, and four bars in the parts.

Scoring Templates include:

  • Fonts that are prettier on the eye, and exactly the same in each template, for a seamless design when using different sized ensembles.
  • Big time signatures in the full score that are easily spotted by conductors when sight-reading (which is the majority of the time).
  • Bigger time signatures for the player in the parts which means there is little to no chance of them missing changing time signatures in more complex cues.
  • Incredible flexibility, spanning across most of the recent versions of Sibelius (6, 7 and 8).
  • Staves which are aligned and perfectly spaced, leaving you to import midi or write directly into the template without worrying about formatting.
  • Text wildcards which update across the whole score when changed in one place, for example, a title/sub title.
  • Thicker stave sizes and final bar line for easier sight-reading.
  • Bar numbers above every bar in the score and under every bar in the parts for easy referencing.
  • A flexible starting point for further personal customization if you wish – the score and parts already look beautiful, but you may want to customize it to your specific needs.

All of the above are certain to lead to a better/quicker performance which always impresses the client. In an ever-evolving world in which composers and orchestrators are forced to work at lightning speed, it would be a mistake to miss out on these perfectly customized templates, aimed at anyone in the film, tv and games industry. It ensures that once the score has been finished by the orchestrator, the parts already look great before the copyist has even done any work to them. Time saving is ensured across the whole project and the chances of any mistakes are reduced.


I’ve spent many hours perfecting the font sizes, font types, stave sizes and other formatting for the templates. These kinds of changes, which seem small, can actually play a major part in a scoring session. If fonts are too small to read, players will not be able to read them quickly at sight and could potentially miss them. On the other hand, if they are too big, they will take up page space, and upset the formatting of the page. Ultimately, the key is to include the most amount of information on the page, but conveyed in the simplest and minimalistic manner. The templates require minimal effort from the user upon first opening the file. All you need to do is fill in the information such as the title, etc. from the file menu (not by double clicking the title, etc. on the first page or this will make the wildcards redundant). In the parts, you will also need to tell Sibelius how many parts need to be printed. I left this up to the user, because every session will be different.


I have created scoring templates for:

  • Full Orchestra
  • Full Orchestra (no percussion)
  • Strings
  • Strings & Brass
  • Strings & Piano
  • Strings & Harp
  • Dramedy
  • And a bundle that includes all seven templates




Take advantage of a 25% off sale when you spend £20 or more, until 23:59 GMT on Wednesday 20th December, 2017—just use the promo code “AVIDBLOGS“.

In addition to your Scoring Template Sibelius file, inside the download folder you’ll receive a short PDF document instruction manual to demonstrate how to get started with these templates. Don’t miss this great deal, and I hope you find the templates useful.

Check out what’s available

Express yourself with Sibelius

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

Sibelius 8.7.2 Now Available—What’s New

We’re pleased to announce the availability of Sibelius 8.7.2, a maintenance update to Sibelius 8 that brings improvements to several areas of the program, including fixes to some very old problems, as well as enhancements to the recently released Sibelius | Cloud Sharing Dashboard and Viewer.

In total, Sibelius 8.7.2 includes over 70 improvements to both Sibelius application and Sibelius | Cloud Sharing, including:

Key Signatures and Instrument Changes

This is an area we spent a lot of time on getting right. We’d like to thank our tireless beta testers for their feedback while we worked on improving this area of the program. Many of you will know that entering Instrument Changes would always come with a level of cleanup. Any change in key signature would be too close to the barline, and on the wrong side too. In the part, they would split the multirest and it would take a number of steps to get this right. In addition to this, if a Key Signature change would happen at the same time, you’d get two key signatures appearing at the same time. With Sibelius 8.7.2, this is now all handled for you.

Before - 8.7.1 and earlier

After - 8.7.2

When comparing the above images, you’ll see several improvements:


  • Key signature changes in bars 3 and 10, which are needed when changing from Flute to Alto Flute, are too close to the bar lines. They also split the multirests in the part so you have a 1+2 rather than a 3 bar multirest.
  • Bar 16 changes to D Major in the score, and the instrument changes to Alto Flute at the same time. Sibelius 8.7.1 and earlier would show the key signature change for D Major as well as a single sharp (the key signature for the Alto Flute) after it in the part, whilst also splitting the multirest.


  • Key Signature changes are appropriately spaced after the barlines in bars 3 and 101.
  • Multirests are all complete and aren’t split by the instrument changes.
  • Left hand side of multirests are given space for the change in key signatures.
  • The change to Alto Flue in bar 16, combined with the Key Signature change to D Major now correctly shows only a single sharp2.

1 If any spacing adjustments are needed, simply select the passage and reset the note spacing, by going to Appearance > Reset Notes > Reset Note Spacing.

2 Best results are accomplished when entering the Key Signature first, then the Instrument Change.

What happens when opening old scores?

Old scores opened in 8.7.2 will look exactly the same with regard to these key signature changes. This means that if the key signature on an Instrument Change appeared on or before the barline, these will continue to appear before the barline. To fix these up, the easiest thing to do is remove the Instrument Change and create a new one.


Special barlines, which are accessed from Notations > Common > Barline, each have special properties. In previous versions, they would all split multirests, which was OK if you knew that was going to happen. However, many a Sibelius user has been confused to see a multirest split and not known why. In Sibelius 8.7.2 we have changed the behavior of some of these barlines:

Start repeat – split barlines
End Repeat – split barlines
Double – split barlines
Dashed – split barlines
Final – split barlines

Invisible – do not split barlines
Normal – do not split barlines
Tick – do not split barlines
Short – do not split barlines
Between Staves – do not split barlines

When opening older scores

Opening older scores in 8.7.2 that contain any of the barlines in the second list above now open with a ‘Split multirest’ above them in each part. This retains the layout of the score, and also gives you a useful visual indicator to show why the multirest is splitting. To snap this back into a single multirest, simply select the split multirest and tap delete:

Sibelius | Cloud Sharing

  • Accepting the Terms and Conditions for the first time now knows if you’ve just opened the Dashboard or clicked ‘Share’—if the latter, it no longer just opens the Dashboard but continues to share the score.
  • When sharing an unsaved score, the “Uploading Score” message only appears after you’ve saved the score.
  • When extracting parts, the files are now given their own FileID, allowing you to share these independently from the full score.
  • The Push button is now enabled and disabled more reliably.

Improvements to the Dashboard and Viewer are coming soon…

General improvements in Sibelius


  • Non-magnetic gliss and port lines are now red when they are selected—this matches the colour of non-magnetic slurs.
  • Text along lines is now horizontal once more. It can still follow the angle of the line when you specify a value to move the text up by a number of spaces (found in Edit Lines > Centered Text).
  • A long-standing issue, where you’d lose title pages and other blank pages when changing time signature at the beginning of the score, has been fixed.
  • Using the left/right arrow keys to navigate through the selection no longer causes the selection to skip into another voice when you pass an object in all voices, like a chord symbol, or staff-attached symbol.
  • In some cases, entering notes into a bar directly after an Instrument Change would add them in the next bar instead. This dates back a really long time but you’ll now find notes go into the bar that you intend them go into.
  • Adding Split Multirests are now added to the undo queue.
  • Sibelius would sometimes move the score when performing an undo action. This no longer happens.

