Three Things: Beaming

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.


Beam me up!

Beaming of notes, when properly done, can make the rhythmic content of a passage much easier to sight read. There will be many times when you want to change the default beaming in your score, depending on the content. Let’s look at three ways to do just that.


One: One beam at a time

When you have a single instance of beaming that needs to be changed going to keypad 3 will do the trick. You can do all sorts of custom beaming including beaming across rests and beaming across barlines. In the example below, I want to beam the two sixteenth notes and the eight note. Click on the second sixteenth note and press the 9 key on your keypad.

Now you have this:

Select the eighth note and do the same procedure and you are all set!

Explore the other options on this keypad for other beaming options, including stemlets and beaming across rests. When rests are involved, click on the rest to select it and then press the key for the beam.

Two: A custom beaming for a region

Using keypad 3 is fine for an instance or two, but what if you want to change a lengthy region to a new beaming pattern? There is a way to quick achieve this!

Let’s look at this example. Here is the default beaming for 9/8. This phrase is pulsing on the first, fourth, sixth and eighth, eight notes.

Let’s assume this pattern continues for 16 bars and you would like to rebeam as a group of three and three groups of two. That could take you quite a while rebeaming using keypad 3.

But you can rebeam all of these bars in one simple procedure.

Select all the measures in the region you want to change. Then go to Appearance Tab > Reset Notes > Beam Groups.

In the edit box marked “Group 8ths (quavers) as:” you will see the default is 3,3,3.

Set the new grouping to 3,2,2,2. The only rule here is the total must add up to nine.

You could set it to 2,3,2,2 or 1,1,1,6 etc whatever you are looking for. For our example it should look like the example above, then click OK, and you will have the example below.

If you later decide that you want to reset these to default beaming, select the region and go to

the Appearance Tab > Design and Position > Reset > Design and the beaming will go back to the default for the time signature, which is a good segue to tip number three!


Three: Time signatures with custom beaming

While I was in college I had the great opportunity to study arranging and composing with noted jazz composer Hank Levy. If you know anything about Hank from his work with the Stan Kenton and Don Ellis orchestras, his specialty was composing in “exotic” meters. The title piece in the movie “Whiplash” is one of his compositions. Once you get over the panic of having to read in 13/8 or 7/4, you will realize that Hank notated these charts so they are very easy to read. The key is grouping the eight notes to pulse of the groove. In the example above, 9/8 is divided in to 3,2,2,2. What Hank would do is beam the eight notes just as I have above if that is the pulse.

So if you are wondering, “If I know from the beginning of the composing process what my beaming and note grouping should be, can I set up Sibelius so it automatically follows that pattern as I input notes?” Yes you can! Here is how to setup 9/8 to group as 3,2,2,2.

Go to Notations Tab > Common > Time Signature. This window comes up and you need to click on ‘More Options’ in the bottom left corner.

In this window, click of radio button for the meter you require or input the meter you need in the Other: edit box, in our example 9/8. Then click on Beam and Rest Groups…

This window will look very familiar from tip two in this blog post.

You have probably figured out, you need to change the “Group 8ths (quavers) as:” default 3,3,3 to 3,2,2,2 or whatever grouping you need. Click OK to close this window, click OK to close the next window. Your cursor will turn blue and is now ‘loaded’. Click on bar one or where ever you need the new time signature and it will appear there. Now as you input notes and rests, they will adhere to this beam grouping.

Now there is no reason not to have your notes beamed just the way you like!

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