UI and Documentation

  • When exporting a PDF, the wildcards are now correct in French and German languages.
  • The Lines section of the Inspector is now localized.
  • Text is no longer cut off in the Quick Start > Learn tab for all languages except Japanese and Chinese (Mac only).
  • When importing Ideas, the import button was sometimes cut off—the dialog has been extended to show this button.
  • Several improvements to the Manuscript plug-in language documentation have been made.

General reliability

  • When pasting Lyrics, the Undo/Redo queue no longer gets out of sync. Previously, it was possible to repeat a lyric rather than paste the next one in the clipboard.
  • Sibelius no longer crashes if you quit while still inputting text (Mac only).
  • A score that containing $NumPages wildcard, if exported and opened in Sibelius 7.5 will crash—we’ve found this happens due to a bug in Sibelius 7.5-8.5. We fixed this back in March as part of the Sibelius 8.6 and Cloud Publishing engine development (where we found the Cloud Publishing engine would hang on some scores).
  • Sibelius no longer starts up slowly when “Avid Application Manager Helper” is not running.
  • As part of our regular monitoring of crash reports that come in, we’ve found several reports where RoboForm would cause a crash due the way Sibelius handles text. We will address this in a future update but the advice for now is to disable RoboForm.

Music XML

  • In response to any “Tempo Scale” effect, Sibelius now removes the metronome metric modulation but keeps the text indications. The XML output from Sibelius is now valid, and we’ll look into adding the tempo scale in the future.
  • Sibelius now opens the newer MusicXML 3.1 files with the .musicxml file extension.

Sibelius on High Sierra

  • Sibelius and Sibelius First 8.7.2 is now supported on macOS High Sierra. Although I’m sure earlier versions of Sibelius 8 will likely work, we haven’t tested anything other than the latest versions.

Note on compatibility: Sibelius will only run when the hard drive is formatted in non-case-sensitive formatting. This is the default, so in general everyone will be safe. If you have purposely reformatted your hard drive to be case sensitive, which you need to have tried quite hard to do, then Sibelius’ playback and other features won’t work well at all.


We hope you enjoy the broad range of improvements in Sibelius 8.7.2. If you follow the various Facebook support groups and other forums and social media, you may recognize a number of these issues having been brought to our attention. The frequent updates we are now releasing enable us to respond to these quicker than ever before, so thank you for all the feedback you’re giving us—please keep it coming!

Express yourself with Sibelius

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

Sibelius | Cloud Sharing Now Available with Sibelius 8.7

We are excited to announce that Sibelius | Cloud Sharing is now available with the new Version 8.7 Sibelius and Sibelius | First software update. Leveraging the power of Sibelius | Cloud Publishing and running on the Avid MediaCentral Platform, this groundbreaking technology enables you to send Sibelius scores to the cloud for rendering that can be displayed in any web browser, posted on social media, and embedded in webpages and blogs, to be viewed by anyone, on any device.

Let’s take a closer look at how Sibelius | Cloud Sharing works:

Sharing Scores: New UI and workflow in Sibelius

Sibelius 8.7 introduces a set of new buttons in the Ribbon interface that provides you with integrated controls for sharing and managing your scores. When you click Share, your score is sent to the cloud for processing and a link to your score is automatically copied to your clipboard—and that’s it! No more exporting separate .html and .sib files, installing a plug-in, restarting your browser or even finding a computer with a browser that’ll work. Scores shared using Sibelius | Cloud Sharing will work in any browser, on any device.

Sharing a score online

How does it work? When you press Share, Sibelius sends the score to your cloud account on Avid’s MediaCentral Platform (running on Microsoft Azure), which then starts processing it. The first thing that comes back is the URL to be shared. By the time you go to that URL, there’ll be little or no wait until the score has been rendered by our Cloud Publishing engine. The larger and longer your score is, the longer you’ll have to wait for it to be processed.

Clicking the dropdown below the Share button reveals more options:

As you can see, the dropdown presents additional options to embed code into web pages and blogs (more on this later), and the option to quickly stop sharing the score. Clicking Stop sharing stops scores from being viewed online immediately. You can share the score again, but clicking Share again will generate a new sharing URL.

Updating changes to the score

What if you want to make changes to the score and share those? No problem! Pushing changes is simple. Once you’re ready to update a score that has already been shared, simply make the edits and click the Push button. You will be asked if you want to save changes to the score and push up the latest version. There’s no need to re-share the score, as the existing URL will continue to be used for that score. To see the changes reflected in the Viewer, simply refresh the page in your browser and it will automatically display the updated score. This eliminates the cumbersome workflow of exporting new pdf’s and mp3’s every time you edit your score, and significantly streamlines essential reviewing and collaboration workflows that are the lifeblood of most composers and arrangers.

Managing your shared scores

Sibelius | Cloud Sharing also includes a new Dashboard for managing your shared scores. The Dashboard lists all the scores you’ve previously shared, allowing you to sort, search for, and manage whether a score is shared or not. It’s also extremely useful for getting a score’s shared URL without having to open it again in Sibelius.

Options for sorting, searching, and organizing the list of scores

Clicking the Share button in the Dashboard displays the following pop-up:

From here, you can find the shared URL again, and embed code, used for embedding your scores online.


Here’s the URL for the score that I shared earlier:


You can click the link or paste into a web browser to view and play back.


Viewing and using shared scores

The URLs are a link to your scores in your cloud account. You can freely share these with your friends, colleagues, students, teachers—anyone. How people view your shared scores on different platforms and devices will vary:

In a web browser

The Cloud Publishing engine renders the scores using modern web technology (JavaScript and HTML5). Anyone you send the URL to (via email, text, etc.) can easily view and play your your score using any web browser. Here’s a sample score in Chrome:

Via social media and chat apps

To share a score on a social media site, you simply paste in the sharing URL you are given by Sibelius. When posting into Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype, and other media sites and chat apps, you’ll see a nice preview of the music embedded directly in the post. This is drawn from the metadata from the Score Info dialog in Sibelius which we’ve made available as part of the Viewer. Here are some examples of how a shared score shows up in social media and chat apps:





Embedded into web pages

Sharing URL’s is obviously a great way to share your music, but for those of you who’d like to showcase your music on websites, or even build interactive learning resources, Sibelius helps you do this as well. Either from the Dashboard or from the Share dropdown, Sibelius provides you with embed code that you can use to easily add your score for these applications. It looks something like this:

<iframe src=”https://sibl.pub/SHfG7-D” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

Simply insert this code into your html page and the music appears when the page is rendered. We’ve tested several sites including WordPress, Canvas, and Atlassian, and they all work as expected.

To give you an example of what this looks like, here’s a shared Sibelius score embedded into this article using WordPress:

The Sibelius Viewer

The Viewer, which you may have seen before if you frequent the many sheet music publisher websites that use Sibelius | Cloud Publishing (including greatscores.commusichorizon.comvirtualsheetmusic.commusicroom.com, and others), is made up of individual SVGs for the pages of music, plus an MP3 for playback and a lot of metadata to tell the viewer where to place the playback line etc. All this, combined with some clever Javascript gives you an elegant Viewer that allows you to view, play back, and paginate through the score.

The sound

The sounds you hear are an MP3 we generate in the cloud when processing the score. Our Cloud Publishing engine is a “headless” version of Sibelius that processes and renders the score, much like the one you have in Sibelius, along with an optimized version of the Sibelius Sounds library. As we need to quickly load this library in the cloud, these are the exact same sounds that are used in Sibelius, but with stripped down velocity layers and samples spread across multiple notes. The good news it that this optimized sound library retains nearly all the instruments and playing articulations, resulting in a very close rendition of what you’d hear with the full Sibelius Sounds library in Sibelius. This is a significant improvement over the Scorch plug-in, which relied on local onboard MIDI sounds.

The look

What you’ll also notice is that your shared scores look just like they do in Sibelius thanks again to the Cloud Publishing engine. This means that anyone reviewing your score will see it just as you intended, with superior resolution as you zoom in and out.


How do I get Sibelius | Cloud Sharing?

Sibelius | Cloud Sharing is part of the Version 8.7 software update and available at no charge to anyone with a current Sibelius or Sibelius | First subscription or upgrade plan (as well as all new customers) .

Note that Sibelius and Sibelius | First have slightly different sharing entitlements. Sibelius | First enables you to share up to 20 scores at any one time, while Sibelius allows you to share an unlimited number of scores up to 1GB of storage on our cloud platform. All the assets we store are compressed, so you’ll need to share a good number of large scores before reaching this limit.

If your subscription or upgrade plan lapses, the scores that you’ve shared will remain available online where they have been posted, but you will not be able to share any new scores until you renew your support contract or subscription. The Dashboard will be available regardless, so you would still be able to share your URLs and retrieve embed code. As soon as the subscription or upgrade plan is renewed, you will again be able to share new scores.

Other updates included in Sibelius 8.7

In addition to the new Sibelius | Cloud Sharing features, the Sibelius 8.7 software update also includes a good set of useful improvements, including:

Finding and filtering

  • When filtering for articulations in Advanced Filter, the filter now applies to just those you had intended to be selected or deselected
  • When using Find/Find Next, the notehead type search works correctly
  • Color function now works when noteheads are selected by pitch using Advanced Filter

Gliss lines and slides

  • Slides now work properly in all non-English localizations
  • The Lines section of the Inspector is now correctly localized
  • When exporting to previous versions of Sibelius, gliss lines are now positioned in the same place vertically—Magnetic Layout for these lines is switched off to allow them to stay close to notes and not get moved further away

General bug fixes and performance improvements

  • Legato passages play back correctly once more
  • Score redraw is no longer slow to respond with jpegs at the start of a score
  • Making a change in one bar no longer resets the spacing in a bar on another system
  • Space after key sig warning is no longer too wide compared to Sibelius 8.3 and earlier
  • Sibelius no longer crashes after using user batch plug-ins from Edit Plug-ins window
  • When Sibelius starts for the first time, the Activate button now opens the Account page in Application Manager—this will prompt the user to log in, which will trigger an auto-activation of Sibelius, therefore removing the steps of finding license numbers and entering them in manually—it also ensures that you are logged in already to make the sharing of music go smoothly
  • In some cases, Sibelius would crash when using sample rates of 96kHz or 192kHz after exporting audio—this no longer happens
  • The borders around buttons in the Inspector are now easier on the eye
  • Checking the “Use on single notes” checkbox in Engraving Rules > Ties 2 now persists after closing the Engraving Rules dialog
  • “Change instrument names at start of system after instrument changes” in Engraving Rules > Instruments now has the correct German translation
  • Sibelius is now generally more snappy

Last of all—but not least—thank you!

I want to thank the amazing Sibelius users around the world for their valuable input and patience in helping us to bring this landmark technology to market. This is an important step in the long-term vision we have for sheet music online, and we can’t wait to see what you do with it!

– Sam and the Sibelius team

Express yourself with Sibelius

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

Sibelius | First 8.6.1 Now Available—What’s New

Sibelius | First

Sibelius | First is the little brother to Sibelius, packed full of features to help students and amateur musicians make a start writing and composing music. The features are aligned with high school student and teachers in mind, with additional features to help those in small instrumental groups prepare parts for performance. In Sibelius 8.6.1, we’ve of course kept Sibelius | First in line with Sibelius, inheriting improvements to note spacing and the new Magnetic Lines introduced in 8.6 (see below for details). In addition to this, Sibelius | First 8.6.1 now includes MP3 Export, allowing you to easily share you music with others and take your music on the go.

If you are new to Sibelius | First, you can get started in a number of ways:





Find a reseller

Download for free

from $4.99/month




What’s new in v8.6.1 for Sibelius

This small update follows the recent 8.6 release, where we introduced Magnetic Glissandi lines, allowing you to quickly and easily draw gliss lines and slides that attach themselves to notes. If you often use these lines in your compositions or orchestrations, this feature alone will save you precious time. 8.6 also included a number of improvements ranging from settings in the Inspector to Music XML improvements to now being more than 10% faster at starting up!

Sibelius 8.6.1 builds on all these, fixing a good handful of bugs along the way. In summary:



  • Guitar slides from the Keypad now respond to changes in playback, which are set in the Inspector and the Edit Instruments dialog. The choices are Chromatic, White Notes, Black Keys, Continuous or None.
  • Trills that trigger soundID changes of +trill.half and +trill.whole now play back more reliably
  • The option to enable MP3 surround encoding has been removed from the Audio Export options


Exporting scores to previous versions of Sibelius

  • When exporting to previous versions of Sibelius, gliss lines are, in most cases, now positioned in the same place vertically. Sibelius does this best when exporting to 8.1-8.5 but some shift may occur when exporting to 8.0 and earlier.


Engraving improvements

  • Sibelius now positions accidentals correctly when engraving rules set to “prefer top accidental at right”.
  • Spacing between clef and the first note has been improved. It’s worth noting that scores created in Sibelius 8.4 to 8.6.0 will have had a small amount of extra space allocated to key signatures in some cases. This has now fixed in 8.6.1 but if you’ve manually adjusted the spacing in scores using 8.4-8.6.0, you’ll need to check this spacing for any adverse affects. The change is so small that we expect this has largely gone unnoticed.
  • The gap after a double barline in an unpitched instrument part can now be reset once more—there’s no need to delete the hidden key signature marking as a workaround.
  • The positions of Glissandi lines and Slides (LX, RX, LY) are now retained when opening an old score in 8.6. This means scores with Slides that had their ends manually adjusted in a previous version of Sibelius, now appear exactly the same when opened in 8.6.1. However, if old scores have been saved in 8.6, their Slides will continue to be offset. To fix this up, you can filter out all regular ‘Lines’, being careful to deselect any lines in the score that aren’t slides, and reset their position.


General stability

  • Sibelius no longer crashes when rapidly creating a new score from the Quick Start.
  • Revoice Chord Diagram now works as expected once more.
  • It’s possible once again to be able to delete a user-created Guitar Scale Diagram.
  • When in note input mode, the color of the mouse pointer is now the same as on keypad.
  • Sibelius no longer crashes when recording Live Tempo if the playback line is at the end of the score.
  • Staff size change of a system is no longer lost after deletion and undo action, if it’s not the first system.


Avid Scorch

In addition to these two releases, we have a new version of our Avid Scorch iOS app that includes compatibility with files created in Sibelius and Sibelius | First 8.6.1, as well as improvements to playing back to connected external MIDI devices.


How to get Sibelius 8.6.1 and Sibelius | First 8.6.1 updates

If you have Sibelius or Sibelius | First installed on your computer already, you can download and install the update easily:

  • Run Avid Application Manager
  • Go to the Apps tab and you’ll see the update waiting for you

Alternatively, you’ll find the latest installers waiting for you in your account at my.avid.com/products.

If you are on an earlier version of Sibelius, you can reinstate your upgrade plan or upgrade via the webstore or through a reseller. This will give you access to Sibelius 8.6.1 as well as the next year (or 3, depending on the upgrade you buy) of upgrades and improvements we release.

If you are new to Sibelius, you can get started in a number of ways:





Find a reseller

Download for free

from $19.99/month



*Special offer until September 30, 2017


We hope you enjoy the improvements in Sibelius and Sibelius | First. My next post will be around what to expect in Sibelius 8.7, so stay tuned!

Express yourself with Sibelius

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

Jazz Music Legend Chick Corea on Composing with Sibelius

For over half a Century, renowned pianist and composer Chick Corea has been filling our ears, our souls, and our spirits with his distinct sound, from the jazz classic Now He Sings, Now He Sobs to his latest album Two. The 22-time GRAMMY-award winner, a true veteran in the industry and jazz music legend, didn’t develop a passion for music over time. Instead, his love for music—and specifically composing—started at the age most are just learning the basics of reading and writing.

“I’ve been writing music ever since my dad taught me to read and write,” says Chick. “I guess I was around 4 years old. And I’ve always loved composing, even more than playing and performing.”

Already an established musician when Sibelius came on the scene in 1993, Chick says he was quick to capitalize on the benefits of using a computer for music notation and scoring.

“I think I started using Sibelius right about when it first came out,” says Chick. “I found it friendly to use right away, and I keep finding more good uses for it―especially since I keep getting more adept at using it.”

Chick immediately saw how easy it was to create beautiful, captivating scores in a much shorter amount of time with Sibelius. “Well, that’s one of the main points of using a computer for music notation, or it’s supposed to be, which is to get more done in a shorter amount of time,” he says. “Plus, since one can so easily copy and paste and transpose, et cetera—it makes the inputting process much quicker.”

Solo Piano, World Tour 2014

For Chick to create his award-winning sound, he needs a comprehensive package of tools that enable him to compose, edit, play, print, publish, and share music scores. He knows Sibelius meets these needs, which is why he relies on the software for multiple purposes.

“I would say one of the main things Sibelius has helped with is archiving. Keeping an orderly filing of my compositions and arrangements has made my work flow much smoother,” says Chick. “Also, as I become faster at inputting, I can realize a whole project so much faster. This allows me to accept projects that have deadlines that I wouldn’t be able to make without Sibelius.”

C. Taylor Crothers ©2015 Chick Corea Productions

Learn more about how Chick Corea relies on Sibelius to create his award-winning compositions by reading the complete customer story on avid.com.



Express yourself with Sibelius

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

Sibelius 8.6 Now Available—What’s New

I’m pleased to announce the immediate availability of Sibelius 8.6. This release introduces Magnetic Glissandi, streamlining the creation and manipulation of gliss.port. and wavy lines, as well as fixing a whole host of long standing bugs in Sibelius, improving the stability and overall speed of the program.


Magnetic Glissandi

Sibelius automatically places your glissandi lines as you enter them into the score, positioning them between the two notes. As you compose, Sibelius automatically updates the positioning of the glissandi lines, saving you the manual steps of positioning the lines on creation, and subsequently when editing the notes too.

When entering Glissandi lines (Gliss, Port, or Wavy) in your score, you will now find these position themselves between the two notes, and will attach themselves to these notes, following the notehead as you move it. This saves you the manual steps to reposition the lines when creating them, and subsequently with editing the notes too.

The method for entering these lines has changed slightly, but it should feel familiar enough to experienced Sibelius users and is straightforward to grasp for new users. To enter the new gliss.port., or wavy lines, select the note with which you would like to start the line, and choose the line from the Lines gallery. Sibelius will draw the line from the note you have selected, to the next note:

You'll see the line is placed between the note you have selected and the next note.

Lines follow the direction of notes as you edit them.

Sibelius automatically provides more space for rhythm dots and accidentals.

Glissandi lines will even slope upwards or downwards between two notes on the same position on a staff to show the direction the gliss. is going.

Changing the appearance

In Sibelius 8.5, we introduced the new Inspector, which brings relevant settings and features within easy reach and streamlines your workflow in Sibelius. With Sibelius 8.6, we’ve added new features to the Inspector to give you ultimate control over the new glissandi lines. In your score, select a new glissandi line, and open the Inspector (Ctrl+Shift+I/Cmd+Shift+I). You will see the following:

In the Lines section, you now have the following controls:


Slide ends: This allows you to fine-tune the precise position of each end of the gliss line.


Slide style: Changes the type of line from a Glissando, Portamento, Wavy, or a Line.


Slide text: Allows you to toggle the “gliss.” or “port” text that runs along the line. This will happen automatically when the lines get too short to display the text, but you can override this, which is useful in cases where you need to.

If you wish to place a gliss line freely and independently of a note, you may do so by first deselecting anything you have selected (by pressing Escape) and then adding the line from the Lines menu. Since the line you create this way is not attached to any notes, the Inspector controls that are available for magnetic gliss lines are not available.


Creating multiple glissandi lines at once

Creating multiple gliss lines at once is fast and simple to achieve with Sibelius 8.6. In previous versions, you had to add the line manually, and then adjust each one by hand. If you then changed the notes, the line would then need to be manually positioned again. Now it’s really easy:

Select the notes you’d like to add the lines to, go to Lines, and choose the type of line you need:

You can then use the Inspector to toggle the text off:

Customizing lines

If you need to move the ends of the lines, you can manually reposition them by dragging one using your mouse or selecting it and making fine adjustments using your keyboardAs you make further edits to the notes, the line will retain its relative position to the notehead to which it is attached. This is useful when indicating the gliss should go to a different note in the chord, say, or even when writing passages across a grand staff with cross-staff beaming. Once this has been done, you’ll see the lines move relative to the notes as you edit them. To reset the line’s ends to their default position, select the line and go to Appearance > Design and Position > Reset Position.

Creating your own lines in Sibelius is easy as well. You simply go to Notations > Lines > Edit Lines, and then choose the line you’d like to edit or to create a new line from. In the cases of the Gliss or Port lines, you can change the text that runs along the line, to whatever you need:

Any custom lines that you have created based on gliss lines receive the same treatment from the Inspector allowing you to edit them in the same manner as the ones that Sibelius provides by default.


Additional tweaks for writing for guitar notation

Slides, up until now, have always been able to play back a continuous slide (that is, if you slid your finger up a fretless guitar), but from Sibelius 8.6, you’ll be able to change the way these play back from the Inspector:

Opening old scores in Sibelius 8.6

Sibelius will open any score from Sibelius v1 all the way through to Sibelius 8. These will open up in exactly the same way as before and will not move or convert any gliss. lines. This is important to retain the same careful layout you’ve spent so much time on. However, adding further glissandi to your score in Sibelius 8.6 will now create the new style of line.


Opening scores from 8.6 in older versions of Sibelius

As ever, Sibelius has a way to convert a score into an older version, allowing you to work with someone who hasn’t upgraded to Sibelius 8.6 yet. This is simply done by going to File > Export > Previous Version and choosing the version of Sibelius you need to export to.

When doing this, Sibelius will convert what it can into the equivalent object that was supported by the previous version. In the case of the new glissandi lines, these are all converted into the old style gliss. line and their positions are retained.


New ManuScript support for magnetic lines

In Sibelius’ built-in scripting language, called ManuScript, Line objects now have a new <code>SlideStyleId</code> variable representing the Line style state of the note. This read/write variable lets you attach or detach glissandi as well as other lines to a note.

You can also define and assign additional custom Line styles that are not based on the available default Line styles (see Line styles in the ManuScript Language Guide for more information).


MusicXML improvements

The new Magnetic Glissandi lines feature was borne out of an overall improvement and better support for MusicXML. It’s a long term project that we will chip away at for a while. When we started to work on adding support for importing glissandi lines, we needed a way to position these nicely to notes. As such, we rewrote how these lines are handled, so there is now very minimal cleanup to do after importing MusicXML files.

Here’s a summary for the changes to MusicXML that are included in Sibelius 8.6:

• Better support for small staves (improvements on support added into Sibelius 8.5)

• Sibelius now imports page margin values correctly (in previous versions, margins form odd pages were applied onto even pages, and vice versa)

• Ties are now no longer missing in chords over bar lines, and the direction of ties are respected (over or under)

We’ve also made several improvements to the way MusicXML files are parsed in general. As we all know, not all MusicXML files are created equally, so Sibelius 8.6 is now less prone to crashing or failing in some way when opening malformed MusicXML files.


Improvements to many long-standing issues

As well as introducing new features and new ways to work in Sibelius, we are working on some old and hard-to-crack issues to improve Sibelius’ stability and overall performance. Some of these may be small niggling bugs and others will be larger scale issues that may have been getting in the way. Here’s the list of what’s included under the hood in the 8.6 upgrade:



• Sibelius is now over 10% faster starting up

Auto-save now works much more reliably. This is the feature where Sibelius will periodically save a copy of your score. If Sibelius unexpectedly quits, Sibelius will now recover the most recent version of the file, and hopefully won’t have lost too much work. To set how often Sibelius auto-saves, go to File > Preferences > Saving and Exporting.

• When opening older scores in Sibelius 8.6, rests in parts are now where you expect them to be positioned

• Sibelius no longer crashes when doing ‘Paste as Cue’ followed by ‘Undo’. This only occurred when pasting across different time signatures

• When sliding notes from one page to the next, your selection is now followed so it’s clearer to see what’s happening

Annotating when the Inspector the is open is now muchsmoother

• Improvements to the licensing engine, which should result in fewer “Error Initializing License Engine” messages

Editing values and navigating fields in the Inspector is now easier

• The Inspector now resizes vertically when undocked

• There’s now better spacing between a key signature and start repeat barline when there is no time signature



• A rare issue that would cause Sibelius to crash when installed alongside Pro Tools with certain HD hardware is now fixed.  Click here for more information on this.

• We’ve improved the overall handling of audio devices on Windows. Sibelius now initialises the audio engine even in the presence of minor errors coming from the audio device driver.

MP3 export works as expected on Mac OS 10.9 once more



• Characters created with Shift + Option + <number> shortcuts are no longer doubled

• When editing text  with Shift + Option + Left/Right Arrow no longer deletes the text you’re editing

• Editing text in the Backstage (Score Info, dialog boxes etc.) with Shift + Option + Left/Right Arrow no longer deletes text as you do it

• Sibelius will no longer hang when attempting to play back to a disconnected audio device


Application Manager

Application Manager 17.5 is now included with Sibelius, which introduces a new Open button enables you to open Sibelius directly from the Apps tab. The Open button only appears if you have an active Avid Upgrade and Support plan or subscription, and Sibelius is up to date.

The following improvements have also been included:

• Application Manager no longer randomly opens a terminal window on Mac

• Choosing to restart App Man Helper in the Preferences tab is now nice and quick


Customers with an active upgrade plan or subscription can update to Sibelius 8.6 using Application Manager or by downloading the installer from their Avid Account. If you have an older version of Sibelius and wish to upgrade, you can do so via one of our resellers or our online webstore.

Express yourself with Sibelius

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

Composing for Film, TV and Games with John Paesano

John Paesano is a composer, producer, conductor, and arranger for film, television, video games, and records. A longtime Sibelius and Pro Tools user, I recently spoke with Paesano about his career, current projects, and the workflows he employs to bring his scores to life.

DH: Bring me up to speed with what projects you’re working on—what’s currently on your plate?

JP: I’m working on The Defenders, which is Marvel’s new Netflix series featuring Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. I’m finishing the third installment of The Maze Runner, which is called The Death Cure, and I’m scoring the sequel to Pacific Rim for Legendary. I just finished Mass Effect Andromeda, which is an Electronic Arts videogame releasing in March. So, yeah, I’ve been busy!


DH: Tell me a little bit about your background and how got into the business?

JP: I kind of reversed engineered myself into film scoring. A lot of peers that I’ve worked with fell into film scoring. They were in a band and the touring dried up, and they had a buddy who was a commercial producer and they scored a commercial for them, which ultimately lead to scoring films. When I was a kid I saw the movie Empire of the Sun, and said, “Boom, that’s it, that’s what I want to do!” At the time I didn’t know that I wanted to get into composition, but I knew I wanted to get into film somehow. I didn’t even play an instrument—I was just a big fan of movies. The one thing you could buy from the movies, back then, was the soundtrack. I bought the soundtrack and fell in love with John Williams’ score for Empire of the Sun, and that sent me on a path to aim towards film scoring.

So I got into music knowing that I wanted to score films and always had that goal in mind. I grew up right outside of Detroit where I started studying piano. From there I went to Berklee College of Music. Berklee and USC were the two programs in the United States at that time that offered degrees in film scoring. It wasn’t as popular as it is now. So I went to Berklee before moving to LA, where I just started carving out my own career. I briefly worked at Zimmer’s place, Remote Control, but knew I had to try to start my own career. In this town it feels like people don’t really care who you work for—they want to know what you’ve done personally. At a certain point I had to jump ship from the assistant ranks and start from the beginning to cobble together my own credits. I built from the ground up, and ten, twelve years later, started making some headway. [Laughs] So, it’s a long road.

DH: What would you point to as far as your first major project that helped to launch your career to a higher level?

JP: I don’t know if I would call it major, but the first film that got me into the studio system—pretty much anything that a larger audience was able to see—was a direct-to-DVD movie called Another Cinderella Story, which actually did really well. It was a family drama starring Selena Gomez, and that was the first thing that got me involved in the studio system. The first wide-release theatrical film that I did was The Maze Runner, which had a big impact on my career on the feature side.

On the episodic side, I did the television version of DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon (I’m actually still doing it). I was fortunate to win an Annie Award for that, for Best Score, which gave me some headway, as well. So it was a combination of projects—not just one major project that helped. Like I said, it was a long haul, 10-12 years. By doing these smaller projects that had more visibility in the industry than they did, let’s say, in the public, that got me into the conversation for starting to do bigger projects. It was little stepping stones, then it was a slow crawl, but it eventually got some traction.

DH: So over your career the technology has obviously changed. What has been the progression for you over the years?

JP: When I started, my training was very paper-and-pencil oriented, but when I graduated high school in ’96 computers started coming into play. When I was in college, samplers and synth mockups started factoring in, so in a way I grew up alongside them. The curve in which the progression has happened with technology has been through the roof. It has progressed on such a large scale, to the point, that now it’s hard to even keep up with it all. I’ve always been a huge fan of how technology can help music, and it’s one thing that kept me motivated, especially going into film scoring. When you’re a kid and you want to become a film composer, especially at the time when I wanted to do it, you had to figure out a way to write orchestral music without an orchestra. And the one way you could do that was, obviously, with the technology and the samplers.

So I dove into it with both feet, because I had a desire to create that cinematic sound but obviously didn’t have the funds to hire an orchestra when I was 16, 17, 18 years old. So I had to figure out alternative ways to play my music- to kind of fake it, if you will. I researched how to use the technology to get that sound. I think it served me well, as when I came out to LA I had to put together a reel of music that could compete with these guys that had the resources to record live players. Whether you liked it or not, those were the guys you were competing with, or trying to get executives to listen to you on the same level as.

I really took pride in getting my mockups to sound as realistic as possible, to try to secure those jobs and give people an idea of what my music was going to sound like when recorded live. Even to this day, we try to use the latest and greatest gear when it comes to mockups.

DH: How did you first come across Sibelius?

JP: We did a trailer project a while back, and I was introduced to it by a couple of orchestrators in London. I think this was even before Avid had acquired it. I just liked the layout. When you compare Sibelius to Finale, it’s like what Apple did when they came out with their operating system. It made more sense to me and everything lined up—the layout made a lot more sense. It’s one of those programs you could turn on and just start using it without having to dive through a 900-page manual. It was just very intuitive, and it fit my writing process very well. Then when Avid took it and incorporated it into the Pro Tools world it became very streamlined- it just made it that much better.

A couple years ago I was using one system for my sequencing, another for my notation, and another for my recording. Speed has become such an important factor in this business, especially with film scoring. You need to quickly get something down, get it recorded and get it out to the players. I wanted to streamline my workflow, and Pro Tools and Avid have all the tools there that I needed. Once we got that into place, everything got stepped up to the next level, which allowed me to think more musically and less about the tools that I was using. By using the Avid products, it allowed me to simply think about the music, and everything else was there in place. I had just one system for everything, so it definitely helped.

DH: Take me through your compositional process—give me kind of an overview of how you and your team work.

JP: It’s slightly different for every project, but for the most part the broad strokes are the same. If I can get the script beforehand I’ll write a 10- to 15-minute-long suite based on just the script. Sometimes filmmakers send production art, any type of information they have about the film, or series, or game. I try to gather as much as I can so I can write something before I even see the picture. Sometimes when you write to picture, you get handcuffed—you can’t extend yourself musically as much as you would want to, just because you’re trying to work around dialogue. Or you’re limited by time in a scene. You might not be able to get a full thought out musically, because the scene doesn’t allow for it. So, sometimes coming up with those musical ideas before you have the picture is more creative in that it allows you to work out more full musical ideas.

I typically get the picture with a couple of temp tracks, and I’ll watch it in Pro Tools while creating notes along the timeline- spotting notes. This is before I have my official spotting session with the director and the producer. I try to watch the movie as many times as possible, to absorb it as much as I can.

From that point, I get together with the producer and the director—or, if it’s episodic stuff—the showrunners and the producers, and do an in-depth spotting session. It’s almost more important where there isn’t music than where there is music. Figuring out that roadmap to the film becomes a very important part of the process. I then go into Pro Tools for the writing phase, and start filling in those notes with musical ideas.

I usually start in Sibelius at a piano which allows me that “paper-and-pencil” mentality. We don’t really use paper-and-pencil anymore; we use Sibelius-and-piano. [Laughs] So, that allows me to write exactly what I’m hearing, and it allows me to get it down on “paper” right away, in a quick fashion. Then it’s from Sibelius into Pro Tools for the mockup process to start getting it into a form that I can present to the producers, directors, and studios.

Then I take those ideas from the original suite and start throwing them against the picture, and working them into the actual film.

Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I mean, the frames of the pictures will really let you know if your initial ideas are going to work or not. Once you start throwing music up against the actual movie you see if those original ideas that you had before you had the picture are going to actually work. It’s all about trying to massage those ideas into the actual film. And that’s probably the longest process; the writing of the actual score, and getting that in place.

Once the cues are approved we go into the recording process. We take all the elements of the score and replace or combine them with the live players. Sometimes we replace the entire synth orchestra with the live orchestra. Sometimes, if I want a big hybrid sound, we keep some or all synth elements and put the live players on top of it to produce a bigger sound.

Back in the day you would replace everything, because the synth mockups sounded like crap. But now, because the sampling has gotten so good, you keep a lot of it and the orchestra becomes another color you use to add to the score. So, whether it’s an orchestra, or whether it’s soloists, or any number of electronic sounds, this is when we gather all of these elements together for the mix in Pro Tools. After it’s all completed, done, mixed, and shipped off to the stage for the dub, we call it a day.

DH: So if you’re putting an orchestral score together, are you actually working out the parts in Sibelius, or are you focusing on the main themes, and then fleshing them out in Pro Tools?

JP: Parts, not completely broken-down like it would be for live orchestra, but I’ll have a woodwinds patch—I won’t necessarily have flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons. I’ll just use winds, grouped shorts and longs, but I’ll have the major food groups there: woods, strings, brass; sometimes it’s just a piano score. But I tend, for inspiration, to work through, in a more simplistic way, the musical ideas within Sibelius, and from there, transfer it into Pro Tools where I get a more detailed.

And then when it goes to the orchestrators, it gets really detailed, because sometimes we’re moving at such a quick clip, I might not have time to write out all the woodwind parts, and so I’ll leave instructions to my orchestrators like, “Hi, look at the string part, here. I want the winds to double this little motion, right here.” It truly is a team effort to get the full score completely together, and everyone has their own imprint on it.

My orchestrators might look at my string part and go, “Hey John, I see what you’re doing, here, but the voicings, here might feel a little thick, so maybe try spreading some stuff out, like this.” And they’ll clean some stuff up, and get it ready. Or sometimes I’ll have my French horns holding for three bars, and the player would die and pass out if he did that in real life, so we might try to exchange that stuff throughout the different voices, and different instruments groups. So they do go through and make sure that the music that I’m thinking of in my head is actually playable for the group, when it’s there on the recording day.

And I wouldn’t say that I start in one program, move to another program, and then I never go back again. Sometimes I’m going back and forth. If inspiration strikes while I’m at home I can pop open Sibelius on my laptop and work with some voicings, or try to introduce a new part. And then I get back to the studio the next day and import it into the session, so they’re kind of being used at tandem at all times.


DH: What sound library do you generally use within Sibelius?

JP: In Sibelius, I’m using a lot of the stock stuff for general sketching. My orchestra that I use at the studio is Orchestral Tools, and I try to stick to one sample library. Orchestra under the Orchestral Tools stuff has been great, because it was all recorded in the same spot. It’s a really well-thought-out library, and they pretty much cover every articulation. Sometimes I have Sibelius trigger those sounds through Vienna Ensemble Pro. But if I’m at home, or if I’m on the road, or if I’m just sitting at the piano, the factory sounds that come with it work well.

Wallander NotePerformer is the library that I purchased that gives flexibility when it comes to playing back some of the parts. It’s really a fantastic tool. But if I want to start getting into the mockup portion, I haven’t gotten to the point where I can write notes in—if you really want the most realistic sound, you almost have to fake it. You’ve got to maneuver around the mockup, or, maneuver what I did in Sibelius, and bring it into Pro Tools, and slide some notes around, and do some things to fake what it actually looks like on paper. And then it goes back to the orchestra, and they just put it back to the way I had it originally. It’s getting close—we’re almost at the point where we can just write down in Sibelius, and have it sound exactly the way it sounds live.

DH: So tell me a bit more about your operation, how big is your team?

JP: It’s myself, two assistants, and then a second-in-command who deals with a lot of the programming and additional writing, Braden Kimball. Depending on the schedules there are people I can call upon to help with programming or orchestration, and as I said before these guys are vital to the process.


DH: How long have you had a proper studio of your own?

JP: This will be my fifth year. I have five rooms, and my orchestrators work offsite. Alan Meyerson does the majority of my mixing, and he’s a big Avid guy over at Hans’ [Zimmer] place Remote Control. We ship all of our stuff over there when we’re done in Pro Tools. We just dump it right into his template here at the studio, and then it gets shipped over to his place, and he just pops it open in his room, and he’s got a big S6 [studio console].

DH: How do your schedules and deadlines vary between doing music for film, for TV, and games?

JP: The deadlines for each project have their own challenges. With film, you definitely have more time to experiment, to try different things and fail a bunch of times before you get it right. But it’s all relative. Just because you have that luxury, it still makes the timeline feel pretty tight, because you go through that “idea” process for a while and yet you’re always rushing towards the end. It’s one of those things where, if people feel like they have more time, they spend more time experimenting.

On episodic series, producers know they’re on a quick timeline so they adjust their expectations. Network television seems to have the quickest turnaround. You’re chasing airdates and moving at a really quick clip. Netflix, however, feels more like a very long movie because the whole series releases on the same day. That allows us more flexibility in the schedule, to go back into things. So the subscription service stuff that I’ve worked on—Defenders, Daredevil, How to Train Your Dragon—seems like you’re moving at a slightly faster film pace.

Videogames are a whole different ballgame because you’re never really writing to picture; you’re writing to instructions. The game developers and the audio directors give you descriptions of what they’re looking for and how they want to incorporate the music from a technical side. So it’s a more delicate dance of writing the music so that, not only does it fit to the picture, but it actually fits into the gameplay and how they want to incorporate it from the programming standpoint. The timeline on videogames is more closely based to a film timeline. There’s a lot of trial and error, there’s a lot of experimenting. They’re trying it in their gameplay, saying, “Oh, you know, these four layers are working really well, but we want one other. Can you make us three little, you know, hits that we can incorporate every single time the character does a certain action?” So it’s piece-mealing little musical ideas together, and at the end it all comes together as one piece of music.

I always talk about speed and how you have to be set up to move quickly. We’re creating anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours’ worth of music for these projects, and many are done in three to four months. If you think about how long some bands work on albums; they’re working for six months, or a year or two years for 30-40 minutes of music. When you compare it to that world, we’re moving at a really quick pace. The only way to do it is with the technology that’s involved today. It’s been a blessing and a curse [laughs] in many ways, because it’s given us the ability to create music at a fast clip, but it also lets those producers and directors know that we can create it at that fast clip, so they expect and demand it.

I tell young composers that come in that the principal instrument should be the sequencer, and then your secondary instrument is whatever you grew up playing. But that sequencer is an instrument, and it should be a really well-versed instrument, something that every composer should be really well in-tune with, because it is one of the most important tools that you use on a daily basis. Whether it’s Pro Tools or Sibelius or all of the above, it’s really important to know how to use them to the fullest capabilities, because that’s what helps you meet that expectation.

Get Your Free 30-Day Trial

If you’d like to try Sibelius before you buy, you can download the 30-day trial.


Three Things: Lines

It is always great to learn new techniques that speed up your workflow in an application you’ve been using for a while isn’t it?  In this series of blog posts, I’m going to stick to three things on a topic that I believe will help speed up your work flow.


Let’s get to the bottom line!

Lines can really clarify the ‘what’s and where’s’ of your instructions on a score and in the parts.

Let’s look at some tips that show you how to create your custom lines and how to get all those lines exactly where you want them!


One: Custom lines are fun!

Creating custom lines is not difficult, it only takes a few steps and you will be off and running.

It’s important to know that, like text, lines can be either staff attached or system attached. Go Notations Tab > Lines and click the edit box.

The lines on the left are “Staff Lines” and only appear on the staff you attached them to. The lines on the right are “System Lines” and will appear on the staves of every instrument in your score. So when you are creating your own custom lines it’s important that you start with a line that is the same type as the one you are creating.  If you are creating a line that says “fill” for a drum part, start with a line on the left.  If you creating a line that says “Accel. until conductor throws his hands in the air like he just don’t care!” you would want to start with a line on the right.

To create the fill line you may be tempted to start with the 8va line as it is dashed and has hook at the end. But don’t, it’s important to note that whatever playback parameters your original line has, your new line will have as well. To start let’s scroll down to the ‘Dashed line,’ click on it once to select it and click the New button and then Yes to answer the ‘Are you sure…’ prompt.

You will see the window below, it’s important to give your line a name, I’ll show you why later. For this line I want the line to start to the right of text, so I’ll check that. For ‘Start’ click on Text and Edit. In the edit window type in ‘fill’ for the text and for the text style I have selected Technique because I want it to match the other technique text in my score. For the end, I want a downward hook. So I clicked on Hook and entered a value of -1 for spaces up (which gives me one space down).

When you are done click Ok to close the window and finish up. You now see the fill line in the column on the left. Back in the lines window of the Notations Tab, you will find your new line in the ‘Lines’ section because you started with the Dashed line. If you had started with the accelerando line in the right column, and made the “Accel. until the conductor…” line, it would appear in the Rit. and Accel. section.

Two: Position

When you select a region on your score and apply a line is appears at the position as defined in Design and Position settings. Here is a tip to get the line’s length exactly where you want it.

If you click anywhere in the measure, as in the example below, Sibelius will select the whole bar right up to and including the next barline. If you then apply your new fill line, you will see it extends into the next bar.

However, if you constrain the selection by clicking once on the first slash and then shift clicking the fourth slash in the bar, you will now be selecting everything before the next barline. Now when you apply the bar line it neatly ends before the next barline.

To adjust the default placement of any line, go to the Appearance Tab > Design & Position and click on the edit box in the lower right corner. Click on the lines button, scroll down and you will see that it’s a good thing you named your fill line because there it is!

I’ve adjusted the Vertical position relative to staff to 4. Also if you’d like that line to pull back just a bit further from the end of your selection, type a negative number into Creating Lines Horizontal position of right hand end. Here you can see the differences in the line’s vertical placement and end point.

Three: Between notes

If you’ve ever tried to place a line between two notes heads, you know that exact placement can be a bit tricky. Thanks to a great plug-in called ‘Line Between Notes’ (by plug-in guru Bob Zawalich), you can now make quick work of this. You can install this plug-in by going to File Tab > Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins > Show All Plug-ins > Lines.

It works very simply. Select the two notes you would like to connect and run the plug-in.

Choose your line type and click OK. You can explore all the options but the defaults work well for me. You now have a perfectly placed line. I use this one so often I have it on a keyboard shortcut.

So go have some fun making lines in Sibelius!

Get Your Free 30-Day Trial

Experience the fastest, smartest, easiest way to write music with Sibelius—the world’s best-selling music notation software.


Three Things: Articulations

It is always great to learn new techniques that speed up your workflow in an application you’ve been using for a while isn’t it?  In this series of blog posts, I’m going to stick to three things on a topic that I believe will help speed up your work flow.


The Long and short of it

Articulations allow you to communicate to your musicians precisely, the shape of notes in your score. In Sibelius you can enter articulations as or after you enter notes via the keypad. But you know all of that! Here are three tips that perhaps you don’t know.


One: Position and symbols

The position of articulations as they appear in your score are controlled by the settings in the Engraving rules.  If you go to Appearance Tab > Engraving Rules > Articulation you will see this window:

You’ll see check boxes that control the position of articulations in relation to the staff, noteheads, slurs and tuplets. You will also see horizontal and vertical position settings. In my work for commercial style charts, I keep all my articulations above the staff. For symphonic work, I uncheck the ‘Always above’ so the articulations are on the notehead side (opposite from the stem), which could place the articulation either above or below the staff.

The red arrow points to a half open high hat symbol I often use. You probably won’t see this if you open your Engraving rules. This is a custom articulation. You will see there are 3 slots for custom articulations, the first to the left of the staccato, the second after the down bow, and the third where you see my open high hat. Here is how to set up your own custom articulation:

Got to Notations Tab > Symbols > Edit box

You will see in the row of articulation symbols my half open high hat symbol in the slot for “Articulation above (unused).’ The order of the symbols is the same as the order of the articulations in the Engraving rules. Here you can define what symbols are used for the custom articulations and you can also change the symbol for any of the default articulations as well.

Note there are slots for articulation above and below for each symbol.


To apply this custom articulation, go to the fourth keypad and press the * key.

Two: Inputting more than one articulation at a time

You can apply articulations to more then one note at a time. In this example, I’ve selected the first two notes in all of the horns and can now apply the marcato to all of them in one keystroke.

Another strategy I often use is to apply all the articulations and slurs to one instrument for a passage in the score, in this example trumpet 1. Select the articulated region for trumpet 1 and press command C for copy (the selection is now copied to the clipboard). Next select all the other horn parts in that region. Next run the Copy Articulations and Slurs plug-in. This plug-in refers to the contents of the clipboard and applies the same articulations and slurs to the selected instruments.

Now all these instruments will have the same articulation as the trumpet 1 staff. You find the Copy Articulations and Slurs plug-in in the Note Input Tab > Plugins > Notes and Rests. I use this almost daily, so I have this plug-in assigned to a keyboard shortcut.


Three: Playback

Sibelius has well thought out settings for the playback of articulations but perhaps you’d like to tweak them a bit, I know I do! Go to Play Tab > Interpretation > Dictionary.

Next click on the Articulations tab and for this example I will select Marcato. I prefer the playback dynamics of this articulation to be a bit softer and the duration a bit shorter than the default settings.  So I am going to change the dynamic and attack to 105% from the default of 135%. Also I need to check ‘Adjust duration to’ and set it to 65%. Click OK and I’m done. Now the playback of notes with the marcato articulation will reflect these changes.

For some instruments there is change in the sound used for playback of certain articulations. If you really want to dig in, you can change the sound id, associated with those articulations from this same window.

With these tips under your belt, you are all set to get your articulations looking and sounding just the way you like them!

Get Your Free 30-Day Trial

Experience the fastest, smartest, easiest way to write music with Sibelius—the world’s best-selling music notation software.